Published with The Friday Times August 14, 2009

When I was a child there were times when entertainment was a little limited during the school year. Thus on such occasions my siblings and I on lazy Sundays would sit down and read the “matrimonial adverts” section out loud just for kicks.

Our first reaction would normally be “are you serious?” Quickly followed by, “Oh my God! You’ve got to be kidding me!” Then muffled giggles would start and slowly small outburst of laughter would creep in. By the end of just the first column the room would be filled with bellyaching, tears streaming, mouths open but no sound coming out insane laughter, while we would be trying to gasp for air .

Back then I couldn’t quite understand why men and women alike would base everything on a particular personification of a mate. This was very difficult for me to grasp, since I had grown up around people who would come up to my friends, family and myself and say things such as, “You’re so lucky! You have such beautiful olive skin! I have to suntan myself for hours on end, and after three or four days I get that gorgeous tan. Until then I look like a complete burnt red lobster!” Yes, you’ve guessed it. Caucasians or “Goras” as we would put it, would say that to us.

It has been a while since I looked at that section, until a good friend of mine pointed it out to me. We started discussing it and were filled with a sense of déjà vu. She and I started bursting with laughter. However, this time it was followed by solemn silence. Especially when she told me that one of the adverts had asked for a particular nonexistent species of girl (as usual in these things), quickly stating how a shop would be transferred to her name immediately upon the Nikah.

That statement didn’t hit below the belt, it took a direct hit in the face, leaving one with a helluva shiner.

I am well aware that these things happen regularly, for reasons whose validity I know nothing about. Everyone has their reasons, everyone has a list. Such a list consists of qualities for a mate that are more or less unattainable.

Having a list of characteristics that one looks for doesn’t trouble me. It’s the outcome of those characteristics and the peripherals used to achieve them, that saddens me.

“A fair girl, with a good height and slim, with a good family background [in other words has to be well off]” he says.

“A good-looking boy [fair she means], with a green-card, earns good money,” she says.

These are just the ones that are off the top of my head. We all know that there are far more severe adverts placed in the personal matrimonial section.

I wonder why in the world does a man or woman have to have a certain physical appearance or materialistic choices in order to be a suitable mate?

I guess the saying is true: “And we fall for pretty faces and the promises they make.”

Suppose you meet someone who is physically incredible. Or even brings a large amount of money into the relationship, or comes from the particular background that you want. How long will that last?

Even worse, what if you meet someone who fits your list of materialistic peripherals, but you don’t meet theirs? When that happens (and mind you it does happen a lot), the person just chooses to “settle” for whatever comes their way.

Disappointment then preludes their whole life, making everyone else’s miserable. For some it works out and for some it does not.

It would be unfair of me not to point out the fact that it is not entirely everyone’s fault. The “fair ones” in this particular part of the world are considered the epitome of beauty and have been told so all their life. If they are not fair enough, it doesn’t matter, they should be rich enough. So flaunt your money “darling”! Become an exhibitionist! Show the people whatcha got!

What if all the “fair people” in the country stood under the sun and turned a dark chocolaty colour? What if the rich people lost all their money?

Would be there be less marriages? Or would there be more realistic approaches towards companionship? Would the complications and the games cease to exist? Making life more wholesome and generic?

When you’ve been brought to think and act a certain way, take responsibility for only things that you’ve been told to do, it’s difficult for people to be anything but “just that”.

Such grooming doesn’t just necessarily come from family or home. The media is just as much to blame. I know, I know! We’ve all heard how the media targets such ideas and emphasizes them and brainwashes everyone.

Films, especially Bollywood films that attract most of Asia, have certain rules of looks, style and expectations that one should hold.

Advertisements: “Mera rang huwa gora gora, Mod girl cream bleach sey!”

The fashion world: There has to be a good height, and a slim body is a must. After all, the clothes should not be made to fit the average person!

However, it does make one wonder how the media started this whole ordeal.

Should we just blame the branded pseudo intellects of the fashion world who have caused the stunted mental growth of the general public? Or should we blame the stunted mentally decapitated general public for thinking like this and enforcing the branded phenomenon of the media upon themselves?

In Alex Haley’s book “Roots”, Kunta Kinta’s father had said to him prior to his capture “the darker the woman, the more beautiful she is.” There are some tribes in Africa who still believe this.

There are some villages in Eastern Europe (where the fair people are) that have the belief, that the physically bigger the man or woman, especially woman, the better it is.

It is easier to cut to the initial root of the problem provided you know where it is. I still haven’t quite figured out if we should blame the media as a whole or our predecessors for their baleful influence. Or should we take responsibility and blame our simple yet shallow selves?

However, dear reader, even if I haven’t figured it out, I hope you have!