Shaadi, marriage, lagan, wedding, vivah – don’t these words evoke some emotion in you, in all of us? Many a films have made millions out of this one simple word which help bring a lot of images to our mind. Perhaps the latkas and the jhatkas during the countless functions just like a Soorraj Barjatya film or perhaps the woes of searching for the Mr. or Ms. Right. There is some feeling that each one of us goes through, whether married already and helping others to find the bride/ groom; or whether still single and starry eyed all set to mingle. Like they say in Hindi – everyone wants to taste this sweet laddu.
The diversity in our country plays a big role in the approach a family takes in the search for the right match. Some families are kind enough to leave the responsibility on the able shoulders of the eligible bachelors. But some!! Hold the reins tightly and don’t give up. It is a question of the prestige and ‘name’ of the family and letting go of such an important decision isn’t a done thing. The family needs to find the right match within the community and the correct ‘process’ must be followed come what may. It’s all about family traditions after all, isn’t it?
Coming from a North Indian family, I can boast of the myriad times that I have followed the ‘process.’ Being the eldest daughter who came of age nearly a decade back, I didn’t have it easy. Education, career etc., were good, but marriage was the be-all-and-end-all of life. Raison d’etre of so many, even to this day in our country. For one, since childhood, I have always travelled to my hometown for some wedding in the family – one out of the almost dozen siblings of my folks then, and now for some kid of the same dozen strong uncles and aunts. Fun galore it was, I can tell you. I heard hundreds of stories of the ‘ladka/ ladki dikhai’ (meeting of the prospective groom and bride). It was fun to hear when it was someone else’s neck on the line. Endless giggles and comments assured, these stories were the butt of many jokes in my household – till I had to go through the same ‘process.’
Though I have been through this tried and tested ‘process’ numerous times, there is one incident that I cannot forget. Such was the impact that the prospective groom had on me; that it astonishingly gave me the courage to put my foot down and refuse to go through it ever again. Going down memory lane, as I remember distinctly even today, it was a day full of excitement for the whole family. My aunt had ‘found’ the most eligible bachelor and was keen that my family and I meet him. Well, meeting was okay, but I realised that the meeting was just an excuse. The agenda was to push me to say the inevitable word – ‘yes.’
I knew there was no way I could wriggle out of the situation. Whatever I had heard about the groom-to-be, wasn’t my idea of a spouse, but did I really have a choice? I decided it was best to go through the motion, who knows it may have a different outcome. So I decided to oblige my parents and be the ever obedient daughter as I always was. But is there a full-stop to the suffering? The answer is obvious – ‘no!’ I was expected to wear a saree. A saree? Duh! No way! I was happy to wear an Indian suit but a saree? Was I an object to be displayed in front of Mr. Prospect? And didn’t I look good enough in a salwar suit? But, seeing the grief-laded face of my mother, I decided to give in to this too. A striking blue saree it was; and I looked… good. The misery did not end with the saree tirade ofcourse. I was given an hour long lecture on how I should behave, what I should speak, ensure that I don’t laugh out loud or giggle like I usually did, and most importantly not ‘intimidate’ Mr. Prospect. Feedback had done the rounds in the family that I intimidated most of the suitors who came to see me for the intended ‘process.’ Nothing was left to chance and I had to suffer the ‘tips’ of the trade. My mum and aunt would not let go this time (let go of the suitor or me I still haven’t been able to figure out yet). Sigh!
Now that the rules of the game were set, family set, food menu set, it was time for the curtains to be raised and the drama to unfold. Just for the record – the meeting place was my granny’s house. We reached before the appointed hour, only to my horror. It wasn’t just us over there; there was a huge brigade of relatives who were invited to witness the greatest play on earth. I was horrified and despised being put in such a spot. But what do you do? There was no way out. “This too shall pass”, I told myself. The decision was already made in my mind, so I decided to turn the tables and play along well; and also enjoy the ‘process’ in the bargain.
The ‘man of the day’ arrived with his entourage of friends. The crowd was increasing by leaps and bounds. Thankfully, as per plan; I wasn’t part of the welcome party. I was to be ‘showcased’ only a bit later after the ‘hellos’ and other niceties were exchanged. When the clock struck the correct ‘muhurat’, I was summoned. I made a grand entry into the living room with the tea-tray (as requested). The complete family, relatives, friends, their grandfathers and friends of grandfathers were seated there and I being the ‘ever-obedient’ child obliged yet again. All I could think of was the Barjatya household and the wonderful movies they made replete with such scenes. So the purpose of this exercise I was told was to steal a quick glance and offer tea to the guests of honour and be seated on the empty chair next to my aunt – who could also monitor my giggles and make sure I, was in check! I couldn’t afford to intimidate this one. The situation had just been branded ‘do or die.’
I did as told, yes even the quick glance bit and took my place. I was fidgeting the whole while and making the best possible attempt to look demented and disinterested. Alas nothing seemed to work. Ofcourse, I was being monitored and suddenly a hand placed itself on my constantly shaking legs. I turned towards my aunt and smiled while she gave me a “will you learn to behave yourself” look. After some small talk and senseless conversation it was decided that I needed to get to know the suitor well and hence both, he and I be taken to another room (accompanied by my aunt ofcourse) where we could have a candid conversation. Time flies I realised, but at a slow pace, especially when it is about suffering.
We went into the special interrogation room where I was faced with a barrage of questions. I politely answered all. I was told that there were lots of stories floating around about me (in the shaadi market) and how I was supposedly a hard nut to crack. If the man thought he was making progress and earning brownie points, he was truly mistaken. I wanted to puke, but it looked like the outburst had to wait for some time; because there was more… Apparently I was well known in the circles for being well educated, decently travelled, great career and a famous family ofcourse; not necessarily in that order I suspect. I think the education and career bit were the last in this man’s list of impressive items.
I had pasted my most extraordinary smile on my face as I had already decided the fate of this suitor. The man bragged continuously and went on blowing his own trumpet. Later I realised he wasn’t half as good as me when it came to the corporate career, leave aside other paraphernalia. The pre-meditated decision now seemed impeccable and more endearing with each passing minute. There were times when I wanted to laugh out loud but held myself back. But I couldn’t hold myself back when he remarked that I had studied a lot, worked so much already and now it was the right time to marry, sit at home and cook for my husband, else I would soon be rendered useless in the ‘shaadi market’. Honestly this should have made me livid, because much that I came from a traditional family, even my parents never made such irresponsible comments. But the saving grace was a scene from another lovely film that had been a rage – ‘Rab ne bana di Jodi’. <Tickle Tickle Laugh Laugh> I suddenly found myself in the scene in place of Anushka Sharma, wearing a traditional red salwar suit, carrying a tiffin box walking towards Shahrukh Khan who was waiting by the door with his scooter. Holy Cow! Was this real? Could this man have said this to me or was I dreaming? The answer was obvious yet again. He had the audacity to say that. I decided I was done and didn’t have to suffer at the hands of this incurable idiot. I politely asked if all his questions were over and we could join the others in the living room. He realised it was checkmate for him. And it ended!
While seeing the guests off, I was requested by my parents to stand there in attention till the elevator took the entourage down and out. I didn’t want to refuse because I had already seen the glint of “this is not the right guy for you” in my father’s eyes. Happily I stood there with my hands folded and a straight expressionless face; only to hear another comment – “Archanaji doesn’t talk much, she did not even invite us to her house”. Incorrigible! The elevator arrived at the right time and took the wonderful people away. The party finally ended and thankfully no one interrogated me that day.
Later I heard that the charming suitor was already engaged and was shopping for a better ‘deal’. Ofcourse, I also heard things to the effect that I was too thick-headed and stubborn and had lost out on such a great proposal. My father and I were blissful at this loss and rejoiced. We winked at each other when my mother was not around. When she was around, we made long faces to mourn the loss. Thank god, my father understood me so well and backed me in every little decision. My mother did too, but she was blinded by her desire to see me ‘happily married’. Things changed in good time and so did her perspective. 🙂
P.S. – I am ‘happily married’ to the best person I possibly could have found, and this article is not to discourage people from getting married. I would implore parents to stop putting their daughters through this painful process. There are many other ways of introducing eligible people for marriage. Let them decide the best route and take such an important decision of their life.
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