Sunday, 30 September 2012

Arranged Marriage – First Thoughts

For the formative years of my life, I was away from India, in a place and around people where the term “arranged marriage” was as archaic as the Roman empire. But being the Indian girl that I was, with a typical conservative middle class up-bringing, I was never averse to the idea. I had seen arranged marriages around me, with practically every member of my close family being bound by the same institution. I had faith, as I still do, in the idea of my parents and relatives looking out for the right person for me, and a similar family for me to be married into. The idea was almost comforting.

Still, I was being raised in a society which was alien to the concept of an alliance arranged by families. At the age of 15-16, most of my friends were in relationships and had found what they called “love”, while I was the confused yet conservative teenager who had no idea what to consider as right or wrong. I was often asked the question, ”have your parents already found a match for you? Is your family going to get your marriage arranged?”, and I was somehow never able to explain the concept to them, to explain that there is no rule-book which dictates how it should be, and there is no hard-and-fast rule obliging me or forcing me to live a life of confinement, but rather an option, a different method of going about finding one’s life partner. I was amused at the surprised and often shocked faces of disbelief at the very idea of having someone else choose your life partner for you, but at that immature age I just couldn’t explain to them that it is not someone else choosing your partner for you, but rather facilitating the way you meet who you’d like to marry.

To put it simply, if love-marriage (or the “conventional” way of getting married by first meeting, then dating, then getting married after getting to know the person) is a buffet setting, an arranged marriage is like an a la carte menu. In a buffet, you go around on your own, and are not served by anyone, while in an a la carte setting, you are given a set menu where there are choices which help you decide what you would like to be served. At the end, you decide what you put on your plate, and what you want to try, the end objective being the same – Good Food.

But of course, I had my years of rebellion too. I did experience the phase where it seemed unfair that my choices were subjected to criteria which would decide on who I should marry or not. It did seem unsettling to know that I would be expected to spend my life with someone I had met only once or maybe a few times. At the time, it seemed almost rash to take such an important decision, which carried so much risk. I mean, how was I to know for sure, that this is the right person for me? How was I expected to take that decision so quickly, without really getting to know the person? And more importantly, how was I to get married to someone I did not love? Because, conservative or not, Indian or not, I am a girl and I wanted my fairy-tale love story.

My idea of love was Bollywood, and in particular, Yash Chopra romances. Call it cheesy, call it dramatic, sugar-coated, call it what you may, but a Yash Chopra movie was enough to transport me into a fantasy world where romance, poetry and love were so real and so plausible. I grew up singing songs like, “Mere khwabon mein jo aaye” and “dekha ek khwab toh yeh silsile hue”, and truly believed in a love story, a romance which would sweep me off my feet and where everything around me would be misty and musical and magical.

Then I grew up, and the talks of arranged marriage which were just merely talks, started to become real, where my parents got aware of the fact that I am of “marriageable age” and a suitable match must be found for me. Suddenly, with the blink of an eye, the idea started to take shape and before I knew it, there was a proposal of a “suitable match” who I was supposed to meet and decide on marrying.

We met, and talked and in a span of a few hours what I had believed and dreamt of my entire life, changed. The idea of love, transformed and the concept of commitment took a new level altogether. Suddenly, all the doubts, the apprehensions, the anxiety became irrelevant and I realized that when it’s right, you just know. You can meet the person one time or for years, but it is just in a moment that you decide to be with someone for life. From then on, everything becomes a process, something that the two of you do together. From that moment, when you make the decision, everything else seems like destiny which was waiting to happen.

And Love? Love happens. And it happens not like in Yash Chopra movies, it happens in a better, more real way. It happens in moments, in instances, in glances. It happens not in song and drama, but in smiles shared, in long conversations, in understanding. It happens with a message, with a phone call, with concern in a tone of voice. Love happens when you stand across the room from each other and are aware of each other’s presence and one glance is enough to make you feel secure. It happens when the person makes an extra effort to spend those extra ten minutes to be with you. Love happens when there is unshaken faith that you will spend the rest of your life together, come what may.

In a place I didn’t expect, I found my Yash Chopra moment.


Kabhi behte paani se poochha hai
ke leheron se kya rishta hai?
Kabhi sookhe patton se poochha hai,
ki patjhad se kya rishta hai?

Unn lambi mudti sadkon se, 
kya manzil ka pataa poochha hoga?
Kabhi majhdaar mein doobte safine se,
kya saahil ka pataa poochha hoga?

Kya rishta hai pahaadon ka,
goonjti awaazon se?
Kya rishta hai dastak ka, 
in band darwazon se?

Jab itne sawaal poochhe nahi,
toh mujhse kyun poochhte ho,
Mera rishta kya hai tumse?

Jaise panchi aur aasman,
Jaise haath ki lakeerein,
Jaise dopahar ki dhoop,
Jaise raat mein taare.
Bas vaisa hi hai roohani,
Ek mera rishta tumse.

Ankahi Baat

Kaagaz, kalam, iraade hain,
par lafz khoye hain kahin,
yeh jo gehre ehsaas hain,
woh bayaan hote hi nahi.

Jo zehen mein khayaal hain,
unka izhaar kaise karoon,
jo ankahi si reh gayi hain,
un baaton ko kaise kahoon.

Alfazon mein woh baat kahaan,
jo mere halaat bayaan kar paayein,
yeh sirf kaagaz pe nishaan hain,
khamoshi ko zubaan na dein paayein.

Bas dhadkanon ki dhun mein,
meri awaaz sunaayi degi,
meri aakhon ke aainon mein,
tumhari shakl dikhayi degi,
Itna kehna kaafi hai ke,
kuchh kehna nahi zaroori,
tumhe apni hi rooh mein,
meri ankahi baat sunayi degi.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Pre-Wedding Jing Bang

Two months back, I got to know that I will be getting married by November. In the true sense of the word, it is an arranged marriage, where I hadn’t even met my now fiancé, two days before taking the decision to get married to him. It was like, we met, we talked and the rest is a blur. I got to realize in a fast-track way that arranged marriages are about gut feel, and going with your instincts. It is almost like, being in a shoe store, and trying on that perfect but costly pair of shoes. It’s making your feet look like Cinderella’s and the color goes with most of your outfits. But still, you doubt. What if I can find a better less expensive pair elsewhere? But the doubt is momentary, because in your heart you just know that its perfect and you have to have it. Like they say, if the shoe fits…

While the feeling of getting married was yet to sink in, the actual process of planning the wedding started. The Big Fat Indian Wedding is a term so very aptly coined, any bride or groom to be will vehemently vouch for it. It is a grandiose project in itself and I would strongly urge all these business schools to adopt it as a live project: Organizing the Indian Wedding. There is management (delegating roles and duties and managing the timely and efficient execution of the tasks assigned), finance (the big question of budgets and allocation of funds), marketing (getting the right look and feel and communicating about the event in a right manner to the right people), operations management (arranging of optimum logistics for everyone), human resources (allocating the right people for the right job), Public Relations (maintaining relationships with people and communicating the appropriate message through the most effective channels), basically everything that a good business program would teach you in two years.

The Great Indian wedding is not just a learning experience; it is a journey of exploration and gathering information. My darling Mom now has gathered enough information about the shops in Meena Bazaar (Indian area in Dubai) that she will be able write a detailed description of the prices and variety of anything available in the locality. Not only that, she is an expert now at the names of all the brands available for Indian and Pakistani clothes and has knowledge of all the material available for stitching/matching/designing anything. She has established contacts with tailors, shopkeepers, suppliers of cloth, high-end designers and any category of stores which have anything to do with wedding material. Shop keepers know her by face, and sometimes by name, and greet her like a familiar guest to their store. She has invested so much time in these preparations that a list of to-do is constantly playing in her head, where she checks off what’s to be done and what has already been accomplished.  If she were to start a Wedding Planning business tomorrow, I’m sure she would be very successful.

The extravagance of it all is indeed quite enthralling and engaging. Each member of my family has gone on a new-clothes drive, where they have all refurbished their wardrobes to jazz it up and invested in some quality outfits for the day. That aside, everyone is very keen to give their opinions for everything from clothes to shoes, from food to accommodation, from timings, to schedules, everything! It is quite endearing to see the enthusiasm and the interest with which everyone has taken on roles for the preparations. At the same time, it’s a humbling and blessed feeling to know that so many people are willing to do so much to make the day special for me. That’s the thing with Indian weddings I guess, it’s not just an event for the bride and groom but for entire families, who come together with a lot of zest and enthusiasm to make the occasion a grand one. I shudder to think how it would have been if I had had to do all of this on my own. Given the short span of time in which this is all panning out, it would be a task next to impossible, and I would have needed at least a year more to plan this entire extravaganza out, and make it work. Ah, the joys of arranged Indian weddings!
So, while I count down the days to the Big Day, and the preparations proceed swiftly, while I cannot wait for it all to culminate into the much awaited ending (or shall I term it beginning?), I have to admit that this time, now, is rather thrilling and will surely be one to remember. I just had to express these thoughts, and a lot more is coming up, while the Pre-Wedding Jing Bang continues.