“Arranged marriage? No way! That’s not my scene. So regressive. I cannot get hitched to someone who I don’t know from before. Modern women like us don’t subscribe to such practices. The whole process of getting introduced by family to someone and deciding to go ahead after a brief engagement period, seems too old fashioned?”
So many of us turned our noses at this arrangement. As luck would have it, so many of us ended up in the exact same arrangement. A lot of people who are not familiar with how the arranged marriages work in urban India are of the opinion that it is forced on women where they don’t have a say or a choice. While that may be true for some, it is not necessarily the case all the time. A marriage is like a gamble and no one knows what to expect, until you take that leap of faith. I am sharing the experiences of my friends, family and myself.
I remember those tedious matrimonial searches. At that time it was annoying, like the constant headache you could not get rid of. But later on those episodes made entertaining stories, which us girlfriends would laugh at. Us single girls lamenting at the fact we never encountered any interesting single men on our own like they show in the movies and the type of people our families would introduce us to never seemed to fit the profile we had in our minds. Like the time my friend was going to meet a guy for the first time for an arranged date at a popular coffee shop and the man ended up at the Coffee Board instead. This was at a time, when neither of them carried cell phones and therefore waited for each other at completely different venues for almost an hour. Needless to say, my friend was furious. She did not intend to meet him another time, because to her, if a man could not even get the venue of the date correctly, there was no point in even considering a future with him. Who goes to the Coffee Board to meet a potential partner?!!
Closer home, just as we had started enjoying the joys of internet, there was another generation that jumped on board to use the powerful medium for other important tasks. Online matrimonial search. With all the peer pressure around her, my mother realized that with a non-cooperative child and a not so enthusiastic husband, she had to take matters in her own hands. And that’s how the family computer got hijacked. She would spend hours poring over the options out there for her beloved princess. Vett each profile carefully, look for hidden cues, understand the background etc. Unfortunately, she still needed me to carry out mundane tasks such as uploading pictures or downloading documents. On the pretext of doing those chores I used to sometimes sneakily reject some alliances on my own or delete the saved searches. Poor mother would be left bewildered why another parent stopped communicating so suddenly, till she caught on to me. There was hell to pay for undermining all her hard work. This exercise definitely made her more tech savvy. You are welcome, Mom.
Although she knew I didn’t share the same zeal as her for my partner search, she would once in a while share some funny anecdotes with me. This one is my favorite.
She had been communicating with another lady, whose son was being considered. They decided to speak over the phone to get to know each other better. Keep in mind we were unable to view his pics, as they were password protected. His mother wanted to protect his privacy and gave my mother a short tutorial on online identity theft and privacy. That phone call went on for 45 minutes. My mother spoke for 5 minutes in total, when she introduced herself at the beginning and while hanging up. I pretended to not care, but with the TV on mute and a conversation going on for 45 minutes, my curiosity was piqued. Once she hung up, she narrated the conversation to me verbatim. Here is a small sample with no embellishments – “my son is such a great boy. I truly believe that any girl who marries him, will be the luckiest girl alive on earth. He is the best guy you can find in the country. All the neighborhood aunties keep saying that I am so lucky to have such a wonderful son. He is literally God’s gift, I really believe it. He has studied at IIT and IIM. It’s so rare to find boys who have studied at both the premiere institutes… blah.. blah”. My mother could have spoken of Chetan Bhagat, but she never got a chance to speak. Also, I have two masters in life sciences and a scientific publication, but she could never put that tiny detail out as well. She did manage to get the password for the son’s secure photographs and promised to never share the password with anyone else or use for any other purpose than what it was meant for. We saw the pics of an unkept man, in torn pants (not even the stylish ripped jeans), hawai chappals and dirty stained shirt, an unshaven boor! He was supposed to be the God’s gift some woman should have felt proud to be associated with! My mother and I laughed our heads off. She turned to me and asked me why could I not find a good eligible partner on my own instead of making her do so much hard work. My response is borrowed from another girlfriend who was in a similar situation back then, and was asked the same question by her mom. When it was our age to hang out with boys, you put down so many curfews and strict rules and told us to focus on our studies and career. Now when we have gotten older and less charming and all the good guys have been taken you say this! Please continue with your pastime of groom search.
This went on for quite sometime. Mother doing her thing keeping herself busy. Me busy with my work. Sometimes we would share and compare notes with our respective friends. And then one day, my mother-in-law came into the picture. My mother in law was equally new to all this. In fact the only reason she got involved into the matrimonial affair was because a lot of her friends and other distant relatives would pester her and ask her to be more involved. Peer pressure affects all ages. She contacted my mother and they started talking. From there started a very unusual and remarkable friendship. At first it was the polite pleasant conversation revolving around the kids. Slowly the nature of conversations transitioned to their own experiences, their lives and other random things. A lot of times they would call each other and discuss movies or recipes or shopping or common acquaintances. They could talk for hours and laugh at the silliest of jokes. Both mothers interacted with each other for weeks before the rest of us communicated. At that point all the key players happened to be residing in different cities. Finally, at our mothers’ insistence, we met and decided to continue to meet. The first meeting didn’t go so bad, so we decided why not another one and so on. Both my husband and I did not want to rush into a commitment and decided we’ll continue to get to know each other and maybe let our parents know after taking our time. We could always plan for marriage after about a year’s time. This time-frame did not seem ideal to our folks, but when one deals with resistant progeny, you just agree to play along. My mother-in-law mentioned to my mother, that even if their kids don’t get together, they should continue to be friends and catch up regularly. My mother was most pleased by the suggestion. Meanwhile, we took much less time to decide we wanted to be together.
My husband often asks me what was it about him that made me say yes to him. Me thinks, these type of questions are always a ploy to fish for compliments. I give him different silly answers all the time. I tell him it was his mother who impressed my matriarch the most. We wanted her in our lives and so I agreed to marry him. Or that I had just watched Tanu weds Manu, and he was the closest to the dreamy Madhavan. As you can imagine he rolls his eyes at all my nonsensical answers. In reality, it was his honest attitude. Always sincere, caring and genuine. His calmness complements my volatile nature, like a tempestuous wave and a big tranquil rock. I knew I could always depend upon him and be myself and he would love me with all my flaws. We have shared an incredible journey of seven years so far and I cannot imagine anyone else I would want to continue to share my life experiences with. Strangely, when people ask us how we met, a lot of people are surprised to find out that we had an arranged marriage and it was our mothers who got us together!