Friday, 15 July 2011

"Bride seeing" ceremony, anyone?

Complementary warning: This post is exceptionally long, but with some patience, you will certainly be smiling at the END card!

Arranging a wedding is thought akin to building a house, goes a famous Tamil saying...The process is so laborious and painstaking that at the end of the D-Day we are so relieved. I almost imagined St Peter opening the Pearly Gates for me on that day. No, no, this is not another boring post on arranged marriages and the troubles plaguing them. I am dealing herewith the bride/ groom selection process! Dad and Mom married after a short family meeting and a few fiery deal talks. My paternal grandmother had heard of my mother through some of her relatives and suggested to Dad that they go see her. Dad was then in the Andamans. After a few weeks, he came home to visit the would be in laws' house. Mom was Tomboy Number 1 in our family, her picture in stiff NCC uniform with a stony face was what Dad first saw in the inlaws' living room. Poor guy! he knew his fate was sealed then and there. The bride and groom were not permitted to talk to each other in our households then and so he stole a few glances when coffee was served by Mom. That was enough to get his nod for the ultimate sacrifice(!) and their wedding train was flagged off by elders who had a lurid free for all, in deciding the terms of wedding.
A Catholic Wedding, down South

Well, all that happened in 1977 and when history repeated itself in 2002 when Mom's little darling entered the wedding market, Dad was in for a rude shock. Mom loved to mock every word said by the so- called elders of Dad's side...My my, her memory went overdrive in remembering all trivial details, including her sister in law who had selected a wedding saree which Mom never liked!  Now came the task of looking for the boy. After lot of deliberations, it was decided to hoist an advertisement in The Hindu. Those were the days when bharatmatrimony.com was in its fledgeling stage, Thank God for that! Dad scrutinized the applications received and i joined the fun, reading the bio data and had hearty laughs...Nevertheless, Dad shortlisted few and pursued fewer. Finally, my parents decided on an engineer working abroad ( Those were the days when working in GELFFF was a novelty, only to come by a few lucky ones!).

One cool Sunday afternoon, the would be bride (I) had a hearty meal and dozed off in my shorts and tee, luckily in my room! The door bell rang and arrived an elder from the prospective groom's side. He sought to see the girl after preliminary investigations about the girl and the family nearby.  I had exactly ten minutes to transform from a la Tomboy to a typical Southie Mysore silk clad lass. The saree was draped urgently above the shorts and the hair pulled back as a tight pony tail, flowers kept, kajal in the eyes, a bindi and lo...the ugly duckling became a beautiful swan in exactly 9 minutes and 45 seconds. A record no girl could beat, i challenge! Glancing at my toe nail ( as instructed by Mom) I tried not to tumble on the feet of the elderly gentleman before serving a juice.  My timid Vanakkam with folded hands ( ahem, it was one among those few all my life!) was greeted by a smile and nod. I stood near the door, ready to take off the moment Mom would show her eyes. My eyes followed her face for orders and i stood rooted with a colgate smile plastered to my parched lips.
My all time favorite Mysore silk saree.


 The moment my signal to move in came, i almost dashed into the safety of my room. Now that elderly gentle man was satisfied, then came test 2. The brother and sisterinlaw of the groom wanted to meet the girl- me. After much pestering from Mom, i agreed to the same, under one condition- i shall meet them in a church. Bedecked in a silk saree and few jewels ( as per Mom's orders) i flashed my best smile at the husband wife duo, one March evening at the church. We talked a little, my sisterinlaw's scrutinizing eyes were so unnerving, i had to spill coffee on my silk saree in the hotel, where we went after the rendezvous. Satisfied they went, or so i thought. (Un)luckily, again the father, mother and other brothers, sisterinlaws and sister of the groom...a long list indeed, wanted to see me again. I was s sick of the "bride seeing" ceremonies that i argued and argued for hours together with Mom and was blackmailed to meet the family. Oh Mom! You were the best in that!

Another Sunday evening, there was a showdown at home, with Mom guiding me. I was questioned on why the nose ring...why such short hair and finally when the would be inlaws left, i heaved a sigh of relief. Oh, not so fast, girl. Then came the final litmus test, the groom wanted to meet the girl. This time, i agreed without much ado, I had to see and talk to the groom. Ironically the groom arrived from Gulf on the most auspicious day to meet me- the day of my Business Mathematics MBA exams. Already a genius in arithmetic only next to Arya Bhatta and Ramanujam, i was petrified at the prospect of failing first time in an exam. Who would listen? No one. I don't remember much of the exam or what i wrote then, all i could remember was i came out of the hall in two hours! ( who would sit three hours in an exam which you would fail anyway!) Again after tinkering and painting ( hehe...make up, you see), i was ready at the church by five, half an hour before time...
A typical Southie woman on her bride seeing ceremony!

The groom and his brother arrived by six- after dark and i remember smiling a lot that day. We were offered ten minutes graciously by the elders, to talk in person, at the church lawns. The humid summer air and the sweat in anticipation did not help us at all...I felt my mind go blank, all my check list questions forgotten.  L talked a few minutes, i honestly don't remember what he narrated. I kept blinking wildly at the long nimble fingers, the rise and fall of his Adam's apple and his shoes ( Oh Mom, why do you always ask me to look at toe nails?) And when he cleared his throat, i felt he asked me something. Nothing had registered and i had to say something. L was awaiting my reply anxiously and i was fumbling for the answer. Why fumble when you don't even know what was asked??? I cleared my throat and opened my mouth as if i was going to answer, when God Himself decided to help me out. 

The watch man of the church called out to us, asking us to quit the place. L put his query again, albeit urgent to retire. Thank Heavens, his question was the ominous one- Will you marry me? I hid my relief...mmmmmmmph....and nodded my head affirmatively, so fast that L started eyeing me with suspicion. He must have thought Why so much of a haste? I was glad the ceremonies were finally over, i was off the market now. We then started to move after the elders decided the next course of action. I felt or heard nothing of all these trivialities. Only when L flashed his cute smile and said Good bye, did i come back to my senses. With a wave, I kicked my scooty and turned the accelerator so fast that i ended up smashing it on the lamp post! All of those match makers were roaring in laughter and L was laughing his head off! I smiled sweetly, though fuming inside at my stupid bike. It always betrays me at the most inopportune moment...L and I went on to have the fairy tale wedding and the live happily ever after part and i count myself Blessed and lucky. Not all girls have the luck of repeating four bride seeing ceremonies for the same groom, you see!

Here is the END card!!!

32 comments:

  1. You are pretty lucky.I have come across young men coming to see the 'girl', have sumptuous snack of rava kesari,alu bonda and coffee,make her sing whether she knew music or not and leave telling they would inform later.Two days later a post card will come saying omen was not good,the guy is not willing to marry immediately(why then did he come),horoscopes do not match or even have the audacity to tell that the boy is not agreeing to marry this'girl'.It is still happening in many homes making one wonder whether arranged marriages are the only option. In conservative households parents are still apprehensive of love marriages and the risk of young lady or man choosing a wrong person.
    Witty post as usual

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    1. I am also having the same problem nowadays they come to hotels after seeing the girls pics and clearly saying all about her these fellows just come have a hearty lunch and then just keep quiet and when we send messages insisting they give an answer they write sorry we are declining this proposal sometimes I really curse myself for having a daughter I should have had two sons

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  2. *PHEW!*....hahahahaha @ the last Paragraph....4 bride seeing??...that is too much right?...i stand in awe of Indian marriage ceremony.....now, why don't the groom & his family face such scrutiny as the brides??...ARRANGED marriages has it's positive sides compare to love marriages, but both still involve extra work...this means, no bride gets pregnant before marriage & not teenage pregnancies in Indian?..........is this why there is so much discrimination against the gal-child, becox of the COST of weddings that is tantamount to building a house? Wow! kudos to my fellow sisters :D

    p.s,.....what of if the gal don't like the guy, would the marriage still hold as long as both families & groom liked her?

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  3. All is well that ends well. :)

    Well, a love story for a Tomboy who had crumpled the heart of an innocent naive lover in a very young age, it's beautiful. And if you have to advice some bride to be, don't tell her to look at the toe nail. :)

    Cheers,
    Blasphemous Aesthete

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  4. I WANT TO DIE...RIGHT NOW!!
    I just cnat imagine going through this!!!
    Sadly like her even i will have to survive the disaster!

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  5. Wow, a pretty post.. it describes about a girl's feel.. and the pics you have put here are just so awesome.. Totally superb Cloud Nine..

    Someone is Special

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  6. Dear KP, thanks for the comment. Rava kesari, alu bonda and coffee...my my, you remember the typical menu so well:P Fear of failure tagged with love marriages push us to a tight corner when we end up between the devil and the deep blue sea;)

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  7. Dear Ibhade. Yes, this is how marriages happen in India, the cost of marrying off a girl is so high that parents resent a girl child. And there are not much child pregnancies and premarital pregnancies here, we usually try to stick to one man one woman rule! But that is the case with the largely middle class, in lower strata income group and high class, the yard stick always differs...If the girl doesn't like the groom, she is left with no choice but to nod he head if the families approve of. But times are changing fast, these days consent of the bride too is needed.

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  8. Hahaha! Thats a cute comment dear Blasphemous Aesthete. I would sure advice li'l ones not to look at the toe nails;)

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  9. Awwwwwww...dear Redhanded, we Indian women are a strange lot! We can sure overcome these obstacles and still find LOVE:)))

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  10. I really enjoyed your story. How many times just scenes are repeated in our Indian community we all know. You won't believe how many boys came to see me, for I was in the so called marriage market for nearly 3 years.
    Well as some one said all is well, that ends well.

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  11. This was really interesting...!!! I went through it too but thankfully did not have to marry any of those asses whose "horoscopes and biodatas" used to litter our living room. I like Ibhade's question about why all this scrutiny is done only by the family of the groom? That is because marriage is a market in India which the groom's people control. I am glad your bride seeing did not go beyond one groom. In the case of my sister when there was an ad posted in a newspaper a family had to gall to ask my father to send her photo with a self addressed envelope so that in case they did not like it they would return it without having to spend that Re 1 or something!!! Good post- you have been able to trun into humour what is usually a painful process.

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  12. Dear Rama, thanks for your comment. You were in the market for three years??? Amazing! As you said, all is well that ends well:)

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  13. Dear Meera, thanks for the visit and comment. I too found Ibhade's question intriguing. Strange Indian wedding market! Angered at the attitude of the groom's relatives who asked for a self addressed envelope. Yuck! People stoop so low???

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  14. Dear SiS, thanks for your lovely comment. Glad you loved the pictures:)

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  15. Cute post! Fun yet thought provoking at the same time... Glad to know that the 4 meetings bore a sweet fruit.. :-)

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  16. COOL AND INTERESTING..literally I did Picturise the whole of the Blog.. it was quite interesting like watchin a MOvie..

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  17. Gosh...what a screening you had to go through! Sounded almost like a corporate interview.

    Should have flashed your leg in your shorts and given them a heart attack :p

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  18. Oh wow, i LOVED reading this story : )

    So I really want to know how does it end? Are you guys married now? I just find the whole idea of an arranged marriage really intriguing. I'm not as against it as I used to be when I was much younger because now I have seen that:
    1. They can work
    2. Some people are just clueless when it comes to picking the right life partner, having some help may work out better for them after all.

    I love your blog

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  19. A good post from your happy past..... Very much happy to read your adventures....

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  20. Dear Arti! Thanks for the visit and comment. Glad you loved the post!

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  21. Hey Anonymous, thanks for the comment. So, had fun picturising the entire incident, huh?:P

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  22. Dear Purba...LOL at your comment. Flashing my legs in the shirts??? My Mom would have had a heart attack before the gentleman from the other side;) Thanks for the comment.

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  23. Dear Mimi:) Welcome to my blog and i am happy you like it. Arranged marriages can be lot of fun and always is a better option than love marriages because of the fear of failure that plagues love marriages!

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  24. Hey Joackim, thanks for the visit and comment, mate! Yes, it is indeed heartening to reminisce the past...

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  25. really interesting in PICTURISInG than reading.. Jus read it like a third person.. U will understand.. what isaid is true or not

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  26. Hmmmmmmm...now i understand Anonymous;)

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  27. What happened to the poor scooty? ;P?
    I am so anxious about it... :/ That was the Best part... athukkuthan, intha mathiri situtaionla oru friend/Sis vandiya kudave thallittu varathukku venumgarathu...

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  28. Hahaha! Achu, thanks for the comment man! The scooty is still alive, thanks to a great mechanic who revived her from to near death;) Learnt the lesson of taking a kodukku with you when you go meet someone the hard way;)

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  29. This remind me of the stories my Mom used to tell.We belong to Orissa,not too strict here about all these customs, yet back in 1980's it was a bit traditional.Mom used to reject guys liberally! :P
    Lucky for me, I've made my choice & managed to inform the entire generations(old & current) about my decision,yet there will be always be that one 'bride-seeing' ceremony.
    Lovely post.. well written :)

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  30. Hey Rinaya, welcome to my blog:) So happy to read aboput your Mom;) And your mom 'liberally rejected' guys? LOL!!! Same customs in Orissa too???

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