So this is the story of how I met my husband for the very first time.
What’s so interesting about listening to someones first date or how he popped the question you may ask?Who wants to hear about how charming he was or where he took you for dinner?
Well my dear readers…I wish I could have blabbered on about my fairy tale romance and all that bull crap but the truth is ours was an arranged marriage!
Yes you heard it right!..Those things still do exist!..well atleast from where I come from.
There is a popular verse from the bible that states-
There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens:(Ecclesiastes 3:1-15) and I guess it was “time” for me.
I met my future husband at a very predictable and standard “Pennukanal” function that was held at my house during one of the hottest months that India’s summer had seen this year!
Now for those of you who are not familiar with the concept or idea of “Pennukanal”, let me explain to you the importance given to this time honoured practice that has refused to erode away like all other medieval practices!
A Pennukanal in a nutshell is when the prospective groom and his family are invited over to the girls house to meet the girl and her family and to formally talk about the potential in such an alliance materialising into marriage.
The parents of both parties meet and dig into the nitty gritties of the ‘boys’ job, upbringing, academic background,past girlfriends, financial status and the like and once they’ve managed to suck all vital information from these unsuspecting parents, they are allowed to see the ‘girl’ all dressed up and then now the ball is passed on to the grooms side and they can now shoot as many questions as they like to the girl.
And later the boy and the girl are allowed to talk in ‘private’ about whatever it is they deem important and finally a decision is made later in the evening by means of a phone call indicating whether this alliance can be taken to the next level or not.
But times have changed…fast forward to the 21st century and not many Indians follow these archaic practices anymore…but there will always be that minority that sticks to tradition no matter how outdated it maybe.
Anyways…so this was my first pennukanal and I wasnt at all nervous about it cause I wasn’t really serious about it in the first place
I told my parents and my relatives that I’m doing this purely out of curiosity- cause I’ve only watched the overly glamourised version of it in movies and i really wanted to get a first hand experience of how this bizarre meeting between two totally random strangers would catapult.
And I know its rather very strange to go at such lengths to just see how these things go..but hey I just returned from medical school after 5 and half years of studying and well it was holidays and I was in a mood for adventure!
So it started that day…My parents were in a rather joyous mood and my relatives quickly whizzed they’re way into our house.
The grooms party said they would arrive at exactly 10 am.My parents waited apprehensively and with a lot of doubts of how the days events would pan out, however we soon realised that they were not men of they’re words as they arrived almost an hour late..however we were not quick to judge as finding route guidance on your phones map to a small-town location such as ours can be quite challenging even for the most advanced of all google maps.
In the meantime i was perfecting my hair and poise and i really didn’t understand why i was taking so much effort anyways cause this was just like i said a ‘TESTER’ for me or a “TRIAL RUN” ahead of many more PENUKANALS that prospectively lie ahead…but i guess a woman has to do all her womanly things and so there i was applying gloss on top of dried lipstick as the party before mentioned were taking they’re sweet time to arrive.
By around 11.15 am there was a sudden hustle and bustle in the house..I was informed by mother gracious that the CHEKKAN AND KUTTAR(The boy and his family) have arrived-this was my cue to take cover in one of the free rooms lest the prospective groom shall see me before we were given our 5 seconds to talk.
As I hid in my parents expansive bathroom and glared into they’re mirror I could hear sounds of ‘hellos’ and ‘how are you’s’ and suddenly short bursts of laughter.I carried on doing what I’d been doing for almost an hour now and at this point my makeup had lost all its “joie de vivre” and succumbed into a dry and mundane look..oh well!- I kept reiterating in my head-‘this is just a trial run..ur not here to impress anyone”
“AMMU…where are you?!”- called my mother umpteen times…almost as if she actually forgot that she banished me into hiding into her bathroom but of course I did not belittle her efforts at making such a genuine effort to “find me”….I whizzed out of her room as briskly as a winters breeze and was now ready for action.
I was quickly met with a warm embrace by my potential future mother in law..a cheerful woman and she was chaperoned by her elder sister as I was told- a tall dark and riveting lady, appearing to be in her late 50’s with I must say quite a penchant for style as shown by her multiple ear piercings and dark maroon lipstick.
So we dabbled and dipped in an around my past and present activities- I being as cheerful and pleasant as I could, was later then whisked away into the dining room where I was met by a table full of stranger men. I almost had a small panic attack inside my tummy and I immediately grabbed the end of my dupatta and brought it to cover my rumbling tum.
You see, large crowds of people focussing they’re undivided attention on me was never an easy task for me to handle and you might now think that I’m some sort of a local celebrity….well not really…but if i was I’d surely die of a seizure attack with all that photo flash lights from the buzzing papparazzi!
I was greeted by the grooms uncle- A man with a lot of energy constantly ebbing from him in the form of friendly sarcasm.He was enjoying one of the many snacks and savouries that mother gracious had spread across the long dining table.All this while a little me(a little impatient one too) inside my head was scourging the room trying to catch a glimpse of the prospective groom- and voila!-there he was in a black t- shirt. It had to be him as I was shown a picture earlier on in the day- and it certainly did match – however I was surprisingly thrilled to find out that he looked much better in person than in one of many of those photos that I scrolled through earlier.
I was asked to take my seat and so I did next to mommy in law. I was quizzed again with various types of questions about myself and what I’ve been studying and when they found out I was called ammu at home,everyone burst in excitement together to my surprise-apparently they had another daughter in law with the same name.
And during all this quizzing and debating and mad laughter and riot….I found myself taking quick glances at Mr. Black T-shirt. My subconscious mind was trying to critically analyse and decipher his every movement, the way he had his hair combed, the amount of gel on it, the shiny black watch he was wearing.I tried very hard I must say to not make it look obvious as I didn’t want to be caught staring like a hyena does at its prey with hungry eyes and a drooling mouth. I quickly diverted my attention to my father, who I saw was trying to make small talk to Mr.Black T- shirts father who looked like a very quiet and reserved man-and as I was mentally appreciating my dads effort- I was nudged by mother gracious as she quietly gestured me to stop sitting crossed leg a since this was a huge sign of disrespect in certain homes like mine!.
Alrighty then announced Mr.Riot- Lets leave them to talk now!
And it was like a scene from one of those malayalam movies replaying in my head- I just hoped it wouldn’t be as lame as it was in the movies though.
So Mr.Black T- shirt repostioned himself into the head chair and gave me space were he was sitting earlier and at this point I was looking at his face and mostly trying to focus on his eyes but they were under the shroud of his reebok glasses….but more than that I was trying to feel the ‘energy”- Yes the energy- the all powerful and frequently referred to“energy or connection or spark ” that has been much talked and romanticised about in novels and movies.
To my surprise I didn’t feel it.I panicked for a little while- I thought -‘Oh my word what if he’s not the one, why am I not hearing birds singing?, why aren’t his eyes locking with mine?, how long does it take for the spark to happen?!’
I didn’t feel tree leaves shaking or the wind breezing or birds chirping or eyes glueing or the world coming to a standstill- but I let the thought slide for now….I figured maybe it comes after you talk for a while?.
He asked me how I am and what I was doing and I mirrored the same questions back at him…and to be honest we talked a lot ,of which the details I shall not elaborate and bore you with here…but it was a good 15 to 20 min talk where we didn’t touch topics like kids or careers or sacrifices or how we’d split chores and the money or rights to equality between men and women….but we both felt very comfortable with each other….and even today I don’t know if that was the energy that so many romance novel writers try to glamourise and right pomp about…but if it is…then my friend the energy has nothing to do with eye contact or the world coming to a standstill or blood rushing or hearts beating….its ‘when you feel like you can be you with a total stranger’ in matter of just 5 seconds…that my friend is the energy.
I decided to write about my experience because this was something new to me.
Yes,my mother did have an arranged marriage and so did her friends and so did many of my cousins and so do many indian girls now still,but I thought- hey the world still sees arranged marriages in bad light- what if I could tell people that arranged marriages are the perfect way to meet someone that you could truly be compatible with?
Because if you try to break down the whole pennukanal thing and analyse it very closely- a pennukanal will only take place if the two parties see some potential in the said alliance and by potential- all factors such as job compatibility, family compatibility, language, careers, residence, financial stability… all such paramount factors will be taken into serious thought and consideration and if not a perfect 10/10 match, the closest 8/10 match will be taken and then only are matters being proceeded with further.
So in that light, I believe arranged marriages have they’re pros but the cons can be many…you are to spend your entire life with a stranger who could be secretly gay or even worse a drug lord…lol I’m just kidding but hey it is a giant leap of blind faith but thanks to facebook and instagram and social networking you do have the privilege of stalking him secretly and understanding the core of his personality!
Arranged marriages are still the norm in india but not a strict one anymore.
Being a woman brought up in 21st century India, I could never have imagined myself getting hitched to a total stranger- the idea was both alien and unaccepting to me- but to pay heed to my parents humble requests and like stated earlier out of sheer curiosity I decided to give it a TEST RUN but who would have seen that HOME RUN coming!!