Tag Archives: shaadi.com

Good Indian Girls Do Not Waste Time Writing Books

An edited version was published by Helter Skelter Magazine on 24th May 2011.

*FYI: Beti = daughter, Samajdar = sensible, Thik hai = Alright, Jaldi = Hurry

“You want to do whaaat???!!”

Write a novel. Now calm the eff down.

Ever wonder how it would be to take a hiatus from life to follow that one niggling dream that dances on the edge of your consciousness day-in and day-out? I do. All the time. And, being an Indian girl let me tell you, it isn’t easy. An Indian girl is a ticking time bomb.

“Do you want to be the only thirty-something to marry the leftovers? Life isn’t Sex and the City.”

Jeez. Leftovers. That’s what my dad calls the baldies and the divorcees, since that’s who you will get if you decide to get married post-thirty. Why, thank you. That does mean I have a neat little bracket of five years left, right? Right?

Wrong. If you are a brown girl baby, you will know that we have two very neat choices (no, infanticide is not one of them): academics or marriage. Ever since I started my stint at grad school with my Master’s in English, daddy dearest laid off with all the “beti*, don’t you want to get married?” Now that my year is winding down, and I have to decide for either the PhD route, or the working girl route, there it is again. I am reminded of my expiry date, my limited shelf life, my doomed future as a single brown girl. See, Indian parents do not hand you a Kit Kat when you decide to take a break from life. A break from life is a luxury that does not exist in the Indian dictionary.

I don’t ask for much. Just want to be a Mistry or a Roy. Maybe, a Lahiri at least. Just not a contrived cow. “A contrived what?” you ask. A contrived c-o-w. Now what is a contrived cow? The market of fiction is filled with contrived cows. In other words, books that pass for literature but are instead filled with superficial plots driven by clichés and contrived platitudes. Books that are great for mass market sellouts, but won’t be remembered twenty years down the line.

There is nothing wrong with being a mass market writer. To each his own. The books sell. You make millions and then you are forgotten. If you like money and fifteen minutes of fame, you might consider the route of mass market. But some mass market writers know how to write and make money, while some are just contrived cows who end up making money by chance. Jeffery Archer and John Grisham belong to the former category. Harold Robbins and Sidney Sheldon also belong to the former category but to a lesser degree, while Twilight series writer Stephanie Meyer is a contrived cow who just got lucky.

I don’t want to become a non-contrived-cow mass market writer either. That is taking the easy way out. I want to create literature. Get short listed for a Booker, if not win one. I want people saying my name with a hushed reverence within literary circles. (Small dreams, sigh.) Or, atleast give it a try. See if I can. How on earth can I concentrate on creating history if I have small versions of myself crawling around me, tugging on my t-shirt and competing for my attention? So, here I am. Dreaming of taking off for a few months and writing my first novel. Yes, you read that right. I am still at the dreaming stage. But even that comes with restrictions.

“No, no. You can’t write on that… it’s too controversial!”

Err, dad. Are you a realist fiction expert? No? Didn’t think so. Back down, maybe?

“But, but, BUT! Can’t you write on something else?”

Hmm. Can I? Sure. Do I want to? Nope.

Now if I had said instead, “Daddy dearest, I want to get married. Here are some high resolution photos of me in an Indian and a Western outfit (you know, to show the purrrfect blend of Eastern and Western values. As if it can be discerned from some lousy pictures the high blends that I am made of!) that you can put on Shaadi.com. Jaldi!* I am so ready to give up my freedom and make babies,” I would have been rewarded with the aren’t-I-lucky-to-have-such-a-samajdar-beti* look. Now, who doesn’t want to be one of those samajdar betis? Do I see hands? No? Shy, are we?

Instead, this not-so-samajdar-beti decides to take a year off from academia, fly off to the city of her birth and start working on her first novel. Yes, he says finally. Thik hai, go. I am sure you will meet someone in India.

Indian parents, I tell you. Will never change.

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In Perfect eHarmony

An edited version was published by SouthAsianParent.Com on 1st December 2010.

“You are not getting any younger,” my mother reminded me for the—I’ve actually lost count—umpteenth time in my life. “Don’t I know,” I wanted to retort. But well-brought up Indian girls don’t shoot questions back at their parents. Apparently, I had only one choice now. Shaadi.com. I couldn’t imagine the horror of explaining to my feminist friends in the future that I had found my husband on an online wedding bureau.

So what did I do? I turned to eHarmony. A dating site that boasts of matching individuals based on 26 personality factors. Twenty-six! I would be lucky if I found someone who matched me on three or four.

It was last summer. I had plenty of free time on my hands. So I signed up. The process took me three hours. I had to answer ten questionnaires that would pin down my 26 personality factors. Then I had to cut down my matches by other factors: religion, ethnicity, education, height, weight, food/lifestyle habits, and so on. All this narrowing of search didn’t leave me with a lot of choices. I was matched with quite a few individuals but they were all situated miles away.

An interesting part about communicating over eHarmony is that you have a guided communication process. And it is just that. A long process. You generally start off with five close-ended questions: “What would you do on a Saturday night?” types. Then you graduate to 10 must-haves and can’t-stands in a partner. I find this part very helpful. It exposes a person’s inner insecurities.

The third part is about answering three open-ended questions: “What is your greatest fear?” types. This part is great for assessing a potential partner’s writing skills. And if ‘bad grammar’ is one of your pet peeves (like it is mine), you will probably end up eliminating communication at this point. The last part of the process is open communication via emails.

Most of my contact with eligible bachelors lasted up to step three. It’s not only bad grammar that did the trick but also the kind of questions that were posed to me. You would think in the 21st century Indian men would have matured beyond clichéd traditional patriarchal views. Apparently samples such as these, who cannot score in real life, somehow end up at eHarmony too.

However, after a month of being on the website, I found someone in Kansas City. He was an IT professional with a keen interest in photography. Before long, we were chatting on gtalk for hours.

Before you start sighing, and imagining a beautiful ending to a possible Bollywood-style love story, let me warn you it lasted only a week. He realised after hours of exchanging our deepest fears and desires, that Toronto was really far away from Kansas City. He was deeply apologetic for wasting my time. And I was deeply apologetic for putting so much faith into a website. Let me also add, he is still single. But so am I, and what does that say?

Luckily, I had a back up plan. I got into graduate school. Miraculously, my family backed off for a while. I got off the Internet and decided to meet people the natural way: by socialising. I haven’t met him yet, but I am not giving up. If nothing works out by the time I am 30, shaadi.com is still out there. Meanwhile, I have to keep reminding myself that even though I am not getting any younger, I am at least getting a little wiser.

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