He used to be medical graduate. His father was having a patch of farm in a village nearby. Asked by his father to go and collect rent from the farmer, the young doctor was crossing a canal on a ferry to reach the village. The ferryman asked where he would be boarding and also added, “You have no other go but to eat at the Jameendar’s house.” The young doctor threw a challenge at the ferryman, that he would marry the very nobleman’s daughter and be his guest. My father married my mother thus, and kept his word. Marriages, they say, are made in heaven and right on a ferry did my old man’s.
When prospective groom didn’t go to soon-to- be bride’s father asking for the girl’s hand, middlemen used to come in the picture. From a movie I recollect a scene where the hero walking with the groom’s party for a betrothal cleverly leaked out groom’s secrets to the passersby in the girl’s village by telling them unasked--not to ask about what groom wore, own or borrowed. The predicament of go-betweens, especially those closer to both the parties, is really unenviable.
Dowry becoming a curse word and illegal, the middlemen might be compelled to extract what is wanted from either side in a roundabout way. Among other things that involve are possibly the gifts such as air tickets, holiday home, jewelry and/or a flat in place of flat cash that used to be the case earlier.
Some go-betweens from the relatives used to have uncanny abilities in finding faults on either side of families by virtue of being Tahsildars, bankers or advocates. In fact, there used to be marriage brokers (Not to be mistaken for the new kind of professionals in this lucrative/community service these days, be it internet based) who used to be a breed apart meant to help anyone in the village freely. The first thing they would be looking out for was who would be asking for sugarless coffee. That fixes one drawback in the family gene for a beginning. Secondly, they closely listened to the loose talk by either side at the betrothal ceremonies. A lot of things are sure to spill out in the conversations among the guests, especially when the groom was ogling at the bride or bride furtively stealing the looks of groom. Small talk, however carefully managed reveals a family’s culture, status, education, hospitality, sense of humor, religious orientation, family health, et al. In those days, the concerns of groom and bride took a second place with respect to each other’s choices or options, only after elders’.
In my parent’s time, the boy and girl would meet for the first time in the presence of the young and old alike, sometimes neighbors and extended families included, for a round of interview. It was not a surprise if the boy was absent at the show. The girl used to be interviewed as always. She would be asked whether she knew how to cook, sing or write letters on post cards or inland letter cards.
In my time, the interview used to be what she passed and whether interested in a career. In the present generation the talk will be on going abroad for a career and other tastes, movies, future kids and their prospective schools, social life, etc. And the interview is now mostly personal, between the girl and boy, even in a family setting.
Society changed too fast and the relations between man and woman saw a sea change. In the globalised society no one can surely say what makes husband material or wife’s one, in the minds of the new youth. These days, not all of them care enough their parents’ wishes with respect to their choice of a spouse even when the marriage is arranged by one's own family. This is very right on the suitors’ part; after all they will be facing the life’s music ahead.
Good or bad, the understanding of a happy married life varies from couple to couple.