When a desi woman turns 23 or graduates from college, whichever milestone of higher value comes first, a very peculiar thing happens. Very peculiar indeed. She might lose a limb or two, or a large hole may appear in her chest, growing incrementally larger with every day she ages. She may even start fading away, like in a photograph of Marty McFly’s siblings or begin to resemble a nice slice of Swiss cheese (aesthetically, not odorifically). Whatever the nature of her fragmentation, when her dear old granny looks at her granddaughter all she sees is an incomplete, hole-y piece of cheese. This beautiful, witty, hilarious young woman with a Bachelors with Honours who provides pro bono legal aid services to disadvantaged families on the weekends and does newspaper crosswords in ball-point pen when she isn’t backpacking across Eastern Europe is now simply a single salt shaker from a matching set of two. What is salt without pepper, I ask you, dear reader? The answer, quite truthfully: nothing. Can you imagine salting your fried egg without peppering it? Ugh, gross.
The simplest solution to this age-old conundrum is, of course, one of those comically large phalluses, err, pepper grinders you see in Italian restaurants that claim to be pastiche but are really quite sincere in their rustic rusticness. Now that you’ve got my drift I’ll do away with my salt ‘n’ pepper metaphor, which admittedly was working rather well up until I got hungry and cooked a six-egg frittata.
The day after granddaughter’s graduation, Dadi/Nani burrows into the deep, dark recesses of her mothballed closet to find that handy little thing she buried back there when her friend’s great-niece got hitched. After 4 days and 5 nights in the burrow, Dadi/Nani emerges triumphant, clutching in her tiny, wrinkly little fist a man-sized butterfly net. It’s time to go man-huntin’! Now don’t be silly, dearest darlingest reader, grannies don’t simply use butterfly nets to catch men. Sometimes they use lassoes. How do you solve a problem like Maria? Catch her a man, obvs.
The thing is, I don’t really have a problem with some good old matchmaking fun. For those of us who enjoy the company of a companion, it is quite a welcome kindness. The problem is the granny-approved belief that eligible bachelors are the rarest, most precious substance on Earth that can probably solve the energy crisis. Young girls are encouraged to patao or entrap one of these flawless creatures, fighting off other young women to do so. The snot-nosed, golden-haired little princes sit on velvet-tufted divans (think an Indian Kim Jong-Un) while their mothers call around town instructing the poor peasantry (parents of girls) on what they want in a daughter-in-law. I think it’s time for the peasant class to overthrow their overlords once and for all and ask, nay, demand: “Well, what the fuck does your slack-jawed, soft-bellied, certified pervert son bring to the table, I say?”
My heart races at the thought of the panic that would ensue once the women of Asia realise their worth. We could feed off of the anxiety we cause when we tell prying Aunties that we don’t really care for men nor marriage, and we’re having quite a good time, to be honest. A weird little husband would kind of ruin what we got going on. Your sons don’t really do it for us, Aunties. We get that you’re trying to get your product off your shelves, but it isn’t really what we’re buying, and it’s kind of cheap quality.
A woman who doesn’t need a man or the approval of society scares the shit out of people – and it’s time for Halloween in India. In the original telling of Cinderella, the stepsisters actually cut off parts of their feet and try to stuff the bloody mess into the glass slipper to convince Prince Charming (more like Prince Boring) to choose them. I hope we’re done cutting off bits of ourselves to win men who aren’t really worth the trouble, and we should embrace our big, hairy (this is an honest piece) Indian feet. The moral of my story, my salt shakers, is that Indian women don’t really need men to complete them. We’re great just as we are. And if we do get married, it’s on our terms – and we don’t want substandard maal.