Friday, December 16, 2011

Please don't ask me to sing....

As I'm standing close to the sofa, with what I'm picturing as the worst imitation of a smile across my face, there is only one thought on my mind, "How in the world did i get myself into this!!"

Its sunday afternoon, and my initial plans of getting off work early yesterday were rejected in favour of taking the day off. Obviously the occasion called for preparations of epic proportions. Clothes that are to be sanctioned for approval by my dad and a dozen other relatives, clean shave like i'm auditioning for a Gillette ad, perfumed in case they wanna smell me and hair, cut short and neat just in case the country goes to war tomorrow and there is an urgent need for not so tall army men. My future fiancee's relatives are coming to see the boy and family that their girl is going to deal with for the rest of her life. Whoever said that marriages are made in heaven was probably not from India. Here, marriages are not merely made, they are manufactured. The raw materials (boy + girl) enter the process and go through a million steps before they take the first step together. Each step requires agents (family, relatives and friends) and there are a hundred ways of doing every step. Of course, there are some basic rules that apply. Like today, they didn't bring the girl along (according to tradition, i'm told). I guess our ancestors got tired of girls complaining that things are completely different from what they saw before and after marriage.

The thing about marriage, be it love or arranged or 12 different combinations of these words that people come up with, is that it puts the raw materials (boy and girl) through so many weird and awkward situations. Its like falling in love. You end up doing a lot of crazy stuff and later laugh it off or feel good about it. Like the day when we first went to her house to see her (as if we haven't seen her before). The point to be noted here is that the girl is first hidden. After initial round of discussion on the weather and how politicians should be assassinated, there is a request from our side to see the girl. She responds to her father's call and presents herself in front of us. Now this is the most awkward moment even for the guy, I can't even imagine what she is going through. At this moment, all the people gathered around take a good look at the girl. Even her own people take a look from head to toe, just to make sure the face, hands, tummy and other parts are her own. Then, normally there is a question to the guy if he wants to talk to the girl alone. This did not happen in my case, since we had already passed that awkward moment a few weeks back. As i said, there are a hundred ways of doing each step of the process. After a few more of those embarrassing minutes for the girl and "am i supposed to do or say something" minutes for the boy, the girl is sent back in. Hidden safely from the world till the next step where her presence is required.

You would think that it is very unfair on the girl and she is being treated like some "thing" which is showcased. But on the contrary, these procedures are followed because the girl is of immense value to the family. Any guy intending to take her hand cannot just come and see her. The family hides the girl and makes sure that the boy and his family are worthy enough to even look at her with the intention of marrying her. Only if they feel that the boy is up to their expectations, that their daughter would be happy with this family, that these people could be trusted, they let them see the girl. And when the boy's family looks at her, its not just her physical beauty that they study. This girl is the one. What their son becomes tomorrow, depends on this girl. The world will see his achievements, his failures, his character, his financial status, his talents, his mistakes. All of which are not his but theirs. She is the other half of their son. So i wouldn't blame them for ogling at her. If you observe closely, all the undocumented steps in the manufacturing process (marriage), have an inner meaning similar to this. Everything in India is not against women. There are crap like female foeticide, sati and dowry that are seriously sickening. But in most parts of the country and in all the family matters, women were, are and will be of prime importance.

The awkward moments of silence and my chain of thoughts are suddenly broken by her father's casual voice "So... This is the boy." motioning me to come to the centre, so that they can get a better view and also check if I walk normally. The tricks these agents play... "If you people wanna ask him something or make him do something like sing or recite a prayer, Now is the time". My smile growing wider, i pray they don't spot my false tooth....