Ours was an arranged marriage. Not that I had much choice in the matter. It was the norm those days. So when I came to know that people would be in that evening to ‘view’ me, I took it in my stride.
I had my own views on the subject, of course. Not that anyone was interested enough to ask me what those were. I don’t think any thinking woman enjoys being paraded before the critical eyes of a family that has come to inspect the goods as it were.
Preparations were afoot in the kitchen. Something nice was being made for the awaited guests. Since I had very communicative parents, I did not have any inkling as to who exactly were coming!!
I was in my simple cotton sari, sans any jewelry, looking just as any girl would, on a normal day at home. Thankfully no one had asked me to deck myself up. It would have been so demeaning to adorn myself to be shown off!
Around 5-30p.m. some cars stopped outside and disgorged the people traveling within. My aunt, who had accompanied the guests, wrinkled her nose in disapproval at my attire. The simple white cotton sari with prints on it was not to her satisfaction. Where was the silk sari, the flowers and the oodles of jewelry, her eyes seemed to ask. I thanked my lucky stars that she hadn’t reached earlier. She would have had me look like one of those filmi heroines!! Now that the women folk among the guests had already seen me in all my glory as it were, there was no point! So she left me alone.
The women made small talk with me. We seemed to have some common acquaintances. It turned out that some people I knew at the Sarada Mutt where I was teaching were related to them. I smiled politely and answered their questions. It gave the visitors proof that I wasn’t dumb and deaf!!
Soon the call came for me to move to the drawing room, where the men were sitting. Luckily for me, I did not have to go in with the traditional tea/coffee tray. I walked in. Wonder of wonders, I was offered a seat and asked to sit down! Normally, you may even be left standing at the door, answering umpteen questions.
There I was seated and ready to answer the next set of questions. College, studies, job, all found its way into the questionnaire. I looked straight at the person asking me the questions. Not left not right! Finally, the kind gentleman remarked, that though he was the one asking the questions, the person I would be interested in was sitting across him on the opposite side and to take a good look at him. I obligingly shot a swift glance, before I looked away. All I could make out was this tall person, sitting straight and serious. Not bad for a swift glance I guess.
Then the elders decided that we should get to talk each other. Thank God for small mercies! I walked into the room this serious guy was seated in. He is this young Captain in the army. He tells me about his work, how he is posted to the field area every two years and how I will have to fend for myself during those times. Sounded easy to me back then. ‘Fine’ was my attitude! A few more sentences and we were done. Couldn’t keep the elders waiting or questioning looks would be in order.
He stood up to leave and I followed suit. That’s when it struck me. He was so very tall! Not satisfied with the 6+ feet of his own, he was wearing boots that made him look even taller and here I was in my no-heel home wear sandals and five feet nothing.
It must have struck him too coz he said,
“I hope you don’t mind my being so tall!”
For the first time in her life, the tongue-tied girl, who remembered the best rejoinders, seconds, minutes, hours, days or sometimes even months later, (still does for that matter) smiled and retorted promptly,
“I hope you don’t mind my being so short!”
He laughed out at the answer.
The ice was broken.
The day was 17th August 1982.
* * *
The marriage scene is not a lot different almost a quarter century later. Check out these hilarious takes on bride-viewing in Kerala (though I don’t think the pattern is any different anywhere else in our country, only the finer details differ) from Silverine. Though it is written in a lighter vein hidden in it you will find some sad truths (take special note of the most important step the bride takes, the time taken for taking an intelligent and informed decision on one of the most important decisions of your life, the profound discussion that precedes it) which should jolt you and me and everyone else awake from collective lethargy. If it doesn’t, it is even sadder. And by the way, it is written by someone from the next generation to mine.
And yes I know, the majority will not agree with me!! But then I have always maintained that I am ‘different’! 🙂
Show-cased post reposted from shail-mohan blogs at sulekha.com