A lovely free Sunday and the girls and I are chilling out, reading the newspapers when we focus on this amazing phenomenon that is way more interesting and entertaining than the news. The Matrimonials and the Obituaries. While at first glance the latter may seem morbid, honestly it is the former which is worse. Seriously creepy and terrifyingly claustrophobia inducing!
In death there is no caste and class , ashes to ashes, dust to dust and so on. None of the obits tell you if the person was short, slim, cultured, how much they earned, how well connected the family was. All you get to read are words of love, admiration and wisdom.
‘A special smile, a special face, in our hearts a special place’. The photo accompanying this is of an unsmiling woman, extremely homely in the true sense of the word, but clearly capable of loving and being loved and who will be missed. Most people are described as an inspiration, fondly remembered, darling wife of, loving husband to, deeply missed, beloved matriarch, cherished memories. You get the drift. Of course, a small cynical part of me thinks that possibly only wonderful and loving people get obituaries. So the sample is kind of biased. Who will splash out 10 thousand rupees on remembering and mourning some cantankerous and miserly folks who made life a drudge and a pain………
It may seem that Catholics (especially East Indians with fantastic names like Trinie, Savrine, Primrose, Talitha, Clyde and Carina) and then Sindhis die more than the others but of course that is a selection bias. Clearly Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists are not big into obits. The names of the East Indians creates an image of a Bobby-like cottage by the sea, ‘na mangoon sona chandi’ playing in the background, lots of happy siblings and cousins frolicking on the beach, prawn curry, kaju feni, a sort of mini Goa but just outside of Bombay proper. Palm trees swaying, someone jiving on a linoleum floor, dressed in Sunday best going to Church, birthday parties, lots of lipstick……….and now just a photo in the papers.
Then there are the Parsee names. Piloo, Cyrus, Roosi, Aloo, Jeroo. Images of old fashioned high ceilinged homes in Dadar or Wadala, some more dancing on linoleum floors, shiny well maintained car of 50 years, all dressed up to go the agiary, old couples walking hand in hand around five gardens……….now just a photo in the papers.
The Bhagvad Gita is of course routinely quoted: ‘He is never born, nor does he die at any time, nor having come to be will he again cease to be”.
But getting married—now that is a serious and grim business ! Caste and religion is the major classifications. Agarwal, Bisa Agarwal, Arora, Brahmin, Rajput, SC/ST, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh etc and increasingly nowadays the NRI/Cosmopolitan/Remarriage. The details are laid bare for the entire readership—The girl is 5ft 1”, but the family is ‘ high status, affluent and cultural with liberal and modern outlook”. But the girl has been brought up with ‘traditional values’ (what could that mean ?? She does puja everyday but does not fast ? Smokes but will not do it in front of the mother in law ? Wears cocktail dresses for parties but will tolerate some violence and abuse ?)
The girls are all invariably smart, beautiful and are looking for a professionally qualified and well settled boy from cultured family. I guess that is code for MNC employed and living in his own flat ?
Innocent divorcees are getting common but a new one I found was a ‘highly innocent divorcee’. Not held hands also, right ?
The boys are all looking for a slim, fair, beautiful and yes, homely girl. There is one boy who is 100% white with natural colour but in brackets it says leucoderma. How natural can that be ?? He is of course seeking a girl on merit only and for early marriage without dowry. SO much for intellectual and emotional compatibility.
There is a ‘very high profile’ hindu boy who seeks a ‘classy NRI soulmate’. How is heavens name is that to be interpreted ? Who would read this and go. Arre wah, this is ideal for my beti ??
Many of these ads are highlighted in yellow or put into framed boxes, including a border of flowers. This is a very aggressive market ! These are alliances and there is not much emphasis or even aspiration for happiness. MNC and own flat with a fair slim beautiful girl seems to be the main formula. Bring on the depressions, flatulence, rudeness, grumpiness, possessiveness and let’s party !
They all sound much creepier to me than the obits which seem so much more full of love and feelings ! How about a matrimonial ad which talks about liking reading, loves old Hindi film music, prefers mountains to beaches, cannot stand the AC at night, thinks The Burning Train is the best movie ever J and so many of the other little seemingly insignificant details that actually make up the journey that is life. The small shared joys that smooth this bumpy road travelled together…………..and yet, despite the increase in second marriages, India as a whole seems to be clear evidence that arranged marriages do work ! There may or may not be the one true love to be found in the page 10 of the Times or Indian Express , but there could be someone almost right and then it’s up to both of you to make the joys outweigh the sorrows, until death does you part.
Then you get to feature in the page 4 obituary column as a beloved wife of or loving husband of and some total stranger like me will read about the love and sorrow left behind and feel a twinge of regret at not having known so many fun and wonderful and loving people while they were still alive !