Ganeshana Madhuve and Challenge Gopalakrishna

Scenes from these two movies were enacted out at our wedding.

So in certain cultures (such as my wife’s; this isn’t practiced in my mother’s house at least) there is a uniform that brides need to wear – a white or off-white sari with a red border. I think this uniform is there in my father’s family also, but I’m not sure. I’m sure this is not there on my mother’s side.

Anyway, Priyanka was in her uniform, in the “bride’s room” doing “gowri pooje” that is supposed to be done before a girl gets married. There were several other women around, and for the wedding, they had all chosen to wear their own wedding saris – white or off-white with a red border. This included mostly Priyanka’s aunts and cousins and one of my aunts.

So there is this scene in Ganeshana maduve where Ganesha (YG Rao) is told that the girl in red sari is Shruti (his “pen lover”). And he goes into the bride’s room to find that everyone there was in a red sari, so he has no clue in figuring out who Shruti is. Similarly, if someone had come to the bride’s room searching for one particular woman who was in the white-red uniform, they would’ve been thoroughly confused indeed.

Then there is this scene that is oft-repeated in the other classic Anantnag starrer Challenge Gopalakrishna (I’m not able to find the link on youtube). Whenever Gopalakrishna’s dad abuses him, he reminds him of his lineage. (translating) “Being the great-grandson of Justice Gopalakrishna (loud temple gong), being the grandson of Major Radhakrishna (another loud temple gong), being the son of Rotarian Muralikrishna (yet another gong) you dare to behave like this… “. This scene is played out several times in the movie, and towards the latter half, as soon as Mukhyamantri Chandru utters “Justice Gopalakrishna”, Anantnag runs.

So as part of the wedding rituals, the bride and groom are anointed as Lakshmi and Narayana (the gods). So while I was being anointed such, the priest chanted “Venkataramanasharma nautram, Suryanarayanasharma poutram, Shashidharasharma putram Shri Karthika Sharma … ” and similarly for Priyanka (that way I got to know her great-grandfather’s name). The first couple of times it was ok. But when this bit came up later on in the rituals, we couldn’t help but burst out laughing. Thankfully there were no temple gongs to punctuate the recital.

I’m not sure if Lakshmi and Narayana are supposed to laugh.

Arranged Scissors 14 – Losing Heart

I’ve been in this market for a while now. It was sometime in February that my mother decided that I had utterly failed in my attempts to find myself a long-term gene-propagating female partner, and that she needed to step in and find someone for me. It was sometime in March that I went to this shady photo studio at DLF Galleria in Gurgaon and got a “wedding profile” snap taken. Later in March, I got listed at some shadymax exchange in Malleswaram. And there was the “market visit”.

The last weekend of this March I was in Bangalore, and was taken to this shady-max exchange in Malleswaram for a “market visit”. My uncle had told me that we needed to go sufficiently early, since there were apparently profiles of six hundred girls that I had to inspect that day, and make a shortlist. We had had a hurried breakfast at a Darshini in JP Nagar and then headed out to the exchange. My uncle, aunt and mother took turns to go up to the counter there and fetch the “smartha brides” files one by one. And I would spend about a minute on each file – which had fifty profiles. The six hundred profiles were done in less than a quarter of an hour. Phallus had simply refused to budge.

Aadisht, via his friend Vishakh, came up with this awesome framework of “head, heart, phallus“. The basic funda is that in order for you to enter into a long-term gene-propagating relationship, your head, heart and phallus need to independently like the counterparty (women insert appropriate substitute into the 3rd component). There is nothing earth-shaking about this framework as another of my friends pointed out, but the important thing is that it distinguishes between heart and phallus. Which I think most other explanations of louvvu (including bollywood movies) tend to ignore. And people also ignore it and get confused between heart approval and phallic approval, leading to disaster.

I had taken a long break from this arranged scissors market – a combination of being generally disgusted, poor health and being in between jobs. Recently (with the advent of Navaratri) I’d gotten back, and realize that I’ve lost my heart. Yeah, you might think this sounds funny but it’s not. I’ve truly lost my heart. And the only good that can come out of this is that if a crocodile catches and threatens to eat me, I can tell it the truth.

This whole arranged scissors concept seems to dehumanize the wonderful concept of long-term gene-propagating relationships. You are expected to make your decisions quickly, and you are expected to design “questionnaires” so as to get the maximum amount of info through each meeting. You are expected to browse through files containing six hundred profiles and make a shortlist. And when you are in the process of making the shortlist, you have your mom and aunt peering over your shoulder with helpful comments such as “this girl’s mouth is too wide” or “that girl’s nose is too blunt”.

For a while you resist, and resolve that you won’t get sucked into this mess. You resolve that you are still looking for “true louvvu” (whatever that is) and won’t settle for a common minimum program. You resolve that you’ll use the arranged marriage exchange as a dating agency. And soon it begins getting to you. You begin to see the merits of judging noses as too flat and mouths as too wide. You start breaking a girl down into components, and giving marks to each, and taking a weighted average to see if it is beyond “pass marks” (ok I’m obviously exagggerating here). You agree to meet potential counterparties even if you know that it’s improbable that you’ll like her.

My head, I think, is doing quite fine. So is the phallus. However, I think I’ve lost my heart. It’s been three and a half years since I even hit on someone. My heart seems to have forgotten how to love, and to have a “crush”. I’ve forgotten how my heart used to react during prior blades. In each of those cases, if I remember right, it was the heart that initiated it, and the head and phallus only gave approval later. Now, I have no clue how that used to happen. That seems so improbable.

This whole concept of meeting people with the explicit intention of evaluating them for long-term gene-propagating relationships is seedy. I think it goes against the laws of nature, and completely ruins that wonderful feeling that one usually associates with louvvu. It makes you too judgmental (I’m judgmental otherwise also, but not this judgmental), and you are so busy evaluating her that you don’t enjoy it at all. And how can you trust your judgment when you know that you haven’t liked the process of judgment at all?

Yesterday I met a friend, an extremely awesome woman. Once I was back home, I sent a mail to my relationship advisor, detailing my meeting with this friend. And I described her (the awesome friend) as being “super CMP”. I wrote in the mail “I find her really awesome. In each and every component she clears the CMP cutoff by a long way”. That’s how I’ve become. I’ve lost it. I’ve lost my heart. And I need to find it back. And I don’t know if I should continue in the arranged scissors market.

Arranged Scissors 7: Foreign boys

This post has been in the pipeline for a long time now, but a recent article in the Wall Street Journal documenting the diffficulties faced by NRI men in finding brides has finally resulting in my writing this.

For a long time, the grooms that came highest in the pecking order in the arranged marriage market were the NRIs, as most women aspired to migrate to America. In communities where dowry is practised, these guys used to get the maximum dowry; where dowry isn’t practised, the more beautiful and smart women would be the prize for being an NRI. Actually, one can make a weak case that since most of the good-looking women migrated abroad one generation ago, a lot of their daughters who would have otherwise been prize catches in the arranged marriage market here have now grown up as ABCDs, leaving the local (indian) markets poorer.

The three-way ticket protocol for bridehunting by NRI grooms has been well documented (I would especially recommend this article by noted AI stud and ASU prof Subbarao Kambhampati). I think I might have written about this in my blog some time back, though I wouldn’t have used this name for the protocol. The protocol goes something like this:

  • Boy lands in india on a two or three week trip (this is getting shorter nowadays)
  • On the way home from the airport his father hands him a sheaf of CVs and photos. By the time they reach home, a shortlist has been made.
  • Boy rushes off into the kitchen to eat the long-awaited home food, while his father quickly calls up the parents of all shortlisted girls and arranges for “bride-seeing sessions” (i’ll put a separate post on that) with each of the shortlists in their respective houses. Boy’s father needs to make sure to allow for some slack so as to account for traffic jams
  • Bride-seeing ceremonies happen wrt all the shortlists
  • End of the day boy and parents sit down with a list of all girls, and objectively note down each of their strong and weak points. Appropriate weights are given for each point, and an objective sumproduct (nowadays this is done on excel I think) reveals the winner.
  • In the classic version of the protocol, wedding would happen a week later in the US and the couple would go to Madras the following day with marriage album in order to apply for the wife’s H4. Boy would return to the US and girl would hopefully follow him a few months later
  • In the modern version, where you have cheap tools to keep in touch across continents, the first trip for the boy ends with engagement (usually held less than a week after he landed in india). He goes back to India six months later for the wedding. In some cases, the engagement is followed by a discreet registration of marriage in court, so that the girl can have her visa ready by the time she gets married formally.

In fact, I sometimes get the feeling that the speed with which NRIs want to process their “scissors” is what has led to the common minimum programme model. Given the absolute lack of time in order to make a decision, they would look for checklists. “good looking enough”. “smart enough”. “dowry enough”. etc. Now, the girls that they would usually end up getting were “premium”, because of which what these girls did would be “aspirational” to the rest of the girls. (waves hand furiously). And thus, the entire market tilted in favour of the common minimum programme.

I know of a NRI boy who got ditched by his fiancee a week before they were supposed to get married (it was the usual protocol; he had come to india six months back; seen this girl; got engaged and flown back to return just in time for the wedding). Now all arrangements had been made and he had also spent thousands of dollars for the India trip, so it would have been suboptimal for him to have gone back emptyhanded. So what does he do? Within the course of the one week between the ditching and the original date of his wedding, he does another round of scouting, finds another girl, and gets married to her at the same time and place as he was supposed to originally get married!

In another case, I know of the cycle time being as short as four days. Basically two days between the bride-seeing ceremony, and the first wedding ritual. And some other cases have had the two parties agreeing to get married to each other by just looking at each other’s photos. Bizarre is an understatement.

So¬† I suppose I’ve spent most of this post talking around the mechanics of the NRI marriage, and making a few random pertinent observations about them. Next, I want to talk about segmentation in the arranged marriage market (which I had briefly touched upon in this post), which I think vaguely ties in to this NRI concept. I hope to write that sometime this weekend.

Arranged Scissors 1 – The Common Minimum Programme

Arranged Scissors 2

Arranged Scissors 3 – Due Diligence

Arranged Scissors 4 – Dear Cesare

Arranged Scissors 5 – Finding the Right Exchange

Arranged Scissors 6: Due Diligence Networks