One of my English teachers in High school told me that if I had something to say or to write, it would be best if I used language so simple my grandmother could understand what I was saying.  I looked at him squarely in the face and told him the joke was on him as neither of my grandmothers spoke English! He laughed and said, ‘Well kid, make it so easy that any English speaking grandmother will understand!’

So what does that have to do with what I am going to write next? Well, i am going to try to put my ideas as simply as possible so that I can get through to you as effectively as possible…Please get comfy and pretend to be some English speaking grandma on a Hawaiian getaway…ready?

The topic is one that bugs me immensely. The one which ‘bugs’ parents and their sons and daughters alike – RISHTAS or matchmaking.

I have many a horror story about my time in the living room- as do many parents, sons and daughters. Being a woman, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t believe girls had it that bad. Their experiences in the living room might actually be worse than some boys. Personally, I’ve gone thru simultaneous interviews by a sister and sister in law of a potential; I’ve been shocked by the arrival of multiple boys and been told to guess who the potential was (no one was happy about that and my parents who had walked in with me just told me to go, we obviously didn’t get the ‘joke’ ) ; and once a potential kept yawning in my face! AND these are the TAME stories- I have a few ‘wild tales’ for another time, perhaps.

These people didn’t just knock on the door randomly – well, one did- and ask to meet my parents about their ravishing daughter, the families were set up by the infamous RISHTA Aunty – who, by the way, was subject to change as time passed by.

Rishta aunties, and certain Rishta Uncles, are popular in the parent’s circle because, really, who couldn’t use a little help???

While there are very reliable individuals out there, there is also a majority of ‘let me take your money and prey on your insecurities’ types. These people have a limited number of people that they keep showing to everyone and they hope they just click somewhere. These people also tend to take your money and VANISH into thin air. You call and call and call, initially they pick up, and then the picking up ceases.

I have seen parents pay good money to a large number of women and men; after showcasing a family or two, these people vanish, along with your money. Someone once suggested that my parents call a woman who was the ‘best in the business!’ because at 28 and still single, i NEEDED a miracle. My supposed savior came to my home, checked the garage, the home and then told my parents that they should have called her sooner and she would have had me married by now. She told us of rishtas that ‘fit’ the bill and then threw in a few ‘super wealthy, super educated’ types. And then she mentioned her fee. A grand total of 6 lakh, 3 lakh to be given NOW and 3 lakh after the wedding. Also this fee included that the boy would be a national of some other country other than Pakistan (which is something I sorta of wanted as I wasn’t Pakistani). She told us we had to hurry because I was aging as I sat there, right before every ones eyes. She then threw out her disclaimers: namely that she wasn’t responsible for checking the background of any people she recommended , she couldn’t guarantee successful matches or weddings  and that WE would have to call her daily.

For the steep ‘price’ of a match, I would have thought she was well on her way to finding me a dream match and she would actually be able to say that we would be a fantastic match. I also thought SHE would be the one calling.

My mother, not being a Pakistani, had heard enough. She politely told the lady that she would call if she decided to take up her services and announced that we had to go for dinner. I looked at my mother with a surprised look on my face…what dinner? Was she really going to throw away my one shot at happiness? At that price, SURELY i would meet Mister right and I really wanted this torture to be over!

My father and I looked at each other as my mother came back after seeing ‘Mehngi Tareen Rishta Auntie’ out the door.

‘Where has your faith in Allah gone to!? WE ARE NOT PAYING ANYONE!’

‘But mooooooommmm!!!!!!!! Desperate times call for desperate measures!’

Looking back, I definitely see WHY she had shaken me. I had been brainwashed by this auntie momentarily; sure my parents wanted to marry me off and we had talked about God’s plan and how we should wait to actually meet someone who clicked but something in me had just gone bonkers. This ‘auntie’ had taken a bite out of my own self confidence by ‘selling’ marriage to me.

It took me a good nights sleep and some reflection to figure out what was going on. Was I really desperate ? Was Something wrong with me?? Was I too picky ??

To make a long story short, my husband eventually did show up after my 29th birthday and he was worth the wait. He came because it was my time to meet him and there was no rishta auntie or money involved. It was an arranged marriage that few people dare to go through now; the kind where it’s arranged and I was informed later!
And before you panic, yes I knew of him, and yes at this point, I had decided that my parents were fine to make that decision for me- and I do not regret it.

Even before my own marriage, people had been coming up to me asking me if i know someone for their sons, brothers, sisters, daughters, even themselves…and I have managed to get families to meet each other- but it always crossed my mind as to why people skipped me! I realize now that it is because of the age- and after my own marriage, i have noticed that there are now many more females above  the age of 25 in the list of women that I try to help.

After many conversations, I realized that many families fell prey to the rishta aunties & uncles that took their money and vanished. I’ve also noticed that the demands of families have gone up like anything – maybe that is why there is a rise in the ‘vanishing’ aunties;  they suddenly find that they cannot deliver custom orders.

To All the rishta aunties out there: please be honest and only take up what you can. If you’re charging people, at least CALL them.

No one is actually doing anyone a favor here, rishtas are supposed to be a community thing which no one actually does- we live in a society that is disconnected to each other. The demands on both ends are huge, the compromise is expected to be only at one end. COME ON.

It’s easier to let children marry the people they like, but lets face it, not everyone goes that route, some families are uneasy with it, theres a whole host of things.

I’m not writing this to ‘change’ society; maybe it will and people will help each other for free, people will learn to ditch unreal expectations (ex: ‘My son MUST marry a tall,slim,fair girl’ – you do realize that the average height is 5’4 and that when you see a 5’6 girl, some of you go, ‘oooo too tall’ ? Also, when going house to house, its NOT cool to say the girl isn’t pretty enough when the guy is no Brad Pitt) .

Remember people: You’re all beautiful, wonderful people and your time will come if it is meant for you. Great things come to those who wait patiently. And if along the way, things don’t go the marriage route…that’s fine too. Maybe there are BIG plans for you. Make your future wonderful.