“ Did you have an arranged marriage?” this has been the most often asked question everywhere I have lived, be it California, Michigan North Dakota, South Carolina or Montana. It has been 19 years since I left India, but the question persists. Here is my story on prospective grooms that came into my life before I got married.
“So what is wrong with this guy now?” my mother asked. “Nothing.. but that doesn’t mean I have to marry him”, I protested. “At this rate we will run out of prospective grooms in town”, she continued. “He is well educated, with a double Masters degree and yet so simple”, interjected my father. “Why don’t you marry him then?” I was irritated. Unperturbed by what I had just said, she repeated her usual dialog, “It gets harder as you get older and you are 25 already.” We were having this conversation, after I had just met “prospective groom” (PG from now on) number 5.
My father would scan the matrimonial columns of three newspapers, looking for tall, handsome, educated grooms with a degree in Engineering within our Sikh community for his fair, good looking, daughter who happened to be a computer engineer with a job at a prestigious Multi-national company. He very systematically kept a file of the PGs. He neatly cut out and pasted the Ads he had responded to and what had been the outcome. While my mother went on frequent hunger strikes by laying on her bed covered with a blanket all day, whenever I refused to consider or re-consider an interested PG. I had seen five PGs by now, even narrowly escaped marrying some of them.
What was wrong with them? It was hard for me to explain! Each PG came with a complication of some sort, while the first PG wanted to marry me, but seemed allergic to having a conversation – he let his parents talk for him, PG2 a millionare, wanted a socialite wife. PG3 was troubled by the fact, that I was a vegetarian and the only thing he could talk about was, how much he and his family loved their meat. PG no.4 talked about salary and equality, he wanted to make sure I did not feel superior to him just because I earned twice as much as he did.
My conversation with PG 6 lasted barely two minutes. He was interested in moving to Australia – as his friends were there, while I wanted to stay in Bangalore. My mother pulled me aside and whispered softly, “ Zyada hee kaala hai – His complexion is too dark” “ What is wrong with that?” I said righteously! “ Bacche vi Kaale honge – The babies will be dark too”, she said. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Indians and their obsession with different shades of brown, the lighter the better!
Well! PG 7 and his mom took a plane from Mumbai to come see me at our house in Bangalore. My father particularly, was excited and hopeful too, as the PG was his friend’s son. He talked about how nice his friend was, and that got me interested a little, I think. But as usual, I refused to put on any makeup or buy new clothes for the occasion. “He should like me for who I am, not for how I look,’ I said, as I pushed away the pink lipstick my mom was extending towards me.
However, the meeting turned out to be a damp squib, as they spent more time staring at the walls of our house rather than having a conversation. Did I see the mother wrinkle her nose? PG 7 had a Masters degree in Engineering, but he kept looking at his mom for what seemed like a hint or approval to talk, to even open his mouth, while my father nervously tried to keep a conversation going by talking about my accomplishments, “ She was in Germany last month for a project.” Then looking at me he continued, much to my embarrassment, ” Tell them about your trip to Germany.”
They both looked uncomfortable and left in a hurry, without even eating the customary pedas (milk bars), but not without my business card, as my father thrust it into the PG’s hands – hoping my position as an Assistant Software manager at Deutsche Bank, would somehow make him want to marry me.
A stocky guy in a white turban was the eighth PG, now that was a sign of desperation, he wasn’t even an engineer! “He repairs computers at your office, so that makes him almost an engineer right?”, said my mother! “ Not him….I have seen him, he always looks so miserable!” I said. To make my mother happy, I decided to meet him, he looked up and down and everywhere else, but me, as he kept jabbering about his favorite food, favorite city, Delhi and his favorite people before beating a hasty retreat!
I don’t even remember PG no. 9.
“Enough of engineers and almost engineers, let us try a doctor”, said my mother, pointing to a profile in the matrimonial column. I took a quick look at it, “He wants a doctor bride, …here read that!”, I said, pointing to that line in the Advertisement “Doctor groom seeking a doctor bride”. ” Gal karan che kee harz hai” (No harm in talking) so let’s talk to his parents, she said. Well! PG no. 10 came to see me with his parents. I felt an instant connection, a sense of comfort, in whose presence I could genuinely be myself. He stayed! And it has been 20 years…