Want to get married in India? Read up on Bhagat Singh!
The biggest myth that’s floating around is that arranged marriages are all boring.
Nobody falls in love, there are no secret trysts, no romantic dinner dates, and no drama with your parents! After all, every step you take in a arranged marriage is supervised.
The typical arranged marriage process in India begins with a basic profile match that is based on the biodata for marriage.
Then comes the horoscope match.
Once both the parties are satisfied, it’s on to another staged ritual where the boy and the girl meet for the first time. This is closely supervised by the family and it’s no different from buying a television. Everybody has a say in it.
When you manage the process so tightly, things are bound to fall off the rails spectacularly and here is one such hilarious story narrated by the woman who had to go through it.
This is my first and only experience of having a guy and his family visit my house in the context of ‘seeing’ me as their prospective daughter-in-law. My family was contacted by this guy through a matrimonial website; he calls up (gets his whole family: uncle, aunt, mother & father) and says will come for tea but eventually stays until lunch time. So my mom prepares a huge meal for them.
I was not interested in the whole affair, but like all other girls, I was emotionally blackmailed and had to put up with the whole thing.
IAS entrance exam put to shame
I am asked to enter the room. Everybody’s gaze is on me. The guy works in some renewable energy firm, he distributes his company’s brochure to everyone in my family! Then this happens:
Guy’s Father: “Namaste, please sit down, How are you?”
Me: “Namaste, Fine, thank you. How are you?”
Guy’s Father: “I am a lawyer by profession and would like to ask you a few questions”
Guy’s Father: “What do you think about Bhagat Singh?”
I am confused. Everybody is watching me intently.
ME: “Er…He was a great guy I guess. I mean I really don’t think about him much?!”
Guy’s Father: “OK. I will make it simpler, what do you think of the movie Rang De Basanti? Do you think what happened in the movie is possible in real life? Will you do what Amir Khan did?”
Animation of a girl in a classroom sulking
Isn’t this suppose to be a meeting where his son is supposed to meet a prospective girl to marry? Or is this an IAS interview?
Guy’s Father: “What would you give first preference to? The nation, family or yourself?”
Me: (Thinking) what kind of a question is this?
Me: “I liked the movie, but I don’t think that’s possible in real life.”
Guy’s Father:”I am trying to gauge your personality through this Q&A session.”
Me: (Thinking) What? Am I supposed to impress you with my answers? I am an independent girl, am I not supposed to talk to the guy myself rather than answering your crazy questions?
All this time, the guy is sitting with his face down and hands folded.
Guy’s Father: “What are your work timings? Do you have a night duty? How do you commute to work? What is the percentage of males in your office? Are you comfortable working with males?”
Seemed like one of those surveys conducted by the India Today magazine for an edition titled “Working Women in India: Constrained or Happy?”
I give him the factual answers. Most of my colleagues are males and I am super comfortable working with them. I don’t have a night duty but won’t mind one.
Then he asks: “How do you calculate 4 divided by 2?”
Me: “Isn’t it 2?”
He: “How did you calculate it?”
Now it has moved to psychometric testing, probably he’s checking if I am a retard.
Me: “Dunno..may be you find the highest common factor of the numerator and denominator or something..blah blah.”
He: “You don’t seem to be good in math, but you are good in social sciences.”
He: “We are a very modern family, I will allow you to wear jeans and also a top. You can also keep short hair if you want.” He points to his wife who has been ‘allowed’ to keep a short hair.
Me: Yeah, I get it. Bloody hell. What do you mean it is allowed.? I know what to wear, when and where! And don’t you realise that a top has to be worn over jeans trouser? You don’t go around topless!
The question of making papad
If you think, this interrogation has gone on way too long, wait till you read what came up next from the prospective father-in-law.
He: “Do you know how to cook? What all can you cook?”
Me: “Yes, I can cook most of the Indian dishes”
He: “Can you make a Papad?”
He: (In a commanding tone) “There is a tradition in our family that we ask the new bride to make papad. Go to the kitchen and show us how you make papad.”
Does he actually want me to go to the kitchen and show his wife that I can make a papad? I am not even the ‘new bride’ yet.
He insists. I don’t find it funny at all. My family seems to take all of this as a joke or something, they don’t even protest. It’s not even like my boss telling me to go to the lab and show him how to pipette 100 ul.
So I go to the kitchen with the guy’s mother, I don’t even know where the papad is kept, our maid hands it over to me and I start preparing it.
Meanwhile, his mother is telling me to leave my job if I plan to get married her son and also re-think my ambition of doing a PhD and is telling how she left her job after her marriage. I don’t say anything. I am just thinking about my flight back to Bangalore.
My family is not that conservative and I have been brought up in a free environment. During lunch, I serve them and after they finish their food they hand over the used plates in my hands!
Finally, I serve sweets to the whole family. The guy’s father says, “Why have you served only one sweet? Don’t you have more? Are you people stingy in these things?”
I keep a bowl of sweets in front of him and say, “No. Everyone at my home is health conscious and we don’t really take a second helping of things containing a high amount of sugar and fat. But you can have the whole bowl if you don’t really care.”
It’s the prospective bridegroom’s turn to talk
Finally, I meet the guy. All he does is market himself. He works in Spain. He talks about how he got selected for this job (out of 600 people) and how he has an ‘out of the box thinking’ which helped him get through the job interview.
Then he tells me about his salary and how I don’t really need to work. Their family just wants an educated daughter-in-law so that she can present herself properly. He goes on and on and doesn’t even seem to be interested in asking me anything about me.
In the end, he tells me about his hobbies and says he likes Ricky Martin (WTF? Is he living in the 90s?)
I ask about his sister, he says she has done law and is sitting at home and is married to an hotelier. He only tells about the hotelier husband of his sister (females don’t really do anything in his family it seems.)
Then he says — “I will tell you one thing about myself. I am a pure vegetarian, I hate pubbing and clubbing. In my family, all decisions are taken by my father. I have never breached his trust. If I marry you and you go for higher studies you will have to make a lot of adjustments. Now tell me what all stuff do you like? (it didn’t sound like a question at all).”
He would have jailed me if I had mentioned one of my favourite drinks is Old Monk with coke.
I tell him that I am not sure about marriage as I want to go for higher studies. Then he tells me that I should go ahead for it but he also mentions how he once refused an offer from the ‘daughter of a high court judge’ because he wanted to go for higher studies and how he doesn’t have too many good offers for marriage.
Finally, they left and it was a relief to see their backs!
Originally published here.