AN ARRANGED MARRIAGE DIARY
Sunday 18TH June 2015 12 30 pm.
The house is in a flurry of activity. The excitement is palpable. Ever since we got Amritanshu’s bio data, my mother has been a whirl of joy and her voice has been at 150k Hz (which is the frequency range of a dolphin’s hearing). ‘Chalo Sushma. Taiyaar ho gayee kya? Late ho raha hai. Un log wait kar rahe honge’ (Sushma, are you ready? It is getting late and they are waiting) My eldery grandmother also here today, (who is actually my grandmother’s cousin sister, but whom we call ‘Dadi’ too) is looking at me sternly. ‘Beta, unko wait nahi karate’ – (Child, we don’t make them wait) referring to the boy’s family, that was scheduled to meet us at Shamiana lounge at the Taj at 1 pm. Amongst their colorful sarees we could definitely occupy a float at a Pride Parade. The thought of Pride got me thinking about sexuality and I was interrupted by my aunt as she surveyed my choice of outfit, ‘Beta tujhe doosra wala dress nahi pehnna?’ (Wouldn’t you prefer wearing another dress?) (the slight nudge into the direction of docility). ‘I’m fine Chachi.’ ‘Beta, comb your hair though. Theek se karlo’ (do it properly) a soft-spoken voice negotiated some subservience. A military stack of Marwaris, guns loaded were ushering me to the car and into the lion’s den.
Sunday 18TH June 2015 1:00 pm Shamiana lounge, Sea facing table for ten
The sunlight falls in patches through the mini squared windows of the lounge onto mini decadent teacakes and macarons, on an ornate flower-like trolley. The doilies are crisp and white and blank without judgment. A welcome feeling really, when surrounded by heavily dressed ladies in their Salwaar Kameez finery with pearls dropping from their chests. ‘Aur chai lenge aap? Haan wohi hum bhi soch rahe thi. Traffic toh bahut thi, ekdum aaj toh 30 minute lag gaye pahuchte pahuchte. Kya bataiye bhabhiji……’ (Would you like some more tea? Even we were thinking the same. The traffic was heavy today, took us 30 minutes to reach…What do I tell you Auntie) chatter pervaded the air as if to make up for my stone-cold silence. Staying true to the spirit of the docile daughter in law, my eyes fell toward the ground and looked up only when served with a question. ‘Toh beta kaunse university main padhte ho?’ (Which university have you studied in?) ‘Purdue aunty’ I smile weakly. ‘Acha PAR dooo’ she repeated, with the swelling confidence of a man beating his donkey to go forward. ‘Hamara beta Amritanshu bhi abroad padha hai’ (Our son, Amritanshu has also studied abroad) Beams of smiles exchanged. A waiter dipped himself forward, pouring a colorless ginger tea into their cups with a basil leaf and honey mixed in for humor. Insert mandatory lame comment about exposure. ‘Bhabhi ji aaj kal ke bacche toh sabhi abroad hi par rahe hai’ (Auntie, today all the kids are studying abroad only I tell you) Loud unnecessary laughter. This banter continued for a while till the elderly ladies of the family decided it was time they left me and Amritanshu alone. ‘In dono ko baat kar lene de….’ (Let these two speak now) I am now face to face with Amritanshu.
Tuesday 13th June 4:00 pm, Amritanshu’s bio data
‘He looks handsome didi.’ A squeal of excitement from my brother’s wife. The photo was of a potbellied man child with beady eyes looking frightening and dead on into camera. 5 “7 height. Skin color- wheatish. Hobbies- Reading, Foodie, Family oriented.
Sunday 18th June 2015, 1: 45 pm
The family has collected around us like sheep in the Kangra valley who have lost their way for a moment. Little dangling purses made of cloth with small jewels on them, swung from their wrists. (These were the new trending purses). ‘Dono kitne ache dikh rahe hai, Jodi achi hai’ (the two look so good together) glances and nervous laughter followed. ‘Nandini, ek photo le lo beta saath main’ (Nandini, take a photo together with him) As the two of us were clicked together, the flash of the camera merged into the sunlight that lit us both from the window with the blue Arabian sea outside and several triangular boats. ‘Beta ek baar joota utaar do- aur Amritanshu ke saath khade ho jao. Stand with him’ (Take off your shoes once and stand together with Amritanshu) Mortified, my yellow heels were removed and I felt 3 feet tall instead of 5 feet 2, as I stood next to the cowering Amritanshu. A match made in heaven.
Tuesday 20th June 2015 6 :30 pm
It has been exactly two days since my meeting with Amritanshu. ‘Beta kya sochti ho Amritanshu ke baare main?’ (Child, what do you think of Amritanshu?) asked as if treading on thin ice. Seeing my unconvinced expression, two voices pipe in. ‘Dekho beta har ladke main 100% gun toh nahi milenge. Kuch na kuch kami toh sab main hoti hain. (See, every guy cannot be a 100% flawless. There will always be something missing in everyone) Also, time is running out na. The more you wait, the lesser options you get…..’ ‘I haven’t decided Cha.’ ‘Nahi aisa bhi nahi hai, koi jaldi nahi. Time le lo araam se. (Yes, yes, no such urgent rush. Take your time) Meet him 2/3 more times, then you will feel more comfortable….’
Saturday 24th June 2015, 11:45 am
They almost had me for a bit, with how I should not be alone. How it is against the law of nature to stay single and how I should not be ‘picky’. ‘Post 30 beta things only get tougher and you’ll only get ‘divorcees’.’ They always stress on the word ‘Divorcees’ and then tsk after, like it leaves a bad taste in their mouths. The well-known matchmaker ‘Sima Taparia from Mumbai’ too, tells us tales about flexibility and compromise being essentials to a happy future. Our broad minds are still buttered with some cream layers of narrow mindedness.
The answer to Indian arranged set ups seems to be adjustments. A little bit of give and take, (mostly entailing the wife putting up with the husband’s oddities and quirks right up to his homosexuality and domestic abuses in extreme cases). Apart from putting up with nonsense and clichéd ideas of the perfectly curated kewpie doll like daughter in law, there are also other dated ideas of what preserves a married life and complete sacrifice of any individuality, ambition and self-care. Either way, this limited cesspool of choices batters my self-esteem to the ground, is totally humiliating and does not seem like it is worth any adjustment. Rishta (proposal) politely declined.
By: VASUDHA RUNGTA
Vasudha Rungta is an Executive Producer and Director. She is the founder of ‘Melting Clock’ ; a production house that produces tv commercials, digital video content, music videos, documentaries, etc. She has been part of international feature film and video collaborations and to her privilege, worked with Brad Pitt and Dede Gardner’s company, Plan B Entertainment on a feature called ‘A Mighty Heart’ that tells the story of American Journalist ‘Daniel Pearl’, with eminent screenwriter/ actor, Dan Futterman. She has extensively worked in advertising for 15+ years and has recently directed animated videos on topics of social class prejudice, class/caste discrimination and the current Covid scenario. She is a creative writer by passion and is slowly reaching her goals of transforming this passion into a more professional arena. Her submission ‘Kites’ embodies class prejudice and the second submission ‘An Arranged Marriage Diary’ is a more colloquial inspection of the Indian Arranged marriage landscape today with its casteism, beauty myths and narrow minded prejudices.