do Indian women have bindi on their foreheads?
article addresses one facet of our culture, a subject that affects
each one of us at some stage of our life, the "arranged marriage".
Read on for what are considered to be its practical aspects.
every parent wants is the "best" for their child; there
is nothing new in this. Indeed, it can be argued that what every
child wants is the "best" for their parents, although
this would take some persuasion. In an ideal Indian world a son
or a daughter would define their criteria for a partner to their
parents who, through the grapevine, would make some recommendations
to the child, who subsequently would meet the prospective, select
one for marriages have this fairy tale ending?
us examine the process outlined above more clearly. Firstly, defining
the criteria. Merely asking your parents for someone "nice"
or even "a five feet four inch accountant, please Daddy",
is asking for trouble. You will end up seeing practically everyone
in the market since in your parents view they are all "nice",
or dare I say it, yes, they're all five feet four inch accountants.
By the time you've, worked through them all you'll be a fossil.
So one is well advised to be more definite in one's requirements.
Thus having narrowed down one's criteria and communicated this to
one's parents, the elders of the community take charge. At marriages
and impromptu meetings, the mothers exchange their children's credentials
while the fathers discuss cricket. Their job is made no easier by
getting conflicting stories on a family they are researching, and
in the end they just take an average. The research of course, is
very thorough, from such vitally important considerations as home
village in India and maiden names of grandmothers to the trivials
such as occupation and education, even astrologers are consulted.
Pretty soon the whole community, a giant 'Blind Date" outfit
(or should I say "game for a laugh"), is trying to match
make you. Alas, there is no Cilla Black to mediate, no three questions,
nor is there a day trip to somewhere exotic to find out more about
each other (so at least if it didn't work out they would both have
had a great day out).
every Sunday afternoon hundreds of parents with reluctant sons and
daughters frequent the nation's roads, in Datsun's loaded to capacity,
to meet at mutual and neutral houses. Here the parents of the two
parties exchange niceties,' punctuated by long bouts of silence
whilst their offspring go somewhere quiet to discuss their future
(each claiming it is their first such meeting). On their return
a secret signal to their parents communicates their verdict, which
more often than not is a thumbs down, and another Sunday passes
then the "spinster syndrome" sets in. In time, however,
two thumbs up verdicts returned and this clears the way for the
next stage, the courting.
is really where the 'Game for a Laugh' aspect comes into its own.
The offspring are usually permitted one or two meets before they
have to reach a conclusion. Sometimes, under the supervision of
an elder brother, while more usually the daughter has to be back
by eight, as long as she phones every five minutes. Nine times out
of ten, under the constraints of vegetarianism and lack of imagination,
this means a trip to Pizza Hut (the 'Indian Marriage Bureau) where
the embarrassment of meeting relations has to be overcome by "Ah
uncle, this is a friend of the family who just arrived from India,
who's flying back tonight and wanted to try a pizza and a pan so
." The Uncle gets wise to this story by the
fourth time one uses it and may threaten to pre-empt marriage plans
if not adequately compensated for his silence (with some Amber Nectar).
However, a choice statement can work equally well, like "Ah
auntie, I could have sworn you were blonde the last time I saw uncle
here with you, or was it
" Better still, check the Datsun
number plates before you go in.
in between the mouthfuls of Pizza and phoning home, she tries to
ascertain if the person sitting opposite her is her prince charming,
while he is regretting the extra chillies he ordered in order to
look macho. She decides yes, he decides he needs a fire extinguisher,
and so, in haste to down the flames, he also agrees.
provided the moon and the stars give their consent, telegrams shoot
across the country and a million and one relations have to be personally
phoned with the news or they boycott the wedding. At this stage
it is also advisable to purchase one sweetmeat, two sari shops and
a jewellery store, since this works out cheaper than making individual
purchases on an as and when required basis; indeed, it could even
prove profitable if one had a whole lot of cousins in the same age
group. In next to no time the couple are sitting in front of a camp
fire in a school hall, she pensive, serene majestic and beautifully
made up with hands and feet intricately decorated, wearing the finest
bed-sheets money can buy, he not wanting to see another pizza ever
again. All around them the home team and away judges with ringside
seats value their outfits gifts and discuss whether or not to update
their top ten wedding lists as well are breaking into incoherent
chants in foreign dialects, not unlike the Liverpool kop.
the couple gaze into the crowd, children can be seen pulling the
furniture and the piano apart while an active marriage market is
in progress at the rear of the hall, not dissimilar to the floor
of the London Stock Exchange, lining up the next dozen weddings.
Their concentration is interrupted by a five feet four inch referee
who continuously murmurs under his breath and throws rice everywhere.
Occasionally, he can be understood, "put £11.50 here,
sonny", undoubtedly an accountant, they're everywhere. The
ref usually insists on seven laps of honour during the course of
the match, where inevitably one of the groom's shoes goes missing
under the ref's very nose.
post camp fire meal is not for the squeamish or the calorie counter,
nor is it a textbook Cambridge diet. Vast quantities of sweet food
are stuffed down the oral cavities of the couple, while they are
being blinded by flashlight.
end of the ceremony is marked by a Kleenex sponsored cry, to which
the groom is not invited (he gets the chance during the course of
the marriage), and concluded by the ceremonial destruction of the
wheel balance of an expensive car by use of a coconut. The referee
usually drives home in a Brinks Mat van and they too go home, she
with a bag full of saris that shall never wear and he with a five
figure overdraft and one shoe, but worse is to befall him; the realisation
that he is now boss only at work.
what can one conclude from this article apart from the fact that
Datsun, Kleenex and Pizza Hut shares will continue to outperform
the equity market, and that this article should never have been
above article was written by a student at university and first appeared
in the Diwali magazine of Gujarat Samachar in 1995. It is reproduced
with the kind permission of Mr C B Patel the Editor.
the article remind you of your wedding or someone else's? Six year
on some things may have changed but not many. We welcome your comments
on the whole aspect of arranged marriages and all the fuss leading
to the marriage ceremony and on the day of the marriage. Do you
feel the need for changes and what do you propose.