One of my best friends is getting married later this year. They are going to make each other happy—and I can’t wait to deliver the speech at their wedding about how they are both wonderful and perfect.
Another best friend got married two years ago, and he is due to be a father soon.
A writer who I look up to and his husband legally tied the knot a couple years ago. “Marriage isn’t without its challenges,” he said, “but it’s worth it.”
I grew up with cousins who are a bit older than me. They are now raising families—their kids are off to junior high.
When I moved back home to Detroit, one of the first friendships I rekindled was with someone I knew from college—she was someone who had enormously intimidated me then. In reconnecting with her, I noticed she had found a sense of calm that I think is elusive for most of us in our twenties. Marriage suited her.
There are those days when I feel like even if I re-created the Taj Mahal brick by brick, I’d still be falling behind. Then there are those months when, after a string of bad dates, I choke up. I think, “Oh God, I’m gonna die alone.”
My grandma says in passing quite often how much she hopes she’ll get to see me get married off to a nice girl before she gets called up to the sky. I laugh this off. I laugh it off because I’m complicit in perpetuating the myth of me as a straight man in this case.
For what it’s worth, though, I do hope I’ll get married off to a nice guy before she gets called up to the sky. That would be very nice.
Indian matchmaking sites like Bharat Matrimony or Shaadi.com, unlike their American counterparts, don’t let men seek out male matches, or women seek out female matches.
On American matchmaking websites, there are usually two columns: “I am” and “looking for” and under each, you can typically choose “male” and “female.” More progressive websites even accommodate options for users who are trans. Indian sites have two general options in a drop-down menu: “man seeking woman” and “woman seeking man.” So even if I’ve graduated beyond Grindr and find myself stuck in a Tinder rut of matching up with all the finest gentlemen ever in a 50-mile radius—only to never ever hear from them—I’ve got nowhere to go to expedite my own marriage prospects.
It’s a simple request I have—the chance to arrive at a first date at which the gentleman sitting across from me and I are under no misapprehension about why we are both taking an hour, maybe two, out of our schedules to entertain one another. We both know that the next logical step in our life path is marriage—finding that partner-in-crime. We both tire of tedious one-night stands, of noncommittal men still clinging desperately to their youth, of meat-market rituals that have defined our identities for so long.
While I’m a firm believer that romance often comes when we least expect it, I’m also a firm believer that sometimes it is up to us to create the best conditions to facilitate that romance.
If I’ve been conditioned to learn anything about Indian culture—and the Bengali tradition in which I was raised—it’s that marriage is the happily-ever-after. Marigold garlands, epic dinners, the awkward introductions of relatives from both sides of the family to one another, the intimate “what-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into” gaze exchanged between the bride and groom that nobody else is supposed to notice: These are just a few pigments colouring that next step.
The works of Jhumpa Lahiri, Arundhati Roy and Chitra Divakaruni Banerjee have taught me that life after that happily-ever-after is difficult, ennui-ridden, and sometimes never happy at all. But their work has chronicled heterosexual marriages—there is no framework for gay marriage in which one or both of the people involved are desi.
It is why my mind runs wild when I plan my dream wedding: Will it be as elaborate as a Karan Johar film, or something minimal and muted?
I imagine something out on a beach or the woods. I imagine a reception for which we hire a riot girl cover band and a DJ with a sense of humour. I imagine food trucks. I imagine maybe 20 of my friends and another 20 of my parents’ friends. Some relatives in there, sure, but remember, most of mine don’t really know who I am or, if they are wising up, they don’t know what to do with this knowledge. A ceremony of love is no place for hate or ignorance. Maybe I can tell those distant relatives in Dubai who I’ve never met to simply send money to my PayPal account and otherwise ignore me until the next major event brings us all together?
And yet, marriage remains the bedrock for Indian identity in so many films and works of literature. Almost any kind of contemporary Indian culture roots Indianness in the idea of heterosexual marriage.
I wonder what it means, then, for my own cultural preservation that the chances I’ll end up marrying a man who isn’t Indian are high. I already can’t read or write my parents’ language, and my ability to recite it with poetic ease wanes with each passing day. Customs will be lost with me; essential pieces of family mythology will be lost.
It is just a single reason why I think a lot about what it would be like if my parents helped arrange my marriage.