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Going in for an arranged marriage? Beware this marriage market hypocrisy (that can surface in ‘love’ marriages too!) that can lull yourself into conforming.
Once upon a time, long long ago, a (not very bright) person in our society concluded that a wedding is every girls greatest dream. The society has ever since taken it upon itself to prepare the girl for her wedding, irrespective of whether she asked for it or not.
First things first. Once you get into the so called marriageable age, there is this mould that you need to fit into. Hair a certain length, skin a certain tone or brighter, not too thin, not too fat, voice a particular pitch, clothes a certain kind and yes, although not very openly spoken about; breasts a certain size.
Here is the catch. What this mould is, is decided upon by the parents (and extended family, and society…). Never the prospective bride or groom. Life is afterall all about adjustments…
So by the time you reach this dreaded age, the you who has won debates against beauty pageants arguing that beauty is skin deep, who passionately wrote essays against the dowry system, stood shoulder to shoulder with the boys in your class without realising it, and most importantly, the you who deeply respects your parents and teachers for inculcating in you a sense of equality with men – the independent, free-thinking you, will have to ask your brain to please go on a holiday for a while – for this is the year when the hypocrisy of the marriage market will wave hello.
Numero uno – the colour – nobody in India is ever fair enough. Time to attend your roll call at the beauty parlour, where you are obviously the ugliest female the beautician has set her eyes on. Enter facials and de tan treatments.
Once you are done dealing with this self induced abuse, next comes your weight. Too thin, too fat, never enough. Your options- hog on food till you burst or starve till you die; because no boy will want to marry a girl like you.
A haircut? Don’t cut your hair too short. Please get a nice haircut atleast – you look like a villager.
While on one end everybody will be bent on crushing your self esteem under their feet, your parents will frantically go to the all-knowing astrologer with horoscopes, to find a match. Thanks to a twist of fate, they will at last find one match. “Bechara” (poor) guy – your friends will call him. Of course he is a poor guy – this mould they put you into is strangulating you and he has no idea.
Their family comes to see you next. You have been advised on how to behave. Don’t talk too much. Don’t smile too much. Don’t ask too many questions. Don’t be you. Please, don’t be you.
After awkward questions from both sides comes the bonus – talk to him on the phone and get to know each other.
A catch awaits… your parents casually talk about the amount of gold they can afford to deck you up in. They wonder if it will be enough… Your brain that has come back from its holiday, much to everybody’s distaste pops the big question – “Are they selling you for a price or buying him?” You dare to voice this question and you get flooded by emotional speeches on how it is their prestige at stake here. That you should be lucky you even have a guy who is ready to marry you. You were never the right colour, size or type anyways .
Wake up at 2 am.. make up till 7 am.. breakfast if you can find the time.. everything is in the hands of the one doing your make-up.. one wrong dab and everything could be destroyed.
The bride and groom chat on stage with the whole world watching – Congratulations. You have just managed to put both the families to shame. What were you even thinking!?
Finally, as the day ends, an exhausted, perfect bride, struggling in too tight a cast of a ‘fair, thin , homely girl’ sets out on a new journey with no visible shackles holding her down .
When her brain finally resurfaces, she finds a bunch of hypocrites, their eyes brimming with tears of happiness, bidding her goodbye and wishing her the best in life. Their daughter grew up so fast…
Published here earlier.
Header image is a still from the movie Hum Saath Saath Hain