I was 21, studying in the third year of my engineering college when my dad first started looking for a suitable match for me. The word suitable here had many connotations attached to it. The match should be well educated, well settled, well good looking and belonging to a well reputed family.
By the time I turned 24 and secured a job in a multi national company, dad had arranged meetings with two proposals and both of the meetings had failed miserably. The first suitable match wanted me to leave my job and stay with his family in India for two years while he worked in the USA. The second said no to me before I could convey my no to him. He had sent a letter home stating he wished me good luck in finding a better match. I had met and communicated with these two matches in my dad’s absence as I lived and worked in a city far off from my parents’ home. With this third match, dad wanted to play safe and hence arranged a meeting at my ancestral home where he would be present along with my relatives.
It was a Sunday. (I will now on refer to the boy as the match). The match arrived with his whole family that comprised of his parents, married elder sister and her two kids, younger brother and an aunt. As soon as our door bell rang my aunts screamed ‘they are here!’ Dad rushed outside and welcomed the guests in our living room. Their arrival marked a little commotion inside my palatial ancestral house. I watched all my family members shunting to and fro in anticipation while I sat in the other room, feeling nervous and excited.
One by one my family members briefed me about the match.‘He is good looking’, said my aunt. ‘He is so tall’, remarked my uncle. ‘He seems to be a nice guy, you will like him’, suggested my mom.
After an hour or so when the guests had settled down and finished the welcome drinks, I was asked to meet them in the living room. I greeted them and looked at the match. He was good.
After our brief introduction, we were asked to go to the backyard to spend some time alone. I found the match funny, easy-going and friendly.
We talked for a while as we discussed our job profiles, company cultures and his life in Germany as an investment banker. By the time we could discuss about our respective preferences or desires about our prospective life partners, it was time for him to leave. We decided to talk more on phone and Skype. I returned for work and he left for Germany. We soon added each other on Skype and our daily chats began.
I was not particularly interested in him but I didn’t have a reason to say no to him. His biggest strength was his friendliness. And for me, this was the first thing that I wanted in my life partner.
If he couldn’t be my friend, he couldn’t be my lover.
We were now friends online – pinging on Gtalk and calling on Skype. He was amiable and an extrovert. But there was something amiss. I couldn’t put my finger on it but my gut was trying to tell me something. My mind did the calculations – good job, good family, good looks, good education but my heart refused to beat for him – no spark, no butterflies in stomach, no meaningful conversations, no real heart-to-heart connection and no backing up by the intuition. He was my friend but that was all about it.
I could see he wasn’t the one for me but more than that I had a strong hunch that he was hiding something from me. Often, he would cut our conversation in between and start a new topic all over again. I decided to delve into what was there in his mind.
During one conversation, I asked him if he has a girlfriend.
‘No’, he said.
‘Really? You sure you don’t have a girlfriend?’, I pestered him to answer.
‘No. Trust me. I do not have a girlfriend, other than you’, he sent me a wink.
‘Okay. I thought so. You don’t seem to be a boy friend material’, I remarked.
‘Why do you say so?’, he asked and demanded an answer.
‘Because when I met you, I found you very casual and I knew you wouldn’t be having a girl friend. Girls like boys who have attitude. I somehow feel you haven’t dated anyone yet’, I typed as I waited for him to confess. My idea was to provoke him to speak up and given the blabbermouth that he was, I knew he wouldn’t take long to blurt the truth.
‘Hey, hold on. I do have a girlfriend’, he announced. He just admitted the truth in our online conversation!
I do not know if he ever found out that I played this conversation to make him confess but I had got my way out. He told me all about it. He knew her for the past three years and wanted to marry her but his dad was against their marriage as the girl belonged to a different religion.
Now that he had confessed his affair with another girl, I knew things were over from my end. I had a concrete reason to say no to him. But we were friends still and hence whenever we talked I would counsel him and encourage him to marry the woman he loved.
Things changed when one day he proposed me.
‘I want to marry you. Will you marry me?’
I was aghast. What do these men think of women? A trophy? Or an object that they have to possess – if not this, then that.
‘What about your girlfriend? She loves you.’
‘I know. But I think with time she will move on.’
‘But why me?’
‘Because I like you. I like you as much as I like my girl friend. Over the last few days, I have developed feelings for you.’
I now knew exactly what my intuition was trying to tell me. It was suggesting me to stay away from him. If he could leave his girlfriend of three years for a new woman who he barely knew for a few days, he could go back on any of his promises!
In the mean time, his dad had called my dad and expressed the desire of receiving a hefty dowry.
‘You see, my son is an MBA and is currently living in Germany. Yours is a well-to-do family too. I am sure you have lots to give to your daughter’, he had said to my dad over phone.
My dad hung up and we gave up on this proposal at that very moment.
I didn’t tell anyone about what this match had told me and how he claimed his love and longing for his girlfriend one day and professed his slowly developing love for me the other day.
Instead of lamenting, I chose to thank him for the few important lessons he unknowingly had taught me.
Always know the story: This particular match from Germany made me understand that everyone has a story to be told. If I wanted to marry somebody, it was important for me to know his story first. His story would give me a glimpse into his character.
His dad was against the marriage because the girl belonged to a different religion and because her religion didn’t believe in ‘giving dowries’. He couldn’t go against his dad because his dad had booked a Villa in Mumbai for him and going against dad would mean losing out on the Villa. This was his story – based on materialistic gains.
Trust your gut: He made me realize the discerning power of intuition.
He taught me the judiciously enduring value of words. I learnt that words like love, marriage and commitment are vehemently intense and no matter how friendly one gets, these words are to be used when one is sure of one’s feelings without any reservations.
Earn your compliments: The match also taught me a valuable lesson about compliments. Until that day, when he first showered me with compliments and later proposed, I used to take every single compliment seriously. I believed that every compliment paid to me was earned by me. But I was so wrong. Many a times people simply lavish good words upon you. That does not mean they sincerely mean it or you have earned it. Such free bestowing of flattery and honeyed words can mean a hidden agenda.
Now I place more weight on who said than on what is being said about me. A simple, yet genuine remark from a person of integrity is more precious than a glistening piece of compliment from a featherbrained, pseudo person.
Stricter NO to dowry: Dowry system was started with the purpose of giving a share of property to daughters and though it began as a gifting practice, it took an ugly shape as time passed by. Bad or not, I realized that for me dowry was and still is a crime. It is a sin.
Connect: Finally I learnt that in matters of marriage, one should let the heart reign and mind rest. Forget the calculations, focus on the connections.
It took me five years of immense courage to stand up for myself and say no to about twenty proposals, from doctors to engineers and scholars to entrepreneurs, who couldn’t flutter my heart. It also cost me thousands of dollars when I incurred an education loan to leave my country and go abroad to study in order to buy some time for myself away from arranged marriage scene. Most important of all, it took me months of continuous emotional haggling and blackmailing but I am glad I didn’t budge.
A decade later, I am now happily married to a man of high integrity and grounded simplicity. Ours is an arranged marriage based on honest friendship where we have created true, long lasting love for each other and our pretty, petite five year old daughter is our sunshine.
But the best part remains that ours is an exemplary no-dowry marriage.
Pic Source: here