Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In which a book is reviewed

[[Uh, what? Two more followers? That's all kinds of awesome! Yay! And, welcome. And now, onto business :D ]]

I'm in a book reviewing spree.


I have a 4-month-old pup who's either tearing out the foam from my govt-issued sofas or trying to pee on my bed. That I get any reading done at all ought to be celebrated, and publicly too. Because my pup has now decided that hanging out in the balcony is a great idea because he can climb on the chair we've kept for him and watch as cars and trucks drive-by, the cows graze (I live in a village converted to an army cantonment, okay?) and people walk past our block and go to the front gate. Thankfully, his watching means I have time to read and write. So, here, for the followers of my blog is a post about Hitched – The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage.

Written by Nandini Krishnan, Hitched traces the “why?” behind the decision of independent, educated, urban women to marry a man chosen for them by their families. Now, I had an arranged marriage too and I have spoken about it extensively online, but I did not just say yes to the first goat my father introduced me to. There was a lot of talking/thinking involved, and that is precisely what Nandini explores in her book. How did these women arrive at the decision where you met a stranger and decide that you were going to spend the rest of your life co-habiting, procreating, money-sharing, secret-sharing, life-building, etc?

The women featured in Hitched have all lived life according to the rules they made for themselves, and each of the women in the book has her own reason as to why she married the man she married. Each woman owns the narrative of her marriage. Let me emphasise this – marriage, not wedding. For those who are confused about the two, kindly do a quick search for the definition and come back here.

Arranged marriages are a norm, in a manner of speaking, in this country. Now, those who are academic will talk about the violence exerted by patriarchy by still keeping this alive and the lack of choice and the fact that agency is robbed when a partner is chosen for someone rather than them choosing their partner. I would like to clarify that this book does not feature the women on whom this institutional violence in committed. They are in charge of the decision-making process, although the means to the decision is either a marriage broker, or meddling relative, or an online matrimonial website.

Now, the same category of women – educated, urban, independent – also existed a generation ago. Our mothers, I mean. They were the key veto in the whole arranged marriage process, but let's face it, if our grandfathers had insisted that a particular alliance go ahead, it probably would have. I'm also pretty sure that most of our mothers did not stay out till 3am and come back home to sleep off 10 tequila shots!

Back to Hitched. There's so much truth in here, and so much relevance that I was thinking about everything I've written online and shared with my friends about the morons I was being introduced to and asked to consider by my dad. And even though it might seem that this is a collection of identical stories, it's not. Even the people and their values are not identical. There are all kinds of women featured here – journalists, dancers, TV producers, divorcee, still-looking-for-a-husband – and each of them has her own way of talking about how her life panned out. And that's what makes this book complete, if you ask me. The fact that this is not a collection of “One fine day, I met this guy and we connected and just knew, and then we got engaged and discovered how right out choice was, and then we got married and are now living happily ever after. I was right, he is “the one” and I'm so happy, I'm vomiting rainbows every day.” There is crazy, there is poignant, there is also methodical.

Another plus for Hitched is that it is pieced together beautifully. First up are the stories – from the disastrous first meetings, to the frustrations and heartbreaks, et al – and following those are the questions “The wedding hungama”, “What do couples fight about in the first year?” and others. At some point, it might seem like you're reading a relationship how-to, but that's not the aim of the book. Let's face it, when you're talking about your marriage, it tends to go into “Yeah, we fought, but relationships are about compromise...” territory and that's something no one can really help. Especially in India, where advice can be got for free for just about any life crisis – from maths homework to childbirth! Let's also be clear about another thing - when people talk about their marriages, they will never tell you about the fights, the disappointments, the “did I make the right decision moments” to anyone, best friend or no.

I recommend that everyone read Hitched. Especially those who are from foreign countries. God knows you harbour a ton of misconceptions about us! I'd appreciate it if you understood that my country is a mix of people you make documentaries about, as well as people like me, who blog and whose blogs you read.

Why are you still here? Order Hitched. Like, now!

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