It seems like the ‘ideal’ desi wife would be:
Fair and slim. Tall, but shorter than the guy. Able to cook and take care of the house. Educated, preferably with a doctor’s degree but no aspiration to actually work in a hospital. And of course, does not mind living in a joint family for the rest of her life.
This may not be the case in ALL arranged marriages, but these characteristics are often brought up during the ‘searching’ phase. It’s almost like a checklist: the more of these she ticks off, the more ideal she is.
But what about the personality? Someone with a sense of humour, someone who’s passionate about her work, someone who is intelligent? What about the beliefs and morals? These things are almost never mentioned.
I am not against arranged marriages, in fact I have witnessed that it can be a beautiful way to meet someone. But the way some families go about the matchmaking process is disappointing and highly misogynistic.
I told myself I wouldn’t do this, but I went ahead and watched the show ‘Indian Matchmaking’ on Netflix. Watching reality shows has always been a guilty pleasure for me, but let me tell you, this one did not provide much pleasure. All I got was annoyance and frustration.
Every time Seema Aunty (the matchmaker) and the men’s families brought up characteristics such as “accommodating” and “adjustable” when it came to the ideal woman, I rolled my eyes. And then when Seema Aunty criticized several of the girls for not being “flexible” during their search, I wanted to pull my hair out.
Unfortunately, in the desi culture, marriage is often seen as a woman leaving her family home and going into the husband’s home. So all these characteristics like accommodating, adjustable and flexible are an indication that she needs to fit into the pre-made culture of the house and basically be like a perfect obedient person who just blends into the family.
Throughout my life I’ve constantly heard people talking about a new wife adjusting into her ‘new family’… but honestly, why do we never talk about how the new husband is adjusting with his in-laws? Why is this only an expectation for women to fulfill?
Let’s not forget that sometimes the parents are so involved in the matchmaking process, that their ‘criteria’ often overpowers that of the young women or men themselves. Parents often say they need to help their children out when choosing a life partner because they are ‘still young and don’t understand how it is’. Well aunty ji should we ignore that your 30-year-old son is perfectly capable to run the family business, but cannot make the decision of choosing his own wife?
I’m not even exaggerating here – this was literally what happened with one of the contestants on the show!