1. The last-minute phone call. The plain, boiling anger that erupts in the pit of my stomach when I am informed by my “I-am-not-asking-I-am-telling” mother that she has received a call from a very close cousin of the sister of a teacher who used to work at her school five years back. Cosy, no?
2. Rishta Karanay Wali Aunties (RKWAs). The neatly-stacked application forms would have you believe that you are simply filling out your particulars for a job interview but all the while they are closely watching how you speak with your khala. My own friend’s prospective bride was instantly rejected by the RKWA when the electricity went out and she uttered a mild expletive.
3. RKWAs again. Why, oh why, has she sent more ogling larkay-walay at your doorstep when your father clearly warned her that the last family was still being considered. Did she really think what he meant was, “Even if I politely ask for some time, keep sending people to our house to make my daughter uncomfortable.”
4. The larkay-walay. They can number anywhere from two to 20, depending upon their “khandani sharafat” (no more than three persons) or the “paitoo kind” (more than 10)…which brings me to the next point.
5. The appetite of the larkay-walay. What is this, people? An all-you-can-eat buffet? If you are all so busy stuffing your faces with the ceremoniously prepared and laid out food, who is doing the “larki daikhna”?
6. The butterflies — no, too beautiful an insect — the moths in one’s stomach before the larkay walay come to see you. A movie dialogue aptly sums it up: “Woh aa ke kahain gay, hans kay dikhao, chal kay dikhao, bol kay dikhao…aur mujhay yeh sub karna paray ga!” Sigh.
7. The larka. Good God, did I die and go to hell? Surely, this must be the much older, already-married brother of the larka that the RKWA was telling us about? Last time I checked, my application form did not insure me against the cardiac condition that is making its way up my left arm while the larka sits across and darts quick glances my way when he thinks no one is looking.
8. The feeling that you are being watched starts the minute you put your high heels on the green carpet/shaadi lawn. This is your sixth sense, and it lets you know that sooner or later some auntie will come up to you and start asking biting personal questions that will leave you seething, or better yet, she will go directly to your mother.
9. And they were never heard from again. Courtesy is probably too hard a word to pronounce for the larka-walas who vaccuumed the hi-tea that you served. I don’t know what is more painful though: the call that never comes or the one that does, just to say “Hamain aap ki larki pasand nahi aaee.”
10. The experience just sticks with you. Even after getting married, I still get shivers when I hear that someone is coming to somebody else’s home to see the larki.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2010.