After lining her eyes with Kajal (inner eyeliner), she stood staring at herself in the mirror. I knew what she was thinking. Once again, she would have to go though it. She would have to go and sit with people who would judge her for everything she says and does in those brief 10 minutes, and if she's lucky, this time it might go well. Not that this process will end, but maybe she will finish this meeting without being told her complexion is not fair enough to be worthy of marriage with their son.
My aunt came in and told her this would be a good time to come. She pulled her Dupatta, a scarf, over her head. She squeezed my hand and walked out. She was 27 and now the hopes of her being selected as the bride was getting less and less likely. She had been doing this for almost 10 years. As of today she is still unmarried and no longer desires to get married. The concept of arranged marriage in India is centuries old.
The tradition that not only proves that you have no control over your own life but also rubs your face in the hard fact that some strangers are going to decide it. It still happens, even though it is 2004. Let's look at the story from the young man's point of view. I know this guy who completed his degree in Computer Science at a respectable university and got a good job.
His parents decided he was ready to get married. So, they put an advertisement in the matrimonial column of a leading newspaper. "Wanted bride: Looking for a slim, fair, tall, graduate in engineering or medicine. Non-graduates will be considered only if they have a GREEN CARD or Citizenship to USA. For 26/Engineer." Notice how extensive the description of the young man is! So now the hunt begins and phone calls pour in to the mother.
The first question she will ask is how tall is she, what is her colouring? She will just write down the numbers of the people who say their daughters are fair, slim and tall. She will highlight the numbers of the girls who are graduates in a professional field. Its Saturday evening and the mother has made five appointments. She steps into the first house. Amazing house, breathtaking decor and the humble mother. She talks about good "Seema," who can cook and keep house.
The mother of the engineer, without any hesitation, scans the room she is in. Suddenly, she interrupts Seem as mother and asks her to call her daughter. Seema's mother gives an embarrassed smile and as she leaves the room she begins to worry. Did I talk too much? She comes back into the room with Seema, who is holding a huge tray filled with an assortment of desserts. In her head the engineers mother runs through her checklist. Seema is tall, good, she is fair, also good, but she looks a little fat. The engineers mother asks Seema where she attended college.
As she serves the food, Seema replies. Expensive school, the engineers mother thinks. A good dowry is definitely a possibility here! Then, she decides its time to leave, telling Seema and her mother on the way out, "It was good to see you, but don't feel bad if things don't work out." The engineers mother visits all five houses, and finally decides on a girl who is not so fair, not so tall, not so slim, and not even a graduate, but does hold a US green card.
The wedding is arranged for weeks within the couples first meeting, but only after the engineers mother has checked all the necessary documentation relating to the green card. The brides mother tells the engineers mother that she will give them 500 grams of 23-carat gold jewellery, and, of course, all of her grandmothers diamonds.
A four bedroom fully furnished flat will follow. The dowry, although important and implied, is not mentioned openly.Women of Hyderabad, India, go through this everyday. It will not change unless mothers, daughters and sons realize that getting married is divine. Falling in love is a ride in the skies. The union of a man and a woman in love is a taste of paradise. A woman seeks stillness in her man and vice versa and no mother can choose that woman or man or put a price on it.