(Had to take a break from all that autobiography. Apologies. The constant barrage of anecdotes became a little boring for me. Hence the break. Now, onto the rest of the story)
The previous post in this series made mention of a boy I christened V. The V story has an interesting enough back story. If one were inclined towards romantic comedies or Karan Johar’s school of film-making, then my meeting V would be that one script that elevated the arranged marriage from comic to epic. The arranged marriage would have turned into one of the glossy, aided-by-soft-lighting type films that Mr. Johar is so well-known for. But alas, V was not meant to be part of Bollywood formula lore, nor was I.
One weekend after lunch, we were driving back home when my father tries to open a conversation about my future. The thing is, my father is one of those typically stoic patriarchs. He mumbles when the words he’s using in conversation seem inappropriate to him. So most of the time, when Siddharth and I are getting lectured, acha talks in a half mumble, half this-baritone-is-going-to-tear-the-ceiling-to-pieces type tone. So, one evening in the year 2006, my 22nd birthday still a long way away, my father opens a conversation, “Chinku, there is this proposal that’s come for you. I think we should go ahead with it. His father is a retired IAS officer. The boy is based out of Delhi…” (the ellipsis here hints at some ridiculousness that my father thought was cute, we’ll leave that out).
My brother goes, “She’s still studying. Chinks, don’t agree!” My mother, in her best matriarch tone, “Siddharth, shut up! We need to start thinking of these things. It is our responsibility to get her married and frankly, the earlier the better.” It was my turn to say something and I could only blink at my mother. She was married at 27, her mother was married at 24 (which, in 1955, was late), her younger sisters were married in their 30s, she is the Principal of a school, educated and for the most part sensible, but she had suddenly gone and turned into some weird uni-dimensional character that we all see in the movies – that vague Indian-origin mother with the gold-bordered saree.
So, I just yelled back, “I’m not even 22. This guy is 9 years older. He’s not an IAS officer. He’s just the first serious proposal that’s come along, I can’t go and get married because you need to get your responsibilities over with!” My father’s face turned a good shade of purple. My mother was on the brink of one of her famous fit of the vapours. My brother, who was in college at the time, grinned! I called my younger aunt in Singapore when we got home and told her that I’m feeling traumatised and to please tell my father to back off. She did. My father thought my aunts were trying to sabotage his plans to get me married off. I thought my father was nuts. We were at an impasse of disagreements and other such dramatic things!
But we must not forget V. He’s one of the three reasons for this series.
In 2006, I was very busy being a total jackass at the University of Madras (ok, I have to clarify something here. Mad Uni, as I call it, has LOTS of affiliated colleges and is better known for its correspondence courses, but it also has regular functioning departments in its main campus. For my MA, I went to the Uni campus). I had just gotten out of a particularly difficult relationship situation and was not in a happy place. My parents’ hunt for the most suitable groom was beginning to reek of a weird kind of desperation. I realised then that once my MA was over with, the excuses to avoid the matrimonial process would run out. It would only be a matter of time before I “tied the nuptial knot” to use an Indian-English-ism! V’s proposal came through a common family friend. Our fathers met and they decided that they wanted to be related. My mother went along with the plan. Everyone was convinced that Col. K. Padmanabhan’s daughter would get married by the end of that year.
They’d sent us photographs. My father said, never mind that he’s a little dark. It’s ok. He’s a good-hearted person or some such thing. I must say, how the HELL does my father know all this? Did he spend quality time with V? Anyway, I was not in the least bit interested and told my parents, I really am too young. Please tell them to go away. They did, but my parents never stopped wishing for my forever after with a malayalee boy. After I told my father that, he kept bringing it up. They’re still interested. They still want you to marry their son, etc, etc, etc.
Fast Forward. July 2009.
In July 2009, I told my parents that I was seeing someone and I wanted to marry this guy. My father and mother suddenly went a little soap opera on me. My mother held her chest and cried big, fat tears of grief. My father cried because he figured if I told him early on, he would have let me go ahead and get married. My brother who was in Delhi at that time told me to hang in there. And me? Well, I was also crying, ranting and telling them that this was what I wanted to do, etc. Now, the trouble in my country is that parents love controlling their children’s lives. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. They hate having to live with the fact that their children are old enough to make informed decisions.
When it comes to marriage, Indian parents are by far the BIGGEST control freaks in the business. They hate having to allow their children the freedom to choose a life partner. According to them, having been married, for more than 20 years, gives them the credibility to exhort the virtues of an arranged match. Now, in V’s case, after the boyfriend fiasco was done with (he and I had a multitude of other issues aside from parental objection to wade through. We broke up in a very Romeo and Juliet context, yes. But we’re never getting back. The reasons are best explained in this post.) I was talking to him and telling him, look boss, I’m just out of a serious relationship right now and I can’t believe that I’ve agreed to this, etc. A few phone calls later, V tells me one day, “I want to give all this up and go into yoga full-time”… another day, “Am I the rebound guy?”… and other such choice-isms. I decided that there was no point in trying to make something work that I had no interest in. This guy was a total stranger and had not harmed me or mine in any way. There was no need to get into this at all. I told my mother that I cannot do this. It’s not working out, please be excuse me.
After July 2009, the marriage process took a 4-month break…