The arranged marriage process? What else can I write that hasn’t already been written about it on this blog but sometimes….. material presents itself.
A friend of a friend whose mom really works to endorse this process and keep it running like an existential experience of her success at social work contacted me and asked if a certain cousin had finally said goodbye to his bachelor days and was ready to settle. I told her no. She insisted that it doesn’t hurt to start looking for girls for him still. Makes sense? I knew it would. Pakistanis all think the same way therefore the more things change, the more they bloody remain the same, in the words of Lisa Vanderpump.
So I was accompanied by another girl who is just as big a proponent of arranged marriages as are all Pakistanis even though she has never lived in Pakistan but has Pakistani blood running in her through some distant relative. She was quite enthusiastic about this project which warmed my heart because she knows my cousin not at all and was going to be looking at innocent girls for someone who could be a total royal philanderer. But she didn’t care. Matching up poor girls to men with male body parts so they can impregnate these poor girls is such a noble deed in the Pakistan culture that she’d have been remiss if she hadn’t been so enthusiastic. So remiss she wasn’t and enthusiastic she was and so our odd party of two made it to the woman who has a little black book of dirty deeds by men juxtaposed to a large pink book of nubile virginal beauties and of course the need for a man by these women always wins against whatever clandestine past the men ever had. We forgive men in the name of culture, before I forget to mention that to the uninitiated.
The Rishta Aunty as I refer to her on this blog is a presence of immeasurable proportions. She is an imperial looking woman with hands the size of some of these photo albums which is how she is maneuvering two or three albums at a time. Her tongue, just by virtue of lying so much is bigger and thicker and while this should have hampered her talking, it has actually worked according to the famous law of Newtonian physics and just gained inordinate amounts of momentum over the years, rendering it unstoppable now. Her weight fluctuates. Sometimes she loses some of it when she takes men and their families to the prospective girl’s home like realtors take their clients to properties. Sometimes she gains it all back when she indulges in the feast provided at the girl’s home more than the guy’s family.
My friend excitedly squeezes my hand. It’s a sign of how good a friend she is that she is so excited about my cousin’s potential coupling. I ask her if she would like to wait outside while I speak in confidence with the Rishta Aunty and she gives me a puppy dog face and now I have to involve her.
Rishta Aunty is a magnanimous woman. She offers to show her best lineup. She quickly shifts her ship-heavy frame from the chair to the end of the chair as she reaches for the album of girls marked “LEVEL 1”.
She opens it on the first page. A gorgeous girl who looks like a victim of some frequent poring over, judging by how dog-eared this particular page is, is looking at me.
“Only for you”, Aunty booms. “Doctor, in residency, 5’6, not too short and not too tall either, light skinned, doesn’t object to wearing contacts to be light-eyed also, ready to not work or work eighty hours a week as husband prefers, your cousin will be given $100,000 cash upon engagement, and an apartment with a share in her father’s colossal business empire at the wedding”.
I can feel spit collecting at the corners of my mouth. I mean, I am ready to give up men if this woman is bringing in so much.
But then I remember something. I kinda know my cousin’s type so asked her,
“Do you have may be a slightly less accomplished woman? He only really likes to date women that he can feel better than”.
Rishta Aunty smiles knowingly.
“Don’t worry”, she says patronizingly, “I should’ve mentioned. She agrees to holding her tongue for life and is even willing to draw a formal contract about the do’s and dont’s”.
I’m very impressed. I could’ve scored someone just as easily if I was as shrewd as this doctor lady but I had to go through a whole song and dance to accomplish something remotely as awesome as my cousin.
“But since you asked”, Aunty indulges me more, “Here is a collection of girls who might fit the bill slightly better”.
She pulls another album and opens it deftly. I notice that this one looks even more pored over and actually even has marks of grubby paws on it.
She points to the first girl in the album.
“Banker, slightly older so will turn 26 soon, light skinned, makes high five figures, only child, father doesn’t have as much as that other girl’s but whatever he has she will inherit. I can assure you that he will die soon with all his diabetes and two time cardiac arrest. She will be coming into a considerable amount of money soon. She’s kinda meek and submissive. Would work wonderfully well with how you describe your cousin”.
But I haven’t described him at all, I wonder.
“Hmm” I say, somewhat turned off by how little this girl will bring compared to the other one and how she wasn’t a doctor when we could so easily actually get a doctor, “Do you think you could show us a meek doctor?”
“Of course”! Aunty brightens up immediately. Something tells me this is the grail the world has been looking for. “I have meek doctors. Just you wait”.
She pulls out another album. It’s amazing how organized she is. Every type is meticulously arranged into albums.
“This one”, she points to a girl who looks like she hasn’t had many people see her recently judging by how fresh the pages of this album are, “Just graduated from medical school. Didn’t match into residency for some reason. Probably not that great in studies. She would be perfect. Father has some money and put her through college and medical school loan-free. So now she is without any debt. I have to say she gets asked about a lot. She’s perfect. Just the girl you’re looking for. Young, doctor, meek, and is going to be a total push over, I can tell you. I actually brought a family to see her last month. She’s very good looking too. Tall, long hair, light skinned, a body to die for. Has broad hips unlike all these other doctor girls who don’t have good hips so they don’t even give birth to more than one child. This one”, she taps victoriously at the picture, “Is a rare find”.
I swallow hard to prevent drool from staining the album. This girl was perfect.
But my inner voice usually interferes just when I’m settling.
Why’re you settling? It asked. Keep looking. There’s more. She has more. Better, prettier, meeker, sleeker.
Sh! I remind it that we are not car shopping.
“Now I will tell you”, Aunty takes over my thoughts for me, “That none of these girls will last for long. These pictures were brought in six months ago and they’re sure to get matched in about a month or two. People ask about them a lot”.
My friend who has been quite dumbfounded throughout asks a stupid question.
“But this isn’t fair to them”, she muses loudly, “They’re being matched when their parents haven’t asked us anything about the guy”.
Aunty squeals with laughter. It’s now my turn to knowingly smile. We both ignore her and move to the next picture.
“This one I can get you for a lot less trouble”, she says pointing to another girl in the doctor album, “That is if you really want a doctor. Orphaned at a young age, many mouths to feed so her mother worked four jobs, now she’s in residency and supports her family. She might have to do that for a while. But that doesn’t mean your cousin will get shortchanged in anyway. She will make enough to run his house too. So what if she spends a little on her own family? The best part? He won’t have to answer to any men in her family. They’re all sisters and father is, well, dead. Your cousin really is in a leveraged situation here”.
I do the math quickly in my head. This one is perfect. A damsel in distress who will save my cousin and his collapsing financial status that is ruined due to women and gambling. She is a strong provider but will likely be a weak and submissive wife. She has too much going on with her own family that she won’t have time to pay much attention to the deprave ways of my cousin. He also won’t have to contend with any men in her family. In a man’s world, it’s hard for a man to answer to other men. So that’s taken care of by nature.
I feel in my heart that she’s perfect and when I look at my friend and the gobsmacked expression that has become quite permanent now, I know I’m on to something.
“This one”, I say forcefully and with a conviction that I’ve felt for pretty little for much else in life, “Is perfect. When can we see her?”
“Whenever you want, dear”, Aunty says, practically dancing and it’s a surprise that she isn’t bending over backwards proverbially to accommodate me some more in her large behind, “Whenever you want. And I’m sure we will strike a deal with her folks. We have to. We just must. After all, she’s just the girl you’re looking for”.