information about the "A Marriage made in Heaven"
book by Vatsala and Ehud Sperling
For years, just like millions of
my fellow countrymen, I never missed reading the Sunday paper.
I rushed through the endless speculations about movie stars
joining political parties or forming their own, skimmed past
articles on local thugs snatching gold chains from the throats
of women on busy avenues, and got hold of one particular section:
"Matrimonials." Weekend after weekend, my discerning
eyes scanned the columns in search of the door/key to my future:
Horoscope invited from Madurai native parents
of same caste, educated, cultured, beautiful girl for our
son, officer in a British multinational firm. We are Tamil
Iyer, Vadama, Bharadwaja gotram from Madurai. Box XXXX-20,
Smart, well built orthopedic surgeon, Punjabi
jat from Jallandhar, having own nursing home, latest model
Maruti cars, own house, seeks beautiful, very fair, tall and
slender gynecologist/obstetrician from very well to do jat
family. Never married girl with good figure and less than
20 years of age. Returnable color photograph and horoscope
to Box 2229, The Times of India. Indore..
Yadava, Tirunelveli, in public LTD co in Madras
earning 6000 seeks good looking graduate girl from similar
background, preferably working in Madras. Horoscope to Box
XY2121 Hindustan Times. Delhi-2.
Having examined thousands of such advertisements
in four national newspapers, I became an expert in reading
between the lines. Even though the advertisement consisted
of only forty to fifty words, I could almost read the mind
of the person who had put in the ad. I could easily classify
these advertisers as sex crazy, money crazy, figure crazy,
color crazy, degree crazy, status crazy, culture crazy, hypocrite,
slave driver, egomaniac, bride killer, and so forth.
for example, a fifty-year-old divorced man wants a twenty-year-old
fair, smart, girl with a beautiful figure. He is obviously
looking for sex with a young babe and not for a mature wife
who might be suitable to his temperament and physical conditions.
When the advertiser states clearly that he has many modern
houses, agricultural land, and the latest cars, and wants
a bride from a similar background, he is not likely to be
kind and accepting of someone with little or no money. Next,
when an ad states the caste, religion, language, family lineage,
and region very clearly, and asks for a horoscope, it means
that the advertiser will not deviate from the set pattern
and would never reply to a letter from anyone except the parents
of the girl.
When I first began replying to the advertisements
in an effort to find a husband for myself, I replied-by mistake
or by chance-to many such ads. In the majority of cases, I
never heard back. In a few cases, I received very negative
and highly insulting replies. Thus I learned my lesson, and
learned the science and the art of reading the fine print.
Most of the ads were placed by people whom I did not care
to meet or know because they were, for whatever reason, locked
up in their own mental prisons. They were in no condition
to see that something good might possibly exist beyond their
own set of limits, horizons, and beliefs. Very early on, I
decided that I would not spend any time chasing people who
I was seeking a levelheaded, simple, normal,
total human being whose value system was the same as mine,
who was not suffering from any manias or phobias. This man
had to be focused and successful in his chosen or given mission
in life. He should move through his life with a cheerful and
generous attitude. Week after week I scanned the ads, sighing,
"Oh, God, does such a person exist? Where is he? Can
I ever meet him? Oh, dear God, will you please show me the
right way, give me courage to reach the goal that you have
set for me?"
This was one of those precious Sundays when
I was off work and spending time at home with Amma, my mother.
She was busy, too, scanning the ads in Tamil-language newspapers.
I walked over to her and read this ad aloud to her. She listened,
was quiet for a long time, and then said, "Always be
aware, use your common sense, be fair and truthful in your
actions, trust in God for guidance, and go ahead without fear.
Do what you feel is right."
After listening to the wise counsel of my mother,
I read the ad again, trying to visualize the person whose
mind worked to put these words together. I did feel that this
ad was possibly the one that would take me to where I belonged.
After all, every event and every moment in life is always
loaded with possibilities, both good and bad. To explore these
possibilities we must take action.
Go for your pen, move, get started. I heard
these words in my mind and reached for my best pen.
This refers to your advertisement that appeared in the Hindu
dated March 5. May I introduce myself? I am B. R. Vatsala,
a tall, slim, brown-complexioned woman with well-defined
sharp features. Born on 1st January, 1961 at Jamshedpur,
Bihar in North India, I moved to Nagpur as a student and
spent five years earning a bachelor's and a master's degree
in microbiology from Nagpur University. It was a memorable
as well as happy moment for me when I received a prestigious
Gold Medal from the President of India Dr. Sankar Dayal
Sharma for standing first in order of merit at the master
of sciences (M.Sc., Microbiology) examination. All through
my student years, I received many laurels for academic and
extracurricular achievements. Besides studies I have other
interests too that include painting, knitting, tailoring,
photography, and reading for fun. I enjoy Nature. I also
happen to be a health enthusiast and a strict vegetarian,
though I learned cooking nonvegetarian food as a student
living in a hostel. I have a calm and friendly disposition.
I get along well with people and am concerned about their
welfare. Presently, since 1991 December, I have been on
the staff of a 200-bed pediatric hospital in Madras, working
as chief of clinical microbiology services.
As regards my family and cultural background,
we are educated, upper-middle-class, Tamil Brahmins, vegetarian,
Hindu Indians originating from Madurai. My father worked
for TATA Iron and Steel Company for over 45 years. He is
a strong, very loud and lively, deeply religious, very honest,
and healthy young man of only 81 years. My mother has been
a devoted homemaker. In between being a great wife and a
mother to six children and eight grandchildren, she somehow
found time to maintain a very peaceful, spiritual, happy
environment at home and successfully composed nearly 275
original bhajans, songs, and prayer chants in Tamil. She
has a delicious sweet voice too, and it is a norm in our
household to wake up early in the mornings to the sound
of my Holy Mother's prayers and music filling the atmosphere.
I have one older brother, who works in life insurance, is
married to a banker, and is settled in Madurai. My four
older sisters are married, have kids, and are living in
various parts of India and abroad. All my siblings are college
graduates who had responsible jobs prior to their marriages.
I am looking forward to meeting a suitable
man with whom to share life and grow, hence this letter.
I am enclosing a photograph of myself. I would be grateful
if you could write back at your earliest convenience.
B. R. Vatsala
percent of the people who scan the matrimonial columns to
find a suitable match for their wards would not bother to
read this letter. They would consider me a total outcast-a
strong-headed, footloose feminist who is out of her family's
control and hence has low or no moral character. These moral
guardians of my society would not waste their time or stationery
in replying to my letter. Such was the mentality of my countrymen,
my community, and my culture.
Personally, yes, I have great respect
for this cultural rigidity so prevalent in India, and
see it as a safety device against the moths that threaten
the fabric of our cultural and social traditions. No
complaints. I didn't wish to bring about a massive transition
in the Indian social code and structure. But as far
as my own life was concerned, if I ever wanted to find
a suitable man and get married, I simply had to be prepared
to be a revolutionary, a warrior. I had to be willing
and able to be sure of what I wanted, to know how to
find it, and to lose no dignity in charting my own path.
Well, my dear, it was one woman against an entire country-against
thousands of years of established cultural practices.
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