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Any parent of sons of marriageable age can imagine his agony. After all, who doesn’t want to see their children settled and happy, leading a fulfilling family life.
“Kolkata based Bengali girl, 30. 5’6”, B.Tech (IIT), MBA (Finance) from IIM. Currently, working in Banking Sector & settled in Mumbai. Package- Rs. 20 lakh p.a. Healthy habits, both parents doctors.
“Looking for a presentable, cultured, educated boy with strong family values, non-manglik, 28-32 years, siblings must. MA/MSc preferred, healthy habits only. Caste no bar. No dowry.
“Reply with recent coloured photograph and other details to firstname.lastname@example.org. M-xxxxxxxxxx”
Dasharath circled the ad with his red gel pen. This was almost like a ritual for him- the scanning of the matrimonial column of the Sunday newspaper. He goes through every single advertisement under the heading of “Wanted Grooms.” After meticulously reading each of them, he circles those he finds appropriate for his son Raghav.
Then in the evening, after his afternoon siesta and making elaichi tea for everyone and serving it with biscuits of their choice, he sits down. He has his mobile, and the newspaper with him. One by one, he calls the parents of the prospective brides- the ones he’s red-marked in the paper.
Some parents of highly educated and established brides don’t publish their mobile numbers. They fear the incessant phone calls they might receive from the parents of prospective grooms. In those cases, Dasharath sends them his son’s biodata and some recent photographs via e-mail.
Dasharath, who was technically unsound and didn’t know how to send an e-mail. Until recently, when he had to learn to make his own e-mail id and use the e-mail app for the sake of his son’s marriage. Any parent of sons of marriageable age can imagine his agony. After all, who doesn’t want to see their children settled and happy, leading a fulfilling family life.
“Hello. Myself Dasharath Chakraborty. I saw you have given an ad in search of a groom in today’s newspaper.”
“Oh, yes. Are you the groom himself or his father?”
“I am the groom’s father.”
“Oh. I am Sunaina, the bride’s mother. Hope you have gone through the advertisement and your son meets all the criterion mentioned there.”
“Sure. He is 28 years old, has done MA in English followed by B.Ed. And is currently working as a teacher at a local school.”
“I am sorry, he doesn’t fulfil our criterion. We are looking for a non-working boy. Someone who’ll be able to look after his family, who’ll prioritise family over and above his career. Our daughter has a very hectic schedule as an investment banker. She doesn’t need another earning member in her family. Her father is also a doctor. He was my classmate in Medical College. But when our daughter, Janki was born, he sacrificed his career at the altar of family. That’s how much we value family. We mentioned the educational criterion in the ad just because we think an educated son-in-law would be able to help in his children’s home-work in the future.”
“That’s not a problem at all. My son is very obedient. We have tried to inculcate the values of family in him since childhood. He is willing to quit his job if need arises.”
“Then we can proceed further. What’s his complexion? Is he fair? Listen, I am not going to accept anyone other than a fair-skinned boy as my son-in-law. All I want is fair grandchildren.”
“Yes, of course, he is very fair and handsome. He won the title of ‘Mr. Fresher’ when he was in the first year of college.”
“And what is his mother’s occupation?”
“She retired from a senior position in a reputed MNC.”
“By the way, what is your son’s name?”
“Does he have any siblings? This is a must, as I have mentioned in the ad. I don’t want my son-in-law to frequently visit his father’s house in the pretext of looking after them during old age and neglecting his own household duties.”
“Yes, we have a daughter too. She is in college.”
“Since your son fulfils all the preliminary criterion, I’d request you to send a couple of his recent photographs on the e-mail given in the ad. I already got 100 calls from parents of prospective grooms since morning. You are 101. My daughter will scrutinise all the photographs and bio-datas and select her groom. I’ll get back to you if your son is shortlisted. Bye for now.”
“Hello, Mrs. Sunaina. I am happy to hear from you.”
“There’s a good news for you. My daughter has short-listed 10 boys out of total 153 calls received. You are lucky your son is one among these ten.”
“That’s great. So what’s next?”
“We are planning to visit all the ten boys one by one. Since I am very busy with my chamber and nursing-home, I can only spare the Sunday for this groom-viewing. We’ll visit three grooms on two consecutive Sundays and four on the last Sunday. This way it’ll take less time. I’d like to visit your home and meet your son next Sunday at 6 O’clock. Janki’s father will also accompany me.”
“Please come. Also, make sure that Janki also comes. After all, it’s she who’ll marry Raghav. So it’s important for them to meet as well.”
“I am sorry but Janki will not be able to come this time. She is super busy and has only a day off on Sundays. So she doesn’t like to go anywhere on Sundays. We’ll only visit. Janki will meet the boy who’ll be selected finally by us.”
“One more thing, we’ll stay only for an hour. After that we’ll have to visit two more grooms. So make sure that Raghav is present at the home at the designated time. Bye.”
“Bye. Take care.”
Next Sunday morning
“Raghav, please apply this turmeric and sandalwood paste on your face. Today one bride’s parents are coming in the evening to meet you. You must look your best.”
“Please, father. I am tired of this groom-viewing sessions. And in any case, I am not going to apply anything on my face. I am happy with myself. I don’t need to preen myself for anybody’s approval.”
“Don’t talk like a fool. You are 28 years already and all your friends are married. And I am not even having proper sleep at night thinking about your marriage. This girl is educated, well-established. I don’t want to lose this golden opportunity. And please don’t wear this cheap t-shirt in front of the girl’s parents. I have already ironed your kurta and pajama. Make sure to wear those in the evening.”
“So Raghav, can you cook?”
“Yes, but only the basics.”
“Our daughter is a glutton. Make sure to learn some special recipes before marriage.”
“You told us that you know basic cooking. Now tell me, which specific spices are required to cook mutton rezala? Our Janki loves mutton.”
“Umm…. onion paste, ginger and garlic paste, bay leaves, dry red chillies, whole black peppercorns, cinnamon stick, clove, cardamom…. umm….”
“You forgot to mention mace (Javitri). And please don’t use red chillies in any dish you cook for our dear Janki. Red chillies don’t suit her. You can add green chillies instead.”
“Now tell me, do you like us? If you get married to Janki, we’ll be your parents-in-law. Will you be able to live with us and treat us as your own parents?”
Raghav nodded his head in approval.
“Good. Mr. Chakraborty, we have to leave now. We still need to visit two more boys. I’ll get back to you if your son is finally selected.”
“Please have some sweets before you leave.”
“No, no. We are running short of time.”
“Please, I request. At least have the samosas. Raghav himself has prepared these samosas.”
Another Sunday, three weeks later.
“Hello, Mrs. Sunaina. What a pleasant surprise.”
“Congratulations, Mr. Chakraborty. Your son has been selected as the groom-to-be. Next Sunday, Janki will visit your place with her friends to meet Raghav. At 7 O’clock in the evening.”
Next Sunday Evening
“So you are Raghav. Nice to meet you. I am Janki.”
“Namaskar,” Raghav joined his palms to greet Janki and her accomplices.
“Shuddha desi groom,” one of Janki’s friends chimed in.
“Stop it, Urmila”, Janki rolled her eyes in mock exasperation.
“Achcha, achcha. But Mr. Raghav, you’ll have to shave your moustache. Our Janki doesn’t like men with moustache.”, another commented.
“Mandavi is right. Please shave it before marriage.”
“And remember one thing. We are going to be your adhi gharwali. Next time we visit Janki’s place, you’ll have to cook something delicious for us jiju.”
“Hello, Mr. Chakraborty. Janki says she liked meeting Raghav. Though she wishes to meet him alone before taking the final decision. Now-a-days so many marriages are ending in divorce. Janki doesn’t want to take any risk. She wants to make sure that her groom is subservient and willing to go that extra mile for the sake of marriage.”
“Ok. No problem from our side.”
“So Janki has told me that she’d like to meet Raghav at ‘Blue Lotus’ Cafe next Sunday at 5 O’clock. Tell Raghav to arrive there on time. Janki is very punctual. She may postpone the marriage if she doesn’t find Raghav there on time.”
Next Sunday Night
“Hello, Mr. Chakraborty. There’s good news for you. The meeting in ‘Blue Lotus’ has gone well. Raghav has been selected.”
“Wow, I am so happy. Can we fix the date of marriage now?”
“Of course, we can. Though I want to tell you one important thing before that.”
“You must have seen that we have mentioned in the ad that we don’t have any demand for dowry.”
“Yes, I have seen. You and your family are educated, accomplished and progressive. I know you don’t believe in the custom of giving dowry.”
“Yes, of course. But surely you want to give your daughter-in-law at least something during marriage. But Janki doesn’t need any more gold jewelleries. She already has plenty of gold jewelleries. But she never wears those, saying those are gaudy, ornate, old-fashioned.”
“So kind of you. Yes, girls of young generation don’t like gold jewellery. Same is the case with my daughter also.”
“So I want to tell you that if you genuinely want to gift her something, gift her a diamond necklace with matching earrings. As for the wedding ring, a platinum ring will do. She’ll be able to at least wear those in office parties. Otherwise, gold jewellery lies in bank lockers all the time.”
“I’ll definitely gift her according to her choice”, Dasharath sighed.
Note: The social roles assigned to both genders have been reversed to highlight the overtly patriarchal nature of the institution of marriage, which is biased heavily in favour of men. I believe that in an ideal society, there shouldn’t exist any discrimination based on gender, caste, class, religion, language or whatever.
Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Veere Di Wedding
An engineer by education, I am a civil servant by profession. A doting mother. An
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