By Zee Monodee
I am a 3rdgeneration Indian, born and raised on the south Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Bollywood movies? Story of my life, literally! No, we didn’t break into song at every opportunity, but the drama and over-the-top-ness of the Indians in those movies? We had our fair share...sometimes multiplied triple-fold by overbearing mothers and aunties who (supposedly!) know best!
So what’s life like for a girl of Indian origin, never mind in India, Mauritius, or everywhere there’s an Indian diaspora thriving?
You can expect to be going on the marriage mart – officially, that is – when you turn 16. Yes, you read that right! It’s not unheard of to have girls in the A-levels’/junior & senior years already engaged and going to tie the knot the minute they graduate high school.
Oh, and if you’re one of the super-beautiful ones (especially, understand by that, that you have fair to white skin!), you can be snapped up as early as 14! Society mamas, or even prospecting future bridegrooms, prowl wedding ceremonies on the lookout for the most beautiful/fair girl so she can be snapped up ASAP (Beyonce’s “if you like it then you better put a ring on it” rings soooo true here!).
So yeah, let’s imagine that like the majority of Indian-origin girls, you have brown skin (from pale almond butter brown to honey tone to really roasted-nut hues... If you’re darker than an unpeeled almond, you can hope to join the line of becoming an old maid because no society mama wants a dark-skinned girl for her boy!).
What happens now? You’re, say, 18 years old, and have finished school. University is a diversion that can be ‘tolerated’ for the sake of the girl getting a top notch job later and thus making her even more snap-worthy on the marriage mart (hopefully, before she turns 25. After that, the prospect of the old maid shelf starts to loom...)
Remember those obnoxious and overbearing aunties? That’s when they come into play. There’s even a name for them – the “agwa”, literally meaning, the matchmaker. Well, ‘agwa’ auntie will approach your mum and tell her of this “very suitable boy looking for a girl to marry.”
If he’s tall, the eligible pool will be reduced to tall girls; same if he’s short. Then there’s the question of – does he want a wife who will work outside the house, or does he require a housewife? Of course, the family AND his whole
life/dating/existence history would’ve been vetted beforehand! (Same for the girl, btw). If ever he/she has had the misfortune of being spoken for or worse, engaged and then the relationship broke, everyone will expect to know what went wrong, and especially whose fault it was! (because, of course, there’s got to be one at fault, and that person will then be blackballed in the ‘agwa’ world).
I always expected an auntie would bring a “proposal” (yes, like a business merger!) for me when the time would come for me to “look for a suitable boy”. Luckily, I never got to that stage, because I had the good luck of marrying the one I fell in love with (to stay in tune with Bollywood drama, there’d have been countless wailing and tears from the mother – “How could you do this to me, to our family? Don’t you have any shame?” – intense perusal of the other party’s life, family, family tree, finances, social status, etc – not to forget the many, many talks of “are you sure of what you’re doing?” Note: these can sometimes turn into brainwashing sessions!)
Diya Hemant, the heroine of Light My World, is one of those girls who vowed she would never let herself be entrapped in any alliance by an “agwa” auntie! Thanks to her combative spirit, she succeeds...and then she is 24 years old and she herself knows the time has come for her to settle down. She’ll find Mr. Perfect on her own terms, thank you....but she never expected this quest could prove so hard – there are frogs everywhere, and worse, there’s even an ogre who appears into the picture!
What’s a girl to do? Find out in Light My World, Book 2 of the Island Girl trilogy!
From Mauritius with love,