I Married a Total Stranger
Marriage, I soon learned, wasn't easy — especially to a modern man. My
husband had acquired a mistress, and her name was BlackBerry. She had the power
to stop discussions midsentence, her red signal lighting up his face in the way
I only dreamed of doing.
With his work schedule and my burgeoning social calendar, our love story
unfolded on fluorescent Post-its stuck to the fridge: "Water plants."
"Out of toothpaste." "Make baby tonight." Nothing, it seemed,
was left to chance.
Slowly, I was getting to know my husband, even starting to fall in love with
him. Though we were from the same ethnic background and had a similar
upbringing, he had spent his impressionable years in America. He liked
baseball, oatmeal, tofu, and bran muffins. I followed cricket and thought of
oats and bran as the stuff we fed horses. I had no idea how to do laundry in
machines. On my first attempt, I shrank his favorite Burberry sweater. Luckily,
he didn't expect me to conform to the traditional roles within a marriage. Even
so, he had always wanted an arranged marriage because he felt it would be
easier for him to share a life with someone who understood his upbringing and
But I could not escape tradition entirely. In a matter of months, our home
became an extension of the Air India terminal, as uncles, sisters, brothers,
and distant cousins settled in on the pull-out couch. (I'd forgotten that an
Indian woman marries a family, not just a man.) For three months, I endured
gigantic suitcases in the middle of the living room, curry wafting into the
hallway, and prayer bells at 6 a.m. sharp. I envied my friend Anna, whose
Swedish parents stayed in a hotel, treated her to brunch at Serafina, and
busied themselves at Bloomie's.
To escape the houseguests, I found a job as a financial consultant. The
New York Times in one hand, coffee in the other, I realized that my saris
of bright pink, violet, and salmon were not exactly subway wear. Quickly, I
succumbed to Levi's and Ralph Lauren.
My officemates were intrigued when they heard about my arranged marriage.
"It's nice to have a spiritual and family connection with your husband,
rather than one that begins in a bar and ends with sex," sighed leggy
Victoria from Brooklyn, who frequented eHarmony and match.com.
That's when I started to realize that I just might have the best of both
worlds. I marinated my Indian marriage in the flavors of Manhattan. I kept the
sari and bought the Jimmy Choos. I made fabulous curries, seasoned with spices
from Dean & Deluca. And after months of enjoying decidedly non-Indian
experiences of seders, Saks, and sake, I felt confident enough to direct Indian
guests to a hotel, occasionally throwing in a MetroCard.