Stereotypes

It’s almost been a year since Anna‘s wedding. Yeah, a couple of months short. Something set me off thinking about it, and as usual, here it is.

It was probably around this time last year that I was informed in a rather hush-hush manner that Anna had a girlfriend whom he wanted to marry, and (here was the shocking bit) she wasn’t Indian!

Now, my parents are the far end of the ‘liberal branch of a conservative extended family’: they had a ‘luurrvve marriage’, and my extended family on my Dad’s side includes people who eat no onions, no garlic… you get the picture. Anyway, Anna is my Dad’s brother’s son, two years older than me. His parents fit somewhere behind mine on the liberal branch, and he was one of the good kids who studied engineering, went abroad for a Masters, got a job and ‘settled down’ – perfect marriage material. Tall, fair, good looking (though he’s turned into an out-of-shape pumpkin with all that milk-and-honey he’s been feeding on), well-settled – the kind of son parents dream of. Aamma was so proud of her boy!

So, one day, usually non-gossipy MM tells me what was being considered the latest scandal… Anna wanted to marry a firang girl. We laughed, MM and me. How tongues did wag! It was his business, and his parents’ (they’d reluctantly consented to the match) Why was everyone else in the family so disapproving? It took all of the considerable goodwill that my uncle had with the rest of the family for everyone to agree to attend the wedding, which was to be held here. Really!

But the biggest surprise for me was how my usually good-natured, warm and affectionate Aamma was reacting. When I heard that the parents had agreed, I had a mental picture of Aamma having to persuade my uncle to agree… it turned out it was the other way around! My stodgy, unimaginative, reliable, conservative uncle was the one who, having written to, emailed and spoken to both Anna and his girlfriend, had given the go-ahead. His logic was simple – she was just like them. In spite of having been raised half-way around the world from here, she was a strict Catholic: respected her parents, knew the importance of Family, had worked her way through college, and didn’t want to alienate them in any way.

Aamma, however, was on a whole different trip. Her son – the Good Boy – had kept this from her. For two years. Did he not trust her any more? Did he not love her? It was all ‘her’ fault. Anna was not like this. Or had he changed into this? Must have been because of ‘her’.

‘She’ turned out to be great fun, though. She’d decided to go through with this, so however uncomfortable she was, however tired, she would enjoy it! She went through the wedding week with a lost suitcase, wore itchy sarees, tolerated hours of photography, amazed at how much fun an Indian wedding was!

Yeah, I was talking about stereotypes. Everybody defied stereotype in this story – the sweet mother turned possessive, the conservative father turned tolerant, the firang bahu had fun, and most surprisingly of all, the Good Boy rebelled. But the sweet mother still stuffs me with food and packs me pickles when I visit them (“Wonder how you are surviving on that food your cook cooks!“), the conservative father is still looking for “good, Telugu Brahmin boys” for me to marry. The Good Boy is willing to check the antecedents of the ‘boys’ his father finds; the firang bahu asks after me once in a while.

Stereotypes.

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One Response

  1. I would say everyone behaved as expected in the given scenario.

    Sweet mothers always turn possessive when their sons have to get married, firang or no firang.

    Fathers are rational people, very unlike Bollywood tyrant fathers. You can reason with them. Not so with mothers, who don’t agree to something, but don’t know why.

    Good boys, when they get their freedom, discover the joys of the unusual. It was more forbidden for them than for the bad boys, which makes it all the more attractive.

    Firang Bahu? Well who wouldn’t enjoy a week long party as compared to a short afternoon function in the church.

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