An Arranged “Happily Ever After”…

THE INQUISITIVE ELDERS: We are the very worried and responsible ones. All that we care about is getting our kids married. Mind you, as quickly as possible. We believe there are certain rules to follow in the entire “marrying away our daughters” process and those rules are meant to be never-broken. We trust our friends too much (although we find it annoying that our daughters trust and spend extra time with their friends). So if a friend informs us of a potential groom, we are all for it. Trust us, we are totally okay with the fact that we know only the guy’s parents well. If the guy’s  parents are “good” and we haven’t met the guy even once, we take it for granted that their son doesn’t know the spelling of p-o-r-n. We also ask our daughters to put on a saree and decent make-up and drive her to a photo studio. We stand by and watch as the photographer asks her to stand or sit with a fake smile on her face. Our daughter now looks uncomfortably at the photographer and angrily at us. We wonder, “What is the fuss all about? It’s just a photo. Why can’t she pose and be done with it.” If she doesn’t agree to co-operate with us for this, we don’t talk to her for weeks. The pressure we put on her goes to a peak when we find out that our friend’s or relative’s kid who is as old as our daughter is also getting married. We nudge our daughters harder on such days. We say, “You remember Murthy Uncle’s daughter, 2 years younger than you. She is ALSO getting married this weekend and we have been invited. What are we going to say when they ask about you?” So finally she gives in. This photo now goes with a “biodata” right into a marriage bureau. We desperately pray that some handsome guy with a white collar job picks our daughter. Now, if our daughter has a darker complexion, is fat, or is generally short, it is as good as her being handicapped for the system of marriage. So we pray harder. We are often confused. Sometimes we pray for a son-in-law who is working in the US or UK and is earning in Dollars or Pounds. It gives us joy to brag to our friends that our daughter is in the foreign land. But sometimes we just want a guy working in Bangalore, Chennai, or Hyderabad. This gives her a chance to visit us often.

One fine day we receive a phone call from a friend or the bureau. A guy finally seems interested in our girl and so we ask her to take a day or two off from work to come home (She isn’t the company’s CEO anyways). She needs to wear the saree again and serve the guests with coffee/tea and snacks. Oh! These days some of us let our girls wear a salwar/kammeez for the occasion and have grown to be liberal enough to let the young ones meet alone in a restaurant, say for dinner. So you should give us some credit for “developing”.

Well, if its rather difficult to find an ideal boy through common friends, we are being more open nowadays to looking on the matrimony websites. No, it is not embarrassing. It means we are educated enough to learn how to use the computer, internet, e-mail etc. Besides we have to find a guy from our community, right? We do not have the question of an outside community guy. That would be totally Apacharam! Anyways, this is how the whole matrimony site thing works. We create a profile for our daughter. A profile that includes mundane stuff like photo, profession, hobbies and most importantly religion and caste. We manage the account ourselves. Yes! We do. We have given our daughter the freedom to manage her Gmail and Facebook account on her own (without our intervention) and so it’s okay that we manage her Bharath Matrimony (or equivalent) account. If you ask us, “How different is this online match making different from random online dating?”, we are going to be super pissed and think you are so immature that you still talk no logic. We will wonder how you are ever going to survive in your in-laws house with this kind of attitude. We will browse through random profiles of “prospective grooms” and send them to our daughters every week. If  it finally sinks into our daughter’s head that we are not going to let her escape from this entire marriage thing, she may reluctantly log into her account (Alright, we will give her the username and password). Now she can and should only look at the profiles of guys we send. If she is casually browsing and thinks that she might actually like another guy, we will object. It obviously hurts our ego. We agree that he belongs to the same community but we did not choose him.

We want things to go fine. We want our daughter to be happy at any cost. We have worked our entire life to keep her happy, and will continue to do so. We know what we are doing. We just don’t get it when she keeps asking for more time. For heavens sake you are over 25 years now. This is the right time. Once we decide one particular guy is the best for her, and would keep her totally happy, WE say YES. We are always ready to give dowry. We have been saving up all life for this moment. If the guy is decent enough to not accept it from us, we thank god for giving us such a good son-in-law. Once the YES is said there can be NO stopping. The dates are fixed, the shopping is done, the invitations are sent out, the venues are booked. And on the wedding day, just the very minute we are giving her away to the groom, we WONDER. We wonder if we did the right thing for her. We never intended to screw up for her. We wanted to give her the very best in life. We convince ourselves that the guy she had once been in love with was the most-imperfect guy for her. He couldn’t keep her happy. We hope she will understand that the guy she chose was not from our community and that there is the society and there are relatives we are answerable to. We hope she understands that being elders is complicated. After a few years, when we visit her home and walk into her kitchen to chat with her while she is cooking, the feeling we had on the day of her wedding comes right back to us. We ask her, “Are you happy?”. She looks deeply into our eyes, smiles, and says YES.

THE MACHO MAN: We are caught up in the rat race for most of our lives. We have many ambitions or targets, rather. Marriage?? Are you kidding me? We are never ready. We do it more or less as following a timetable. Go to school, graduate, get a job, get a house and a car, get a wife, get babies, get green card, get a pension, and get a grave. We are great! Some of us might actually look like monkeys but our mirror keeps reminding us, time and again, that we are no less than Hrithik Roshan. That makes us obviously deserve nothing less than Suzanne Roshan. We are not ashamed to create matrimony profiles. And since we are guys, we handle our own accounts. While creating an account we are busy wondering why the website is so slow and cursing it all the way. We try to think of new programs and bug fixes that could actually make the website efficient. We browse matrimony profiles when we are really really bored (Or say we do it on Facebook all the time). Sometimes we also sit in a group and judge profiles. Yeah! We are such dorks. We think we are clever but we actually are not. We say “no drinking, no smoking” while filling out the profile, and we put up pictures of us at a party holding a glass of scotch. We also do not have the brains to lock our pictures on Facebook. What the hell!!! We are boys. We do not hide pictures from people who are not our friends. We do not tell our parents that we do smoke, drink alcohol, eat non-veg, and go to strip-clubs. We’ll let our wives find that out on their own. They will be thrilled indeed.

Some of us, clearly, very few of us are sensitive and think its a big deal to welcome a woman into our lives. Most of us just want to meet the girl our parents think is ideal, talk to her on the phone and exchange texts till the day of the wedding, go shopping with her, change our relationship status on Facebook, collect lump sum dowry, take a few pictures, accept the wedding gifts, and bring home a wife. These days most of us have either had or still have girlfriends. We often know that it’s not going to work out with them in the end. But we wont say a word until she starts pushing us to talk to our parents about her. “Dude! We are just in our  late twenties. We haven’t settled down yet. We are in no place to take you home.” We then advice you to go ahead and marry the guy your parents choose. “Your parents know what’s best for you”, we try to convince and console them.

Then the so called settling doesn’t seem to come to an end. Once we clear the education loan, we have a car loan. Once we clear the car loan, we have the housing loan. Once we clear the housing loan, we realize there remains X, Y, and Z to do. So we decide, “Okay, lets get married now”. Its a part of the timetable, remember? So we are now 30 years or older. Some of us have a pot belly, some of us have a receding hairline, some of us are still handsome. We have also matured from wanting a Malaika Arora type model to just any girl who is patient and doesn’t make our life irritable. Even though we are educated and preach about wanting a “Developed India” and speak at length about the current issues curbing the development of India, some of us still want dowry. We believe it’s our birth right.

When called home by our parents to see a potential bride, we throw airs. We pretend to be busy with office work even though we actually aren’t. We believe we are the company’s Superman or Batman. Anyways we give an appointment and finally we get married. Sometimes we do not understand that the girls are always girls, at any given age. And that she needs to be treated differently. We expect her to treat our family like her own. We do not understand why she would have a problem with our mothers or our sisters. We are irritated if she demands all our attention. However, as time goes on, we learn to adjust. Quite quickly. We are the adaptive breed. If something about her is very frustrating, all that we need to do is go to a bar with a friend and have a beer. We are back to normal. After a few years, we are seated on the couch in the living room as we watch our kids play scrabble while our wives are making dinner. We stare at the T.V and wonder, “Are we happy?”. At that very moment, she smiles lovingly and calls out to us to have dinner. YES, we are happy, or at least we could say so.

THE DESI GIRL: We are dreamy people. The wedding – we would have had a million day-dreams and night-dreams about it. We are the most confused species on this entire planet. You see, we like the wedding (we have dreams about it), but do we like the marriage? I wonder! We grow up reading and believing  in the magic of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. We hope to meet our knight in shining armor one day. We exist with the faith that our knight will come one day, riding a white horse and that he will sweep us off our feet, and take us to the “happy-land”.

Time flies, reality hits. One, sometimes two, bad relationships. Wrong guys. Right guys but no future with them. Parents disapprove. Okay, we have finally come to terms with reality and will marry the guy whom our parents think is ideal. But posing in a studio with a saree? Ridiculous! Serving coffee and snacks to strangers? Embarrassing. Being rejected by a moron because he thinks you are either too short or too dark or too thin or too fat or too arrogant or cant afford the dowry? Angering and absurdly insulting. It doesn’t really matter to us if the guy drinks alcohol or smokes, just let us know. We are not fans of such thrilling surprises. And for the record, we are human too and we enjoy an occasional drink (puff) or two these days. We are as educated and intelligent and smart and independent as any of you these days. Pray, why should we give dowry?

Marriage isn’t a timetable for us, like how it is for the inquisitive elders and for the macho man. We have a lot of thinking to do. We are freaks. We freak out a lot. Marriage scares us. That’s why we are never ready. We are never sure we said yes to the right guy, although we know there is no perfect guy. When we look at the picture of a guy our parents send us via e-mail, we freak out. We have a thousand thoughts running through our tiny brain, all at once. We wonder if he’s nice. Is he caring? Will he listen? Does he have bad breath and will it make it impossible to kiss him? Does he have the pathetic habit of forgetting to put the toilet seat down after he is done? Is he neat? Will he help with the household work? Will his male ego shadow him all the time? Will he understand when you say you are in no mood to have sex that night? Will he learn to respect and believe in your faith? Will he stand up for you? Does he know that you can be a torture at times but that’s the way you are built? Does he know that you enjoy your single life as much as he does his? Will it occur to him that you value your family and friends as much as he does his? WE WONDER.

We don’t generally admit it but we do care about looks too. We think for a second, deep inside, is he good looking. Can I show him off to my friends? Can I proudly put up a picture of us together on Facebook? But once we get to know you, we really don’t care. We are stupid. We run to our best girl-friends all the time. Even if it is about decisions regarding you. We are possessive, over-bearing, full of love. We have expectations, great ones. We get cuddly and cute after watching a romantic film. We take joy in being foolish and believe that guys are as sweet as Siddhu from Bommarillu. Small things hurt us real hard. We have problems and we deal with all of them, both big or small, in the same way. Sometimes having no problems is a big problem for us. So basically we are kinda impossible and we think a lot. To say YES. And once we say yes, we think every single minute, all along the way. Am I going to be happy with him? So after a few years, when we question ourselves for the billionth time, Are we happy? We either smile to ourselves and say, “Yes, I think so” or call up our girlfriends and say, “Yes, at least I pretend to be so”.

But what if we are still left wondering whether there does exist a “HAPPILY EVER AFTER”.  And if it really did, how would it feel after all?