“Do you know any good boys?”
Does the question sound familiar? Yup. It’s the one that’s thrown around at family gatherings, the one your aunts discuss at chai time, and — if you willingly partake in the process — one that you might end up using yourself.
It’s also the title of Meeti Shroff-Shah’s hilarious new book about her adventures in husband-hunting, the arranged marriage way.
It all began when Meeti, at the time an associate creative director at an ad agency, decided to take a shot at the Indian blind date system — one that involves two sets of parents, a variable number of relatives and lots of small talk. Scores of potential matches and awkward meetings later, Meeti finally met her match and is now happily married with a two-year-old child.
Are You “That Kind of Girl”?
“I was angry with life for keeping love from me,” Meeti recalls. “I took it personally. Around me, people were falling in love at work, at the gym… Not me. I’d been out and about with a parachute, ready to leap into a relationship at the slightest change in the current, but there’d been nowhere to land. It was depressing.”
She sure wasn’t always ready for arranged marriage, and describes her decision to go down that route as “deflating”. For a girl who grew up on a “steady diet of Shah Rukh Khan love stories, F.R.I.E.N.D.S, and Pride & Prejudice,” this kind of preordained drill seemed bleak — and, not to mention, uncool.
Then something switched. Meeti says she made her peace with the idea when she realised what was important — “that you’re happy in your marriage, not whether your story is ‘cool’.” And that’s when she truly began her arduous yet entertaining journey across two-and-a-half years, sifting through biodata of numerous hopefuls and meeting more than 40 potential suitors. Naturally, she became somewhat of an expert in the arranged-dating, so we suggest you start taking notes.
Things You Should (and Shouldn’t) Say at an Arranged Meeting
Meeti’s tells the hilarious story of her very first arranged meeting, which she says was “exactly like your very first gynaecologist appointment. Awkward as hell.” Arranged dates can be disastrous if you don’t know what to look for and what to avoid. Especially the meetings that are chaperoned.
Meeti recommends three safe topics of discussion: expectations, work, and interests.
These are easy to follow—after all, doesn’t the same apply to regular dating? Make your expectations clear, but don’t be demanding. Talk about your work and your passions—at least to check “if the opposite have any.”
The real puzzler is usually the bizarre questions some suitors might ask you. Meeti got her fair share:
“So… why are you still single?”
“Aren’t you tempted to have one night stands?”
“Do you think it’s okay to have an extra-marital relationship?”
So when we asked Meeti her secret to a successful conclusion to the arranged marriage rollercoaster, the answer was less about any secret method and more about your attitude. “I think it all boils down to one thing— perseverance. If you can go through with that fifth or sixth date with as much hope and faith as the first, that’s the key.”
And boy, did she persevere. Meeti dealt with a ton of ups and downs — some dates that went surprisingly well, and others… not so much.
You Win Some, You Lose Some: Dealing with Rejection
So what makes a date disappointing? One where even Meeti may not persevere? “There was this one very good looking IIT graduate who I was excited to meet — I had a thing for well-educated men. The match seemed very promising. But when we met, he went on for over an hour about his new start-up without letting me speak. It was almost like a sales pitch! He even followed up by sending me an invite to ‘Like’ his page on Facebook. The funny thing was, when I told my friend — who was also on the same arranged-marriage journey — it turned out that she had met him too and had the same experience!”
Besides such rare off-the-bat rejections, you’re also going to deal with a fair share of tough No’s — be it on the giving or receiving end. She compares her struggle to find Mr. Right to a “devious video game” set up to test her resilience — a game set against hearing about her friends’ success stories, dancing at their weddings and what she calls Level 6 – the silent rejections. She recalls, “Out of the forty men I met, I had pleasant meetings with more than two dozen of them… Which is why it really, really bothered me when we didn’t hear back from them.”
But hang in there, Meeti suggests. For every rejection you receive, “believe that there’s something better out there for you.” It’s best not to take it to heart, like the guy who she says sent her friend a one-page email, suggesting that she be slapped for breaking his heart. And if you have the upper hand, lay it down gently, but be honest and upfront — don’t pull a Level 6.
Finding Your “He’s the One”
What is evident throughout her matrimonial journey is Meeti’s practical, realistic approach to her search. If you’re looking for a grand sign, some kind of Yash Chopra-meets-cute, your chances of disappointment will probably run high.
She describes the moment she met her husband not as “love at first sight,” but as a sense of ease. “Don’t get me wrong”, she clarifies, “there was definitely a spark. There was chemistry. But it wasn't ‘love at first sight’ — it was a gut feeling, something telling me ‘this is right’. The conversations were great, and I wanted to hear more. That’s what I was looking for.”
It may turn out the way you imagined it when you were a kid, or the stuff rom-com dreams are made of, but your arranged-marriage-story is bound to have a charm of its own — the no-drama, long-haul kind.
“I would suggest that you look beyond how you met and get to the real stuff. Try to avoid being cynical about the whole thing and just trust your instincts.”
By Drishya Gautham