Just Your Typical, Slightly Snarky Arranged Marriage Post

A column (thanks, Fuerza Dulce) from the women’s magazine Marie-Claire on Anjali Mansukhani’s enthusiasm for arranged marriages (including her own), didn’t really start in what seemed like the best possible way:

By age 26, after attending more than 150 weddings, I was fast approaching my “expiration date.” (link)

“Expiration date” at age 26? That’s pretty young; personally, I think women get “expired” these days at around 27 or 28…

But it gets so much better. Anjali, a Bombayite, meets a guy who seems like Mr. Right — a New York based banker — and moves to his 40th story Manhattan apartment after three dates (and a marriage). Life there is blissfully happy:

While I craved privacy in India, the lack of neighbors and family dropping in left a shocking void every day as I ate breakfast and lunch alone. My husband worked late most evenings, and I sat in front of the TV, unable to call home because it would be 2 a.m. there.

After a few weeks, I learned that I’d married a “jetrosexual.” He had an exhausting travel schedule (four cities in four days). I joined the ranks of corporate wives who saw every show, opera, and ballet in town, just to fill the hours.

To make friends, I joined a gym, went to the library, and took Italian classes. I discovered that having an arranged marriage was a great icebreaker, and my social circle mushroomed each time I retold my story.

Marriage, I soon learned, wasn’t easy — especially to a modern man. My husband had acquired a mistress, and her name was BlackBerry. She had the power to stop discussions midsentence, her red signal lighting up his face in the way I only dreamed of doing. (link)

Such happiness. It really brightens your day.

Off to a great start, no doubt. But Anjali’s new life really takes off when she learns to name-drop consumer goods and lifestyle choices like a professional New Yorker:

As peers in India opted for motherhood and worked on post-baby waistlines, I took Spinning and pole dancing at the gym to work off exotic dinners of sweetbreads, foie gras, chocolate mousse. After reading about America’s obsession with Venti decaf skim mochas, I went to try one — but came back instead with a spiced chai latte. Amazingly, Starbucks was providing my childhood drink on every corner.

I found a job as a financial consultant. The New York Times in one hand, coffee in the other, I realized that my saris of bright pink, violet, and salmon were not exactly subway wear. Quickly, I succumbed to Levi’s and Ralph Lauren.

I started to realize that I just might have the best of both worlds. I marinated my Indian marriage in the flavors of Manhattan. I kept the sari and bought the Jimmy Choos. I made fabulous curries, seasoned with spices from Dean & Deluca. And after months of enjoying decidedly non-Indian experiences of seders, Saks, and sake, I felt confident enough to direct Indian guests to a hotel, occasionally throwing in a MetroCard.

I’m not hating, really I’m not. In fact, I’m thrilled she’s so happy — with those Jimmy Choos that she got from Bloomie’s, drinking Chai Tea Latte at Starbucks (which is just like the Chai in India, isn’t it?), before her pole-dancing class, where she’ll burn off the foie gras from the night before. Arranged marriage can be great that way.

488 thoughts on “Just Your Typical, Slightly Snarky Arranged Marriage Post

  1. I’m assuming that you have never experienced life as a woman in a joint family, which is why you have such a nostalgic fondness for it.

    Preeti, I should clarify- I am not actually grandstanding in favour of life in a joint family; I have lived and visited with those families first hand on innumerable occasions. While it sometimes works, ultimately its a bit of a downer. But I do know that even if the young husbands and wives wanted to live on their own, they would not have the same standard of living as otherwise, and sometimes it would not realistically be possible. That said, I certainly concede that the system is born out of a number of different social pressures and inheritance ought not be overlooked- thanks so much for pointing it out! However, if you are homesteading on the Canadian prairie and the government is giving you free land, plus there’s an concommitant explosion of technology that assists you in cultivating it far more easily than any previous generation, there’s a lowered likelihood that you would choose not to increase your resource base and colonize more territory by leaving your family; there is less need to create an elaborate inheritance system, like the ones that existed in say, Napoleonic France. Some speculate that this is why the culture of North America is so youth oriented and operates on the axis of the individual’s rights over the group, because extended families were left back in the old country and the exploding availability of homesteads were a marked disincentive to clannish living. In Europe the mass exodus and the industrial revolution created a similar situation. Just a thought.

    But if you read back- a strenous task, and one that I would not impose upon you- you can see that my argument is merely in favour of arranged and introduced marriages, based on the fact that the contemporary western system is a betrayal of women’s instinctual and hormonal realities.

  2. Like UAE intern explained a few posts ago, I too, wouldn’t overly glorify the traditional arranged marriage that keeps joint families together. Beleive me, arranged marriages actually work against women. Uxoriphobia, or a fear of the wife, is a widespread and well-known feature of Indian family life and is centered around a fear of the new bride’s potential for disrupting existing family relationships by strenthening her sexual bond with the husband. In fact, the friction witnessed in ‘saas-bahu’ relationship is an offshoot of the joint-family’s attempt to weaknen the sexual/erotic bond between a newly married couple in order to preserve the stability of the larger family unit. I’m assuming that you have never experienced life as a woman in a joint family, which is why you have such a nostalgic fondness for it. I am not denying the fact that life in a joint family can be frequently secure, emotionally rich and fulfilling for most of its members, but only if they individual are willing to subsume their identity and assume the collective identity of the family. Needless to say, autonomy and self-determination are pretty impossible for women to achieve in such a milieu. If you are genuinlely interested in understanding the psycho-sexual underpinnings of the Indian family, try reading Sudhir Kakar’s Intimate Relations, or any of his other books, for that matter. According to him, sexual relations in India are often based on hostility and ambivalence, arising from the anti-sexual nature of most Hindu traditions (Example: the Smritis, Upanishads and the Puranas). According to the more orthodox Hindu scriptures, married sex is only acceptable if procreation is a goal, and then too only on certain days of the month — little wonder then, that the sexual bond between husbands and wives has been so fragile and frowned upon. All this means that Hinduism’s official view of women celebrates their maternal aspect and denigrates and vilifies their identities as sexual beings — hardly very empowering as far as women as concerned.

    Preeti, you have expressed very eloquently what I’ve been trying to get at for a long time but lacked the literary finesse to communicate it as efficiently and understandable as you have. It is really hard for anyone to pick up on the subtleties of the relationships and sexual dynamics of a typical Indian joint family household, which is running on ancient concepts that are imbedded in the subconcious of the people who grew up hearing qoutes from scriptures as well as folkloric tales that reaffirm again and again certian ideologies regarding the nature of love and relationships in this temporal world, unless of course one lives it. And then if you are born into it you may not be able to step back and analyse it such as you have, because it has become second nature to you.

    Such a sexual dynamic between couples, as described above, leads to feelings of lack and frustration in many individuals. It doesn’t have to, but it often does, humans being what we are and always being in a state of wanting to give vent to our feelings and express ourselves freely.

    Excellent analysis and it is something that becomes so obvious to one once one has been exposed to the above theory and thus when once sees it, can recognize it.

  3. What I would like to add is that many people are playing out the roles Preeti describes in her post, whether or not they are consciously aware that they are doing it, and whether or not they are exposed to the scriptural injunctions, folklores or other forms of culture like poetry, song, drama, etc, that extol this way of life. It is runnning on a very subtle level, almost akin to breathing, passed down through the behaviours and lifestlyes of generations, so that such behaviour and concepts go on unquestioned as just “the way things are”.

    I could give so many examples from my personal experience but I think Preeti sums it all up in an intellectual way very well.

  4. Ardy said: ShallowThinker, for some reason I always thought you were a dude.

    I am a dude!! This means that I am starting to sound gay. Let’s see how do I correct this, ummmmmmmmmmmmmm…. I got it!!

    So who here like’s hot chicks? Chicks are awesome and so are sports.

  5. HMF, whether or not a woman is wearing a low cut shirt and short skirt or a full body covering salwar kameez, there are some men who will leer lustily either way. What to do then?

    And no, in my opinion and the opinion of many other women who frequently get leered at regardless of attire, whether a man is handsome or not makes no difference to the fact that he is being rude and disrespectful – creepy.

  6. HMF, whether or not a woman is wearing a low cut shirt and short skirt or a full body covering salwar kameez, there are some men who will leer lustily either way. What to do then?

    Not sure what you mean by leer lustily. if you mean anything more than just staring for a ‘dishabituated’ amount of time then it’s in the realm of controlled behavior.

  7. I’m talking about staring at my breasts or butt or genital region. Staring, not just a split second look because I happened to sit down on the train seat across from him and naturally one quickly checks out who is sitting across from them unless they happen to be buried in literature, but staring.

  8. I’m talking about staring at my breasts or butt or genital region. Staring, not just a split second look because I happened to sit down on the train seat across from him and naturally one quickly checks out who is sitting across from them unless they happen to be buried in literature, but staring.

    how dare anyone look at anyone else. we should all stare at the floor.

  9. Looking is fine, but it is rude to stare, at least this is what I’ve been taught since childhood. It won’t get you any plus points with the ladies. And oddly enough those lecherous men who stare alot tend also to be socially inept at making actual useful contact with women. No points for conversation either.

  10. And just want to add that such unsolicited behaviour is often linked to Preeti’s analysis in # 446.

  11. And oddly enough those lecherous men who stare alot tend also to be socially inept at making actual useful contact with women.

    how dare they not be smooth…damn them to hell…

  12. According to him, sexual relations in India are often based on hostility and ambivalence, arising from the anti-sexual nature of most Hindu traditions (Example: the Smritis, Upanishads and the Puranas). According to the more orthodox Hindu scriptures, married sex is only acceptable if procreation is a goal, and then too only on certain days of the month

    But is the average man on the street really privy to this (esoteric) knowledge of anti-sexual nature contained in orthodox Hindu scriptures and lives his life accordingly, or is he more knowledgeable about Kunti invoking the mantra to have one-nite stands with sundry gods and devas? I never read any of the Smritis etc. but most of the mythological stories I read (source is probably Puranas/Upanishads) had plenty of sexual liaisons that wouldn’t give an impression of anti-sexual nature or chastity. Gandharva vivah, apsaras tempting rishis and succeeding, multiple wives, and multiple husbands in one case.

    While what you (or Sudhir Kakar) say may be partly true, AFAIK it’s not a sufficient explanation.

  13. Puli, what I’m trying to get at is the irony that someone who is so bold as to be rude and unconscious of how uncomfortable they are making another human being feel who is sharing space with them is often the same person who will shake in nervousness when that human being actually starts talking to them in a normal and natural way.

    Given all the factors of #446 that are running in the backgroud of their lives by default, I have often rationalized and cut them some slack, but, if you are a minority, how do you feel being gawked at all the time?

    That was a personal question, if you have ever been gawked at, that is.

  14. But is the average man on the street really privy to this (esoteric) knowledge of anti-sexual nature contained in orthodox Hindu scriptures and lives his life accordingly, or is he more knowledgeable about Kunti invoking the mantra to have one-nite stands with sundry gods and devas? I never read any of the Smritis etc. but most of the mythological stories I read (source is probably Puranas/Upanishads) had plenty of sexual liaisons that wouldn’t give an impression of anti-sexual nature or chastity. Gandharva vivah, apsaras tempting rishis and succeeding, multiple wives, and multiple husbands in one case.

    Amit, please consider that,

    What I would like to add is that many people are playing out the roles Preeti describes in her post, whether or not they are consciously aware that they are doing it, and whether or not they are exposed to the scriptural injunctions, folklores or other forms of culture like poetry, song, drama, etc, that extol this way of life. It is runnning on a very subtle level, almost akin to breathing, passed down through the behaviours and lifestlyes of generations, so that such behaviour and concepts go on unquestioned as just “the way things are”. I could give so many examples from my personal experience but I think Preeti sums it all up in an intellectual way very well.
  15. I’m not questioning the conservative nature of Indian society when it comes to sexual issues, only the tenuous link between cause-and-effect.

  16. if you are a minority, how do you feel being gawked at all the time?

    women arent a minority. there are a lot of them around last i checked. I dont notice other people gawking at me or not. strangers dont matter to me enough for me to notice them.

  17. This tread has reached KILL status. I might be hallucinating, but I think someone mentioned something about men staring at her vagina.

    Someone please push the “comments closed” button NOW!!

  18. Fair enough Puli, I see that you have not had the kinds of experiences I and many other women have had on public transporting systems. Let’s leave it at that.

  19. Puli, don’t be dense. There is a difference between being numerically larger while being (politically) a minority. Women certainly fall into that category, even in India (and please do not cite Indira and Sonia Gandhi or the reservation system in panchayats as an example of “equalized” political relationships). Similarly, there is a difference between leering at someone and looking. Staring in a way that makes a woman uncomfortable is not always as benign as being “unsmooth,” to use your phrase.

    I feel like this is like the last conversation we had about what constitutes a creepy guy. Again, these conversations [on SM] go in circles — have we ever really moved forward in this at all? There are always 3-4 guys saying “women are shallow! if the man were rich/attractive/[add adjective here] they wouldn’t complain! after all, women dress like sluts!” and then the women say, “No! My daily choices should not have to be determined by whether or not someone is going to behave inappropriately towards me!” and then the men rejoinder with, “if the man were attractive/rich/[etc.]” and so on.

    Ugh, I’ll bow out now because this is tiring and pointless, but it’s a shame we can’t have a progressive (as in forward-moving, not as in political stance) conversation on gender dynamics at all.

  20. If I could indulge in a little PG’sh type commentary:

    There’s a girl at work who likes to wear tight shirts and blouses and such, not to mention, she looks like she’s hiding two of these under her shirt, when I speak with her, the eyes slide down once in a while. If I were to quantify it, I’d say the length of each stare doesnt exceed 1.5 seconds.

    This I do not consider leering.

  21. ST, the comment was that men were staring at her bust, ass, or crotch area. Not the actual body parts, just the areas — fully-clothed (in anything from “western” or form-fitting dress to a salwar kameez).

    I agree with the general sentiment though, this thread is being beaten to death. Please let’s just kill it.

  22. But is the average man on the street really privy to this (esoteric) knowledge of anti-sexual nature contained in orthodox Hindu scriptures and lives his life accordingly, or is he more knowledgeable about Kunti invoking the mantra to have one-nite stands with sundry gods and devas?

    Also, Kunti’s aim was not to have one night stands. She found herself in a dilemna feeling a great sense of shame regarding what had happened, and even hid the birth of one of her sons. Also there is an explanation that no sexual contact was made between Suryadeva and Kunti but she was impregnated by his glance. Still, being that she was a young unmarried woman who did become pregnant, shame overwhelmed her. Log kya kahenge? How would she explain her predicament to the people?

  23. Staring in a way that makes a woman uncomfortable

    but see Camille, its this definition that I find unsettling. “makes a woman uncomfortable” shouldn’t be the only criteria for classifying a stare vs a leer. Secondly, the woman’s attire and locale have to be taken into account, people here have used “day to day” type situations, and to use the psychological term “habituated” style of dress. And in those cases, “leers” certainly don’t fall into what I call “boys are boys” behavior, however, leering as I understand it includes gestures, noises, whistles, and extended amounts of time.

    Secondly, wouldn’t you say that the “uncomfortability” has a some correlation with the physical attractiveness of the “leerer” see Manju’s def’n re: creepiness.

    Anecdotally, I’ve never had a female friend identify a handsome “creepy” guy.

  24. Staring in a way that makes a woman uncomfortable
    but see Camille, its this definition that I find unsettling. “makes a woman uncomfortable” shouldn’t be the only criteria for classifying a stare vs a leer. Secondly, the woman’s attire and locale have to be taken into account, people here have used “day to day” type situations, and to use the psychological term “habituated” style of dress. And in those cases, “leers” certainly don’t fall into what I call “boys are boys” behavior, however, leering as I understand it includes gestures, noises, whistles, and extended amounts of time.
    Secondly, wouldn’t you say that the “uncomfortability” has a some correlation with the physical attractiveness of the “leerer” see Manju’s def’n re: creepiness.
    Anecdotally, I’ve never had a female friend identify a handsome “creepy” guy.

    A common experience for many conservatively dressed women is that we do get unsolicitated sleazy attention from both good looking and bad looking men. We women consider the attention to be equally sleazy from both types of men. Your assumption that we like it when it comes from good looking men is wrong, just plain wrong.

    I guess somewhere in their childhood they did not have an authority figure teaching them good manners from bad.

  25. Also, Kunti’s aim was not to have one night stands. She found herself in a dilemna feeling a great sense of shame regarding what had happened, and even hid the birth of one of her sons. Also there is an explanation that no sexual contact was made between Suryadeva and Kunti but she was impregnated by his glance. Still, being that she was a young unmarried woman who did become pregnant, shame overwhelmed her. Log kya kahenge? How would she explain her predicament to the people?

    Thanks for the details and splitting hairs regarding the definition of “one nite stand,” and going off on a tangent.

  26. how dare anyone look at anyone else. we should all stare at the floor.

    Yeah right Puli, thats you what you Investment Banker types tell us to do and then you would do exactly the opposite and make money of it.

    ShallowThinker – my bad, sorry.

  27. Definitely not going to say that attention in all situations is good- like when your married boss or your prof wants to make it with you, or say, your sports coach.. incredibly embarassing and soul destroying. It bites when you can’t get away from them and you wonder if your entire future is going to be compromised because of it, and people act like its something you’re doing, and you start wearing old baggy clothes, sitting in the back of the room, and dragging guy friends with you if you’re going to be in certain environments. And the worse it gets the more of a drama queen you supposedly are, and other girls hate you for the attention that you would have done anything to circumvent.

    But when guys on the street flirt with me, I’m often charmed. I would HATE it if they stopped macking. One of the most fun things about going to Latin America or the Southwest is having the guys hang out of their souped up, eloborately detailed cars and wolf whistle at you, calling you names like chica or hollering “s’up mami?” Its an art form; in Spain they recite elaborate verses and sing-song chants that are flattering and cleverly constructed. In Paris they’ll buy a small, cheap bunch of flowers and present them to you on the steps of Notre Dame. In the climbing community guys will share their resources or lend you their favourite rope, when all another guy would get is a view of their back. Its such a boost and it makes your day. The world would suck if the boys lived in fear of being real.

    And of course its even more exciting if the guy is hot!

  28. Didn’t Seinfeld already break this down for us?

    Women want those who can work on the body (doctors)

    Men just want the body…

    perfect :) :)

  29. Your assumption that we like it when it comes from good looking men is wrong, just plain wrong.

    And of course its even more exciting if the guy is hot!

    In the climbing community guys will share their resources or lend you their favourite rope, when all another guy would get is a view of their back. Its such a boost and it makes your day. The world would suck if the boys lived in fear of being real.

    How exactly is that being real?

    “When a guy is doing something nice, all he’s doing is offering dick”

    -Chris Rock

  30. “When a guy is doing something nice, all he’s doing is offering dick” -Chris Rock

    HMF, you are an ungrateful flea! Here I enter the thread to defend your exceedingly imperiled point of view and you use it as an opportunity to demonstrate that you have yet to learn how to fashion appropriate speech around women. Although I am really beginning to suspect that you see us all with paper bags over our heads, the two quotes that you have so ingeniously placed side by side come from disparate commentors and in point of fact I am NOT UAE.

    Your choice of educational speech aside, I seriously doubt that some haawt Latino cruising through midtown Phoenix at three o clock in the afternoon expects me to sack it with him, or is even going to stop to get my number. Its a free spirited commentary on my slammin’ bod and possibly my walk, nothing more, nothing less. But even if a guy does want to bag it, telling me that I am bella figura or lending me gear and then walking is a brilliant move. I’m giving you free game, Jack. Y’all stop being so surly..

  31. disparate commentors and in point of fact I am NOT UAE.

    I understand this, I used your quote to disprove her contention.

    Here I enter the thread to defend your exceedingly imperiled point of view

    As Copernicus’ heliocentric view was also imperiled, his views required no one to defend them.

    Its a free spirited commentary on my slammin’ bod and possibly my walk, nothing more, nothing less.

    exactly. and your qualification of his “hawwwtness” automatically pulls him out of the running for creep of the year award.

    But even if a guy does want to bag it, telling me that I am bella figura or lending me gear and then walking is a brilliant move.

    No it’s not, unless you’ve already (independent of his actions) considered the possibility of bagging it with him, then lending you the gear only ratifies the foregone conclusion already in your head. You act as if “doing nice things to appease women” is some kind of breakthrough technique, males (especially desi ones) have been force-fed that nonsense through 80s and 90s tv sitcoms for decades.

  32. to demonstrate that you have yet to learn how to fashion appropriate speech around women.

    You’re under the impression I’m here to gain approval by worrying about what’s “appropriate”

  33. Alright, HMF and others of his ilk, I assume you have love and respect for your mothers, sisters, daughters and wives (if you have any). Question, if you and say, your mother, are sitting on a New York subway or Delhi to Chennai train, and you happen to be seated right across from n another man and that man stares directly at your mother’s breasts for more than a minute, what would you do, say or think?

  34. Question, if you and say, your mother, are sitting on a New York subway or Delhi to Chennai train, and you happen to be seated right across from n another man and that man stares directly at your mother’s breasts for more than a minute, what would you do, say or think?

    I know you didn’t ask me, but I just have to say that my mom would beat the fucker (sorry Jasmine) down, cuss him out, and then, when she’s done with him, turn him over to the authorities. My mom could beat up your dad.