And as I turned on my TV this weekend, I realised that in a very smart move, Netflix ensured that we stayed in touch with the wedding season (usually quiet at this time of the year), by bringing back Indian Matchmaking, and Sima Aunty back into our lives and our television screens. Taking viewers through the intricate details of how in affluent Indian society, a wedding between two individuals is ‘arranged’ by a matchmaker (Sima Aunty in this case). Some people have enjoyed it, while others have criticised not only the show, but the practice of arranged marriages in any case.
Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with arranged marriages. In a country and society where many, many marriages are arranged, I think it is an institution that has only evolved with time and continues to command respect. From families meeting and arranging everything, to parents introducing a potential couple to each other, and letting them take the final call on whether they want to spend the rest of their lives together.
However, I also believe the flaw with arranged marriages is with all the (rather unnecessary) drama that surrounds the institution and the practice. Where a woman and her family are constantly reminded that they must bow down to the male counterpart and his family only because they are the ‘ladkiwale’, and as per (a rather outdated, I feel) social convention, their position is lower. Where in-betweeners and intermediaries (Sima Aunty, I’m looking at you!) become the Maharajas (and Maharanis) and dictate terms to parties.
On the show, Sima Aunty spoke about how Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas are in her opinion ‘mismatched’. She spoke about how women must ‘compromise’ in order to get married, because either their profession, or their age, or a host of other things would come in their way.
I got a lot of this, myself, when my family set up endless meetings with potential husbands in the arranged marriage pattern. Personal story. Right out of my masters from an A-list institution, I was often asked by my own family to talk less about my education and my career aspirations. Come across as less opinionated. And highlight the fact repeatedly about how, despite my two degrees and work experience, my priorities would always be home and family. Because beta, however modern we get, boys want women who are homemakers first was an advice I got constantly. Over and over again. From the men, but mostly the women in the family.
Oh, how I thank my stars that all the arranged rishtas never saw the light of day, and I ended up finding the man who I eventually did marry, on my own. Someone who liked me for who I was, and married me with all my dreams and aspirations, not despite them. Someone with whom I had to adjust, but not ‘sacrifice’ or ‘compromise’ on anything, as we’re often advised. Even in times where many women are financially and emotionally independent, we are advised to be less demanding. Less forthright. Less clear about the kind of life partner we want. And sadly, mostly by women themselves. Sima Aunty, if you ask me, stands for a lot of the aunties, mamis and chachis who despite wanting their daughters to do well, nudge them to lead lives similar to what they have led.
Perhaps as women, I think our silent act of revolution is to ensure that we adjust with our life partners, but in a manner that is acceptable to us. About making it clear to all the Sima Aunties in our life that in our search for a life partner, while some of the things we will let go, there are certain qualities that are non negotiable. In my case, it was someone who supported my professional aspirations throughout. For you, it may be something else. Stay true to your ground, and be your true self, simply because it is humanly impossible to live a lie your entire life. And my final piece of advice, don’t let these women (or men!) talk you into getting married to someone you may not necessarily want to, because otherwise you will end up alone. Because trust me, if I could find someone, you will do, too.
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