The Great Indian Bride Hunt: An Engagement Shopping Date

While we had fallen to the routines of whispering sweet nothings to each other, there were other things happening in parallel. I mean if you call it so. For my loud voice was anything but a whisper. And there was not much each other. It was I who did most of the talking. And I would like to believe it won’t be something categorized as nothing as day after day I was discoursing her on heavy topics ranging across world history, economic predictions, philosophy, society and human psychology. And with my propensity to take a negative view on most things, it was anything but sweet. But that’s a different point. The thing was we were engaged to each other and we were talking.

We had first met in September and engagement date was pegged for December. The decision on the date was a whole story in itself. So much went into it that I am sure if these folks had management education, they would have used PERT, CAPM. Gannt Chart etc. for it. If you don’t know what these things are, I leave you to your happy ignorance. But let me get to the process of picking the dates. By the time the due diligence and other stuff completed, we were already hitting end of September. So, October was too early for the wedding. Wedding already? But what about engagement you may ask. Patience, my friend! Patience! I am getting there. So, where was I? Yes. October – too early. November? Still would be too much of a rush. December? Yes. Enough time. But then again Mr. astrologer has a say – month not auspicious. January – nope. Still not auspicious enough. So, where does that land you - February. Marriage date fixed. Now for the engagement. The girl and her mother were eager to get it done early. Seems like they also were not too keen on uncertainties either. Even I wanted to be done with the damn thing. But, no! Girl’s father put his foot down. Can’t have more than 2 months gap between engagement and wedding. Where do people invent all these new rules! But then the family patriarch has the last word. So, if wedding was February, earliest engagement could happen was December. So, December it was! Phew!

Apparently, the bride’s folks have to get the bridegroom clothes to wear for the engagement and vice versa. So, my parents took her out and got her some clothes. Obviously, I didn't accompany them for I was working in a different city. As for me, for some reason they decided it would not be the girl’s parents but she – she who would become ‘she who must be obeyed’ who would take me to the clothes shop. I wonder how this super conservative family hit upon such an idea. But I guess she wanted to kick off this ritual which was to remain with us for the rest of our life at the earliest. For from that day on, except for my wedding dress (the prerogative for choosing that of course went to my mother), every single piece of clothing worn by me has been duly selected, purchased and paid for by her.

It was kind of a first time for me – being seen on the streets with a woman. Till then the idea of marriage was distant and abstract. Now for the first time it seemed all too real. A strange sadness swept over me over the impending loss of my bachelorhood. Was I to be bound to the life of one of those typical middle class married men who string along with their wives, a baby in one hand and a bag of groceries in the other? Was I going to spend the rest of my life with this woman who I was seeing in person for the second time ever in my life? Well, my father did not even get to meet my mother once before the wedding and those days people didn’t have phones. At least not the middle class. So, I guess I was satisfied that I was better off than my parents.

She took me around to a couple of shops. And when she finally selected the dress, it totally blew the wind out of me. I mean not the dress itself. I really do not know much about clothes. But the price. 11,000 Rs! Can you imagine! ELEVEN THOUSAND for a dress! That too this was back in 2008. How could someone pay so much for a dress. Apparently, the dress my parents had got her had costed 16,000. So, it kind of squared out. But still…. To date this remains the costliest piece of clothing I own. You may be curious, what exactly was this dress. It is what they call Sherwani. Apparently, my mom had got her a Lehenga or something. So, I needed to be got something to go with it. So here it was – my Sherwani. I didn’t get why all these north Indian get up in a South Indian engagement. Bollywood effect, I guess. Anyways, the women decided what everyone wore. Only the price kept bothering me. But then it was the girl’s parents’ money – their wish how they wanted to spend. If they wanted to throw good cash down the Kaveri, it was their business. But my normally parsimonious mother! Couldn’t imagine how she spent sixteen grand for the girl’s dress. The woman who used to take me to account up to the last ten paisa during my school days. The woman who did not even keep a maid to do the household chores. The woman who would walk an extra mile to buy cheaper groceries and walk back in the sun carrying the heavy bags to save 10 Rs. How could she?

We rounded out our engagement shopping date with tiffin at a small restaurant. I guess she had Rava Idli and I? Can’t remember. What I remember is that the waiter had said they did not have the first two items I had requested. And I looked all set to storm out in a huff. But then had decided it was too early to show my prospective wife my dark side. And so, had calmed myself and had requested a third item which they luckily had. I wonder what would have happened if they did not have that either. But I can’t for the life of me remember what any of the three items were.

(Post script: I checked with my wife – apparently I too had gone for the Rava Idli. So her choice of food, her choice of dress it had been even from back then.)

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces