Recently Mail Today asked me to write an anecdotal article for them. It got published on 31st Jan’10 (best viewed in IE). Here’s the unedited version of the article (which has one anecdote extra). Awaiting bouquets/brickbats in comments.
It’s a Woe-Man’s world
“Some husbands are living proof that a woman can take a joke”. How else does one explain the umpteen number of smart, intelligent, independent women getting married to chauvinists & changing their entire outlook for that mandatory milestone in life that we call “marriage”? They believe they need to either do that, or get slotted into the “failure” category. I see some of them living double lives – one when they are outside the home and one when they are under scrutiny of their in-laws.
Gone are the days when the typical matrimony setup had the boy’s family visiting the girl’s with the girl coyly handing out tea & demonstrating her obligatory culinary/sewing/singing/knitting (take your pick) skills. Cut to the present – now families meet in public places a.k.a. crowded cafes where the ‘boy’ & the ‘girl’ are given some time alone after both parties size each other in noisy environs & wonder who’ll foot the bill. Most such meetings end up poorly (literally) since there’s hardly any interaction before the two parties meet, no picture exchange, the only conversations on phone being limited to the “elders”. The entire premise is based on the concept of suitable “bio data” where almost everyone writes things like “hobbies – listening to music” and at most horoscope matching. The ‘boy’ & ‘girl’ in question usually squirm under the scrutiny of the opposite party, utter obligatory nonsense and return back with the real picture getting clearer much later with a phone call. One figures that the only “type” one would meet under these circumstances are “mama’s boys”.
A better method still, some “boys” & “girls” and sometimes even entire families, hang around on matrimonial websites a.k.a. glorified dating sites (& other unmentionable terms in a family newspaper). The goal for at least some of us, is to meet educated, employed, decent AND available men (the last being a very important attribute since most available men lack the first three qualities). But the assumption that one would meet such men beyond the realm of their mother’s pallus, shatters soon enough with the kind of experiences one faces on such sites.
Take for instance the typical “orkut fraandsheep request” type users who flock the site, spamming anyone with a profile, after all it takes only a click. Or the freeloaders with a daily income less than the cost of a peanut butter jar, who can’t write to save their life. I’ve been contacted by men between the ages of 21-62, with professions as varied as “Sweeper” to “Zamindar”, marital status ranging from divorcee-with-2-kids to got-married-a-month-back-now-separated. Some weirdos give reasons like “I’ve no problem with the age difference of just 6 months but my parents want an age difference of at least 3 years” as if its the parents who were going to wed me. Some (including the weirdo category) forget having been written off via a previous profile of theirs & reconnect anyway, when they create a new profile all over again. The online world does give freedom of expression but seemingly the parental pallu extends here too at times! Right from being called up early one morning by an NRI who was ensuring that I was female, thanks to a bad experience with a gay masquerading as a girl on a matrimonial site, to hearing about how one “profile user” stole another’s credit card when they met, to people plagiarizing someone elses pictures & passing them off as their own forgetting that SOME day they’ll meet people they contact, to the people one rejects stalking one on ones social networking profiles – I’ve seen it all!
But don’t take me to be “choosy” just yet. I went through the matrimonial process for many years, putting in my entire free time into the search & approached it very methodically. Taking a cue from another “organised user”, to make sense of the information overload, I maintained excel sheets for the various people I contacted & those who contacted me. The sheet got updated daily with the meticulousness & dedication I would assign only to my finances. Talking of finances, I might as well add, working in the IT industry for several years put me in a decent salary bracket & allowed me to possess my own car and house. With time, I moved out of my parents place and started living independently in the aforementioned house & swooshed around the city in the aforementioned car. Now that is considered a very bad move as far as the marriage market is concerned. I instantly got typecasted into the “fiercely independent” category and I could imagine the rejection thought process of the parents of prospective grooms – “live in boyfriends”, “can’t adjust into family”, you get the picture. Having a head between my shoulders, that actually does think & opine, does not help matters either. With time, taking cue from some online matrimonial profiles which stated clearly that they were looking for people earning as much or above their salary level, I added something to that effect in my profile as well. As expected I received mixed results. Some people could identify with it, whereas a lot of others contacted me on the sites only to harass me for the “attitude”. One guy wrote “You have such proud (sic), just coz u have lakshmi ki kripa.” That response was just begging for a reply & got it. I wrote “Yes, I am blessed with Lakshmi ki kripa, but you aren’t even blessed with Saraswati ki kripa — you can’t even write properly!”. Another user with misplaced patriotism contacted me just to tell me “You Pakis! Just go back to your country!” because my profile stated that my grandparents had migrated during partition from what is now Pakistan!
Even the traditional methods like matrimonial ads in newspapers or getting details of eligible matches through family friends & relatives yield similar results. In one particular instance the family seemed great, the “boy” seemed charming & possessed the four above mentioned attributes. Everything seemed just picture perfect. The family wanted to meet me & my parents at their place. Eventually we met & they instantly adopted me as their would-be daughter-in-law. The “boy’s” mom couldn’t stop fawning over me and kept gushing about something or the other. So much sudden love completely freaked me out. But it all fell into place when the hyperexcited mom of the boy in question took me aside & gave me a short lecture about how men are always careless, fickle minded, naughty and give in to temptations and how it was up to “us women”, the honourable creatures who could hold fort in such situations. Later the “boy” confessed to having been caught by his parents in a compromising position with a, well … friend. Ekta Kapoor’s serials had not started then, else the gushing mother in law, would have been quite the perfect caricature!
Even if one ignores the rotten apples, it’s a fact that most men in the marriage market have their expectations arising from the typical image of a wife who is “gharelu”, submissive, doesn’t talk back and “obeys”, perhaps created by the way we are brought up. Didn’t some elders say, TV is the root cause of all evil? It certainly rings true in this context.
Is it a crime if a woman is more successful or smarter than her better half? Well most men take that as a sign of their own failure. Some of my classmates from engineering, well educated people with good family backgrounds, actually wanted a wife who would NOT work after marriage! Strangely they never had a problem dating their own ambitious classmates from college but when it comes to the “wife search” it’s perhaps more about the apprehensions of these men than about the attributes of the women they look for! Surprisingly having a sister who also aspires to be independent doesn’t make any difference when the search for another female family member commences. The hypocrisy continues. I have observed that parents who believe in stereotypes mostly impose them on their progeny too. Someone who has the freedom to make his/her own choices is the kind of person who would also respect his better half’s choices & not get intimidated by them. The search for that kind of someone is still on, but till the time, the elusive groom who fits required attributes and does NOT get intimidated by me, comes, I go by what Carrie Bradshaw says “Why get married and make one man miserable when I can stay single and make thousands miserable?”