Till Death Or Other Weird Reasons Do Us Part

The Great Indian Wedding Season is drawing to a close, which is sad because I look at weddings the same way I look at getting tasered – it’s great fun if it’s happening to someone else. The best one I attended was basically a beach-and-beer party where there just happened to be a ceremony. However, recent news events have made me realise that you can do all the cool stuff you want at your wedding, but if it’s going to go through without anyone getting ditched at the altar, then don’t even bother inviting me.

The gold standard for excitement was set by a bride in U.P this week, when she canceled her wedding at the last moment after realising that the groom had hidden his complete and utter lack of education from her. She did this by pretending to be a human Captcha. No, seriously. She asked the groom what 15 plus 6 was. His answer: 17. (On the bright side, at least he’s qualified to be an elected representative.)

Classy readers may have already noted that this incident is also the basic plot of the 90s classic Raja Babu, so don’t you ever accuse Govinda of not making realistic cinema ever again. What I love about the story is even after all this, the guy’s family still tried persuading the girl to marry their defective abacus. That must have been an awkward conversation.

Guy: I know I basically committed fraud but marry me. I have money…

Girl: … that you cannot count.

Guy: I swear I’m educated!

Girl: Right. And which school did –

Guy: *sings the IIN theme song*

That’s when she proceeded to get the hell out of there, leaving behind skid marks and a bride-shaped hole in the wall.

Last month, another bride from U.P had ditched her groom when he had an epileptic fit during the wedding. Then she said to herself, “Goddammit I got threaded and waxed and the caterer is here with like six different types of paneer, so why let it all go to waste?” So while the seizing groom was rushed to a hospital – again, this is true – she scanned the wedding guests, spotted a potential mate and announced that she would marry him if he were okay with it. The guy agreed to it because apparently self-esteem is optional. At some point, the original groom returned from the hospital, only to see his former bride and her new husband drive off into the sunset, making him realise that marriage is a sacred bond between a woman and a man who just happens to be in her field of vision.

Now you may call it cruel and discriminatory, and the fact is that there are better reasons to cancel weddings than epilepsy, like if someone wears sunglasses indoors. But the girl was angry that the guy’s family had kept this hidden from her, which, from her point of view, sounds fair. Because if it had been the other way around, I’m pretty sure the guy would have dropped her so quick, they’d call him Kamran Akmal. It’s just refreshing to come across stories like these in a country where guys reject girls because “Mummy, the angle of her nose is off by half a degree, so find me a better model.”

Maybe such incidents can be avoided if young people are given more time and freedom to choose life partners. Ah, what am I saying – that’s just crazytalk. At best, you could have matrimonial sites include filters like ‘I Suffer From A Misunderstood But Manageable Neurological Condition Which Would Not Be A Problem If We Were More Than A Biodata To Each Other’.

(On a related note, it’s nice to see shaadi dot com being endorsed by Chetan Bhagat. Because there’s no better advocate for arranged marriages than the guy who had a love marriage so famous, it spawned a book and a 100-crore film.)

There’s still hope if you want to catch an exciting wedding. You can still see a few going on, causing the odd traffic jam, most notably in Juhu and Worli. These are the poor souls who couldn’t get a date when the weather was nice and can now be seen smiling through sixteen layers of sherwani, developing sweat patches that will eventually devour them like a black hole. I don’t know how they do it. If I were them, I’d just marry the AC. Unless it left me for someone else.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 15th March 2015.)

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.)