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Why is it that when a girl says, “I want to date, have my experiences, and have fun before I think about all the serious love and marriage stuff”, people react with awkwardness, at best?

Those were the words I told my (male) friend while we were chatting and from the way he responded, I assume he was taken aback. He said it could be interpreted in a double meaning and I responded, “You can take it any way you prefer”. Well, yes, it might not seem like a big deal to many of you, but then, it was (apparently) an awkward moment for him because, you see, I am an Indian girl in her early twenties, an age when parents are expected to start planning my wedding. Funny thing is, earlier during the conversation, he was asking me if there was a wedding in the horizon (which is evidently not counted among awkward questions to ask a person). I am not blaming my friend in any way. In fact, he too had been telling me how he thought the society was intruding too much on individual matters. This, I suppose, is the general reaction to something he is not used to hearing (from a girl, mind you, boys still have these conversations without risking being considered “ill-charactered”).

But this little exchange has stirred up many thoughts on this subject. It is not the first time I am hearing the “marriage question”. My grandfather has indicated a couple of times that he would like to see me married. When my parents were redecorating the house, the neighbours were curious if it was for my wedding. And more than one friend has asked me whether my parents were making plans for my wedding. Sometimes it is funny, but it may get frustrating as their frequency increases (I haven’t reached that stage yet). For now, I really enjoy replying these people in a way that might be scandalous to them. The best part is, you don’t need to put too much effort to sound scandalous (the more conservative the asker, the easier it is to flip them out). Just say, “Oh, I don’t believe in arranged marriage”, “I am in love with a person from another religion”, “I hate children and don’t want a family”, “I have decided not to get married at all”.

In one sense, I should consider myself lucky because I have a family with whom I can discuss these things openly, and that is a privilege not many have (definitely not many Indian girls). My parents know that I won’t consider an arranged marriage and that I can never be a “good wife” or a “good daughter-in-law”, according to the traditional standards. When you know you won’t be forced into a life you don’t like, it takes much of the pressure off you and lets you focus on the funny side of things. Like reading the hilarious “bride/groom wanted” ads in classifieds pages of newspapers. The other day, I got curious about the processes behind arranged marriages and checked out the websites of some Indian matrimonial websites. They are somewhat like online dating websites, except you know everyone is looking for a spouse, and the whole family is involved. The profiles were classified into several categories, like profession, religion, caste, states in India, country of residence (for expatriates), etc. Although I did not have time to explore the websites much, whatever I saw was funny and somewhat incomprehensible to me. The thing I don’t get about arranged marriages is how they are about segregating people based on criteria like their religion, language, etc. Β If you only look at profiles from the subsets that you belong to, how can you be certain that there isn’t another person who is a better match for you in one of the other subsets?

I am going to India next week. Even though I dread the invasive questions of distant relatives, neighbours and other random people who happen to be an acquaintances, it would be fun to see them flip out at a casual comment like, say, “Oh, I am in a live-in relationship”! πŸ˜‰