The Arranged Love Marriage

“Madam, I have draped the sari like mermaid! It is giving you very young and slim look!” The beautician bent down to fix Bittu Kumari’s sari pleats, pleased with her work.

“I am young! I am 26!” Bittu Kumari frowned.

“Oh! I thought you must be in 30’s! Was wondering why you are still bachelor!”

“I am not! A bachelor is a man who is not…”

“Bittu, you are still not ready! The boy’s family has arrived!” Bittu Kumari’s mother stormed into the room. She looked at her daughter from head to toe. “Shabnam, I had asked you to make her look thin!” she said disappointed.

“Aunty Ji, I have given her slim look only! This is mermaid style sari! My world-famous style in Saharanpur! She is little healthy no, what can I do!”

“Leave it! No time now!”

Bittu Kumari was dragged to the living room.  A lean, dark, young man, his mother, father and possibly his brother who looked like a rounder replica of him were seated on the three-seater sofa.  Opposite to them, were Bittu Kumari’s father – Mr. Mishra, and his teenaged son, Sonuraj. Mrs. Mishra’s sister and husband had also been invited for moral support. Bittu Kumari sat next to her brother.

“Mr. Pandey, this is my daughter, Bittu Kumari! She has completed M.A. in English literature.  She teaches English in St. Mary’s high school! Convent! And herself educated in English medium convent! Throughout topper!” added the proud father.

“That is great!” said Mr. Pandey with an approving nod. “Lallan also wanted to do B.Com. But after Matric he joined my business. He completed PUC through correspondence.”

Sonuraj giggled. Bittu Kumari was horrified. She looked up to confirm if she had heard correctly. Her eyes met Lallan’s. Lallan smiled at her, beaming.

“All that is okay! Doesn’t matter!” Mrs. Pandey seemed to have read Bittu Kumari’s thoughts. “For a boy, what matters is how well he is earning. Our business is flourishing. Lallan is handling it single-handedly now! And what matters for a girl is how she looks!” She paused, giving a sharp stare at Bittu Kumari’s bulging stomach which Shabnam’s Rs 1500 mermaid style draping could not hide. “My elder daughter-in-law Chhaya is so pretty! Even after having two daughters, she has maintained herself like a stick!”

Bittu Kumari raised her head again to look at Lallan’s brother’s paunch, trying to imagine him with his stick-like wife.

What does Chaaya do?” asked Mr. Mishra, visibly annoyed.

She is a housewife!” Mr. Pandey stepped in. “We wanted a working girl for Lallan. Actually, we wanted a housewife. But Lallan wanted a working girl.”

Lallan blushed.

“Working, not working is not main criteria! We want a fair, slim, beautiful girl.” Mrs. Pandey clarified. “Your daughter is very healthy. At this age, she is healthy! After a child, she will bloat even more!”

Mrs. Mishra shifted in her chair uncomfortably. Her fear came true. This was the fifth time the boy’ side had rejected her daughter for being “healthy”.  This time, Bittu Kumari did not look up. The words seemed to have pierced through her heart and created a hole. How is it possible that for all these years, she had heard it all – healthy, fat, moti, bhais, elephant, yet it hurt her each time? Shouldn’t she be immuned by now?

“Mrs. Pandey, I think you should let Lallan and Bittu Kumari talk once. They are the ones who have to get married! Let them decide.”

“We would have let them talk, Mr. Mishra. We are very modern. That is why we got Lallan. He was keen on your daughter’s profile. But… sorry to say your daughter looks nothing like her pictures. You must have edited them and sent to us. She seems 20 kg more than we had expected!”

Mr. Mishra looked at his wife accusingly. She had gone to the biggest studio in town to get her daughter’s pictures photoshopped. What was she supposed to do?  Those who saw Bittu Kumari’s real pictures rejected her even before meeting her. She had to give her daughter a fair chance!

“If she was slightly healthy also, we would have tried to adjust. But she is obese! Young girls exercise! She is probably lazy too! Or maybe she has some illness. And moreover, daughter-in-law’s beauty determines the looks of the children also. If we get an obese daughter-in-law, she will give birth to obese daughters, and then we will have to worry about their marriage also!”

“Ek minute Aunty, you have gone too far!” Bittu Kumari finally spoke up.  “Who said I wanted to marry your son!”

“What! Then why did you all call us!” Mrs. Pandey frowned.

“We were deceived too! We thought your son had completed B-Com. But now we know he never went to college. I did not know I was signing up for a college dropout! Just like you did not know you were signing up for a fat daughter-in-law. But you know what Aunty, fat women make completely decent homemakers. Look at you!”

“Such a shameless girl! Doesn’t know how to talk to elders! And I am fat now! When I was your age, I looked just like Hema Malini! Come Lallan, let us go.” Mrs. Pandey got up, grabbing her son’s hand. Her elder son and husband also got up almost in a reflex. “We don’t need a fat and proudy girl.”

“It is proud Aunty, not proudy!”

Lallan looked at Bittu Kumari. He paused. He wanted to say something. But his mother pulled him away.

And just like that, the entire Pandey family was gone. Mr. Mishra put his hand on her daughter’s head and smiled. “Bittu beta, we don’t need them! You are a diamond. These people don’t know your worth.” Mrs. Mishra went back to the bedroom to pay Shabnam who was locked up in the bedroom, waiting for the boy’s side to leave. Mrs. Mishra’s sister and brother-in-law left rather unceremoniously. Everything went back to normal.

Two days later, Bittu Kumari received a text message.

‘Hi Bittu Ji. I am sorry for finding your number. Got it from the school.  I am sorry for the way my mother talked to you. I know how you must have felt. Four girls have rejected me because I am dark! One was educated and English-speaking, and did not want someone like me. I know my profile says that I have done B.com. If talks would have progressed, I would have told you the truth. My brother had edited my profile so that people at least express interest. I may not be that educated, but I do manage to run my business well. I may not be good-looking, but if you give me a chance I will take care of you. I know what it is like when people judge you without getting to know you. I really liked you. Would like to be friends with you, if it is okay with you.”

Bittu Kumari was shocked. No man had ever showed such interest in her. Without telling their parents, Bittu Kumari and Lallan started chatting. Bittu Kumari realized that Lallan was no different from her. He was also looking for a decent partner, while struggling with his own insecurities, and cruel judgment of random people. He was running a growing business, with hard-work and sincerity. He was not as stupid as she had expected. Rather, he was quite intuitive and witty. He was also very sensitive and mature. She grew quite fond of him.

Bittu Rani and Lallan have decided to get married. Mr. Mishra is insisting that Lallan completes B.Com from distant learning. Mrs. Pandey has agreed provided Bittu Kumari loses 10 kgs. Mr. Pandey is happy for the children. Sonuraj is preparing a solo dance performance for the wedding.

Mrs. Mishra is grateful. To Shabnam. And to the photographer.

Image source

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Want To Live With My Parents After Marriage? You Horrible Un-cultured Woman!

I spoke to a man for an arranged marriage meeting. Before telling me about himself or asking anything about me he told me that his parents would be living with us after marriage from Day 1. He said that he wants them around. Not because of any health condition. He just wants to “make them happy.” They feel lonely in their hometown.

For the past eight years, his parents have been  living in the hometown because he was living with a roommate. But  somehow, the moment he gets married, they will become lonely and helpless!

Very politely, I told this man that I would not be comfortable with this set-up. It will be difficult for me to adjust to three new people immediately. I said that during the first few years of marriage, the husband and wife should live alone because they are still trying to adjust to each other.  He then told me that I will be “allowed” to wear jeans and that his parents are very nice people. As long as they are taken care of them, they will not “scold” me for anything.

I told him “No”. He later sent me a text message  wishing me good luck in life, and that he is looking for someone with “family values”!

He also wanted me to “appreciate his honesty” because he told me about his expectation before marriage. I was honest too! Why didn’t I get appreciation for my honesty? He wants a woman to take care of his parents, because it is convenient for him. He gets to be Shavan Kumar by doing nothing for his parents except getting married. I refuse him, so I get to be a vamp!!

I don’t understand why this should be the norm. Let me tell you this is one of the reasons people still prefer to have a son. Because they can live with their son forever but not with the daughter.

When I say this, it is immediately interpreted as a rebellious, uncultured attitude. I want to ask these so-called custodians of Indian culture, are girls’ parents any less old? How come they manage alone? Or since they have given birth to daughters, they are so unfortunate to begin with that we don’t even count them as senior citizens?

Some men and even women say that “Yeah, but any guy with prefer to have his parents around.  If you were a boy, wouldn’t you?’

Some even add, “Why do you even want to get married then!”

This statement is garbage. It reeks with chauvinism, and enjoying the benefits of patriarchy at a woman’s expense. This is how they justify dowry too!

No marriage is not about living with in-laws. People in the western countries also get married. They do not do this.

Please don’t get me wrong. Of course someone should be there to take care of parents in emergencies. In fact, if the parents can live in the same city, or nearby it is great. I know of people who even stay in the same apartment complex but in different apartments. That way, they are there when required and also have their privacy.  Sometimes they stay together for economic reason. Some stay together for grandchildren. Living together can be a great form of support for parents as well as children. I am not saying they should not.  As long as they are happy doing what they are doing, it is none of my business. I know of families where the girl’s parents also stay together.

What I am trying to say is in the Indian set-up, living with in-laws can become difficult because of high expectations. Especially in the initial years of marriage when the relationship between the husband and wife is not even stable. But no, it is not a wife’s moral obligation to live with her husband’s parents and take care of them from the first day of marriage! It is not a man’s birth right to demand it. If she is doing it happily, great. If she refuses, it is okay too. It is her choice. It is difficult to adjust to one person. And definitely more difficult to adjust with more people from another generation, especially when they come with a sense of entitlement and expectation.

I have a request:

Indian men, when the girl you meet at shaadi.com refuses to live with your parents after marriage, you don’t get to shame her. You respect her choice, and find someone else. Please do not tell her that she does not have “family values”. Unless you also want that her parents should also live with you guys. “Respect for elders” and “family values” apply to elders who have borne daughters also.

Parents of girls, please do not force your daughters in to such marriages saying “so and so is also living with in-laws. This is our culture etc”.  You will not be there with her each day to maneuver her way. She will be alone there. Let her decide for herself.

And girls, please know yourself. If you are not comfortable with the idea of living with in-laws, then be sure about this point before you get convinced into such a marriage. It is your whole life ahead.  Later on complaining about it will get you nowhere.

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Seeing the comments on the article, about women being equally responsible for such upbringing or social conditioning, I am adding this quote of Ms. Kamla Bhasin. Thank you readers, you always provide the much needed perspective.

 

 

Thirty Years of Me!

On my 28th birthday, I had posted this article. I had even created a separate category on my blog called ‘Birthday Memoirs’ based on one article! Last year I got lazy and shared the same article again. But today, I have turned 30. How can I not write about it!

Give me some sunshine. Give me some rain. Give me another chance. I wanna grow up once again.

Last week, I was on a whatsapp video call with my cousin and her six-year-old daughter.

Cousin: What’s the plan for the birthday?

Me: No plans. I am turning 30!

Kid excited: Mausi’s 30th birthday is coming up?

Me: Shh! Don’t say 30 out loud! It is a secret between you and me.  Don’t tell anyone!

Kid with a thumbs up: Okay Mausi. Secret. Done. I will tell everyone you turned 39!

Me: Hey! What kind of a secret is that! The secret should be beneficial to me!

Kid confused and disappointed. She had given her best shot at faking.

Cousin: You should reduce Mausi’s age. 39 is worse than 30!

Kid was still confused. She did not understand why turning 30 was bad. Why was turning 39 even worse? It did not make any sense to her.

Past few months I have been upset about turning 30. Should have talked to the kid sooner. She would have made me realize it really does not matter!

Last year this time

Aaj kal paon zameen par nahin padate mere, Bolo dekhaa hai kabhi, tumne mujhe udate huye

I was pretty happy. I had a new job. New friends. An international family vacation.  In the beginning of 2017, I won an award for blogging. Life seemed to be going well.  And I was pretty optimistic that by this time, this year I would have un-singled myself!

Oh dear men!

No! Not all men! Just talking about the men I met this year. Instead of becoming partners for me, most ended up becoming case studies for my articles. One became the sole inspiration behind my series, ‘To the Geet without Aditya Kashyap, and the Queen without the international vacation’.  I think this year I have written more about relationships that any other topic.

I had met a gentleman through an arranged marriage set-up. He was good-looking, soft-spoken and well-dressed. It was during the phase when I was certain I should get married. He lived with his parents. He was very clear he would continue living with his parents after marriage too. He said that I will be “allowed” to do whatever l liked. As long as I respect his parents and take care of them.

Few years back, such a statement would have sounded harmless to me. But I have become smart. Or rather experiences have taught me better.  I imagined my life of marital bliss with him.

Wake up before everyone else –

Pehli Kiran Jab Se Uge, Bhabhi Meri Tab Se Jage. Sabka Pura dhyan Dhare Woh, Shaam Dhale Tak Kaam Kare

Feed three adults.

Seek their permission to go to my parents’ place. Actually anywhere.

Be fully covered since the moment I leave my bedroom.

Forget about watching Mindhunter. Or Game of thrones. Or anything. 

Not being able to put my legs on the center table stand while watching TV. Ever.

Weekends will be spent grocery shopping. Identifying sales from Big Bazaar. And watching Indian Idol for fun.

Is it worth it? I asked myself. Don’t answer the question. Most of India is doing this. So I am pretty sure it is worth it.  It just made me realize that in case it never happens for me, or happens much later in life, it is okay. I am not missing out on a lot!

My current life

I made a lot of friends this year. From Shaadi.com to tinder, from Jeevansathi.Com to Trulymadly, from meetups to events in the city– I was everywhere! I Did meet some nice and interesting people through these mediums who I would not have met otherwise.

Weekends I get up at 12. Have lunch and head out. Evenings are usually spent in some nice restaurant / pub.

Come on, come on, turn the radio on. It’s Saturday and I won’t be long. Gotta paint my nails, put my high heels on. It’s Saturday and I won’t be long

Come back at night. No wonder, a lot of women in their 30’s and 40’s prefer not to get married unless they meet someone awesome. A lot of single women I know and I myself spend a lot of time and money on ourselves. Hair spas. Hair smoothening. Sexy dresses. Fun events. Nobody to answer to.

What was good this year

Writing has been going well. My articles on Womensweb, as well as on my blog did really well. More people have been writing to me. Feels good.

My sister and niece visited twice this year. Niece is a lot of fun to be with. She is also one of the most affectionate and loving children I know. Till the time that she was here, I would look forward to coming back from office. She would give me company for everything – Whether it is staying up late at night, or going to gym. She makes me believe in all the good things in the world. She also makes me believe in marriage and family.

People and their ways!

Kuch to log kaheinge, logon ka kaam hai kehna

I have spent most of my life overthinking and overanalyzing. This year also, like any other year I have been hurt by some people’s words and behaviour. Today is a good day to let go of all the bitterness. Let me focus on better things. I have noticed that I may not like what some people say, yet I am grateful that these people have managed to stay in my life. Even if they say some stupid things, at least they call, text or show up.  Better than the ones who are not in touch. I guess this is the first sign of ageing! Gratefulness!

The single factor

Single Rehne De Mane Single Rehne De, Happy Hoon Main Happy Happy Rehne De!

The other day, I went out with four of my girlfriends.  We are all in the age group 29-42. All single women. We started talking about boyfriends and our broken relationships. One girl decided to ask what each one of us may be looking for in a partner. One girl said she wants someone who is a poet or an artist. Shayar type. Another one said she would prefer someone who is earning very well, in a stable job because she wants to be a homemaker.

I don’t know if it was the Vodka but all of this just made me laugh. I told the first girl, if she likes poetry or art, why doesn’t she do it herself?  I asked the second girl, who should be paying for her expenses then?

I am not laughing at them. I have no right to, as someone who spent the entire year trying to unsingle. I am laughing at all of us. At the expectation that someone will come, and make our lives better. The emotionally unavailable boyfriend who does not want to commit, the undekha anjana shayar, or the decent gentleman who promises a stable life, provided his parents are taken care of. Single, wise, older women still waiting for a man!

Do Patte Patjhad Ke Pedon Se Utre The, Pedon Ki Shaakhon Se Utre The, Phir Utne Mausam Guzre Vo Patte Do bechaare, Phir Ugne Ki Chaahat Mein Vo Sehraon Se Guzre

I guess it is badly ingrained in our minds that relationship will make us happy. I have had enough with this expectation. And the efforts directed towards achieving it. The next year will be all about me. About all the things that I have wanted to do. Here are some:

Teaching kids

When I was in the United States, I used to volunteer to teach children at summer school. I was quite young myself – about 16. There was a kid (fourth grader) in one of my classes, who was Hispanic. He struggled with English. I struggled with him.  But he was hard-working. I tried my best to help him improve. He responded.

On the last day, his father had come to pick him up. The kid had got a rose for me, as a thank you. Except that he felt too shy at the time of handing it over. So, he gave the rose to his father to give it to me. The father was sooooo cute!! He thanked me for helping his son. The awkward, short, scrawny, braces wearing teenager inside me could not stop blushing.

I also taught Kindergarten another summer. Those kids were too young to learn anything. But they were very cute and innocent. Teaching was a very rewarding experience. Not because of the cute Hispanic man. But because I really enjoyed myself. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher.

I don’t know how I will achieve this with my full-time job and writing. But let me for now put it in my to-do list for this year.

Taare zameen par…

Lasik surgery

I don’t know how many times I have gone to the doctor, got an eye-check-up, weighed pros and cons (there is hardly a con), nodded when the doctor has asked me to come back for a final consultation, and then chickened out and never returned. People who have got laser surgery have told me it has made their lives much easier. I think I should too. At least I would become less averse to travelling, and water sports. Maybe I should stop watching youtube videos on the surgery, because they just scare me. If any of you have got it done, please do let me know how it feels like.

The book

I think about it every night and day, Spread my wings and fly away. I believe I can soar, I see me running through that open door

I hope the book that I have been working on gets to see the light of the day. I also realized I have posted very few guest blogs this year. Please do keep sending me story ideas.

GMAT and MBA

This is the most farfetched idea. But it is still there. Maths had always been a nightmare for me. I used to dream that I have failed in Maths even long after I had finished school. Then came chartered accountancy and the nightmares became real. I used to have a recurring dream that I have failed the CA exams till years after I had qualified. But those dreams had stopped. Until recently.  I dreamt that I  failed in Biology. I have never been a Science student. I attribute that dream to my struggle with Maths with the GMAT book I bought this month. My sub-conscious brain probably could not process failing GMAT yet and substituted it with biology.

I met a friend from the US who is doing MBA from Singapore. I had met her though blogging. I confessed to her that I am not really interested in GMAT or MBA. I just want to get out of here. She said that it is a common reason for a lot of girls from the Indian sub-continent!

But I think two factors would not let it happen for me. 1. I love India way too much. 2. I am horrible at Maths.

So there. I better end it now before this post becomes an autobiography.

Maula tera maali, O hariyaali jungle waali,
Tu de har gaali pe taali, Uski kadam kadam rakhwaali

Image source

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To The Geet Without Aditya Kashyap, and The Queen Without the International Vacation – Part 2

This is my second article in the series, ‘To the Geet Without Aditya Kashyap, and The Queen Without the International Vacation’. This is dedicated to the women who are going through a break-up, or a divorce. They may not have necessarily found someone else, or have the luxury to travel to discover themselves like our Bollywood heroines. How would they heal? You could read the first part here.

******

I was waiting in the family court.  As I looked around, I felt like I was the youngest person to be here. I probably was.

‘Why me!! Why does everything happen to me!! I don’t deserve this!’ I thought to myself or was probably screaming to God.

An older lady wearing a silk sari who looked very strict pointed towards my legs. I looked at my legs. Then at her. What was she trying to say?

Don’t cross your legs. It is considered disrespectful to the judge!” said a slim, pretty looking young girl sitting next to me.

“Oh ok.” I uncrossed my legs, embarrassed. “I did not know that!”

She smiled.

“You are here for…”

Yes.” I nodded. “You too?”

“Yes.”

“You have kids?”

“Oh no no! We were just together six months. You?”

“I have two daughters. Nine and seven years old!”

“Wow! You look so young”.

“I am 29!”

“Oh! Just three years older than me!”

“Yeah I got married very early.”

“Love marriage?”

“No Arranged. You?”

“Same! You have come alone?”

“Yeah. My father used to come with me.  But he has not been keeping well since last week. Ever since I separated, I moved in with them. My mother passed away from cancer last year. Since then he has become weak. He was hospitalized. Low BP. Past four years have been like hell.”

“Oh my God! You are going through a lot!”

I watched my parents outside the room, looking out for me protectively.

First time, during that day I did not feel like a victim. I felt grateful.

“Do you work?” I asked her.

“I have started teaching. Completed B.Ed. I was not working earlier. But since we separated I had to. Two children I have to support.”

“Was he giving any child support?”

“No nothing. That is why this process getting delayed. He is not agreeing to give a penny.  I have been struggling like anything just to survive!”

A man in a fluorescent coloured shirt walked in and spoke to my lawyer. The lawyer then came and said something to me.

“Is that your…?”

“That’s his brother!”

“What a bright coloured shirt he is wearing! Who dresses up like this in a court!”

“He is a very moronic person. Maybe he thought this is a wedding.”

She giggled. I giggled too. The lady in the silk sari gave us a sharp look.  We felt like two school girls being scolded by a teacher.

A hefty looking man entered. He looked very aggressive.

“That’s my…”, she said.

“Oh! You both look like a mismatched pair!”

She smiled. “Yes, you both too” – She said, looking at another man looking equally aggressive. “He looks much older than you too!”

After a moment, she said, “You know the Judge should grant us just by looking at their faces! They look like they will start hurling abuses here any minute! I mean just look at them! ”

We both laughed again.

“No they won’t. They would not take such a risk here. That behavior is reserved for the wife.”

“These idiots don’t realize how they ruined our lives. They deserve to be alone because of their behavior and actions! It was our horrible fate that we ended up with them. They will grow old and regret everything! We will find someone else!”

“They will too!”

“Isn’t that scary?”

We laughed again.

Doesn’t matter to us. We have to focus on our lives. You will be fine. You are a strong woman! And you have to live well for your kids. Have faith in yourself”

Yes dear. Everything will be fine! You too be good. We are getting our freedom today. This is day to celebrate!”

“Yup!!”

After the hearing, I stepped out of the room to have a discussion with the lawyers. It was time to leave.  I went back to the room to look for my friend. The stranger who had made the day light. Who made me laugh on a tensed day. With whom I shared hope. Who took away the loneliness.

Her hearing was about to come up. She was standing in the queue. She was also looking out of the door, probably looking for me. I smiled and waved. She waved back.

******

To all the Geets and Ranis out there, my two cents and non-expert yet tried and tested advice:

  • Count your blessings. There is no end to suffering in the world. Look around you. There are always people dealing with so much more. I get annoyed when people tell me the same thing. But it is the truth. It is also the only way to go on.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of small joys in life. Little moments help in healing. Be greedy for them and grab them all. Sharing a lame joke with a stranger, going out with friends, watching an old comedy movie, downloading the latest Punjabi number and playing it in gym, ordering brownies, binge-watching Friends and Seinfeld for the nth time, 2 am Maggie, playing with your niece. Do it all. When you laugh, you laugh. It does not matter if you were sad the moment before.
  • Remember why things ended. Either someone was not good to you, and you had to make the choice to leave or someone left. Either way, they choose not to be with you. And there is nothing you can do about it.
  • Keep loving yourself. Your relationship with yourself is the most important. Keep working on it! Only you can nurture it!

 

 

 

 

 

Why Do Men Get Annoyed When We Express Our Care?

I had received an article request some time back from a girl who wanted me to write about little things that women do, to express their care and affection for their husbands / boyfriends, which ends up annoying them.

Although she is married, I have expanded the scope here to include other romantic relationships too.

It took me a long time to write this, because I had no idea how to conclude the post. Starting it is easy. I can list the many  things we all may do for our significant other:

  1. Calling or texting to check if he has reached, left from work
  2. Calling or texting to check if he had lunch at work
  3. Sending good morning / goodnight messages
  4. Asking about his health repeatedly when he is unwell
  5. Expecting the same from him, and feeling upset when it does not happen

Now, doing the above is not only considered annoying by some men, but also being possessive, and not giving him space. Expecting the above is considered a ‘need to pamper her like a princess’.

I have tried to read articles about how men and women think and behave differently. For instance, men can keep aspects of their life in different compartments. Quoting from an article:

 We (men) like tools fitted just for a specific job and enjoy concrete delineations between activities: exercise happens at the gym, lounging happens at home, worship happens at church, work happens at the office, etc. Women on the other hand tend to mix information together: relationships, emotions, knowledge, past experiences, all come together to render a conclusion.

Women like to share their problems, and are more expressive than men. For example, a woman may be stressed about an assignment at work. She may tell her boyfriend / husband about her meetings, and how hesitant she is of her performance. The man at this point will try to provide her with a solution. (She may not be looking for a solution, she just wants him to listen). She may or may not apply his solution, but she will keep him informed of all the developments.  This may involve not applying his solution, yet continuing to complain about the problem. A man at this point may get annoyed and even feel completely useless, as he does not know what she wants him to do. Some may be more mature than others. A man who is not too mature will make it an ego issue that she did not take his advice well, as a direct attack on his capabilities to fix things for her.

On the other hand, a man who is busy / preoccupied with work may not share anything in particular with a woman. He would just appear distant to her, and resort to his man cave. The woman would then torture herself with a lot of thoughts – has he lost interest in her, is he seeing someone else? A confrontation would make things worse, as he would get further annoyed and defensive.

Also, women tend to give a lot priority to relationships. Even when a woman is on vacation / girls’ night out away from her husband / boyfriend, she would still call and text him at the usual times, following the usual routine she may have set. A man on vacation / office trip / boys night out may end up not communicating at all! He does not even feel the need to explain anything because it is obvious that he has been away.

But, irrespective of how different men and women may be, is there any excuse to get annoyed, and express anger, when a woman is just trying to take care of the man she loves? How many  other people in the world care about us anyway – parents, siblings, grandparents, a couple of best friends?

How many people will call and ask me if I reached home safely from a party? Maybe one person would whom I saw last.  But who would do it constantly, everyday?

Does it hurt to appreciate the person who does that?  Let us not take people for granted!! We never know how life would turn out to be. And unfortunately, we may realize the hard way, that people who care for us are rare to find and precious to keep!

The above may be a generalization, and I am aware that this may differ for every individual, and every couple.  This article was written as a response to a situation shared by a female reader, based on her personal experience. Any contrary thoughts, or suggestions are most welcome as comments.  

 

 

Arranged! Before society deem us apart…

Sometime in 2002-2003

I was in junior high school in the United States. The English literature class was going on. I do not remember the exact context, but the teacher was asking for the “Reasons why people get married.”

The creative class was coming up with all kinds of reasons – procreation, money, security, pregnancy among others. One guy said “for love” which was followed by a mocking “Aww!” in chorus. One girl said, “Pressure.”
The teacher’s eyes brightened, as this seemed the most interesting and novel reason so far.

That’s right.” She said. “In medieval times, some people were forced to get married.. Sadly, it is still happening in some parts of the world. It is called arranged marriages.”

I was completely offended. I wanted to raise my hand and correct her. No. Arranged marriages are not forced…. My parents, uncle, aunts, cousins are happily married. All arranged.

But I did not have the courage to speak up. I was afraid everybody would make fun of my accent, or even worse, my thoughts.

After the class ended, I brought up the topic with one of my classmates who was of Indian origin. She was the closest to a “friend” to me. She ensured to tell everybody that she was born and brought up there and was “one of them”. Although, her looks gave away her roots. She never seemed too pleased when I tried to associate herself with India. This time was no exception.

“Arranged marriages are ******. How can you marry a stranger?”

I tried to explain to her that all my relatives had arranged marriages. They are happy. Ultimately, marriage is about committing to each other and making it work. Every marriage is a risk no matter how long you have known each other. I also brought up the low divorce rate in India as a testimony to our wonderful marriages.

“Well, you don’t even belong to our generation.
” She snapped.

In my defense, I was only thirteen.

Cut to 2015.

I am now a writer. I am having a discussion with one of my closest friends (also a writer) on how arranged marriages have ruined our society. Our personal experiences, and that of many close to us have completely transformed our fundamentals. We are together working on an article titled, “Why arranged marriages should be banned in India?”

We ask some men who are in their late 30s, early 40s. They got married early in life, when their personalities had not even evolved fully (in their own words). Their wives are of their parents’ choice, who take care of the family well. But, they badly regret their decision. They were too young to know what they wanted then. Over the years, they have realized that they don’t have much intellectual compatibility with their spouse. (They don’t mind discussing other compatibilities / lack of it but we restrict the conversation. This is from the men’s point of view, I am sure their wives would have their side of the story. Or maybe they are too busy taking care of their kids and in-laws to give their views on marriage to random women…).

Some excerpts from the draft of our article:

1. Arranged marriages promote the archaic caste system. One of the main reasons parents want to arrange their children’s match is to ensure that they marry someone from a similar culture background – caste, community, language.

2. Arranged marriages do not leave any time for people to date and get to know each other. Some arranged marriages may work. But is that logic enough to do something as illogical as marrying somebody you barely know?

3. Do arranged marriages actually work or people stay in them because they are stuck and have nowhere to go to? The reasons these marriages work may be the same for which they happened in the first place – social / family pressure.

We even thought that just like dowry, there should be stringent laws that punish people who arrange marriages.

At this point we realized maybe we should not publish this article…

Present day

Dating is on rise in India like never before. In my previous office, I hardly knew anybody who had an arranged marriage. On the other hand, there are others who want a love marriage, but cannot find anybody. Or their relationships don’t work out and they get tired of trying.

Relationships not working out or not finding anybody is nothing shameful. Rather, something natural and universal. I remember the episode from Friends, where Rachael turns 30. She is already depressed because she is getting old and still single. To add to it, Chandler gives her a card calling her grandma. She then decides that all she needs is a plan, and comes up with a reverse calculation:

“I should have the first one (kid) by the time I’m 35.
Which gives me five years.
If I want a kid when I’m 35, I don’t have to get pregnant until I’m 34.
Which gives Prada four years to start making maternity clothes.
But I want to be married for a year before I get pregnant.
I don’t have to get married until I’m 33.
That’s three whole years.
Wait a minute, though.
I’ll need a year and a half to plan the wedding.
And I’d like to know the guy for a year, year and a half before we get engaged.
Which means I need to meet the guy by the time I’m 30.”

We Indians take this calculation pretty seriously. While Rachael had calculated the age where she wants her first child to be 35, we probably take it at 25. And the countdown begins…

The other view – in support of arranged marriages

Why wait for something that may or may not happen when we can arrange our destiny? What if it gets “too late”? Too late meaning inability to have kids. What if there would be a dearth of single people in the opposite gender as we age – so we may lose out on that precious chance of finding any companion. Plus, who will remain single in India after a certain age? Only people with previous marriages?

So, in order to prevent such a “disaster” in the lives of their loved ones, well-wishers arrange their matches. Compatibility, attraction (What’s that got to do with marriage?) are theoretical concepts that anyway fade with time. It is all about compromise, right?

(PS: I do not support this view)!

Dating and arranged marriages

Modern India seems to be enjoying both sides. People are dating. If it doesn’t work out, there is always have a “back-up” option.

Dating is complicated to begin with. We don’t know where it is going. But in India, to add to the uncertainty of the relationship working out is the possibility of the boyfriend / girlfriend conveniently getting into an arranged marriage the moment clashes / boredom creeps in.

A man may allegedly dump his girlfriend to marry someone who is a more appropriate “caregiver” fit to his family, caste and language compatible. A woman may find an arranged match who may be better suited to make her more secure financially. These are ofcourse stereotypes. Sometimes, people just don’t have the heart to go through the pain of another break-up so they just give up on the thought of “looking out” completely. They want to make sure this time around marriage happens. Either way, modern day arranged marriages do involve some amount of dating, and getting to know the person. A lot of them are facilitated through matrimonial websites.

Can I really judge them, in the age of dating apps?

How do people in other parts of the world survive without well-meaning family members, distant relatives and neighbors finding them a match?

If as a culture we were into dating (and not arranged marriages), wouldn’t we end up finding someone or another? Or atleast continue to look? If only there was no make-believe time bomb ticking away…

I don’t really have a conclusion to this post. I did not publish my original article “Why should arranged marriages be banned in India”, as I felt it was too prejudiced, and offensive to most people I know. Plus, if something is working for someone, do I have a right to judge?

I just wonder sometimes, how our society would be without it..

Where we are not told that we will end up alone and miserable, if we don’t marry ASAP..

Where we could date, with no age barriers and judgment…

Where companionship is not about producing healthy children together…

Where we are given time to really figure out what we want from our lives…