My Big Fat Indian Bachelorhood

I hereby take this opportunity to declare myself an expert on weddings, seeing as how I’ve attended three in the last month, which involved about forty minutes of standing in line to congratulate rictus-stricken statues of what used to be my friends, followed by nine hundred hours in line at the buffet like refugees, clamouring for a plate of Jain-pizza-schezwan-dosa-pasta-souffle, and finally, having to think of 83957 silly responses when asked, “Beta, why aren’t you married yet?” (Current response: Because Gotham needs me.)

Having said that, I don’t really mind weddings, as long as they’re not mine. But now, my parents are hoping to change that. I don’t know how it happened. They were fine a few days ago, until they summoned me into their room, sat me down and said simply, “We need to talk.” This was stated in a tone one might use to inform a child that his grandmother ate his dog. But I’m happy to say that I reacted in a mature manner, by running away screaming and jumping out the window into a tree made of brass knuckles.

In your late 20s, conversations like these are pretty much par for the course. It’s just another thing that you learn to ignore, much like receding hairlines, and anything that comes out of the mouth of a college kid. It’s just strange that in 2013, one of the biggest matrimony-related issues is still “love marriage”. (Or as the rest of the world calls it, marriage.)

We’re the country that brings history to the party. Nobody bats an eyelid when marriages are disallowed on the basis of identities that were created thousands of years ago, after people did the social equivalent of kids forming cricket teams in school. The guys with the bats decided that they’d be openers, their friends would go one-down, someone else would sell cricket gear and they’d make the 12th man play in a different stadium altogether.

This is not to say that the concept of arranged marriages is totally insane. No, because arranged marriages give people a chance to cherry-pick the qualities without which any union would crumble, like green cards and a lack of manglik cooties. Also, arranged marriages are special because you get successfully wingmanned by your parents. That would never work anywhere else. Imagine exchanging glances with a beautiful woman at a bar, only to have your mom rush up to her and go, “My son is MNC job, potty-trained at six months, having keen interest in hobbies. NOW WALK AROUND FIRE AND POP OUT LITTLE VERSIONS OF HIM!”

One of the oldest arguments thrown around by parents is, “In India, when a boy and a girl get married, their families also get married to each other.” Ignoring the thought that it would be really weird for my Badi Mausi to wed your Pomeranian, what this statement really means is that you’re worried that your child will, without question, bring home the spawn of Dawood. (Now let’s have a moment of silence for Javed Miandad.)

Another argument is that with arranged marriages, you meet people with the same long-term goals, i.e. growing fat together. No wait, I mean they both want to get married, as opposed to a lot of relationships in your 20s that end because people fall for people who have vastly differing long-term goals, as in, “I want a stable future” versus “I want to find myself by sailing around the world in a pencil box and adopting llamas in countries named entirely after consonants.”

Also, for a nation that loves matrimony, we still mix up the words ‘wedding’ and ‘marriage’ a lot. This exchange is more common than it should be:

Friend: “Hey man, you’ll be there for my marriage na?”

Me: “Why not? I’m free for the next 40-odd years.”

Here’s the difference: A wedding is the ceremony and the associated drunken, shoe-stealing Barjatya wet dream used to herald the onset of marriage, which is a long-term sacred institution nurtured and cherished by lovers, therapists and home loan companies.

I have about eleventy five more weddings to attend this year, so I’m pretty sure I’ll pick up more insights into the process. Not that it would help my parents’ cause much. They’ll have to wait. Gotham just switched on the Bat Signal.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 2nd June 2013. Cross-posted from here.)