Tag Archives: arranged marriage

A 55 Year Love Story

A Short Introduction 

This is the love story of Yatindra and Sadhana Bhatnagar – nearly 55 years of sharing cheers and tears, facing odds and overcoming them, together.

It’s a story of reaching great heights – he in journalism and she in painting and sketching.

Yatindra wrote books, Sadhana contributed to some. They collaborated on some more.

Both traveled widely. From New Delhi to Indore, mingling with Presidents and Prime Ministers, top diplomats, artists and business people.

Sadhana raised their two lovely daughters and wrote poems for Yatindra; he wrote them for her as well.

She was an excellent cook, expert in sewing, knitting, crocheting, singing, embroidery, hospitality, making life-long friends and helping others. They gave love to their daughters, their daughter’s husbands, and strangers. In return, they got love from far and wide.

They were always on the same page; two bodies and one soul.

Both remained love-birds, till her last day. He would sit by her side, hold her hand, look into her eyes, and whisper sweet nothings in her ears.

This is their Fairytale Love Story.

Start of a 55 year old love story

Talking about pairs, arranged or love marriage, meant marrying in our own community (caste) and region, with similar customs and language and habits, family background – and of course matching horoscopes. None of these figured into our marriage at all. 

Ours was a beautiful combination of love and arranged. 

We had only one ‘date’ on April 21, Milan Divas – The Day We Met, and got to know each other. That was enough for us. 

In the six-months of waiting, dozens of letters were exchanged. Phone facility was not easy; it was also expensive. So we had the mailmen helping us. In this case ‘the middlemen’ were welcomed. Letters were a big consolation. 

It started with my four-year-old friendship with Indrajit, Ved’s (Sadhana’s) brother, that led to our marriage and 55-years of courtship.

Destiny had played a significant role. 

Ved was born in Nowshera, now in Pakistan, before her family moved to Abbottabad.

I was born in Indore, over 800 miles from Ved’s birthplace. She moved to Abbottabad and I to New Delhi – the distance cut by 90 miles. When we married she lived in Dehradun and I in Delhi, only 150 miles away. 

We were surely destined to move closer and closer till we became one. 

The rest is history, as they say.

We married on a ‘bad’ day but made a good life

October 8, 1961! The day, I believe, no marriages took place in orthodox Hindu families. 

That is because it is part of the Shraddh season when orthodox Hindus remember their dead, pay respects to their souls, feed the Brahmins and the poor, and pray for the eternal peace for the dead.

Our marriage on a Shraddh day!

Indrajit and I consulted ‘Mr. Calendar’ and decided on the convenient Sunday.

Everything happily fell right into place. Virtually, the entire city came to witness this ‘unique’ marriage. We got the best hotel to stay, had one of the best bands available, and the caterers were happy to get business during a slow season.

It was no “Big Fat Indian Wedding” yet lovely and pleasant; a good family event where two families became close.

Mataji (my widow mother-in-law) gave away the bride, another break from the orthodoxy. 

I gave Ved a new name – Sadhana, the desired one, my prayer. 

On the bus heading home – and to new dreams – a non-stop singing session started. Sadhana obliged by singing what became one of our favorite songs:  

Nayee manzil nayee rahein, naya hai meherbaan apna, na jane ja ke theharega kahaan yeh karvaan apna. (New destination and new path, new partner-friend, I don’t know where this caravan will end up.) 

How appropriate was her choice!  

Making of a Home 

Back home well past midnight, everyone was tired and retired to bed early. No ‘first night’ ritual. We looked forward to the future. 

The next day my errands took a long time and it was a late evening when I returned. I was stunned – my beautiful wife was waiting for me in her elegant dress, simple yet lovely jewelry, hardly any make-up, and the apartment had transformed into our “home.” 

Homes are made with love, vision, respect, commitment and a desire to become and grow as one. Sadhana arranged the furniture and other things to make the small rooms look larger and bare walls were adorned with photos and paintings. The home looked inviting; it bore the stamp of a lady with good taste and creativity.  She did everything with love and care to make it her home, our home.

Wonderstruck, I could only say: “Tumne to ise swarg bana diya (you have turned this into a heaven.) She had a lovely smile on her face as we exchanged glances that said more than we expressed. 

I was apologetic for being away for hours but she put me at ease with a phir kya hua (no problem, that’s okay).

I was stunned and could only look at her full of admiration and joy.

I fell in love with Sadhana, again. And that love continued for about 55 years. 

Our Honeymoon and More

We didn’t have a honeymoon in the traditional sense. We had made no plans and we kept everything limited and simple. As part of our wedding, just a couple days after our marriage, we were off to Dehradun for Phera (return).  

The Phera tradition serves two purposes: one, to know first-hand from the girl how she was welcomed at the groom’s place and how she feels about the groom (Mataji could tell from Sadhana’s glow); two, to know the son-in-law better without his entourage (Baraat). 

After spending a couple days in Dehradun, meeting Sadhana’s family and a host of her friends, we went to Mussoorie for a day to have time exclusively for the two of us. Unexpectedly one day became two.

Our lives had become the ultimate union of two hearts and two minds to reach the divine state of one.

That was the relation between Sadhana and I, from the beginning to the last. 

We did have a delayed honeymoon after 11 years where we went to Europe and Egypt for 40 days. It will remain a cherished memory.

Life, of course, is not a bed of roses. 

We encountered problems. We faced hardships and challenges. We had our disagreements. We argued. But they were few and far between. 

The ‘ceasefire’ was quick. Tears shared and sweet smiles exchanged happily. 

The arguments did not last long.

The ‘silent treatment’ could not go beyond a couple hours. 

We wouldn’t have it any other way.

In early 1940s in India, Brooke Bond Tea widely displayed an ad proclaiming: “Two leaves and a bud, the standard plucking method of the high grade tea.”

When we would patch up – and I loved that job happily – it was “two tight hugs and a kiss, the standard patch-up method of the highest grade of love.” 

Peace will be inevitably restored in no time to be followed by more tight hugs and more shower of kisses, enough to drown us in love and loud laughter.

Sadhana was an incredible human being!  

Yatindra Bhatnagar, a journalist, author and poet has been writing for more than seven decades.  He was chief editor of daily, weekly and monthly newspapers and magazines in India and the United States. He has done more than three thousand radio and TV programs and written 20 books, in English and Hindi.  He has extensively traveled in India and abroad. At nearly 91, he is still writing books, contributing to papers, doing radio programs and has his own website: www.internationalopinion.com

Edited by Assistant Editor, Srishti Prabha.

The Arrangement of Love

While talking to a friend in distress over dating dilemmas, I confessed that if life had not taken the drastic turn that it did for me, I would have perhaps resorted to the age old comfort of an arranged marriage. I could clearly see her disbelief as she jumped out of her chair, because my story was a wildly adventurous one of moving across the globe for an interracial love affair that evolved into marriage. But like everyone else, I have thought a lot about the what ifs of life. “How could you say that? How could you ever let someone else be liaison between you and your soul mate?” she gasped. “Well,” I said, “Isn’t that what dating websites do?”

I remember when dating websites like shaadi.com first showed up in India. They were a joke. I heard lots of aunties and uncles smirking at the prospect of a computer medium finding a right match. And yet I was interested to follow its development as a phenomenon in modern India.

A person enters their own information and what he or she would like in a partner. Issues like social status, money, looks, expectations and family values definitely play a role in the selection. A search engine acts much like an old, pan chewing, all knowing match making matriarch and produces options for consideration. Isn’t this what the idea of arranged marriage is?

Arranged marriages are most prevalent in India, China, Japan and predominantly eastern cultures. But unlike popular belief, arranged marriages date back to the 5th century in England. Their exposure in Victorian England is no more well known than being the subject of various romantic novels including Jane Austen‘s iconic classic Pride and Prejudice. Royal families across the world including the English monarchy have practiced arranged alliances and even practices like bride price aka dowry!

The West sometimes sees arranged marriage as a primitive and forceful proposition where the bride and the groom have no choice other than to submit their lives (without any say) to a partner who almost definitely will not be suitable. Parents are seen as controlling (yes, sometimes they are, but not always) and children as voiceless puppets. A drab life of no love and happily never after. Well, reality begs to differ. I think modern day arranged marriages are just means to find a partner. There is room to meet, date and weigh the prospect in a rational way.

Finding love is hard. Very few souls are blessed to find their soulmates very early on in life. Or how many of us can really walk into a bar and pick up the next super model and marry him or her? The pressure from society to be in love, to always be dating and the assumed pity when we are single is very hard on anyone, let alone young people. In a world of many options, where even finding the right breakfast cereal takes a lot of research, how are we expected to find life partners in a heartbeat?

Popular culture, even today, makes us think that there is something wrong if we have not been chased in the rain by a lovelorn secret admirer and if we are not happily married to him soon after. Love is not such a jackpot. If you ask any couple married long enough, you will find that a successful marriage is not an accident. It does not matter if you are head over heels in love with someone before you marry them or if your love grows and evolves after being married. Love is work. Period.

Relationships work or don’t work regardless of how they came to be. I wish there was a formula, but there isn’t. And that’s what makes it more alluring, more challenging and all the more human.

Why not then accept help? Why not allow channels to open for people to come into our lives, how they do so does not matter. It could be your long lost aunt or a friend calling with a proposal, a cheesy matrimonial ad, a new dating app, or even that supermodel at a local bar! You just don’t know.

Preeti Hay is a freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in publications including The Times of India, Yoga International, Khabar Magazine, India Currents and anthologies of poetry and fiction.

Love Ya Arranged?

Of the questions  that Americans ask that can annoy me, one of the most irritating is likely to be “Is yours an arranged marriage?” which trails only the legendary “Are there really elephants on the road?”
I still clearly remember hearing that question for the first time.

Soon after arriving in America for my masters program, I visited a beauty salon. Although, I truly couldn’t afford a visit to a salon as a fresh off-the-boater with a meager RA salary, I scraped off a few pennies here and there to look more presentable during a close relative’s wedding and my own engagement.

After learning about my upcoming trip to the East Coast and my engagement, the beautician, with her eyes filled with apprehension, asked me “Is your engagement an arranged one? By your parents?” Blushing, with a smile and beaming with pride, I answered with an emphatic “No way! I would NEVER go through an arranged marriage. Ours is a love marriage!”

I still remember the sigh of relief on her face before she moved on to “So exciting! How did you guys meet?”

Two decades of experience have now taught me that the beautician’s concern over arranged marriages was unwarranted. Now I understand that the success of a marriage doesn’t solely rely on the moment and circumstances of how one meets one’s spouse.

I am still thankful to my parents who allowed me to wait for the right person. While I am happy that I arrived at a “love” marriage that is still filled with love, I have also come to respect any strong, stable, and symbiotic marriage or long term relationship.

To be fair, I find that the question “Love Ya Arranged?” is quite prevalent within Indian social circles too.

The question is somewhat inaccurate since it implies that you can have only one or the other!

Looking back I realize that, while I had rejected a “suitable boy” here and there on grounds of “chemistry” and “connection” or lack thereof, my strong desire for love marriage was not romanticism inspired by cheesy Mills and Boon fictions or by Disney styled princess fairy tales. I opposed arranged marriages because it seemed like an impersonal and elaborate system of choosing the most important person in our lives. It also seemed like a cookie cutter approach to match making.

I remember one wise uncle lecturing me, “There should be 10 points on the checklist for any boy and if you can check off six or seven off them, he is good enough!” He implied that connection and chemistry were baseless ideas and would leave me a spinster for the rest of my life! I am confident that my two lovely children will have a good laugh when they hear that story at an  appropriate age.

Just by the fact that the practice of arranged marriages is still around gives validity to the functions and outcomes of the system. But, at the same it time, it must be acknowledged that the system has huge holes.

The checklists for consideration of prospects don’t account for individual characteristics, personalities and sensitivities. A well educated girl may not score high on those checklists if she were dusky. A wealthy boy with bad habits or substance dependency could easily score higher than a hardworking middle class boy. Let’s not even get started on the caste factor, let alone religion or astrology.

The issue with arranged marriages is that it doesn’t always guarantee a thorough examination of a candidate. Some factors trump others when it comes to the desirability of the match.

One case in point is the attractiveness of access to America. If there is a green card or H1 or F1 or even an illegal chance of emigration to America then, many a time even the checklists are abandoned.

I know of a case where parents happily gave away their girl to the family of a boy with H1/F1 despite the fact that the families met for the first time just a week prior. What happened to the usual insistence on families getting to know each other because “marriage is between two families?” So it seems that rules are easily shaken by a whiff of a green card or buck.

That makes me wonder about matchmaking in the United States.

Dating in the west is an elaborate system with its own rules and protocols. There are many dos and don’ts, how tos, and columns offered by “experts” that guide the naïve through a veritable “jungle.” Expert advice ranges from “what to wear on a first date” and “how to converse to making a lasting impact” and “the right amount of eye contact during the date” to “who should pay.”

Just like the way a well-meaning aunt advises the young girl on how best to roast a papad without a single blemish, the dating expert advises on colors, necklines, and styles to wear on dates.

The barrage of protocols follows through the afterlife of the first date. If you call too soon, you are desperate, and if you take your time the other person has moved on. In essence, we conform to many preexisting norms in order to be successful.

The process of evaluating a dating prospect is similar to the checklist analysis of arranged marriages, except that there is no support system of parents and aunts to help do the homework.

In the case of arranged marriages, there is at least a clear verdict on the success of the match, transmitted through the friendly neighborhood aunt. Daters, on the other hand, simply have to keep looking at their phones obsessively for that “Gr8 fun. Wanna hang out L8R?” text to arrive.

Then there is the virtual world of matchmaking through the likes of Match.com, eHarmony.com, Zoosk.com or OkCupid.com, Dil Mil and more.

Among these services, eHarmony.com is responsible for a whopping one million marriages and an additional million long term relationships within just 15 years of its existence. The company claims that the divorce rates amongst its users (customers) is very low compared to the average. A meager 3.8%—roughly a tenth of the normal divorce rate in America, which ranges between 30% to 50%. While the success of a marriage in any society should not be measured by the divorce rate, yet  it offers a significant insight on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to long term relationships.

So how does eHarmony do it? They have an exhaustive questionnaire with up to two to three hundred questions, based on psychological and clinical research and data, that the user needs to fill out. Based on information provided by the user, it’s complex algorithm matches users based on the compatibility factor rather than what the user thinks she or he prefers. Sounds awfully familiar doesn’t it?

That lengthy questionnaire in essence is merely a weeding out list.

I’ve learned that whether one gets to know one’s partner through a friend or complex lines of code, it still is only a starting point.

How long and how strong you run that marathon is still going to be up to you. The key is to remain true to yourself.

I intend to give that advice to my elementary school going children a few decades from now so when someone asks them, “Is yours a love or a digitally initiated empirically aided algorithmic compatibility matched marriage?” they won’t be annoyed.

Shachi Patel is an engineer by training and a program manager by profession. A lifelong volunteer, she was one of the original voices on Bay Area’s first South Asian radio station. She explores the outdoors with her family and writes from her abode in Silicon Valley.

First published in April 2016.

An Unusual Love Story for Mother’s Day!

Crisply starched cotton saris. A hand kerchief tucked at the waist.  Hair in a top knot. Bustling with life and laughter. Her belly laugh lit up the room and caught everyone in its unique charm. She was Sundari“The Beautiful One”.  Aptly named, for she was indeed beautiful, and endowed with a generosity of spirit that could move the most ornery person in her orbit! I was a girl of 20 when I first met her. Young as I was, I  didn’t stand a chance. I fell in love – with my husband’s mother! 

It was, needless to say – an unusual sort of love story. All around me were examples of badly soured relationships. And yet, there we were! She was nothing if not welcoming and refreshingly so. There were days when I found myself thoroughly flummoxed by her son – my brand new husband. But never by her! Taking me under her wing, she championed my cause with every decision I made, no matter how foolhardy it seemed; always sticking up for me over her own daughters. She had the sensitivity to put herself in my shoes, because she herself had been a young bride once. And she declared that she would see to it that I did not suffer the same trials she had. A brave stand which endeared her to me through all the years to follow! 

She had a clarity about the things she liked and disliked. And she absolutely abhorred the label, ‘Mother-in-Law!’ According to her, that particular label was coined by a heartless, bitter sort of a person, and it was designed to make any strained relationship break with the weight of its hyphenated formality. The very first thing she said to me was, “I don’t expect you to address me as Amma. You can call me whatever you’re comfortable with. And I don’t care much about what the world thinks.” That floored me. I settled for ‘Aunty’, and it suited us just fine – because the label which I used to call her didn’t really matter.

If there was one thing that got her ire up, it was the plight of women. She railed at the injustice of antiquated social norms, and the expectations that weighed heavily on the side of women, especially within the confines of their roles as daughters-in-law. “How can women dare to judge other women so poorly?” This was her constant refrain. We would shake our heads and drink steaming cups of coffee in the afternoons. She brushed my hair, insisting that I wear it in the latest fashion; she rejoiced when I managed to drape my sari without her help. The icing on the cake was when, a month into my marriage, she packed me off to my parents’ house, so I could celebrate my birthday with them. That was unheard of in our circles! She was sensitive to the fact that my sister would be missing me sorely on my birthday, and she was secure in the knowledge that she was only doing what she felt was right. 

Her husband, my father-in-law was a quiet man of few words. He chose to listen and commented sparingly, always content to be with his ledgers and paperwork. She, on the other hand, was a whirlwind of action and opinions – firmly but lovingly delivered. She referred to him with a twinkle in her eye, as “Yajamaanru” – a Kannada term loosely translated to mean “Lord.” But he knew who wielded the power behind the goings on of the home! There was a gentle, teasing sort of camaraderie based on mutual respect, that came from sharing life experiences together. To observe them, was a revelation to someone like me, who was just making the transition into “wifehood.”  There was an “exchange of words” one afternoon, and she threatened to leave him to his fate. He responded very calmly, “Sure! I can’t stop you. Just make sure you come by to cook me your delicious meals!” The impasse ended with her doubling over with laughter at his absurd idea of a mutually beneficial understanding!

You could count on her to discuss politics, music, fashion, Bollywood, and spirituality with equal fervor and wit. We spent many an evening giggling over the madness whipped up by Salman Khan’s bare chested antics! But she was unfailingly devoted to her favorite deity, Hanuman! She absolutely loved window shopping, thrilling in each discovery as we walked the store fronts! As the years went by, she swapped the cotton saris she loved, to the more easily manageable Garden Vareili brand of saris. But she was always elegantly put together. Renowned for her famed hospitality, she opened her modest home to all and sundry with warmth and love. “They don’t come to see my house. They come to see me,” she’d say with a laugh! Whipping up delicious meals in what seemed to me, a matter of minutes, she would happily feed you even if you turned up unannounced. Every single guest walked away feeling like they had feasted at a banquet! 

There are so many memories I hold dear about her, who was in many ways a window into my husband’s mind. His love of music and nature, a childlike curiosity about the world, and a propensity for bear hugs – are the inheritance she bequeathed to him. And when he irks me, I remind him that he was not my first choice – his mother was! 

They say that the true mark of a person is his/her humility. On the eve of my departure to join my husband in the United States, I was in tears, anxious about the long journey and my future with a man I scarcely knew. She cracked up when I insisted we change my tickets so she could accompany me.  And then, she sat me down with a serious, somber look about her. I remember being suddenly afraid that I had said or done something wrong. In her usual manner, she got right down to it.  She apologized. “Sometimes I say things without thinking. If I hurt you without meaning to, I am truly sorry,” she said. And with that, she rendered me speechless. This was a trait I could spend a lifetime trying to cultivate, but fail miserably! 

In a cruel twist of fate, this spirited, loving woman was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It rendered a blow not just to her husband, children and siblings, but to every person who ever knew her. It left us shattered and helpless, watching on the sidelines as it stole her language, her memories and her spirit.  I was only thankful that I had managed to give her a special gift in the form of my daughter, while she could still retain that memory.

She lost that battle in 2015. And we lost a wonderful soul.

Even today, almost three years since she left us, I still sometimes expect to hear her voice on the phone. I see her spirit, in the way my child speeds and tumbles through her life. I see her smile in my husband’s face. And I hear echoes of her hearty laughter through her daughters. 

I am grateful that life bestowed an unusual honor on me; a rare and unique experience. 

The experience of life with a “Mother-by-Love”. 

 

Looking for A Suitable Girl?

How to explain the arranged marriage to non-Indians? How to explain that it coexists in India with modernization and call centers and that women who have the agency to study for an MBA and work full-time also fully participate in the arrangement of their own marriage?

The film A Suitable Girl (2018) is a nuanced and keenly felt cinematic foray into the world of arranged marriage. Not Arranged Marriage with upper caps, as if a generic experience awaits all those who go down this path. Instead, for each of the three women who are followed around by a perceptive camera, there emerges a verite portrait of the complexities of emotions within the cultural context where such alliances are the norm.

The pressure to get married is felt keenly by a woman of a certain age. The filmmakers Sarita Khurana and Smriti Mundhra were at graduate school in Columbia University and  worked on a number of films and projects together. “And part of the reason why we bonded and something we talked about was the pressures we ourselves were facing to get married and settle down.” So they decided to make a film about it.

Did they find any challenges as women of color in a profession dominated by white men? “We missed the wave of the diversity initiatives in Hollywood.” Frances McDormand’s reference to inclusion riders was yet to arrive. During the four years that the filmmakers kept this “train running,” they were able to fund the film through private donors and “people who believed in us and believed in the project.” A clear vision for their project guided them, and paradoxically made it harder for them to fund the film. “There is money for feel-good charity work, but we wanted the women in our film to have agency, not showcase poverty porn or pity projects. This actually made it harder for us to fund the film.”

US-based second generation desis, having grown up in third cultures, have a familiarity with the cultural values of their parents. Meet the Patels (2014) had a tongue in cheek look at intra-marriage within the Gujarati community, and also included a critique of the parochial aversion to inter-marriage outside the community. The filmmakers in A Suitable Girl wished to contextualize choices within the cultural values. What makes this film special is the agency and access to the inner lives of these women, hand-wringing included, who transition from single to married women in the course of the film.

Anita, who has moved to Nokha, a small town in Rajasthan after growing up in Delhi and a ‘love marriage’ to Keshav, voices her loss of identity after marriage. She can complain about the ‘idiotic customs and traditions,’ but also feel pride in being part of a couple: “I do it all for Keshav.” She is an active participant in the decision-making, and possibly actively participates in the narrowing of her own horizons.

There is an algorithm in the marriage market for a suitable girl, with inputs for physical attractiveness — slimness and fairness especially, and Dipti is found lacking in a series of meetings. The entire family participates in her search for a life partner, and the collective emotion of a rejection from a prospective groom is captured brilliantly.

The matchmaker Seema, working off spread-sheets and bio-datas, is keenly aware that her own daughter, Ritu, wishes to work after marriage, and that there is more at stake here than for her other clients.

The camera follows, it notices, it even probes. It stays true to the verite form, but supplements with some interviews, and gives the subjects a voice. There are beautiful establishing shots of trains, of camels, of a wedding tent being constructed by tying bamboo poles together. A viewer is transported to India, and the sense that a young woman’s life is not just her own, but situated within an extended network of family and community.

My own story hints at this paradox. When I was 22, my parents seemed ready to get their daughter married and “settled.” I wanted to make everyone happy, but even more, I wanted to flee. During a stilted tea-drinking episode with a prospective suitor, I explained carefully to my mother “Rather than getting married right now, I would like to accept a SPICMACAY Gurukul Anubhav scholarship and go to Calcutta.”

“What’s SPICMACAY?”

“Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Among Youth.”

“Since when are you interested in classical music?”

“I’m SUPER interested in classical music. I’m surprised you haven’t noticed.”

I felt bad that I had ruined everyone’s marriage arrangement tea. But I was equally sure they would all get over it.

I had bought myself some time. One month, to be precise. I sent a mental thank you to Kiran Seth, an IIT Delhi professor who had founded SPICMACAY in 1977 and the Gurukul scholarship just a few years prior, in 1986. Catching a train to Calcutta, I arrived at the Ustad Nasir Moinuddin Dagar Dhrupad Sangeet Ashram and found myself in a small household, a gurukul of a famous musician, where meals were cooked by Alaka Nandy, a disciple and accomplished dhrupad singer. There were amazing singing sessions in the mornings that transported you to ecstatic musical realms, and the guru’s riyaaz in a nearby park caused morning walkers to stop in their tracks, transformed by a dhrupad maestro’s virtuosity. I was a bit homesick in Calcutta — everything was humid and smelled of asafoetida — but pleased with this lofty-sounding excuse not to be Mrs. Somebody. Phew. Saved by some ragas.

Eventually, I did get married on a crisp Delhi morning, but it was not to a stranger. As the notes of plaintive shehnai music mingled with the smoke from the altar, I found myself charmed and curious about the Vedic ceremony involving fire, and grains of rice, and a lot of Sanskrit.

You see, I had agency.

A Suitable Girl (2018). Directors Sarita Khurana and Smriti Mundhra. Producers: Smriti Mundhra, Jennifer Tiexiera, Sarita Khurana, Cal Amir. Studio: Marriage Brokers LLC. Documentary.

Winner of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival’s Best New Documentary Director Award. You can watch A Suitable Girl online at https://www.amazon.com/Suitable-Girl-Smriti-Mundhra/dp/B07BH8YJMQ/

Geetika Pathania Jain is Culture and Media Editor at India Currents.