Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Fear of Arranged Marriage.

After reading ‘Matrimonial Pressures’ in the last issue of Beyond Sindh, a reader from Canada contacted me in the hopes of learning more about the mindset of male Sindhis with regard to the subject of arranged marriage. More specifically:

“What if Ravi eventually succumbed to the pressure? What would his reaction be to an unanticipated proposal? Would he even be amenable to an arranged marriage?”

Not wanting to disappoint an avid fan, I put on my boots and headed out in search of our frequent fixture, “Anonymous Ravi”. Fortunately, I was able to find him at the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal teaching Bharatnatyam to the local children. As always, Ravi obliged and as we accepted some tea from one of the sherpas, Ravi began to digress.

“Although I haven’t been through the whole ‘maiti’ procedure as yet, I have to admit, the mere thought of it freaks me out. To begin with, there’s the pressure of meeting a stranger and her family for coffee with the underlying pretense that this may be the woman you end up marrying. If that’s not pressure enough, a number of families fly great distances just for that meeting with you! Add to that the fact that you know practically nothing about the girl and are supposed to figure out enough to make a decision after four meetings, and that’s if her parents are liberal!

Granted that you’ll never really get to know someone 100% but one should have a pretty good idea about the individual he intends on spending the rest of his life with especially with the increased number of divorces and broken engagements in the Sindhi community. Such a familiarity cannot be deduced in a handful of meetings where the girl and her family are putting their best foot forward. Understandably, the boy and his family are doing the same, but I’m here because you want to know about the male perspective, n’est ce pas? As most readers of the magazine already know, I’ve seen, heard, and unfortunately endured some ‘crazy’ experience in life and as a result, the thought of marrying a stranger scares the living daylights out of me.

Having said that, I recently succumbed to the pressures from the high priestess herself, my mother, and gave her the green light to begin the “process”. However, I had one stipulation; I requested that she allow me to find out about the girl before moving ahead. The purpose of this was to gain some insight on the individual through my network of friends, thus enabling me to decide whether to move forward or not. Unfortunately, I discovered it wasn’t quite that simple.

It began when my mother handed me a dozen ‘Bio-Datas’. For those of you who don’t know, a Bio-Data is a resume with some additional details such as height, eye colour, skin complexion and shoe size! (Perhaps not the shoe size but you get my drift.) I looked through the papers and didn’t know what my mother expected from me. Perhaps a, “Yes mummy, I think Saraswati from Kalyan is a match worth pursuing, especially since she stands 5’7 ½ , has a café latte complexion, black eyes, and can make round chapatis. Yummy!.” Often these Bio-Datas are accompanied with photographs of the individual. Personally I don’t have too much faith in pictures, especially glamour shots. Certainly attraction is an important factor but since you’re going to be spending the rest of your life with them, one needs to discover a deeper allure which cannot be attained by ogling a 5x7 photograph. Instead, by getting to know an individual, you begin to view them in a different light and in most cases a deeper attraction will dawn - an attraction that will stand the test of time.

Needless to say, I was more confused than ever. Still, I took things in stride and contacted my friends, (otherwise known as ‘Team Ravi’,) and inquired about the names on the data sheets. After the chuckling subsided they began to tell me the little they knew about the individuals. Most of it was along the lines of, “She’s sweet, slim, tall, nice, goes out and parties, but not too wild etc.” In spite of the brief yet positive reviews, I couldn’t bring myself to tell my mother to move forward. For some reason, I expected the information they provided would allow me to make a concrete decision. Unfortunately, I still found myself at a loss. At that point, I began to wonder what in the world could they have told me about a female that would actually have me turn to my dear mother and say to her: “make it so!” The truth: there was nothing they could’ve said.

After some soul searching, I was able to figure out a number of answers. It wasn’t that I was against getting married or meeting new people; the point where I kept chocking was when it came to involving the parents and making the whole procedure ‘official’. Meeting the girl one on one, and then proceeding to meet the parents, is a far more appealing alternative; however, such cases are rare in the Sindhi Community.

Anyway, the more I think about the maiti process, the more confused I get. My thoughts spiral into a web of frustration, at which point I just drop the whole idea for a couple of weeks until it’s brought up again. I know my mother will soon turn the screws and force me to break through my phobia and attend one of these meetings. Perhaps that’s exactly what I need in order to truly understand the dynamics and conquer my fear. Like my friends say,” You’ll never know until I give it a shot.”

The truth is, regardless of sex, we all have our reservations about arranged marriages. For example, some fear the guilt of rejecting, or the possibility of being rejected while others prefer to believe in the notion that they have a soul mate out there waiting to be found. Either way, the prospect of an arranged marriage is a reality for many Single Sindhis out there, and at the end of the day we each have to choose the path that’s right for us. For some it’s a punch line; for the others, it’s a viable option worth considering. All that matters is what is it for you? As for our very own Ravi, I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to share his maiti experiences with us 6 months from now. Till then, good luck to Ravi and the singles out there.

Chandru Bhojwani

No comments: