MARRY ME, MARRY ME, MARRY ME. . .
Our deepest instinct tells us that joys are increased, and pains diminished when we meet them two by two. . .like geese, like penguins we seem to be pair-bonding creatures. It takes four wings for us to fly." - Erica Jong
My friend who has two daughters in successful marriages gives me dating advice for my niece who at age 24, is considered of 'marriageable age." My friend is Gujarati but an emancipated one because one of her daughters is married to a Punjabi boy. Nearly two years into the marriage, the couple couldn't be happier, she says.
"I tell all my Gujju friends, 'let your daughters date men of all ethnicities. How else will they decide who they want to settle down with?' "
Aaah, herein lies the rub. I've heard that too; that Gujju girls end up with Punjabi boys and how other conservative Gujjus think of that as inappropriate.
Do Gujju girls prefer non-Gujju boys? My niece's friend, Bharti Patel, says yes. Gujju boys are Mama's boys, most Gujarati marriages are arranged even today and, most likely he'll expect you to cook. She gives me a look. "'Darling, please make me hot rotis with the daal. And, please make sure the daal is fresh.' Sigh. Can you go ask your mom to spoil you, please?"
I turn my attention back to my Gujju friend who's still pontificating. "I tell girls that if you want to be in a committed relationship, then don't date for fun. Of course, all girls turn around and say, 'But Ma, I'm only dating him.' True, that, but date a man who's marriage material. A man you can see yourself settling down with." I nod my head in agreement.
I put on satellite television, and Star Plus is airing it's popular show 'Coffee with Karan'. His guests today are Shahid Kapoor and his young bride, Mira Rajput. Johar is bemused and bewildered that a celebrity like Shahid Kapoor chose to have an arranged marriage. Shahid Kapoor is candid, and his reasoning goes something like this: I was in my 30s when I met Mira. I knew by then what I wanted in a partner and what I didn't. I looked at all the female prospects in my professional circle (read: movie industry) and didn't find anyone that had the qualities I was seeking in a wife and mother. I allowed my parents to do the choosing for me.
I find out later that this episode got tons of press. It also got people commenting on the whole institution of arranged marriages.
Is this even 2017? was the most popular reaction.
Shahid and Mira haven't done anything novel in having an arranged marriage—millions of Indians marry the same way. Some of them by choice. Others because it's the 'done' thing in their families. Still others because they don't have an option. In fact, Shahid and Mira's union has proved that 'living happily ever after' doesn't have to be confined to Girl meets Boy; Boy falls in love with Girl; Girl falls in love with Boy; they get married. They can fall in love after they get married too, Shahid Kapoor states emphatically.
I turn to my Gujju friend for her reaction. She sniffs with distaste. "Classic case of don't judge my love marriage, but I will judge your arranged marriage." Amen to that.