I’m known in my household for being somewhat clumsy with my possessions. My things have a tendency to sprout legs and run away, which inevitably leads to a frustrated, hurricane-like sweep. My absentmindedness extends to such limits that I usually forget the reason for the hunt upon discovery of a distracting treasure.
On the rummage for my last missing object, I came across volumes of heavy, bound photo albums. Trawling through them led to the discovery of my parents’ wedding. The images flowed together in a blur of gold and reds, interspersed with smiling, younger looking and vaguely recognisable faces of distant relatives revelling in the festivities. The picture they painted was stereotypically Bollywood: my mother, uncharacteristically coy and adorned with jewellery was surrounded by women draped in saris of royal turquoises, emeralds and ruby reds. All that seemed to be missing was the elephant; although I assume there was one.
…with the pair getting to know each other as they please…
The tale of how my parents met is a rather unconventional one – albeit amusing. My father was on the hunt for his life partner. After being introduced to some prospective companions, and finding them to be unsuitable, he advertised his availability in the newspaper, complete with photograph (think young Apu from the Simpsons). A relative of my mother’s took a liking to the profile, arranged a meeting and, eleven days later, they were married. During the whirlwind engagement, which began on 13 Friday, they met a total of three times. Of course, today an arranged marriage is not so rigidly organised, yet it is increasingly seen as a last resort by many young Asians rather than a respected tradition.
These days, an arrangement usually takes the form of a simple, unpressurised introduction, with the pair getting to know each other as they please – although living together is still a big no-no. In essence, it is a community dating scene. Mothers, aunts and all in between, scout potential prey at weddings, parties and other occasions and pounce on them with questions about their careers and education.
… the biggest arguments are caused when one loses to the other at Wii bowling.
Although certain aspects may have changed, being married by a certain age is a requisite for the older generations. On a recent visit to India, a friend having just turned 20, was told by an undeniably traditional aunt that she would soon reach her expiry date, and that she best start looking for a husband. This comment, which seems absurd to my entirely Western view on the whole affair, is indicative of the sense of urgency some communities still place on getting settled down. This, in turn, comes with a whole host of other requirements; ranging from education to family to origins.
That is not to deny the success of this method, which takes into account not only the couple, but also their respective families: I’m lucky enough to have two happy parents and live in a house where the biggest arguments are caused when one loses to the other at Wii bowling. Despite this, it’s the lack of freedom that an arranged marriage alludes to, or that there seems to be something slightly humiliating in getting one’s family to launch a search for a partner that makes me find the idea cringe worthy and unromantic. Tradition, though it may be, it gives me the impression that it is frowned upon to be single at a certain age.