new holland, pa? who the hell do i know from my alma mater that comes from new holland, pa?
as you can see from the top right hand corner of this blog, in the past three months, i have successfully foiled three attempts on the part of my family to marry me of to someone of their choosing in an bizarre ritual known as the arranged marriage. the latest such attempt was brought to a brutal end about two weeks ago fortunately through a series of strange events and predicaments. but based on this person’s post on the female side of the arranged marriage fiasco, i thought i might as well bring to light the male side, which, in essence, is not any prettier.
first off, let me explain the reason why i let myself be dragged into such a situation in the first place. the reason can be explained in five simple words: i am horrible at relationships. after the spectacular failure of many such attempted relationships, i came to the drastic conclusion that the only way out of the perpetual circle that was my love life, and the only way that i could actually ever get laid again, was by getting married to someone at the earliest possible opportunity. and when my family seemed to agree fully with the marrying someone part, and not at all with the having sex part, i decided to go along for the ride anyway, figuring that my family couldn’t possibly suck at finding me a decent wife, right?
but that’s a completely different story. here, in brief, are the various steps towards said arranged marriages that i’ve been through so far.
step 1: the family
women in this country have a specific age (sell by date, as bridget jones called it) when the family of the girl get all up in arms about getting her married off – usually around the age of 23 onwards. if they aren’t married off soon, the relatives descend into a downward spiral of mourning as the girl ages.
for men there’s no such specific age. rather, it all hinges on when the family feel it’s right. for my brother, the age was 32. for my cousin, 30. for me, however, it started at 21.
this was, of course, startling. i had never expected my family’s tantric sense of marriage-appropriateness to take such a steep dive in my case. although there was a very good reason. most of the uncles and aunts either had daughters who were already married off, or daughters who were refusing to get married. of course, as my luck would have it, all these renegade daughters were geographically out of their sphere of influence, so they decided that they would pick on me, the only single person nearby.
i can’t say, however, that i had no inkling of the impending catastrophe headed my way. my aunts, bored with their life, began complaining about how a good wedding ceremony would spice things up a lot. at this point, any normal male human being would have inched away and run for his life. i, however, am stupid. therefore, within a period of 45 seconds, they had begun planning my wedding.
step 2: the search
now pay close attention, because this is the most intricate and complex part of the equation.
the first step of the search is defining the parameters for the suggested bride. this is what my family came up with:
a. good looking
c. nice enough to care about the rest of the family and take care of them in their old age.
now, while i had no problems with the first two criteria, the third one gave me much to complain about. i mean, i thought this girl was marrying me, not the entire extended family. i attempted to change the criteria into my own priorities:
but to no avail.
once the search criteria were set, the search crew was brought in. relatives i have never heard of, let alone ever met, queued up to find me the perfect bride. at this point of the entire process, i was still bemused, because i was absolutely certain that nobody would be able to find an intelligent, beautiful mother teresa anywhere in the solar system. it amazed me, however, that many of them came up with a series of girls that definitely did not meet criteria 1, probably did not meet criteria 2, and claimed to meet criteria 3. how did i find out about this? simple. i just looked at…
step 3: the biodata
yes. the biodata. tasmanian devil has already gone into the dynamics of a biodata, so i won’t try and go into the painful process of going through a set of biodatas that i could tell right off the bat did not fit into my perception of the ideal wife for me.
instead, i want to describe the painful process of preparing your own biodata.
now, i’ll admit: i don’t even lie on my resume. i think i’ve done enough wonderful things in my life to not have to exagerate them. but this was before i wrote my own biodata, under strict supervision from my entire family. suffice to say that many many trees were killed in the process of creating the biodata, as i attempted in vain to include some element of truth in the thing.
the first infringement on my real life came with my educational qualifications. it turned out that i had not attended a small liberal arts college in ohio like i originally thought, but instead i had attended “one of the world’s top institutions for the study of topics that are important to the present situation of the world”. if that wasn’t enough, i apparently attained first class in both my o levels and a levels, where i’m sure there is no such thing at either level. but no. apparently my perfect results weren’t impressive enough.
then the job. while i would classify my role at the office as an easy way to goof off for most of the month, i find out to my surprise that i was “involved in development projects that would ultimately change the face of bangladesh”. i think that that’s entirely too much pressure to put on one person. but, as always, my protests fell on deaf ears.
there was the usual crap about height and weight (making me look like some sort of hercules) and skin colour (converting my very dark skin to something called shamla, which means just a little tanned) and, off course, the relatives, all of whom had to be listed as very successful and very rich, even though i had never been aware of any of this. and then came the most difficult part.
now, i will readily admit that i am not the most photogenic person on the planet. in fact, most pictures of mine turn out looking like i have a severe case of constipation that even the world’s most potent medicine can’t cure. for this reason, i don’t take many pictures, and my family were unable to find any pictures more recent than 1987 in which i looked at all decent. and so they commissioned a photographer to take a good picture of me.
step 3a: the photograph
professional photographers are the most annoying species of creature that roam this planet. first of all, they will find something wrong with your hair, face, clothes or posture that you are convinced is perfectly fine. after about seventeen face washes and thirteen changes of attire, i was taken out to the garden to have pictures taken.
now, no matter how i would stand, it was wrong. i was supposed to look natural, but at the same time keep a straight back, look vaguely poetic in some direction or the other, and smile widely. if you know me at all, you know that i don’t do anything of this sort. ever. however, with the entire family watching the photography like a horde of fans gathered at a hollywood movie shoot, and glaring at me if i even dared to not obey the god of photography himself, i spent an extremely painful three and a half hours taking a picture.
after such prolonged exposure to pain, i believed the picture would make me look like a movie star.
i still looked like i had constipation.
but the family was ecstatic.
step 4: meeting the girl
up to this point, i still held out hope that no girl in her right mind would want to marry me, especially after seeing my picture. however, i was wrong yet again. apparently the response to my biodata and the picture were plentiful, much to the excitement of my family, who had drawn up a shortlist of women who fit their criteria. now i had to see one and actually fall in love with her or something.
the first time i saw all these shortlisted girls was not fun at all. as it turned out, i was commissioned to be standing at a specific place at a specific time, at which point she would walk by and i could see her.
the first three times i was supposed to do this, i lied my ass off and said that i had been there and hadn’t liked the girl one bit, when in reality i was sleeping or hanging out with friends. the fourth time, however, i was accompanied by a relative, and as much as i tried to get rid of the person, she was determined that we both see the girl. the designated spot was the busiest shopping mall in south asia. in the time i stood in the designated spot, nearly three hundred girls passed by, none of whom i would touch with a ten foot pole, let alone marry. when my relative asked if i had seen her, i lied and said yes. anything to get out of the torture.
apparently, my relative mistook my moody silence to mean that i had fallen head over heels in love with the girl, instead of my true thoughts: how to kill my entire extended family. as a result, they set up an official visit to the girl’s house.
the mission consisted of myself, my father, and the two oldest aunts and uncles. we trooped en masse to the girl’s house, but not before i was sternly warned not to look directly at the girl, for some reason or the other. i was then grilled intensively by the girl’s parents, giving me a clear understanding of what it felt like to be a prisoner at abu ghraib. fifteen minutes into the encounter, the girl was brought in.
not knowing where precisely to look, i stared at my fingers, knees, toes, shoes and anything else in my immediate vicinity. the girl had apparently been bedecked in her finest sari, and so i took advantage of the lack of places to look to stare at the hem, in the hope that it would reveal everything about her. no such luck. my aunts launched into a song entitled “look how pretty she is”. this confused me. i mean, which was i supposed to do – look or not look?
and then. the parents of the girl actually made her get up and give us our cups of tea. now if i were the girl, i would shoot the parents in the head. instead, she did as they said, at which my aunts piped up in a chorus of “look how nice the girl is”. of course i still couldn’t look, so i concentrated on the intricate designs on the tea cup.
so began her own interrogation. in the midst of which i decided to sneak a look at the girl, and as it turned out, she wasn’t any of the girls i had seen at the shopping mall. not one. in fact, she turned out to be slightly better, in that perhaps i would touch her with a ten-foot pole, but not maybe a five-foot one.
of course the interrogation was punctuated with verses from the hit song “look how intelligent she is”, until it got to a point where i was certain i would rip my family’s eyes out. fortunately, we left soon afterward.
step 5: the phone calls
about three weeks later, i was informed that i was supposed to be calling the girl on the phone every night or something equally stupid.
now, i have a hard enough time talking to people i’ve known for years. unless they do their share of the conversing, i try and hang up as soon as possible with feeble excuses of needing to pee or wash my cat or eat a random meal. apparently, in this special case, the girl is supposed to be quiet and demure and shy, and not talk much. as a result, our conversations generally took the following form:
me: it’s me.
her: i know.
me: so how are you?
[long pause] her: and you?
me: i’m fine, thanks.
[long pause; i look at my cat, thinking if i should give it its fourth bath in as many days] me: so how was your day?
her: good. yours?
me: it was all right
[long pause] me: did you do anything fun today?
her: no, not really.
me: yeah, me neither.
[long pause] me: well, it was great talking to you. unfortunately i need to go throw up. bye
of course, every time she said a word, it was punctuated by giggles and howling from her end, which, i found out later, were her cousins and siblings, all of whom had nothing better to do than sit around and listen to us (not) talking.
step 6: the relatives
somewhere along the way, i was expected to get to know and love all her relatives. and this was extremely difficult for me. i hate my own relatives, and have no intention of gaining any more. but no. i had to spend an entire month’s meager salary taking her relatives to lunch and dinner at expensive places so that they could get to know me better.
as i said to my friends, i’m really not that interesting to get to know. but if they really want to, they can pay for the privilege. but no. every time the waiter arrived at the end of a meal with the cheque, the whole host of uncles and aunts and cousins and nephews and nieces became busy with something or the other, and i was left having to pay it, just so it didn’t look awkward.
of course, i wasn’t supposed to ever meet her for lunch or dinner or even an afternoon snack. oh no. that would have been a crime, apparently. so instead, we talked on the phone, in a manner of speaking.
step 7: the engagement
at some point, the girl realized, somehow or the other, that she did in fact want to spend the rest of her life with me.
what the hell?
i would have thought that all this crap would have made her choose differently, but apparently, according to our respective relatives, we were both head over heels in love with each other. now love is one emotion that i definitely did not feel in the entire exercise. nausea, yes. love, no.
fortunately, my painful tale ends here. while this whole process happened to me three times in the past six months, each time i managed to convince either my family or the girl’s to not go any farther.