Wedding Woes - Part 3: The Intervention
If ignorance is bliss, indifference is Nirvana.
Are you an Indian male or female aged 25 or above? Do you have parents? Do you live with them, and wish you could move out? Have you ever been asked “Then, when is your turn?” at someone else’s wedding? This one is over. Pay close attention.
It was Diwali and my sister came visiting with her son (my nephew) and her husband (my brother-in-law). I went to pick them up from the station at 4 a.m. My nephew loves car rides and never has to call dibs on shotgun because he would get the privilege anyway because of his age. My sister and brother-in-law sat in the back. As usual, my sister joyously recounted all the things that had happened in the 26-hour long train journey, highlighting my 8-year-old nephew’s antics. Some of these tales would end with her telling me how he was growing up to be just like me, while I quietly thought to myself how I wish he never grows up to be just like me. Once the narration came to an end, my brother-in-law and I exchanged pleasantries and had a template conversation. “So, how is everything? How’s everyone at home? Thank you for picking us up at such an early hour,” and so on.
My sister and I are as close as two siblings can be if they’re 8 years apart and only one of them had an arranged marriage and a child, while the other is a borderline two-dime-harlot on some days. Ever since I was born, she was like a second mother to me. Whenever something happened, I would first go to my sister because I didn’t think my parents would take my side. My sister would always take my side and be nice to me because she didn’t have anyone to do that for her growing up. Instead of being bitter about it, she tried her best to be there for me whenever I needed her. She is the straightest arrow in the family, and I’m as curved as a bow. We didn’t have an age gap. We had a generation gap. So, I always feared she’d grow up to be like my parents. I’m lucky she grew up to be the logical pragmatic lady who still makes me feel like there’s hope for my family yet.
My brother-in-law and I aren’t too close. His existence in my life is purely peripheral. At best, I am vicariously related to him via his marriage to my sister. I have never wanted more, and there are days where I have to remind myself of the existence of such a relationship.
My brother-in-law was going to leave the same night to go to Coimbatore because he had to visit some family there. In the 16 hours that he spent in my house, he brought up how his cousin was getting married in a month, and how I should try and make it – at least 16 times. I said I would check my schedules and try to be there. That’s how I say no to relatives. My mom and dad were going, and I was more than looking forward to just being left home alone. At this point, I’ve forgotten how half of my extended family looks and forgotten the names of the other half. If ignorance is bliss, indifference is Nirvana.
It was about an hour before he had to leave when my brother-in-law pulled me into a private conversation – literally, by the hand – and said he had something to talk to me about. I could literally smell it off of him. He was going to bring up how I should think about getting married. And, almost immediately, I knew who had put him up to this. My mastermind of a mother had struck again! But, this time, she had managed to do it covertly, from a distance, and sent a messenger. This was entrapment, espionage, and crossing lines quite literally. She had used her position as a mother-in-law to reach out to her son-in-law, who would be compelled to rise to the challenge of talking to his brother-in-law to convince him to get his own in-laws and finally earn some street cred with my mother. Go on, read that a couple of times if you didn’t get it. Take your time.
My brother-in-law, in true MBA fashion, came at me with anecdotes, market research, and statistics. “Many people say they want to settle down before they get married. But, what does settling down mean? Is it about buying a house? If that’s the case, my uncle had no property in his name when he got married. But, today, he has three houses in Mumbai, and their combined market value is a few crores.” This would be impressive if he had also told me how much money his uncle already had to his name at the time of his marriage. Or, was he suggesting that the marriage was such a profitable transaction, that he went on to be a real estate mogul? I have only questions.
“You know,” he continued, “when I got married 8 years ago, I was 29. But, today, the cut-off age has come down to 27…” Is that inflation or climate change? “… You are 26, and you’ll soon near the age. Then, it will become difficult for us to find someone for you.” Clearly, this man lives in a utopian India where patriarchy is just a passing joke, and the matrimonial market is actually an equal opportunity playing field.
He went on to tell me how so many of his cousins couldn’t find someone for a long time, and it was mainly because of the age. I’d like to agree to disagree because he told me nothing about how his cousins look. What if they were just ugly? Who knows?
At no point in this conversation did he ask me if I was even interested in getting married. Finally, he asked me “What do you think?” and I responded with how I had to focus on my career and prepare myself to financially support the family soon. His response quite simply was, “We’ll find you someone who earns well. Then she can also help support the family.” Was he suggesting she wouldn’t have her own family? Is there an “orphan” filter on matrimonial websites now?
Finally, he said, “Take your time and think about it.” And immediately followed it up with a deadline, “Your sister is here for a week. Let her know what you’ve decided. Accordingly, we will create a profile for you on matrimonial websites, and start circulating it. Hopefully, by next year, it will all be done.
If my brother-in-law knew what kind of websites my profile was currently on, he wouldn’t even look me in the eye the next time we meet.