Dear confused, urban, young Indian woman,
So, you are caught in the throes of pre-matrimonial limbo. I kind of know who you are and I am sure people know you exist, but I doubt they really know who YOU are.
You are probably anywhere between your mid 20s and early 30s and living in a city in India or abroad. You possibly have done some or all of the following: had a job you love, lived on your own, paid your own bills, had enough to splurge a little, smacked a few molesters, gotten drunk, have had a fair share of blunder-full relationships which left you both men-bashing and friend-amissing, been through a phase of commitment-phobia, have a ton of friends you deeply care about, have strong opinions and say it out loud, have frequent needs to travel and ‘find myself,’ are notoriously independent and need your own ‘space.’ Most of all you are madly and deeply in love with.. yourself. And, not in a spoilt, self-obsessed way. Well, at least for the most part.
Consider yourself lucky to be part of today’s generation of women. You have had better opportunities than the women before you. You are neither expected to conform nor make the same choices your mother and grandmother made in their time. At the same time, life is also a little more complicated than you realize or even like to admit. That quote I reject goes: ‘Look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man and work like a boss.’
Then comes the time when you have been there and done that. You are now marching dangerously close to the war-zone. Pre-matrimonial limbo: That awkward stage in your life when marriage looms bright on the horizon and you are in denial. Typically, this era of your life is inaugurated by family/relatives at social gatherings who indulge in one or more of the following:
- Ask the dreaded question to your face
- Poke and prod about your personal life to see if you satisfy the eligibility criteria
- Check you out longer than usual ie. Put their bride-hunt glasses on.
- Bring ‘perfect’ proposals to your parents. (Cousin’s wife’s grandfather’s sister’s youngest son is from IIT/IIM and is now earning ££££ in Timbuktoo)
- Make cringe-worthy marriage jokes when you’re around
And, then your parents pitch the worst idea ever: they want to sign you up on a matrimonial site. You are aghast. This is obviously a place for people to head when they are not good enough to find somebody in their regular, non-virtual lives.
Back in late 90s, urban Indians flocked online to tap into the wealth of possible matrimonial alliances a globally connected world offered. By the next decade, you would find matrimonial websites catering to the palate of every caste, religion and ethnic community in India. A quick Google search reveals memorable virtual spaces, including lovevivah.com, findanri.com, marry2indian.com and bethlehematrimony.com. (Seriously?! After Jesus’s birth-town?) You are sorely tempted to sign up on one of these for fun to read the funny matrimonial ads. (I lyk beautifool fair galz.. I am IT guy, cool & handsum & notty, but she must luv me lot lot lot.. I liv2luv..)
There are deeper psychological complexities at play here. You are not averse to love, just very repelled by the idea that people hook up on the internet. And, worse, marry each other on the internet. Your heart bleeds and you moan inwardly about romance being a dying art in the cold, steely age of internet relationships.
The first story you ever remember reading was of Snow White. The silly girl went and bit a poisoned apple and could only be revived by a man’s kiss. And, this stuff is aimed at 5-year olds?
What about all those cutesy movies which immortalizes myriad ideas of romantic love? The kind that made your eyes sparkle and heart take flight and set itself on a fluffy white cloud. There is the prostitute who finds Prince Charming (Pretty Woman), the best friends-turned-successfully-into-lovers (When Harry met Sally), lovers who unite despite the odds and grow old together (The Notebook) and a secret love realised (Amelie.) You grew up and life taught you that that love in real-life is pretty risky business and is never as awesome as it is supposed to be. In a fit of joblessness, you were the first to join that ancient Facebook group ‘Disney gave me unrealistic expectations about love’ because it hit the nail on the head.
All social networking blunders aside, you are definitely not ready to commit. Marriage is way, way down in the future when you are ready to ‘settle’ or whatever. Right now, you would like to concentrate on your career and get ahead in your job. It doesn’t help your case that you read this morning that women in China like you are called ‘sheng nu’ or ‘leftover women.’ Traditional societies like ours just won’t leave us alone, huh? There is always an underlying idea that if you’re a single woman for too long, there is something seriously wrong with you. Therefore, you reject the whispers and tell yourself that you are just not ready for this nonsense.
Ping! You’re Gtalk window pops up and oh no! It’s that guy from the dreaded matrimonial site (you did succumb finally) your parents signed you up on. You force yourself to chat just so you can get your parents to stop gnawing your head.
Guy: So.. this is not how I usually meet girls..
You: Hang on, so you are not a moron?
Guy: I hope not. What are you up to?
You: Just FYI.. I am not the kind of girl who’d wear a sari and bring you tea on a plate and cook food for your everyday..
Guy: (sarcastically) I am a non-drinking, non-smoking, responsible care-giving type.. perfect husband material
You: (rolling eyes) Oh wow.. What a line. I’m so charmed right now..
Guy: But, wait, there’s more..
Twenty minutes later, your fingers continue to fly off the keyboard. A slow smile spreads from within and you are filled with an easy sense of surety by the end of that conversation. You cannot ignore the stupendously overwhelming feeling that this is the guy for you. For a change, YOU are the girl in the rom-com and spring bursts anew.
The person at the beginning of the article was and still is you. So, what changed? You can’t quite put a finger on it.
As humans, we hide behind our insecurities, impose restrictions on ourselves and live conditioned by the world and people around us. We operate within the ‘doors of perception’ and unknowingly shut ourselves out to a great, many invisible ideas and things of wonder.
So, dear urban Indian young woman who is caught in the throes of pre-matrimonial limbo, did you expect a comforting solution to all your problems?
I am not great at being inspirational or giving people sensible solutions, but I sure can understand where you come from.
Life can be trying and you might often find yourself overcome by conflicting ideas and emotion that tear you asunder. The truth is you need to stop thinking and analysing stuff because love will never ask you to be something you are not. Love is that peaceful, easy feeling.
I am very aware that I may sound like a lame version of Baz Luhrmann’s sunscreen song. But, continue to do the things which make you happy, continue to dream, continue to break personal milestones, continue to embrace single-hood, and continue to be independent. Don’t marry if you don’t feel like it. But hey, also, don’t hate the idea of an arranged marriage.
PS – this post is dedicated to all the strong, young, urban Indian women whose stories inspire me to write this!