Archive for April, 2010


How Ugly Betty Can Get Married in India

Here in India,  it is not customary for boys to take out girls on dates.   Unlike most males who must develop social skills with the opposite sex, as usual, these type of boys depend on their mothers.   As you can imagine, an Indian mother has a different criteria for a daughter-in-law than a son might have.  Some  mothers are only  looking for a maid, a repository of her DNA.  More about DNA later.  She will choose a bride for her boy in the following ways:

1.  Ask for a resume or curriculum vitae.  Yes,  the prospective bride applies for matrimony as a job.  Does she have an M.A.?  If she doesn’t, she’s not worth her salt.  To meet the needs of nonacademic brides,  savvy businessmen have provided sham MBA’s at pseudo-universities.  (International recruiters, you have been warned.)

2.  Ask for a professional photo.  Every prospective bride must buy a traditional outfit and parade to the photographer’s to get her pictures taken.  On these pictures, her future may be determined.  Usually the photographer knows how to make her look wheatish.  While American girls are trying desperately to look tan, the Indian girls are bleaching their skin.  No matter how beautiful, if an Indian girl is dark, she may be doomed.

No matter how educated and skilled the daughter is, if the poor mother has an Ugly Betty on her hands,  the mother may have to settle for any drunken workman as a son-in-law.

3.  Ask for the horoscope.  The son’s mother will take the perspective bride’s date and hour of birth to an astrologer.  He will sift her data with the boy’s data.  No matter how otherwise suited the girl may be, if the astrologer says that the planets don’t line up for a fruitful marriage, the girl is doomed.

4.  Did I mention dowry?  Did you think that the dowry was outlawed?  Silly rabbit.  Female infanticide anyone?  Today my rickshaw driver said he is just about cursed because he has two girls.  They are healthy and beautiful and delightful.  No one celebrated when they were born.  It will cost the driver a small fortune to get each of them married.  It will be all he thinks about for the next 15 years.

5.  Caste–the girl must be from the right caste.  If not, it is as if she came from Mars.

But another factor is looming on the horizon that could trump these five main factors–DNA.  Stephen Quake’s photo looks like a handsome man that any mother would be proud to have as a son-in-law.  He’s a scientist to boot.  But he just had a full-DNA work-up.  He found that he has a rare genetic predisposition to a sudden heart attack.


You read it first here.  Soon, perspective brides will have to have a full DNA work-up.  The pretty light-skinned girl with the PhD from a high caste and a good horoscope may not be such a good candidate.  The Ugly Betty may have a fruitful DNA report.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Boys can become men and learn to develop relationships and make good decisions.


Reality is Over-Rated

I had a great partner, Prema, but she is busy moving to another city and has other commitments. My maid, Rukmani, has been with me for almost ten years. If any Indian knows me, she does. She can speak enough English for me to understand what’s going on. She also knows what I want to know and how I like things done.

I’ve been going to this anganwadi since last November. This was the first time that the helper didn’t turn up. We turned up to see the two teachers preparing lunch. One was cutting onions on the floor, and another one was going through the lentils to get out all the little stones. The kids were playing with the lentils.

We got the kids to get the mats and toys in the backroom and we set up for fun. In the back room, I found little frying pans that I had bought and forgot about. They are not toys here in Tamil Nadu; wives use them to cook their spices for the meal.

Well, these frying pans were a real hit. We pretended that the plastic rings that they use to make their pyramids on a stick could be seen as vadas. A vada is a spicy donut that Tamils have for breakfast. These kids loved pretending. I can’t tell you how many vadas I was served! These tiny Tamil men shamed their fathers as they produced some nice cooking.

Last week we boiled blocks on the cooker which happened to look a lot like styrofoam packing if you didn’t know better, but we did. How did I convince them that this square piece of styrofoam was a stove? Well I burnt my finger on it and cried out in pain and licked it to cool it off. That’s all it took to transport us into a kitchen.

Today, I have never seen so many kids so active but not noisy. They were serving each other–a new way for them to interact with each other. Everyone ate blue and green and yellow and pink vadas, even the teachers who were preparing the lunch.

And yes, the teachers cooked and the cook was a teacher. Go figure.