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Desi Marriage: Eligible or Ineligible Question

17 Jun

Desi Marriage: Eligible or Ineligible Question 

Why desi parents are hell bent on getting their children married especially girls by certain age? I guess it is a woman’s sexuality rights they are eager to transfer to the man and his family. They are really tired of guarding her. I remember our landlord in Rajasthan raised an orphan so as to marry him to his developmentally disabled daughter. He did marry her and legally raped her then abandoned her when her mental balance was totally lost. I also recall this great aunt in our native village that had Down Syndrome. She was married to a widower with kids. After Gauna (actual marriage, the woman goes to permanently live with her spouse this is when a marriage is consummated). She too came back more stupefied later she lived like a servant than wife in his house. I guess these women definitely needed to get married to ensure their place in the heaven. 

 I also keep wondering why are grandparents so eager. Are they interested in few festivities, sweets or few gifts or a place in heaven? Can’t they just do that without an excuse of a marriage in the house? Never understood how a grandchild’s wedding could ensure place in heaven. I remember when I turned 18 my paternal grandmother started singing to my father “I want to see my first grandchild get married before I die.” I was pretty mad, I asked my father to give me an assurance that if I got married grandma will die if not naturally then definitely unnaturally. Yes, I was a brat. Dad and I didn’t speak for three years. This was not the reason it was a different one and that demands a whole different post. She lived for another decade. Good I didn’t get married or it would have been bad blood there…

I guess both desi men and women experience such pressures from families and community. Oh, I know Log (faceless strangers in the community, just like paparazzi) who gossip around why X’s son or daughter is not yet married. Thanks to these Log or half the population will remain unmarried. Des is really great people make sure invalids, drunks; wife beaters definitely find a wife. Last week I was imported to another sleepy town along with a bunch of singers to officiate a prayer ceremony for a family. To be clear, I don’t sing I was an accompanist as their guy was sick. I had a day off and I am always open to challenges and charting unknown waters I was happy to be a side kick for a change. I have watched so many bollywood movies especially Karan Johar flicks thanks to Amu that I can confidently and independently officiate a wedding, I know the whole chant Mangalam Mangalam…  

During a break before the guests arrived the lady of the house was serving me lunch and after little hesitation she struck a conversation. She informed me the prayer was for seeking blessings to start preparing for the upcoming wedding of the eldest daughter. So she started filling me in how good her daughters are. The elder one 31, she works for Alzheimer Association and the younger one helps couples finance their IVF procedures. (I do not attend weddings except those held at Summer Solstice, if I had a choice I would have run away from my own wedding. I remember telling Sum, friend, I do not know why I am doing this. I refrained all my friends from attending my wedding. Sasha and Ji went ahead to participate in a rail roko and Lal left for Delhi the same day. Sum came, I do not know why; even he doesn’t know to this day). 

These days IK (a white woman raised Catholic, teaches Kundalini Yoga and thinks she was desi in a previous life) is my social conversation coach until six moths ago it was A’s job (you met him here) and while in teens it was Rinks (she is here). IK tells me how I need to go beyond listening and to seem interested. I need to ask some appropriate questions. The problem is I don’t understand half the things and other half I don’t care unless the other person clearly tells me what is happening and if they need any help. So it is a pretty win-win situation for everyone. When I did not utter a word IK elbowed me. I mumbled, so the guy is desi? The look on IK’s face is worth $1000, how can you be such an idiot. 

The mother of the bride continued, “Oh he is an ABCD Telagu, who doesn’t know much about his own culture and language (the bride is north Indian).” I was pleasantly surprised. She further added how it was not a love marriage. I guess love marriages are considered parental failure in upbringing virtuous kids. She explained how she started looking for a match for the elder one when she turned 23. For six years parents approached all relatives and friends to suggest a good match even made few visits to  Des to showed their daughter (as if she was a commodity to be sold to highest bidder). But all efforts failed and the girl’s age kept growing like an evening shadow. Finally she told her daughter to find someone she liked (Wao, what a great favor: WE TRIED, WE FAILED, YOUR TURN and claim to modernity, we are pretty modern we let our daughter pick her spouse).

This reminded me of my cousin who is a second generation Brit, turning 3O’ in 2012. My aunt has been hovering over this self employed adult who bought her first home at the age of 23. Likewise aunt started looking for a match for my cousin since her 21st birthday, though she hasn’t given up yet but now her approach is “You may bring home anyone you like but he should be X caste.” My cousin is pretty mad and her answer was “All those guys interested in me have moved on just because you would not budge and now when the pool has further shrunk you want me to go and fish without any dating skills. Forget it.” Aunt’s weekly dramas are now monthly theaterics as audiences have moved out.  

Anyway, the mother of the bride continued, “A friend of mine suggested this guy, they had known the family for a long time. Our daughter was reluctant we asked her to at least meet him. They exchanged emails for three months before they finally met. Initially she told us she didn’t like him but we insisted she take her time to know him better (these are the same parents who prevented her from looking at any one in her prime youth). I have another cousin in Des, when she entered college my uncle was driving her back home. He stopped the bike and said to her pointing to our fields, “Look I want you to go to college in a straight line (an expression of speech) if ever I heard anything (read you talking to young men or men making cat calls at you) I am going to kill you and bury you in these paddy fields and no one will ever come to know.” (Wao, my great family traditions, readers I am lucky to be alive, thanks Mom 🙂 . Even they had a hard time finding a decent match for her, it felt as if this hundred pound young woman all of a sudden became thousand pounds of sand that no one will take even when delivered in a Sentro with big cash. Finally they found her a simpleton and a MIL to happily lock her horns with. All iizz well…

The mother of the bride to be left the table to fetch me some water, the bride’s aunt whispered in my ear, it is a love marriage. Thanks for blowing the poor mother’s cover uhh. Meanwhile more guests arrived and started congratulating the mother for her son’s wedding. That is when I came to know she also has developmentally disabled twins (25). The older one is still functional he can follow instructions and works four hours a day as a gardener’s aide at a local hospital. He can only follow instructions but not have a conversation. Last December the family travelled to Des for trousseau shopping for the elder daughter and meanwhile they got their older son married to a very beautiful 23 years old. I saw the wedding album my expressions changed I just held my breath beneath my teeth. Who would do that to their daughter? What was her limitation? She is too short just 4’10”. I asked what she does, the bride to be replied “Right now she is learning to speak English.” Great, the wife doesn’t speak English and the husband doesn’t understand Hindi.

I also recall the convent educated beautiful Rajput woman I met a decade ago at the naturopathy institute in Jaipur who was there to get her severely mentally disabled spouse treated rather a respite from his assaults. Some relative arranged this match to get even with her father. She had two sons from this man and no way of walking out of these aggrevated rapes her natal family would not let her do that for divorce is not heard of in their family. A widowed aunt was her only suppoter she ensured her some inheritance.I have seen similar bollywood and TV soaps where love conquers every thing and a disabled starts dancing  a perfect number but in real life developmental disability remains and nothing changes other than the woman’s life… None of the healthy normal women left the disabled man that I know of. 

I came back pretty disturbed how someone could do that to their daughter. Then I recalled my friend C, her younger brother is blind. One time I was at her place helping her mother in the kitchen. Her mother told me how she’ll find a sighted poor Brahmin girl to marry her blind son. Those days Bhaiya was dating his friend’s sister who was partially blind. He had to give upon her due to family pressure as she was from a different caste but later on his own he posted an ad in the newspaper for a match. He got numerous responses from sighted women from poor families. He picked a Gujrati woman, now his family was mad that she was Gujrati. I guess they had decided they’ll not be happy no matter what.

I am still wondering why a healthy working woman cannot find a husband but a developmentally disabled dependent man can easily beget a wife? If there are fewer women than men then how come there is a shortage of eligible bachelors? May be there are bachelors but just not eligible? Do women have to lower their standards just to have legitimate sex. In absence of intelligent conversation and commonality of shared ideals to me a marriage seems to be just an arrangement to have legitimate sex. It is just legitimate sex not safe sex we all know the tales of unsatisfied men visiting the street… I guess if women had an option they would not hesitate either. I guess it definitely works or why else would such seemingly dysfunctional system continue for times immemorial. May be arranged marriage is the only shot for all those who cannot strike it out on their own…

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