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How does it feel to be screened for marriage? The Arranged Marriage process is full of humiliation at the hands of suitors, and your own parents, says this incredibly thoughtful piece.
I write this in anger.
I write this in grief.
I write this in frustration.
And I write this with disappointment!
I write this to tell you boys how lucky you are that you are born a boy, not a girl.
A middle class Indian family – an educated, cultured family – leaves no stone unturned when it comes to educating their children, be it a girl or a boy. But the difference begins when you are educated, and able to make choices.There comes a point when the same parents remind you that you are a girl.
I looked at myself again in the mirror. My mother was constantly pointing out that I must conceal these acne scars, apply a better shade of lipstick, and tie my hair in a better way.
I needed to look the best.
The boy from London and his family will soon arrive to meet me. I had been summoned to my home town. I had to resign from the job in Mumbai because the prospective groom lived in London, so it would not be possible to continue the job. My mother had requested that I spend some time with them so I get a pre-marriage training, which I seemed to have been deprived of, having lived in a hostel for the last ten years.
Aunts and relatives advised her – and she in turn demanded that I be a good and obedient daughter for once in my life, and say goodbye to Mumbai.
Mumbai, where I had been working for the last four years
So here I was. The moment of truth came. The boy’s family had arrived.
My father welcomed them, and they, in a truly royal fashion, with the condescending attitude, sat down. Then, I was ushered in for a probable meeting with the boy. But here the situation was a little different. The boy’s mother wanted to do the initial screening. So the question and answer round started, and I, as advised by my mother, kept my head down, and answered only in monosyllables.
…the question and answer round started, and I, as advised by my mother, kept my head down, and answered only in monosyllables.
The boy’s mother seemed a little unhappy since I was living in Bombay for the last four years, that too in my own rented apartment. What made her uncomfortable was that I had hired a maid and a cook!
The bone of contention here, she asked my mother – does your daughter know how to cook? (because her son in London cannot afford a cook and usually does his own cooking). On realizing this grave problem, the boy’s mother had convinced her son to get married! And here he was, Bride-Fishing.
My mother vehemently started defining my qualities and how, unlike other girls raised in the hostel, I have somehow learnt to cook as well. It was just due to my busy lifestyle that I had to hire a maid and a cook. I realized then, that my mother is excellent in Marketing. It took me two years to understand Sales Pitches and how to close the deal, but here, my mother -who has never worked in corporate- excelled at the art of Sales. The commodity was her own daughter.
My parents had given me the best education, freedom, and support every time I required. But in this Marriage Market they forgot that their daughter is not a commodity. They need not pay these people for my marriage. But the truth is ugly. Reality, more crude. They console me by saying this is how Arranged Marriage works.
I was sitting with my head down, just like a porcelain doll, being examined by these people who have agreed that I can be their daughter-in-law only if I meet certain criteria. The main criteria was the fees (dowry) which both set of parents have mutually agreed upon.
Now it was the turn of the boy from London to ask me questions.
This was the second round. The questions were equally interesting. From my work profile, to his clear instructions about how he does not need a wife who sits at home and does nothing all day. He wanted a girl who can continue working even in London and support him, since his Masters in Business Administration had left a dent in his pocket.
He even suggested that perhaps I can ask my parents to invest some more money in getting a diploma in London so it becomes easy for both of us.
After his question and answer sessions, followed a sumptuous feast. They informed my parents that they would need a week’s time to decide whether they have liked me or not. My parents both thanked them profusely for the kind consideration they had shown towards their first born.
My parents both thanked them profusely for the kind consideration they had shown towards their first born.
Now this did not happen just once. There were two other times, with different set of families and their well-behaved sons.
Like a job interview, I got rejected thrice. They also gave reasons:
All these reasons explained one thing – that how, as a woman, I was not suitable to be their daughter-in-law or their son’s bride. After cracking the GD/PI of even the IIMs, I was disqualified here!
After being rejected thrice, each day I woke up and looked at myself in the mirror, and wondered – were they correct?
That was three months ago. But better late than never! I realized in the right time, came back to my senses, and explained to my parents that their daughter is not what they are trying to potray. I am a beautiful woman. I refuse to subjugate myself to the insults and the emotional trauma, each time. I want a marriage, but not based on my color, my height or my father’s bank balance.
I want a marriage, but not based on my color, my height or my father’s bank balance.
I want a marriage based on love and respect. Maybe they understood, or maybe they were disappointed. Maybe they love me so much that they cannot withstand their daughter getting rejected thrice.
So, finally I am here. Single, but happy. My self-esteem intact. I do not curse my looks or my appearance any more. I am much more than my weight and my height. I am Me. I choose to be happy and proud. I am a good human being; I refuse to be judged based on my physical appearance. I want to marry someone who shares the same set of values.
It is high time that we, as women, learn to take responsibility. Society and the social rules won’t change any time soon. Instead of giving in to the unwanted demands, we must resist.
It is difficult, but not impossible. Taking dowry is a crime but why give dowry? Why support the tradition? Why not take charge and, in a small way, eradicate this curse? Let’s build a better future wherein we are respected for being women of substance. Where our self esteem is not dependent on somebody’s opinion. Let us be proud and celebrate our womanhood.
Pic credit: lwr (Used under a CC license)
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