Those Seeking Alliance Apply Elsewhere
My mother, with a roti roller in one hand and a cordless phone in the other, left her pan frying while she barged in my room ordering me to talk to her sister in south India. I knew what this was about. My aunt had enlisted a professional matchmaker to find me a groom. I am a 30 year old single woman living in New York with a family firmly stuck on the concept of arranged marriage despite the rise in divorces among Indian Americans. Had I gotten married to either of the two men I seriously dated in the past five years, I would have ended up separated already. But according to my folks, I would have been happily married with children by now if I'd listened to them.
"It is still not too late, this software engineer in California seems like a good boy," whispered my mom while handing me the phone. Reluctantly, I chitchatted with my aunt about the weather, Bollywood movies, and my latest articles. Slowly, my relative, a pretty mother of two with the beauty and grace to match Padma Lakshmi, steered the conversation to the match she found for me.
"His family alreadly liked your picture and is eager about this alliance. The best part is that your horoscope charts are a good match too," she said optimistically. "He's the same sign as my husband, and you know that means he'll be a good man," she continued, trying to persuade me knowing how much I look up to her spouse. I do admire my uncle, for the way he won my aunt's love after my grandpa set them up. Till this day, he treats her like a goddess and takes good care of his in-laws.
"I can't wait to hand your ex's family a fancy wedding card to show how well you've done!" she gloated. While I appreciated the thought (although I'd never invite them to my wedding), I felt the request to engage with a complete stranger a bit out of line. My mother's snarky side remark about my affinity to talk to strange men in bars didn't help.
"Hey, at least I am making the choice to communicate with them," I replied. Besides, I only talk to them, not agree to marry them. I am a strong willed, independent, world-traveling career woman who's lived on her own terms for over fifteen years. I cuddled with my cat to calm myself and told my aunt that I'd think about this man.
That same day, another relative, who considers me as one of his daughters, sent an email saying, "We think this new boy is right for you, please go visit him in Sacramento." I wasn't sure if he was being facetious. I hadn't seen a picture of this supposedly handsome fellow my whole family approves, or even viewed his "bio data" emailed to my father, and yet all of a sudden, I was to fly cross country to meet him. Of course, I was reminded by all that I was under no obligation to agree to marriage, but not without emphasizing that that this man, who's never even heard my voice, is willing to move to the East Coast for me. Talk about pressure.
Ever since my last relationship failed a year ago, my folks have been trying to get me married off. According to them, I have no time left for dating and seeing if the guy is right over a period of time. Since I live at home, as is common for unmarried Indian women to do (but mostly to save money in this shaky economy), I get asked to talk to a different guy every other week. My father always adding, "well, you haven't had much luck on your own, so let us help you."
I haven't exactly been savvy with my choices in the past. My first love was half Indian/half white and after dating for two years said he always envisioned marrying a non-Indian woman. I should have left when he admitted to still having a crush on a college friend a few weeks into our relationship. The second time I fell madly in love, it turned out the guy, albeit being from a "good" Indian family, was a sociopath who kept the truth about his other girlfriends from me all throughout our yearlong courtship. And I defended him in front of my family when they tried to quell the spell I was under, until I came to my senses and left him.
But how do I know my folks know any better? They say reviewing the families first brings up a better pool of men, and that their experience makes them wiser. It's comforting knowing my loving clan is looking out for me. But whenever they proposition a guy to me, they always start with "he comes from a good family, has a great job (which translates to makes good money), and his skills are in demand in this country (read recession proof)." Like that's supposed to get me to put on a sari and ask them to plan the engagement party. If they said, "this animal loving guy volunteers at soup kitchens, is passionate about his job, and can't wait to go hiking in Peru," I would have gotten that cross country plane ticket.
When I do communicate with some chosen men out of respect for elders, I get rejected because I am not a doctor, engineer or have loads of money. Then, there are others who ask their parents to find them brides only to have girlfriends on the side. Some expect me to be a docile housewife cooking, cleaning, and catering to them while they pursue their careers. Who needs men like that? The ones who want to get hitched as soon as possible are either under their own parental pressure or looking for a green card (which my family thinks is just fine because I will be getting good karma, not realizing how flawed their reasoning is). I may be thirty, but I am not going to settle.
It’s usually recommended that one enlist the help of trusted family, friends, co-workers, even mentors in finding potential matches. I agree that looking for love doesn't have to be a lonely endeavor, and getting set up by those who know me well enough to have a better screening process would certainly help. I still hold out hope that one day I will meet and marry a tall, handsome, ambitious, dedicated man with good values. I have seen some of my friends who had arranged marriages get along well and those who had love marriages fail to stay together and vice versa. There is a belief among Indians that marriages are made in heaven. If that is the case, I suppose it doesn't matter if my folks find me the guy before I do. My main requirement- he better have more to show than a bio data with his academic degrees and his high paying job. The number of fancy cars and acres owned is not going to seal the deal either.