I am a child of a typical Indian arranged marriage. My entire family have had their marriage arranged and so, as it flows, despite of being a fairly-independent and liberal person, I am not considered worthy enough of choosing the right partner and will likely be coerced into an arranged match myself.
Talking of arranged marriages, there is one aspect of it, I can never see eye to eye with, and it haunts me the most when I think of it. The first meeting. The very first time the girl is made to sit in front of the boy and his family in all her femininity and charm, in her best behaviour, while the other side gawk at her, scrutinizing her from head to toe, for any sign of a ‘defect’. The girl meanwhile is expected to sit meekly and display all the traits of a perfect Indian woman. Going through the process is not humiliating enough because often once the inspection is over, the girl comes to know that she has not been liked enough to be considered suitable for marriage. Experiences of such kind would be enough for any self-righteous person to take a strong hit on their dignity and self-respect, and facing such rejection repeatedly can be tormenting to any individual, be it a girl or the guy. It is with these fears and thoughts that I went to see a girl for my cousin.
This was my first experience of such kind. Both the families were communicating through phone for a while and my cousin had also talked to the girl a few times. I was told its almost a done deal, only my aunt’s consent remained who had to inspect the girl once.
And so we went. The party of five, my cousin, aunt, uncle, dad and me. The girl I came to know, eldest of 3 siblings, was a masters in Mathematics. My cousin was himself an M.B.A, working in an MNC, and I thought the match to be fairly equal. The excitement on my cousin’s face made me believe he thought likewise.
We reached our destination and were greeted warmly. After the usual Hellos, How do you dos and the small talks, everybody expressed the desire to see the girl. I could see my cousin growing nervous. Well, the big moment came and the girl entered. Every eye in the room was at her and so I, pitying the poor soul, decided to look instead at my cousin. As I turned towards him, I was caught instead by my aunt’s expression. Her face was one of pure disgust. Disappointment flooded her face. One look at her and you would know she had rejected the girl outright. I looked at others. My father and uncle sat perfectly calm and my cousin was all smiles. I looked at my aunt again and she had the same look. So I turned towards the girl to know the reason of such change in my aunt’s expressions. I found none.
The girl was quite pretty, clad in a salwar-suit, sitting in front of us with her head bowed down slightly and a hint of smile on her lips. I looked at her hard. There had to be some reason to cause a reaction this harsh, but I failed to find any. I realised then, I wasn’t the only one in the room who had noticed my aunt’s behaviour. I could feel the atmosphere going tense. My father, to lighten the mood, tried to make some small talks. My aunt, meanwhile, was no longer even looking at the girl. She was just staring at her feet with a scowl on her face. I saw then, that the girl had noticed her. I could see her face going deep red, her smile completely vanished. I wondered how hard the moment must be for her. She went inside on the pretext of getting some snacks.
The moment she left, my aunt turned towards my cousin and told him that we should probably leave as there was no point in staying any further. We all were shocked to our wits and tried to convince her to stay. My aunt though, had made up her mind. I looked at the girl’s family. They were bewildered too. I could see the confusion and helplessness on their faces. I was really angered by now at my aunt’s behaviour. What could be so wrong in the girl that she could not even behave politely for a few hours? All our pleadings to her came to no use, as she stood up at once and left. We handled the situation somehow, apologizing to the girl’s family and begged our leave. I couldn’t remember feeling more embarrassed, but none of my embarrassment was any match to what the girl must be going through. To be rejected and so mercilessly, at one glance.
We stormed towards my aunt and demanded an answer. Everybody else was as perplexed as me to know the reason of her so unjust behaviour and so asked her outright what bothered her so.
“Why, didn’t you see?” my aunt replied calmly, “she had a mole right below her left eye. A girl with a mole below her left eye ends up crying her entire lifetime.”
As I tried to sleep that night, all my thoughts were with that girl. I kept wondering how she would have justified what happened, she would have questioned herself again and again over what could be wrong, she would have asked her family what could be the reason, she probably would have stood in front of a mirror and wondered for hours what was wrong about her. I was distracted suddenly, by the flash on my phone. It was a text.”Happy Women’s Day”, a friend had wished. I had somehow forgotten it was 8th March. I couldn’t help but smile at the irony. I texted back, “Happy Women’s Day, Indeed!”