Marriage is quite a funny thing in India. Once a guy hits the age of 23, everyone and his cousin start showing potential suitors to the guy’s parents. This ordeal begins at 21 itself for the girl!
Someone who has ever had a faint acquaintance with your parents, and his neighbor, would just be interested in one single thing – getting you married. They all just turn into wonderful marriage counselors, match makers to marriage brokers. Sheetal goes through the same episode in her life. Here is a snippet:
“You know Aparna? She is three years younger to you, and she is getting married next month”, yells twenty eight year old Sheetal’s mom disturbing the peaceful early morning meditative music in the room. “Well, If Aparna was desperately waiting for her legal age of marriage does not mean am jumping into the wagon with her”, Sheetal murmurs within her mind.
“Every person has different set of priorities in life”, she wants to tell her mom, when her mom snaps back, “Remember Sunita Aunty? She was referring to a nice Punjabi guy she knows. Her Neighbors cousin’s Son. He is in Canada running his own business”.
“Yes, Running his own Taxi Service am sure. He is probably a UBER driver”, Sheetal murmurs again without being audible, preferring to be silent and leave for her jog rather than pick up a fight early on in the morning.
“She has become overweight. No wonder she is not getting married. Hope this regular jog helps her! Wahe guru! “, Sheetal hears her neighboring Sapna Aunty talking to her husband. “I AM FAT??? You are sick!” She again murmurs within her mind, and carries on with her jogging without sharing a look with Sapna Aunty.
Her parents have always been supportive of her dreams and career aspirations, but now they are failing to withstand this surmounting pressure from all directions. They have a daughter with an age when she should be supposedly married and possibly also have a kid or two! Sheetal wants to make her mark in the corporate world, a place that she has fought so hard for?
What could Sheetal possibly do? What could her parents possibly do?
Sheetal’s eventful day obviously does not end with the morning jog.
Sheetal waves to Ahuja uncle, who is sipping the morning tea with her Father. “Who visits so early in the morning?”, She says to herself.
Her Mom is busy making breakfast in the kitchen when Sheetal overhears the living room conversation, “Sheetal is in love with another ‘other caste’ boy. I saw her with someone in the Ambience Starbucks” utters Ahuja Uncle sipping tea. Her father just looks and does not say anything.
“He is my colleague, and we were there for a client meeting”, Sheetal snaps at her Mom. Her Mom just looks at her with disdain, “Once you get married, people will stop talking like this”, and she continued frying the kachoris.
“Sheetal, we have an appointment with the ophthalmologist at 11 AM today”, Sheetal’s dad reminded her.
Sheetal pulled the car out of the garage, and zoomed on to the outer ring road, with her dad seated next to her. “What was Ahuja Uncle saying? That boy is Rahul, my colleague!”, she non-chalantly mentioned to her Dad, without taking her eye off from the road.
“I know beta. But people would keep talking till you get married”, the car crossed Siri Fort.
“Why do doctors give appointments if they have to make us all wait here forever?”, Sheetal wondered looking at the clock. Just then the attendant called them in.
Her dad seated on the stool and reading random English letters, when Dr. Gupta started talking, “You should go for Lasik surgery to get rid of the glasses. you would get married immediately”.
Sheetal looks at him with disgust, still keeping her smile intact. Thankfully her father intervened “F… Z… B… D… E…” increasing the volume of his voice attracting Dr. Gupta’s attention.
Sheetal did not utter a word for the remaining time in the clinic. “Is this all people could think of? I have a job, a life, my dreams, my aspirations. Is there nothing else that could be spoken of me?”, Sheetal again wondered.
The drive back home was silent, till her father dialled a number and started talking on the phone. “Sharmaji! Will the next Sunday be okay for the puja? Okay. Please whatsapp the list of items required.”
Sheetal looks at her father with a quizzical look, and after a brief uncomfortable silence her father blurts out, “SharmaJi, our family pandit? He was on the call. He had warned me that you suffer from kuja dosha; that’s why you are not married yet. And, if you are not married by June you will never ever get married. This Puja would help ward off the dosh”
“Really! You believe in all this?”, Sheetal looked at her dad with an aghast look. They reached home at the right time, without having any further discussion on this. Well, more had to come and Sheetal would only know this better. She has been living this life for some time now. It has only worsened as time passed.
“I don’t want to come to the function. I get bored in such places”, Sheetal tried persuading her Mom, a copy of “Scion of Ikshvaku” still in her hands, folded at the page she was reading.
“Come on Sheetal, it is your uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary party. And such places are good socializing venues for match making. Who knows you might just meet your Mr. Perfect?”, She chided.
Sheetal agreed reluctantly, only because it was her favourite Uncle. And also, as she had been wanting to chat up with him about the prospects of an MBA abroad. She instantly put on her best ethnic dress, and pulled out the car from the garage.
The party was at the Radisson hotel, and the drive through the “trafficked” Mahipalpur completely tired Sheetal. There was silence for most part of the journey. She obviously still could not come to terms with the Puja her father mentioned in the afternoon.
The ballroom-1 was very elegantly decorated and Sheetal settled herself in a quiet corner with a glass of white sparkling wine. She got chatting with her younger cousin, Praks, enquiring about her college, when Lalita aunty interrupted. “How are you doing Sheetal? And How are you Praks?”, she waved at both of them.
They got chatting and Praks cleverly excused himself out of the conversation. “You should s check out B Blunt parlour at GK-II market. Their facial actually makes you look fair. Boys like fair girls you know!”, Lalita aunty animatedly told Sheetal.
Sheetal reluctantly smiled in agreement. “Why does she not leave me alone!”, she hoped.
Sheetal’s mom walks into the conversation, and all three of them start discussing the dressing sense of another lady at the party.
Sheetal looks towards the bar counter, trying to emulate Praks in escaping the small get together, when Lalita Aunty interrupts, “Sheetal, you should try the somvar vrata. The girl who stays on the lower floor in our complex did that for 16 weeks, and bham! 17th week she is engaged to a rich guy from Jaipur. She is now happily married, and last I heard she is expecting this December. Less than a year post wedding” and everyone starts giggling, except Sheetal whose anger is as clear as the skies on a bright sunny morning.
Post a relatively uneventful dinner, Sheetal drives back home at 1 AM, along with her Mom and Dad. She changes, brushes her teeth like regular and snuggles into her blanket. Staring at the wall, she wonders, “Is marriage the only solution to get away from this banter all day?“. Sleeping away to wake up to one more “normal” day in a spinster’s life.
Such is the irony of Indian life. America has just legalized the right for same sex marriage and here we struggle for the right to marry on our choice.