One of my closest Indian girlfriends was looking a little sheepish at uni today. I knew she was hiding something so I prodded her to tell me what was going on.
“I got engaged yesterday” she whispered in my ear.
“WHAT?” I screamed back a little too loudly, drawing attention to our private conversation. My friend and I had often discussed the possibility of her marriage. She is 26 years old, fair skinned, tall and gorgeous – perfect Indian marriage material but as far as we were both aware her parents had not seriously started looking and had no plans until after her graduation. I should point out here that a very large majority of Indian marriages are arranged and it is the parents’ duty to find a suitable candidate.
It all began the morning before. My friend had returned home for two days as we were having time off after our exams. She was woken on the second morning and told to get ready as a potential husband was coming to meet her. Nervous and excited she protested, insisting it was not enough time to get ready and scolded her mother for not telling her earlier but nevertheless dressed in her best Indian suit and awaited her potential husband.
Apparently the connection was instant. It would have had to have been as the entire meeting took 15 or 20 minutes. My friend informed me that under the watchful eyes of both sets of parents the handsome Hindu who works in the Navy asked her about her expectations. She informed him that he would need to respect her parents. I knew this would be her one and only answer as we had discussed and rehearsed this very conversation only weeks before whilst snuggled up in her bed one night. She then asked him of his expectations and he replied that his wife must stand by him but have her own personality. He also informed her that he occasionally “takes alcohol” and is a ‘non-veg’ and she slyly and quietly informed that despite her Hindu religion, she occasionally did the same. I challenged her as to why she didn’t ask him further questions like his perspective on raising children or what he would do if they had a girl, but I knew as well as she did that these kinds of questions were inappropriate to ask a future husband and regardless of her opinion on the matters his and his families opinions will forever trump hers should they get married.
And that was that! It was a match made in heaven, they are of the same religion and caste and they liked the look of each other so their engagement will be announced shortly after our lectures finish on April 12th. They are planning to marry in June which is brilliant for me as I will still be around to watch the nuptials.
It is in situations like this that I remember how different our two worlds are. Although I have known for a long time about arranged marriages in India and have even attended one, the reality of it is really magnified when it is a close friend doing the marrying.