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I have heard that when sons (More so in the case of daughters. But here for reasons that are obvious I speak of sons) reach what is commonly referred to as marriageable (whatever THAT means) age, parents have a difficult time. No, no, no, no, no. I am not talking about finding the right partner for them, just the opposite in fact, sort of leaving them alone to lead their lives. But hearing about something and experiencing it first hand are two entirely different things as I found out, much to my chagrin.

Some time back I read a comment to some blog or other, written by a lady whose son was of that marriageable (sic!) age. The son, it seems, did not want to marry. The mother on her part, was fine with the adult son’s decision, as sensible mothers should be in my way of thinking. Of course it goes without saying that all sons (and daughters for that matter) would be adults when they are deemed to have reached marriageable (that word again) age. But try telling that to the majority of Indian parents with the typical controlling streak and they will look at you with incredulity writ large all over their possessive faces that clearly say what they think of you: a raving lunatic, quite obviously in the pay of the West.

Ahh the decadent West, the repository of the origins of all our troubles. What will we do without you to blame for all our ills? But let us leave the West aside for the moment, the controlling parents as well and concern ourselves only with the handful of sensible ones who treat their children as adults.

So as I was saying, there was this adult son who did not want to marry and the sensible mother who was okay with it. All hunky-dory one would think. Alas, not. Relatives and friends or “well-wishers” as these nosey-parkers like to call themselves, would have none of it. They pestered the mother at every opportunity they got. When is your boy getting married? Anything fixed yet? Why is he not married yet? Something wrong with him? There is a nice girl we know who is good wife-material… yada yada yada.

She bore it all with forbearance and warded them off as best as she could with, ‘My son does not wish to get married.’ Sacrilege. Not want to get married at all? Pah! Impossible! Every child wants to. It is just that children are wont to say, “Nahi, abhi nahi” (not now) to the parents with characteristic modesty. Haven’t they been “rightly” brought up to defer things to parents? So it was the mother’s duty to “get her son married”. If not she was failing miserably in her obligations as a parent/mother.

On my part I read all of this with interest and typical in the manner of the Innocent and Ignorantly-Inexperienced, pooh-poohed it. Lady, don’t listen to any of this nonsense. You and your son know what the truth is. He does not want marriage and you respect his wishes. Let the rest of them go  jump in a well where such well-wishers rightly belong. Tchah! Those were my thoughts. That was then and this is now. And I still hold the same views.

Just like the lady above, nowadays, I too have to face a lot of questions from well-meaning-not busybodies. How old is your son, they ask me pointedly, in that most subtle way such people have. I tell them. Of course you don’t have to throw the Right to Information Act in my face for me to reveal my own age, let alone my son’s. The boy is twenty seven. Silence greets me, sort of pregnant, and not even the first trimester at that.

Onnum aalochikkunnille?” (Not looking for alliances) they ask with the what-sort-mother-is-she look.

I usually answer that with a cheerful, ‘Illa’ (No). Not to seem rude, I add, that he wants a few more years before he takes the plunge. (And who am I to hurry him? It is his life, his decisions. This bit is said to myself, naturally!)

If you think this sort of probing started recently, come again. The moment he was out of college and into his first job, a friend asked me,

“Aren’t you looking for alliances for your son?”

I stared at her open-mouthed.

“He is only 21, just stepped out of college, Bindu!” I told her. Besides, wasn’t it up to him?

“So what? You have to start looking now. It may take a while to find the right one. If you find one sooner, you can have the engagement and the wedding at an appropriate time later.”

Advice and stupid advice at that! *eye roll* Difficult to believe that the person doling it out to me was a good 10 years or more younger to me, and mother of a school going son.

A few months later a cousin posed a similar question to me.

“Looking for girls for your son?”

“Isn’t he too young?” I countered. She was not the type to look at children as adults capable of making decisions.

“We are…” she replied smiling happily, speaking about her son of the same age as mine. So I understood where her question had come from.

This scenario has played itself out in myriad ways over time the last few years. But when my mother asked me the question too, I realized it was time to stop smiling in reply and TELL THE TRUTH. So I told her.

“Look here Amma. My children will not have an arranged marriage. They will find their own partners when they feel it is time. If anyone asks you, you can tell them this too.”

She knows me. So she accepted the truth of my words. If I hadn’t said what I did, I would have had to find excuses to thwart the ‘there is this nice girl I know, good family so on and so forth’ type of talk. The truth is always best that way. But let me tell you, not all are capable of telling the truth in this way.

Once again the topic of the senior son’s wedding had come up at a relative’s place. No, he does not want to get married now, I replied. But the L & M and I were gently chided. Children say that sort of thing. It is up to you parents to look for a girl and tell them/push them into marriage. They are people we often meet and if the matter was not attended to, this topic was going to come up again and again in further meetings. Worse still, horoscopes would be asked to match with those of prospective brides. I knew in my heart that the L & M would not be the one saying anything. So it was my call and I TOLD THEM THE TRUTH too. My children are against arranged marriage. We are with them in this matter. They will find their own partners and get married when they wish.

Now now, now….. Wait a minute. I have been going on about marriages and sons. But whaddya know, this blog is NOT about either. It is about how, however much upfront you are and tell the people the truth and nothing but the truth, you still end up being disbelieved. What a disheartening thing to note this is! It amazes me no end too, this coyness on the part of the general public to doubt my words. It shocks me to the core to think all my efforts at frankness has been taken by people, some of who have known me since long, with a liberal dose of salt. And I hope they end up feeling bloated drinking water. Ha. To think that my sincerity and openness has been like water down the drain!

What happened, you might well ask. In spite of laying out things so clearly in as black and white as it could be, I am brought proposals (for an arranged match) by those very persons to whom I have laid out the facts. Egads. What do they have in place of the thing that goes by the name brain? Or is it this attention deficit syndrome we keep hearing so much about? Or have they gone senile? But of course I know it is none of these things. None of them in their heart of hearts truly believe my words. You see they are judging me by their own standards. If at all they make statements like these,  they never mean them. So they assume I do the same.

The worst is yet to come. I am told that I am not getting my son of marriageable (there once again!) age married because I don’t want to be a Grandma. Being a grandmother I am given to understand will make me older. Excuse me morons. My age increases by exactly one year, at every birthday of mine, just like yours. It is not going to jump by leaps and bounds if my sons have children. Neither would my looks change/suffer because of the same. And lastly, if it is the fact that I would be called ‘Grandma’ by little ones that you are hinting at (and here I actually pity you because the statement reflects your own fears), I’ll just let the Bard answer you: A rose by any other name will smell as sweet.

But of course, this is nothing compared to what the lady I talked about above had to face. She was told that the reason that she was not insisting on her son getting married was because she was an ogre who had her greedy eyes fixed on her son’s steadily filling up coffers. (I wonder how long it is before I hear the same.). The son it seems was almost willing to make the sacrifice for the mother when he came to know of this. Better sense prevailed when the mother saw the unhappy face of the son. But the question remains, what do you say to such cruel people? I know the answer to that one. ‘Get out!’ seems to be a pretty good start.

Updated to add

Indians and Matrimony by Ritu