By Sagar Malik

It was cold, my breath was all white and whiskey. She was looking at me from across the bar, and I was carefully avoiding her excessively kohl-ed eyes as they tried to bore into the depths of my soul. She’s not trying to be subtle. One by one, her friends turn to look. I know by now how it’ll go: the insinuation and overbearing scent, the questions, and the quest for the bullet points of my life. I’m not ready. Not even close. Still, I know better than to be relieved when she eventually grows tired of my monosyllables and forced smiles, and walks away, because this isn’t over. Not with a woman like her. This is just the fucking beginning.

Early next morning, mum got a phone call, because beta, Krishna Aunty knows someone who’s an ‘ekdum perfect match. Made in heaven, I tell you. Oh family toh bohot vadiya, ohji first class. And the girl, oh-ho. What to tell you. Booty queen. Made for each other only.’

‘So what do you think?’

‘I think Krishna Aunty needs to get laid.’

She left me alone for a while after that.

This shit is like death, taxes and Instagram selfies: no matter how hard you try, eventually they gonna get all up in yo’ face.

If you think women have it particularly bad when it comes to marriage in this country, you have a complete fucking idea of what you’re talking about, and you couldn’t be more right. It is a stark reality; there are hundreds of thousands of girls to whom pursuing a career or marrying someone of their choice is an unachievable dream. The ideas and pressures associated with marriage differ with community, gender, and wealth, but still, the progressive people that place no crushing weight on their children seem to be exceptions rather than rules. The obsession with getting our generation married is one of the last few things that unites people across geographies and social strata.

It doesn’t help that there are troves amongst our own generation who still think that this – the biggest decision of their lives – is a rite of passage more closely associated with age than anything else. Sometimes I wish we didn’t outgrow our teenage rebellion, or that we were brazen enough to ask ‘why?’ when any bit of assumed wisdom was presented to us. The horde of nameless Punjabi uncles that my family has been cultivating for decades to show up to drink scotch and appoint themselves comptroller-generals of baraat related activities has been telling me to get married since I was 22, for reasons varying from ‘Orr kitna lamba hoga?’ to ‘Party ni karni?’. There was even one who, upon discovering the travesty that I was unmarried at 25, asked me in all seriousness if I was gay. He’s not invited to our family functions anymore. {We didn’t stop inviting him, though. He just died. I had nothing to do with it.}

It would be appropriate context while talking about marriage if I were to tell you how old I am, so let’s get that out of the way: that shit just ain’t gonna happen. I’ll say this much, though: next year, I start {continue} lying about my age.

We’re in a place {geographically and in time}, where weddings have half a dozen official functions, and a dozen unofficial ones, including a ‘Youngsters’, which is officially the worst name given to an event since the University of Pittsburgh decided to give its students free Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and printed ‘BJs in your PJs!’ on the flyers. You could be anyone from a tree-hugging hippie to a sculpted heiress, you’ll have been to a few Ostentation Punjabi Weddings ®™. You’ve seen metalheads covered in haldi-chandan for miscellaneous nikhaar purposes, and you’ve definitely heard someone say something about someone’s sari because she’s trying to look like someone from some movie. You’ve moved holiday plans around for a wedding, which have become an eclectic mix of traditional rites and over-the-top parties. You know someone who hooked up at a wedding, and a couple that was formed over functions.

Personally, I still don’t know the difference between a sagan, a cocktail, and a reception. And this, despite my family being so Punjabi that we once had a fifty minute conversation at a family dinner about why lassi made in a washing machine is better than lassi made by however else you make lassi. Still, I know I’m not exempt from my relatively progressive parents thinking that I’ll get married if they just annoy me enough.

We’re in an epidemic, and it’s not Ebola.

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