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.