I remember seeing pictures of my mother at her own wedding, and out of curiosity, I asked her why in most pictures, she kept looking down. And smiling in very few. Arre, my Kanpur wali masi had strictly told me not to look into the camera. Or smile. Or talk too much. Doesn’t give a good impression, she said. Aajkal things are different, you know—hamare time mein you just had to behave like the ideal bride.
As I write this, I’m a month away from getting married. Clearly, a rather chaotic period in my life, and house. Considering at any given point, there’s an entire army of relatives. A typical crowded shaadi ka ghar, leaving me almost craving some alone time.
Yet, if there’s an overdose of one thing (other than food!), it’s the unwarranted gyaan that every senior female member in the family and neighbourhood suddenly wants to impart my way. Every aunty, chachi, mami, masi who comes home, thinks it’s absolutely her business to give me a piece of her mind. Right from what I must wear on the day after the wedding, to tips for the honeymoon (ahem, ahem!). And amongst all this, a never-ending topic of discussion is my supposed behaviour as a bride. The social and family expectations. The dos and the don’ts.
An aunty advised me to drop some weight because photos mein you should look “slim” next to him. Another almost growled when I said I was wearing a sleeveless blouse at the reception. Zyada modern nahi lagna chahiye. Sasural wale baatein karengi. And yet another one: Aur ye zor, zor se hasna mat. Teri shaadi ho rahi hai. Dulhan sharmati hai, ladko ki tarah haha hehe karne ki koi zarurat nahi hai.
My takeaway: The perfect Indian bride according to the elders in my family is a slim-trim, demurely dressed damsel in distress who smiles coyly and speaks when spoken to.
But I don’t blame them. It feels like while my generation has a very different idea of the woman’s role as a bride, a wife, and a daughter in law, our parents were raised very differently. They’re still playing catch-up and not always able to break the stereotype of the sundar, susheel dulhan or bahu.
How else do you explain the glaringly superficial and sexist matchmaking criteria that still exist on Indian matrimonial sites? Parents looking to get their daughters married are eager to list their beti as gori-chitti, slim built, non-smoker, non-drinker, who knows how to cook and has traditional Indian values. And then comes the college degree or job that shows she’s educated but not overeducated, earning a humble salary—one that wouldn’t threaten the ego of the ladka or the ladke wale.
And Bollywood hasn’t helped these stereotypes. In fact, it has only added to the pressure on the bridal party with the dulhan now expected to look no less than Kareena Kapoor or Deepika Padukone, performing to the latest hits with her equally good looking squad. And ladki wale dropping money on extra lavish destination weddings that could float a startup and keep it going for 1-2 years.
Where is the millennial bride—pray tell? Stuck between boomers and Gen Z, Tinder and Shaadi.com. I’m a modern career woman about to have an intercaste love marriage, and while I respect tradition I refuse to get bogged down by it. I don’t really see a true representation of myself in Indian matrimonial sites, pop culture, Bollywood movies, or even the lives my parents have dreamed for me.
I’ve reused my roka outfit for my engagement, worn sleeveless at a pre-wedding function, professed my love to my partner in front of a room full of elders, and danced the night away to Bole Chudiya.
I’m everything in between. The millennial bride. A type of dulhan that doesn’t seem to fit into the prescribed templates and checklists that exist on matrimonial sites, dating apps, or rishte wale aunty’s stack of biodatas.
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