Since the day I was born, my mother worried that I will never get married. Because I had thick lips, big nose, big hips, and dark skin. Mom do you know that nowadays I work-out, apply makeup, and spend hours on the beach to achieve those attributes.
I was in my third year of B. Arch when my father informed me that he would not arrange my marriage. He was sure that if he arranged my marriage, I would leave my husband in six months. He said that I would complain that I am bored with my husband. My father explained that because I changed my hairstyles every six months, I would want to change my husband. And he didn’t want to be responsible for me. Hey, dad if you are reading this: last eleven years I had numerous hairstyles—shaving my head to perming—and I am still with the same person.
After I completed my undergrad-degree, I worked in Mumbai. I was 23; I wore miniskirts; I was in discotheques every-night. My friends suggested that I should find my groom in discos. That is one of the worst advises I received.
My father pleaded that I move to New Delhi and live with them. I did that. On my 27th birthday, my mother beat the hell out of me and threw me out of their home. My mother informed me that she would make sure that no decent guy will marry me. She would telephone my workplaces and tell my bosses that I was a whore. My father also made his stand clear. He said that I am free to marry whomever, but he wouldn’t stop my mother from badmouthing me. He reiterated that I was on my own. There is a lot of pain that is for future discussion.
Few months after my birthday beating, I attended my female-cousin’s engagement party. My cousin’s mother—my father’s-elder-brother’s-wife told me that I should resign to my fate. She emphasized that I should learn to live like a spinster. For all those whose mouth are gaping open, unmarried at 27 was (I think it still is) a death sentence in New Delhi.
Until then I had never told my friends that my patents physically abused me. I realized that if I wanted to get married, I needed help. Finding a guy wasn’t the issue, finding a guy who accepted that my parents are asshole was the issue. It was important that the groom’s family understood that I have no connection with my parents, that my mother-and-father would malign me, and would do everything to screw-up my life.
One male college-friend tried to help. He met with my relatives. He told them that his family would take care of my wedding expenditure. He asked my relatives to just show-up for the ceremony. After pleadings for two hours to my aunts, he gave-up.
I was on the hunt to find me a suitable groom. I was open to everything. Colleagues suggested a marriage bureau. During my lunch hour, I visited one. They didn’t take fee from me, or my picture. They just needed my contact information. I didn’t have a mobile, so I gave my office number. I made sure they noted my professional qualifications. They send me some to-be-grooms. One was a Non-Resident-Indian, who explained that in America ATM machines charge a dollar to withdraw money. One of their ‘very well off’ candidate called to enquire my ‘measurements.’ I had this conversation on the office phone, with my colleague trying to listen in. One took me on a drive in his car (I know, stupid mistake), and kept trying to push my head down on his lap. One wanted me to party with him in discos. As I write this, I realize that it was probably something shady like an underground escort service.
I was 28 and my groom search was getting nowhere. My girlfriend who was from a rich decent family started a lets-get-Sheena-married project. She took me to a professional photographer. She dressed me in Indian cloths of salwar- kameez; I tried to look demure. She placed an advertisement in the brides-wanted matrimonial section of two major newspapers. She consulted a pandit and matched prospective-grooms and my horoscopes. Nobody has shown me such kindness.
I was warned not to be fussy. Criteria to decide prospective-grooms were simple. If our horoscopes had a 6.5 or above match, I was to meet them. I met few. One lawyer-man showed-up with a bouquet of flowers. He wanted a wife to do his cooking and laundry. I think my attitude scared him. One man who was applying for police service wanted dowry. While kicking his non-starter scooter, he explained he needed money to bribe the officials so he could get in the police service. Huh. One man was at least two feet shorter than my 5’3. I am ashamed that I couldn’t get past his height.
I needed new venues to help my search. I started visiting pandits, astrologers, palmist, numerologist, and anyone who showed me hope. Instead of discos, I was spending money on remedies to correct my fate. I wore gold, and silver rings embedded with precious stones that had to be of specific carat, clarity, color, and sold by the astrologer. Pandits conducted puja ceremonies for me. Every puja costed more than six-month salary.
I was close to one of my girlfriend’s mother. She was helpful and kind. She spread the word among her colleagues and relatives. Few men were interested. All these men earned tenth of what I made. All my prospects were less educated and knowledgeable then me. All of them looked, and smelled as if they had never used a soap, razor, or toothbrush.
Their expectations were clear. After our marriage, I was to cook three times a day and wear Indian cloths. I was required to handover my salary to my future-husband’s family. My girlfriend’s mother explained that it is the price I needed to for them to accept me and to ignore that I don’t have parental support. I was to pay my dowry in instalments every month until I died. She drilled in me that no decent man and his family are going to want me. When I refused, she said: “You are not that beautiful that you will find a diamond.” Today I have courage to say: “Come meet my husband. And weep!”
Few things mark my thirtieth birthday. It was the last time I drank beer. From that day onwards, I head new suggestions: I was too independent for any man. I would only get divorced, widows, or handicap men. (That was considered bottom of the barrel.)I should concentrate more towards god. I should beg my parents to take me. And on, and on.
At work, I was leading my design-team, yet my colleagues saw me as an unmarried 30-year-old. My boss and the office peon advocated that I should ‘compromise and settle down.’
A neighbor suggested her palmist. This palmist gave me a new silver-ring to wear and grey-powder in a paper to keep under my pillow. He assured me that I would meet my match if I had tantric sex with him. I wish I could recall his name, so I can shame him.
Of course, my hairdresser knew of my quest. My hairdresser’s father send me his guy—an astrologer-palmist-numerologist who consulted old Indian-Vedas. This astrologer-palmist-numerologist gave me 8 different mantras to read 3 times a day, every day. He told me to pour one-litter raw-milk on Shiva-lingam every morning. I did everything. And I was broke and I had no life.
One day my cousin accompanied me to meet my astrologer-palmist-numerologist. I recall this conversation verbatim. After consulting about his issues, my cousin asked: “What should she do to get married?”
Me—who believes that you have to work to achieve something: “Nothing doesn’t give anything.”
Astrologer-palmist-numerologist: “Yes – nothing – he will fall into your lap.”
Following that conversation, I stopped wearing rings, doing mantras, and poring milk on god. I accepted that there is no man who fits me. Finding an Indian man who was educated, independent, didn’t want kids, was a smoker, accepted me as I am, despised my family as much I do, had balls to standup to his family, didn’t want dowry, supported me, and loved me was not a possible probability.
On my 31st birthday, a girlfriend helped me open a Yahoo-account. I learned to use email and chat. I chatted online about Ayn Rand and Fight Club. One person chatted more than others did. He insisted on knowing my name. I resisted. We Yahoo-chatted every moment, every-way we could. Oh, by then I had a mobile that accessed internet.
He was an Indian working in New York. I wasn’t impressed. He didn’t want kids. He smoked. I was interested.
We exchanged phone numbers. He would call from New York; we talked every-day for at least an hour. We found we shared same principles and values. One morning he told me that he was falling in love with me. I replied that he doesn’t know me. He insisted; I resisted. He gave up eating meat for me; I softened.
It is eleven years since we met in New Delhi. We moved to US; we got married; we gave up cigarettes. I wonder, if his finding me was the result of all pujas, precious stones, and mantras. Or if it was my destiny. Are matches really made in heaven or when things work out we pretend that they are meant to be? Almost everyone I know in America is on their third marriage. I worry. I don’t have energy and resources to go through another suitable-groom search.