Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Indian Marriage

They say an Indian marriage is not the marriage of two individuals. It is the marriage of two families and their extended families.

Ours is a typical Indian marriage. Sixteen years ago, on this day,when I married into the new family, I had no expectations...only apprehensions. But today, I am more a member of this family than the family I was born into.

For twenty odd years, I was brought up in a family where I lived the carefree life of a little child. I was the typical tomboy. No, I did not dress up in shorts and trousers most of the time. Neither did I sport a crop of short hair. I have always had my hair tied up in a pony or two pig tails or a braid. But I do not remember putting on fanciful clips and hairbands. I always thought 'only barbie doll sported pink'. And no, I never had a Barbie. I always believed kite flying was more interesting than playing with dolls.

I used to hang out with the boys more often than with the girls. As a little girl, I learnt to cycle much before the boys of my age in the neighborhood. Even before my brother learnt how to ride a scooter, I was known to zip through the narrow lanes of Cuttack on the Kinetic Honda. I fell out of favor with people who tried to clip my wings.

But when the time of marriage approached I was a different person. It was an arranged marriage. I did go and get a special photograph clicked for the marriage proposals. No, no... not one where I was all decked up. It was like any other photograph of mine. I was in the same dress that I had worn to the hospital that day. No makeup...no special hairdo. But the photographer at the photo studio did insist that I pose differently for the 'photo shoot'.

I had agreed to get married wherever my parents wanted me to. But I had put one single precondition... that I will get married to the first person who comes to see me. Dad had his own precondition. That I will not fool around and that I must dress up when somebody comes home to see me. "Dress up?" What did that mean? I had no idea. "Okay, do as you wish but please be in a sari," said Dad. So, I agreed to be in a sari. When M's family (read 'extended family'... in India, 'family' always means the 'extended family' unless specified)came to see me, I was in a sari, as promised to Dad. No gorgeous silk sari or beautifully flowing georgette sari. I was in a yellow cotton sari that my Mom had worn at home the previous day. It wasn't even washed, starched and pressed that day. No special hairdo or makeup.

I don't remember if M even cared to look at me. His aunt and uncle did most of the talking, asking me more about the two girls in my class who they knew rather than about myself. No, M and I did not speak or exchange glances. Both seemed equally disinterested in what the families were 'plotting'.

Dad said our family would wait for their family's decision first. Within the next couple of days, M's uncle informed my dad that they were agreeable to the alliance if my family would agree to a quick engagement in November and a wedding in May the next year. I agreed. According to my own precondition, I had said I would marry the first person coming to see me. I wanted no further information about the person. Wonder what would have happened to my 'precondition' if M and his family had shown no interest! :)

Anyway, we got married.

This picture  of an Indian wedding is from Megha Chhatbar's sketchbook. If you like her artwork, leave her a message.

I might not have been a coy bride. After the bidaai (the ritual goodbye accompanied by crying and wailing), I was put into the rear seat of a car that was decorated with flowers and sent off to create a new world of my own. Cuttack to Bhubaneswar is only a few minutes' drive. However, I was too tired after the day's activities; so, I took a quick nap. My husband had to wake me up when we reached Bhubaneswar.

It was a new world altogether. I became the typical Indian bahu after I entered the house. Life changed. Life's priorities changed. Nobody called me Natz anymore. They called me 'Bahu Ma' instead. The short-tempered, loud mouthed Natz was now the well-behaved, cultured and obedient bahu ma. I mellowed down. I wouldn't say I hated that change. In a way, I enjoyed the slow transformation.

Lots of things have changed over the years. But I simply love the new me - the patient wife, the obedient daughter-in-law, the caring mother. Marriage transforms a person and I am happy about who I am today. I also love my past all the more. That was a different me and this is a different me. But I love both the phases of life. Basically, I love life and I am kind of obsessed with myself.

Happy Anniversary to me! Happy life to me!


Anonymous said...

well written. publish it some where in print.
zully bhai

Natasha Das said...

Thanks, Zully bhai. Find me a publisher please. I have lots of other books to publish. :)