It was blurry. She could make out only shapes and figures. The tension in the air was palpable and she had the distinct feeling that all eyes were upon her. An entire life had been building up to this occasion, and now it was time. ‘Here, take this,’ said a voice she recognised and yet didn’t know. A tray was placed in her hands. It was heavy, too heavy, and teetering with cups and a teapot. ‘Whatever you do, don’t make any mistakes’. She walked into the room and it felt cold and strange. He was there, sitting at the far end. She mustn’t stare. But how can she not? Her fate could be sealed in this moment.
This is how I remember one particular rishta encounter. The word rishta literally means relation; but it is most often used when a marriage suitor comes calling, family in tow, to ask for your hand in marriage. I was in my early twenties and the last thing on my mind was a rishta. Thankfully, I had suffered little pressure from my parents to consider marriage, although there is no doubt it was constantly on their mind. I should have suspected something was in the air when my mother started talking to a particular Aunty-ji who was renowned for arranging introductions. She asked for my ‘bio-data’. My mother hastily filled out a form with my essential details with the trepidation and hope of someone applying for a job. The Aunty-ji gently informed her to keep her expectations fairly low. ‘Doctors are out of your daughter’s league’, she warned. I had studied a subject entirely lacking in status (English literature) and was pursuing a career in journalism so could not possibly hope to reach such echelons. There was no need to entirely despair though. I did have some attributes to speak of, such as a ‘fair complexion’. Though the fact that I can’t make roti was a seriously negative point. Before long the Aunty found a match. I was lucky, she told my mum, because eligible men were thin on the ground.