Saturday, May 5, 2012

WHEN THE SHOE DOES NOT FIT EVEN ON THE OTHER FOOT


A father of two daughters, my father had always faced a lot of contradictions between tradition and modernity when it came to the question our marriage. On one hand he had raised both his girls in such a way that we did not believe that gender could be barrier to anything. But when it was time to get us married, the Indian “marriage market” made Appa realize that as father of two daughters he was at the “weaker end” of the negotiating table. But thankfully, he did not have to get involved in any serious negotiations as both his daughters found their own life partners!

But the few occasions when he had encountered  fathers of prospective grooms had disgusted him to the point where he felt that had he had sons he would have shown the world how to behave decently while negotiating an arranged marriage!

Destiny seems to have now brought him to that point! My mother’s younger sister has three sons and  having lost her  husband  at a rather young age defers to the oldest among her brothers in law ie my father for any major decisions – marriage obviously being one of them. Appa , as the senior male  representative of the groom’s family is having some rather unique experiences  these days.

The first one came about five years ago when the middle one among my three cousins decided to marry a Telugu girl- Appa of course, had no objections to  the match since his nephew and the girl were so obviously in love with each other.  But what constantly puzzled him was the different stories that came from each of the three brothers, the bride and her parents about how the couple had met.. ! Then there was the comment from the bridegroom’s older brother – his oldest nephew told him about an hour before the wedding “ Periappa ( Uncle), please do not reveal A’s date of birth. The girls parents think he is two years older than their daughter but you know he is actually six years older! They would not have agreed if they had known that he is so many years older than her”.. Now my father is not exactly the family’s chronicler so he is not sure as to when exactly these boys were born ( though he sort of has an idea where they fit in chronologically in the family’s line up of kids). He kept quiet throughout the wedding lest he blurt out some date inadvertedly!

He has subsequently been trying to get the older of his nephews married! But I suspect that S has a girl friend who would probably be unacceptable to the Tam Brahm community and is therefore keen that his youngest brother C  gets married. C a young cost accountant, himself is rather keen on marriage because as he confided in his uncle one day , his hair is falling despite all efforts from Dr. Batra’s  clinic to keep them alive on his head! C is very keen to have a “proper traditional” marriage with horoscopes being matched et al  before he is completely bald!

Appa does not want any traditional “bride viewing” ceremony because he feels it is insulting to the girl and her family. So he has been trying to encourage C  to meet the girl alone. But C the cost accountant does not have the same  confidence he displays while totaling up numbers on his company’s cost statements when it comes to meeting any girl alone.  His uncle  is very surprised! “Arrey.. your sisters would have had no problems” he scolds him. But the nephew does not yield. He wants his uncle, aunt, his mother and his brothers, sister in law and the entire “jing bang” to accompany him so that he can eat “sojji bajji”  ( traditional snacks served at bride viewing ceremonies) and steal glances at the bride to be!

The occasion comes and he likes what he sees. He wants to say “YES” then and there. But both the ladies – his mother and his aunt signal to him to hold on. My mother scolds her husband and her nephew on reaching home “ Don’t jump and say YES. Let them make the first move. After all we are from the boy’s side”! Appa is appalled by the way she has reversed her role so easily!

They wait for a week , then two ,after which the girl’s  father calls the groom to be asking for “original copies of all his certificates and his salary slip”! The bride to be calls him a few hours later asking him to name two friends through whom they could verify his character! She also wants to know if he is keen on continuing to stay with his mother and brother once they are married.  C is very upset. He keeps quiet and finally after about a week calls up my father and tells him about what happened! My father is surprised about the way they have gone about it – “like a professional HR recruitment firm”! “See, was I not right when I told you not to go around saying YES” says my mother triumphantly!

This was about six months ago- things have not changed in any way except that C has now registered his profile on “shaadi.com” and various regional websites ( tamil matrimony etc etc). But the poor thing does not know how to write up his profile. He has waxed eloquent about how he loves cricket and good food ( to eat that is.. not to cook!) and how his mother will always be the most important person on this earth for him. He has attached a picture of himself with his owlish glasses sitting in front of the computer, making him look more of a “geek” than he actually is! Even his teenage niece disapproves. So, using her advice he goes through some old archived folders and fishes out a picture of himself leaning against his bike wearing stylish sunglasses!

Appa is completely annoyed at this new  picture he has uploaded – “ It will give a person the wrong impression! They will think there is something wrong with your eyesight”! Poor guy, there go his attempts at trying to looking rakish and appealing. Meanwhile, his niece added to his problems by using his id and continuing an online chat with a prospective bride during the half an hour when he was being scolded by his uncle. Not sure what this kid had written but the girl has “cooled off”!!

My father cannot understand what exactly his grand daughter is supposed to have done to be scolded like this by his daughter. I received a lecture on “excessive discipline and its consequences”

Anyway, now they have gone back to the traditional system of looking for a bride- through a matchmaker! Appa and his two nephews are  chasing these days a guy called “ Hi tech Shashtri”! Before you ask me what or who it is let me explain- Mr. Shashtri is a very popular match maker in the city of Hyderabad who is supposed to have finalized a lot of matches around the Hi Tech city!

“It appears to be equally difficult to get boys married these days” confesses my father! I have nothing to say. I think getting someone married is always seen as the responsibility of the older generation. It puts a lot of pressure on them to ensure that they get a “deal” that is acceptable to all concerned! The way arranged marriages are negotiated is nothing short of  a business transaction- the one who is able negotiate well gets all the brownie points.  Technology and communication have not really changed us – it has just made this process more tech savvy! And the person who wants to do it right and in a just way is never appreciated!

There are some role expectations and when we do not fit into that then the world that is looking at us through the traditional lens is puzzled! Whichever way, the shoe obviously does not fit on the feet of the “different” person.




12 comments:

Arooj said...

hi ma'am
again a very interesting point of view from your side.The two contrasting experiences your father encounter-first as the father of daughters and then as representative of male folk.
i myself made my choice for my life partner.A person who has no objection for my love for crows, donkeys and other generally hated ones animals.I wonder what my father would have to face in case of general process of my getting married that is the arranged one.
and your post also told the world that in current age is not really easy for the adam's sons to get married.
Is MOQA PER KOYEE SHER HONA CHAHEA THA :-)

KParthasarathi said...

Even as more girls choose their own partners these days,a large percentage find their spouses through traditional mode.Matchmakers have become a dwindling tribe with matrimony sites replacing them.These have wider reach though the caveat emptor(buyer beware) principle should be adhered to strictly.So the bride asking for attested copies of certificates and some go even for medical fitness certificates and checking the employment details to be doubly sure is justifiable especially in the context of spate of fake guys passing of as professionally qualified.She could have done it more discreetly.All said a few or more meetings of the two before marriage is desirable to avoid disappointments though this is no insurance.

All said there are are still many narrow minded looking for partners within the narrow confines of sects/subsects,fair/wheatish complexion,groom living far away from parents,not the only offspring,propertied and willing to let the lady take care of her parents or part with her income and not vice versa for the man.
If you get into it you would know how sick the minds of people are.

anilkurup said...

A contemporary banal exercise this is.I cannot imagine uploading my resume or providing my salary certificate etc for anything other than a job. Wonder if wife/husband position is a kind of a job.

Though there re certainly time tested values and benefits in arranged weddings, this bride profiling by the uncles and parents of the groom descending at the prospective bride's house is sickening.I'm sure no self respecting girl would agree to this parading in front of strangers.

But Meera, this damn thing called marriage , is it not a chance and sheer luck that we fall for the right person and he/she fall for us simultaneously?

The woman of the family reversing her role deftly when it comes to seeking a bride is typical of our society.

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Arooj, Anil and KP thanks for your comments.

@ Arooj it is really the lucky ones who can find someone who accepts them for what they are

@ Anil- yes marriages of any type ( parent arranged or self arranged) are essentially gambles- we don't know what we are letting ourselves in for .. only time will tell

@ KP , you are right, we seem to be continuing to live in our narrow minded worlds despite "progress" in other spheres. Besides, I think girls these days are probably more confident than boys when it comes to matters of marriage!

Rahul said...

I liked this.:-) I guess you are right.Arranged marriages are like business contracts forged between parties with their own agenda.

Jack said...

Meera,

Thank God, I had no such experiences for marriages of our both children, daughter & son. They both had arranged marriages. In her case, the boy was suggested by one of our far off relations but I told our daughter that she has to meet him and decide. We let them talk to each other without anyone looking over their shoulders. They spent almost an hour talking in a Coffee House with us, elders, not close and then both said YES. Same for our son too. He was of opinion that once we like someone it is fine with him but I told him that he has to meet her and even she will have full right to say NO. They met one evening near her office and spent little over an hour. They both said YES after that. When her father wanted to know if we had any demands, I told him Yes, she must join us as a member of family and NOT as daughter in law, apart from that we need nothing.

Take care

anindita said...

Very interesting write up and you touched upon a very relevant subject. Keep us posted about how C gets married...

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Jack you are one of the few nice fathers of sons! Wish more would be like you!

@ Ani, sure we will invite you for C's wedding .. poor guy he is now seriously worried about his hair

@ Rahul, it is a business deal through and through

Rahul Bhatia said...

You summed it up very well, Meera:)Nice one and this is what one sees in real life!

jkhona said...

a good topic that you have found to write about, even though u claim to not write very frequent! yes! took me back to moments when my parents were looking out for a groom for my sis! and yeah, now they are hunting around for a bride for me.. :P well, things still make me feel funny when I meet any such prospects! but those past experiences give me an answer as to why the prospect's parents behaved that way or shoved that question in my mouth when i wasn't prepared to answer it! :) very relative post!

Gayu said...

"Technology and communication have not really
changed us – it has just made this process more tech savvy! And the person who wants to do it right and in a just way is never appreciated!"

I totally agree with these lines.I have seen guys who still are of the opinion that the girl's side should bear all the expenses. WHY???

When both the guy and the girl are earning, you divide the cost, why should the girl and her father bear all the cost. and even after doing all this show off..what do they get???

And what are the questions they ask, "Do you know to cook". If the guy just needs someone to "cook", then better get a maid, why a wife..???

these days expectations have increased a lot from both the sides.
Girls want well-settled(having a house, car, atleast 1 maid) and guys want a girl who is working and who will handle household responsibilities.

Strange...when will these things change...???

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Gayu I echo your thoughts - people are not looking for a life partner in marriage but someone who could cater to their needs - our Indian system is such that women are always at a disadvantage.

@ Jkhona I am glad you could relate this to your own experiences :P

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