January 28, 2011

Neighbour's howlers

The other day, I got myself and my 10 month old son ready for the usual evening outing into the play-area. The lift arrived and I pushed my son’s stroller into it and pressed the down button. As luck would have had it, the lift decided to give someone else’s command the first preference, so up we went all the way to floor number 8. A well-dressed middle-aged lady got into the space with us. As good neighbours we acknowledged each other and engaged in small talk. The conversation or should I say interview went like this:
Lady: new? Which floor?
Me: (smile) second
Lady: own house?
Me: no…(I wish for the lift to descend faster)
Lady: working? Where does your husband work?..(now, most people I meet have never heard of my hubby’s company as he is not the usual software techie. So people expecting to hear a Infosys or a Microsoft seem clueless or give an almost sympathetic look when they hear the name)
Lady: umm..oh…where is it (she is undeterred nevertheless)
As I mumble out the correct answers, my son gets fidgety and I need to calm him down. As I do so in Tamil, my mother tongue, lady is pleased to know that I am from the fellow speaking language.
Lady: boy or girl? How old? Your first? (The third part sets me wondering if the answer would set her off in giving me some family planning gyan)
Thankfully, we arrive at the destination at this point. I mumble something to her and rush out. She follows and even as we part ways she prods, Iyer or Iyengar?
Do come home sometime….
Phew!..in less than 5 minutes, she knew almost all the basic details about me. Another couple of minutes with her and I am sure she would have had my ancestors’ life-story before her. Call it the art of conversation or the work of over-worked paparazzi.

January 7, 2011

The marriage saga

When my parents began to look out for a match for me, we decided to go online. My parents were keen on getting the horoscopes matched and I was keen that I should have a major role in deciding who I should spend the rest of my life with. Hence the decision was a favored one for both parties. This was the easy part. I was not in anyway prepared for the rickety ride I was to embark upon.

With tingling excitement and dreams of a young bride-to-be in the quest of her dream man, I went about setting up my profile on one of the leading portals. I carefully worded the “About me” and “Looking for” columns. Then, I began to sift through profiles to shortlist the ones that interested me. One way to get an insight into a person’s personality is through the way he or she writes. I cannot say it’s foolproof. Yet it is a beginning nevertheless. Soon, I began to see a common factor in most of the profiles. The “looking for” column more often than not resembled one another. Tall, fair, slim, good-looking, professionally qualified, career-oriented at the same time domestically-trained (I thought they were talking about dogs), fun-loving, interest in music an added advantage, adjustable (a belt would have been a more appropriate choice I thought), needs to be working (what if she quit after marriage I wondered).

One look at these ads and my initial enthusiasm plummeted. I was a total no-no in the marriage market I understood. To begin with, I am dark as per Indian standards. Secondly, having a master’s degree in commerce and a being a German language expert, I realized sadly, did not amount to professional qualification with some ads going one step even further as to list out the degrees acceptable to them. BEs, MBAs, CAs ruled the charts. At first I was furious that in this era one could have such chauvinistic expectations. The men that posted such criteria were quite ordinary in terms of education and looks. Such double standards! My anger slowly gave way to resentment and cynicism. Not to mention the corrosion of my self-esteem which took a beating each time I encountered one of these prospects.

Some of the men I interacted with over email seemed fine till the time I mentioned the words horoscope and parents. They disappeared from the face of the earth the very next instant. Most of these were NRIs who I presumed were just having their share of fun. Some were downright MCPs who believed that the wife’s place is just to “manage” the house with no say in whatsoever more significant in life. I too had certain expectations of my future husband and rejected many on various grounds (some flimsy but mostly valid) but as time passed and I grew older, “well-wishers” around advised me (some subtly, others bluntly) to lower my standards or risk the chance of spinsterhood.

I slowly realized that the marriage market is just that- a market where you need to market/sell yourself properly. No room for reason or emotions. How ironical! I thought marriage is about emotional bonding amongst other things. To cut an already long story short, before I got drowned into a whirlpool of cynicism and negativity towards marriages and particularly arranged ones, I met my husband who thankfully is not one of the jerks mentioned above. Nope, I did not compromise and “settle down”. All’s well that ends well but I sure hope the scenario changes. I’m already noticing that the tables are turning in favour of women. Jai ho!