A warning label

This article originally appeared in Sulekha

Yesterday my cousin Veena called up and asked me to look around for an eligible groom for her daughter. “Why is she going for such an arrangement?” I was curious. Here was a young girl with a PhD and a rising career in a multi-national firm going along with her parents’ choice for a life partner. “You’ll have to talk to her about it. I have a job to do and she’s getting older by the day!” Veena’s emphatic voice came through clear on the phone. When I met my niece a few weeks later and cornered her, I was surprised by her candid reply. “Dating wasn’t an option in college. Now that I’m working there’s hardly any time to socialize. My chances of meeting anyone are practically zilch.” “But what about the pitfalls of an arranged match”? I persisted. “I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it” came her pat reply.

When I discussed the matter with my neighbour Rita she had an interesting theory. “Indian men must come with warning signs that read, If you take me on, you take on my family!” Rita’s bitter experience with arranged marriages was evident. “I wish there are schools that train women to deal with manipulative in-laws.” Rita who’s been married for nearly 20 years pulled no punches. “My mother-in-law’s performance is worthy of an Oscar as she rattles of her physical ailments, imaginary or otherwise when her son’s around. She plays him like a violin. All those afternoons of watching soap operas on television are paying off!” she declared indignantly.

Rita’s tale reminded me of the conversation I have had with my American friends. “How on earth did you agree to marry a total stranger?” They were dumbfounded. When I explained to them that this was the norm, they remained unconvinced. “Look at the bright side, our divorce rate is very low” I argued. My reasoning only evoked their sympathy as they rolled their eyes and walked away.

So what do I really want for women? A popular columnist in a woman’s magazine claims, “In our society the woman’s been conditioned from birth to play according to the rules but has anyone figured out what she actually wants to do?” I know that all I want is a warning label, ideally colour-coded – but I’d settle for a few words in black and white!

© Chitra Srikrishna., all rights reserved.

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