For Matrimonial Purposes

For Matrimonial Purposes

by Kavita Daswani


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780452285521
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/29/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.33(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.74(d)

About the Author

Kavita Daswani has been a fashion correspondent for CNN, CNBC Asia, and Women’s Wear Daily, has written for the Los Angeles Times and the International Herald Tribune, among many other publications, and has been the fashion editor for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong.

Read an Excerpt


The normal religious marriage was and still is arranged by the parents of the couple, after much consultation, and the study of omens, horoscopes and auspicious physical characteristics. . . . While a husband should be at least twenty, a girl should be married immediately before puberty.

-a. l. basham, the wonder that was India

My grandmother was married off two days shy of her tenth birthday.

My mother found a husband when she was twenty. I thus reckoned that if every generation increased by a decade the acceptable age for marriage, I should have become a wife by thirty.

But at thirty-three, I was nowhere close to being married. And it was this that brought much consternation to all, tainting the joy and inciting hitherto-suppressed family politics, at the wedding of my twenty-two-year-old cousin, Nina.


I was at a family wedding in Bombay, the city where I was born and had spent most of my life. My parents and two brothers still lived here, in the same house that I knew as a child, a house conveniently located just minutes from major temples and hotels. Which was a good thing, considering how much time they spent at such institutions, attending weddings just like this one. It was always, of course, someone else's wedding and never my own.

Nina had "jumped the line" as they all liked to say. She was much younger, and marrying before me. But then, as Nina's mother pointed out, how long could everyone wait?

I forced myself to smile and look happy. It wasn't that I was unhappy. It was just that, on this steaming May evening, I was hot and flustered, conscious of the damp fog-gray semicircles formed by droplets of sweat on the underarms of my sari blouse. I had to press my limbs down against my body so they wouldn't show against the light-colored fabric. Both the sari and blouse were creamy whipped pink, like the pearly sheen of the inside of a seashell, or of little girls' bows. Six yards of the fabric were wrapped, nipped and tucked around my body, making me look-in my estimation-like a blushing eggroll. At least that was what I told anyone who complimented me. I had been fidgeting all evening with the flowers in my hair. They were "faux," bought off a wooden stand on a Bombay street corner, papery and the size of half a fingernail, about a dozen of them pinned into my upswept coif. Not exactly my idea of understated chic. But my hairdresser insisted: "Your cousin is getting married! You need some decoration!"

Mercifully, understated wasn't the order of the day here at the Jhule Lal Temple. Nina was about to become a wife in the presence of three hundred people, most of whom she had never met. I felt self-conscious standing there on the sidelines, the older, unmarried cousin, aware that people were glancing over at me-yes, to see what I was wearing, but mostly to detect any hint of pain or jealousy on my face as yet another younger cousin married. I closed my eyes for a second, inhaled, found my center-the way they taught me to do at my Wednesday-evening hatha yoga class. Then I lifted up my smile and made it stay.

"Your turn next," said Aunty Mona, my mother's second cousin, who was standing next to me. She grinned, revealing a space between her two front teeth the size of East Timor. That gap was considered a sign of good luck. Any Indian face-reader worth his chapati dinner knew that the wider the space, the greater the fortune. "Don't worry, beti, it will be your turn soon," Aunty Mona consoled, patting me on the back. "God will listen to your prayers. It's all karma. Tsk tsk."

I allowed her to comfort me, as I had learned to do all these years, and noted how miraculous it was that my self-esteem wasn't completely annihilated by now. Since arriving in Bombay a week ago, I had been on the receiving end of many things-advice, sympathy, concern. But mostly, it was pity and consolation. Now, coming from Aunty Mona, these sentiments were delivered with the same gravity as a diagnosis of Lou Gehrig's disease. My relatives never thought to ask about my interesting and independent life in New York, what I did there, who my friends were, or whether I'd scored a ticket to The Producers when Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane were still in it. Instead, it was incessant: "Why aren't you married yet?"

I turned towards Nina, who really was the sweetest thing, looking a dream in her wedding sari. This was pink too, but a celebratory pink: deeper, richer, embellished with thick gold, a bridal bonus. The top of her gleaming black hair, parted down the center, was covered with the same fabric, her smooth white forehead dotted with tiny flecks of red paint in an arched design spliced in the middle by a gold-and-diamond bindi. Her hands, lavishly hennaed, reached up to push back a wisp of hair that had fallen into her half-closed eyes. Nina was praying, and blushing, swooning from the heat. She and her groom were sitting in front of a small bright orange fire, both sets of parents by their side, deep in their own thoughts as our family priest, Maharaj Girdhar, uttered thousands of

Sanskrit words that no one but him understood.

The ceremony was about done, and now came my favorite part-when the groom slipped his finger into a pot of sindoor and traced it down his new wife's hair-parting. The gesture seemed to say, "You're mine now. We belong to each other." He looked at her with something that appeared to be pride mixed with awe. While it might not yet be love, the happiness seemed real, born of gratitude.

He also seemed relieved. He had done it-found the perfect bride. Now the fun would start. Later, they would spend their first night together, and kiss for the first time.

The groom had won Nina's heart without really trying. She'd fallen for his looks, his height (five-foot-eleven), his casual, easygoing demeanor. It was an arranged match. They had met twice and then gotten engaged. That had been five weeks ago.

The couple stood, poised to garland one another and exchange rings. Nina bowed her head before her new husband, who looked upon her excitedly, like an archaeologist who had just stumbled across some rare artifact and couldn't wait to examine it. Within seconds, they were surrounded by waves of well-wishers who hugged, kissed, shook hands and leaned in to see up-close just how big the necklace was that Nina's parents had given her. Everybody wanted to know the precise carat weight of the marquis diamond her groom had placed on the slender ring finger of her left hand.

It was time for me to make my way through the pack of people towards the couple. En masse, they smelt of sweat, turmeric, paan leaves and Pantene hair oil. I could detect here and there a whiff of Charlie perfume that I knew had been sitting in someone's metal Godrej cupboard for fifteen years. I winced for a second, but when I reached them, summoned up all my warmth and goodwill and embraced them.

"You look gorgeous, honey, I'm so happy for you. God bless," I said, kissing Nina's smooth, warm cheek.

"Didi Anju," she whispered, taking my hand. I loved how she always referred to me as "didi"-big sister. "I said a prayer for you while I was walking around the fire taking my vows. You'll be next. I asked God, and God always listens to the prayers of brides."

The pure sweetness of the gesture made me want to cry, but tears here would be misconstrued as a sign of longing and sadness, so I pinched them back. I turned to the groom and looked up at him.

"Congratulations, sweetie," I said, reaching up to hug him. "You look after her."

I became, as the word didi implied, the generous, solid, single, big sister.

That duty done, I turned and wove my way through the clusters of chattering people who were shuffling out of the hall to a large dining room below. I found my parents in one corner and padded, still barefoot, over to them. Next would come the horror of trying to find my shoes in the pile outside. Bombay weddings were notorious for shoe theft, and I began wondering-belatedly-how good an idea it had been to wear my Dolce & Gabbana mules today.

"Okay, come, let's go downstairs and eat," said my mother, as she automatically adjusted the part of my sari that was coming undone.

My father was mopping the sweat from his brow with a handkerchief.

"Too damn hot," he said. "Let's go downstairs. Maybe it's cooler there."

The large air-conditioners rumbled away, blowing frosty air on the long lines of people forming at the buffet table. My father put away his handkerchief and picked up a plate.

"Okay," said my mother, turning to me. "Have you seen anyone here you like? Any nice boys?"

"Mum, I haven't really been paying attention," I replied. "I wanted to watch the wedding ceremony properly."

Again, my mother sighed and looked around. People carrying plates piled with spicy eggplant and vegetable biryani were starting to fill up the rows of plastic chairs that had been set out.

That's when she spotted him.

"Who's he?" my mother asked, a finger pointing at a stranger in black across the room. "The boy talking to Maharaj Girdhar."

"Mum, stop pointing! And how am I supposed to know?" I was getting testy. This was inevitable, this scouting around for available men at a family wedding. But I was hot and tired, my sari felt like it was coming unwrapped, and, a day away from getting my period, I just wasn't in the mood. My psychic, had he been there, would have said that I was experiencing a mild form of resentment at Nina's new matrimonial state, that it had brought up my worst fears about my own future. Because he had been right about such reactions in the past, I decided on the spot that from now on I'd save the money I'd spent on him for shoes.

But the Great Official Husband-Hunt, as I had come to call it, was well underway. I had been here for several days, and there had been some talk of this boy and that. Tonight, my mother had spotted a real-life prospect.


What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"It’s Sex and the City where sex is replaced with saris and samosas." —Seattle Weekly

"Hilariously funny…a reader can’t help but end up rooting for Anju in her quest." —L.A. Weekly

"My Big Fat Bombay Wedding…with a fine ear for dialogue and a tender wit." —Kirkus Reviews

Customer Reviews

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For Matrimonial Purposes 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Radella on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The sequence of the story was a little off, starting in the middle then going back to the beginning. While this can work well in a story, it doesn't quite work well in this book. It was a good starting point, but going back was tedious. I kept wanting to get to when the story began. It wasn't very cohesive, either. Was it a book about being an immigrant? The cultural differences? Family? Religion? Finding a husband? it flitted about, not really staying on one topic enough to explore it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I probably had a lot of expectations from this book and thats why was a little disappointed when I finished reading it. I felt that the author tried to generalize and make it seem like the whole of Mumbai (formerly know as Bombay) is a matrimonial market. Well, there are definitely specific sects in Mumbai that are totally into the matrimonial scene....but thats how far I would take it...there is a large part of the city that is not at all like this..that consists of individual who go bar hopping , hang around in coffee shops,...and are involved in a bunch of other social events..not all Indian women get married off when they are at the tender age of 18 or 19 anymore....we all want to be financially independant before we can tie the knot with a boy selected by our parents( which again is not as common as it was even few years ago )....and being from Mumbai I can say this...however to a reader who does not know anything about India....Mumbai will come across as a totally different place. I felt a lot of the things we just taken off from Sex and the City. The talk of the cosmopolitins and Manolo Blahnik ....I wonder why the aurthor could not come up with something more original... The whole book is about her search for a 'perfect husband' however when she finally meets that person.....the ending just seems abrupt and shortened into just 8 - 12 pages...I didnt really quite get this ? It felt as if she ran out of material and had a sudden fair tale ending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a definite must read for any south asian female who has gone the arranged marriage pressure. The author does a wonderful job delivering the story in a humorous, witty way.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This one took me a little bit to get through, I think mostly because I had a really busy week with my birthday on last Saturday. It was also a little slow in parts, but I did enjoy it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is for anyone who has had the pressure to find a spouse. This urgency in the Indian culture is vastly different than american culture, 1 date on thursday and a wedding date set on friday is completely normal. The heroine's inner thoughts on finding the love of your life and her personal journey were heart-breaking, yet she put a comedic spin on it. A lot deeper and touching than most chick-lit stories. Recommend it fully.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderful book! I could not put it down. I think everyone should read it! (:
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read that story during a trip in India , as a matter of fact , and this is such a great read ; incredibly honest ,open and lively ;with a je ne sais quoi which makes it unputdownable... an absolute must for anyone interested in the indian culture
Guest More than 1 year ago
Maybe I expected too much. For Matrimonial Purposes was about as disappointing as Anju's search for a husband. I thought the novel took ENTIRELY too long to get to the climax. After about the 15th marital disaster, I had had enough. Somehow, I found the power to finish the book and must say that I was really really disappointed. I expected so much more for when Anju finally met her perfect match. The book's focus was neither here nor there - it was neither on her Indian life nor her American life. If the novel was supposed to be about her search for love, then it was more of an Indian living manual for unmarried adult daughters than her potential mates. All in all - incredibly disappointing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Awesome book!! Liked it a lot...
Guest More than 1 year ago
A good read. Enjoyable and witty. Most Indian girls who are Anju/Kavita's contemporaries would enjoy reading this book. The grandeur and 'show off of wealth' of Indian weddings is well brought out. Wish Kavita had spent more time on the building of Anju and Rohan's ( Mr. Right) relationship. You put down the book thinking that Kavita did not spend enough time on building Mr. Right's credentials. Kavita's brought out very well the desperation of Indian parents to get their daughter married and one tends to identify with Anju's thoughts as she meets the various prospective husbands in the family's efforts to get her married. Another interesting aspect of the book is Anju's Indian ness which stays with her despite a glamorous career. Good reading on a lazy Sunday afternoon.