O Desi! My Desi: Many Shades of Desi Marriages

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By Anu Chitrapu
INDIA New England Columnist
BELMONT, MA–In the old days there were only two types of desi marriages — arranged marriage or love marriage. Now there is a third type — internet marriage. And it gets more complicated because an internet marriage could be arranged by parents who are online savvy or it could be self arranged where the boy finds himself chatting online with a “friend” who then becomes more than a friend. Put all the combinations and permutations together and you can find many shades of desi marriages!
Arranged marriages used to involve elaborate visits to the girls house by the boys family. And of course being desis we have to put food at the center of it so such a visit would usually involve a combination of astronomical and gastronomical activity. I have heard of stories where a boy and his family would eat a light meal in the morning the day they planned a visit to the prospective bride’s house. I give them points for good planning but • I guess not eating is not an option. Maybe that’s why young men who make too many such visits looking for the right girl are overweight?
I know of one young bachelor who loved the puris served in the girl’s house during a “seeing” visit so much that he lost track of the reason for why he was there and enjoyed puri after puri till he realized the girl’s mom was mixing fresh dough as he had eaten all the puris! The dilemma was should he or should he not marry the girl. Not marrying after eating so much was terrible but living his life with a woman who could potentially refer to the event for the rest of their lives was not appealing either. Besides making for a great “ethical dilemma” essay, the situation was far from ideal. Get in touch with me to know the ending!
Then there is the arranged marriage where the parents look for a groom by profession. Don’t even bother contacting the parents looking for a doctor groom if you are not a doctor. You might have movie-star good looks and a great career but sorry! Sometimes the reverse situation where a useless good for nothing fellow wants to marry a “lady” doctor also occurs. In most of these cases the lady doctor may rightfully tell such a guy where he could jump from.
Then there are cases where the boy’s parents describe their son to be as handsome as Rajesh Khanna — he may end up looking like Asrani — but if the girl likes his looks then the story has a happy ending. Of course the reverse case also happens where a girl is described to resemble a Bollywood star — the only thing the parents fail to mention is that the Bollywood star in question is Tuntun!
Love marriages have many movie like situations attached to them, some true and some dreamed up so well that they feel true. In Chennai a trip to the beach is always included in the love story. In the old days the girl would run through the waves with her hair flying behind her (not unlike Jaylalitha in several movies). Or for the studious types the library would be the place where it would all start — after that there would be a trip to the beach. I always admired the guys who would eat idlies made by their loving moms, bring some cool yogurt rice to college, never look up from their books, always ace exams, capture the heart of the math professor and then somehow end up with the best looking girl in college. Must be the yogurt rice.
Then there are cases of girls who fall for the strong, silent guys. These guys have little to say (hence the silent) and are probably doing themselves a favor by not saying much — this creates a mysterious aura around them that is oh so attractive! Some of them have a distant, very intelligent look in their eyes as if they are visualizing how to solve the world’s toughest problem — turns out they are half asleep and figuring out how to escape being caught by the teacher. But hidden amongst them are some gems who walk around campus like zombies but truly are solving the world’s biggest problems. So don’t generalize!
The 21st century internet marriages are truly high tech! With bits and bytes the girl and boy get to know each other and a large percent of the falling in love happens even before they see other in person. Thanks to superior cameras and color screen and high resolution and what not, they both know how the other looks without meeting even once. I can imagine the tech savvy Chennai mom who finishes cooking and then sits down at the computer every afternoon to look for a girl for her son. What better, more efficient way to look for a girl than in the air-conditioned coolness of your living room?

No matter what type of marriage one has, the good news is every marriage has a great story behind it. And when finally the marriage takes place, the confusion, chaos, fun, food, dance• that makes for another great story!

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