Truth be told, I’ve always been a pessimist when it comes to the concept of true love, yet here I am planning my wedding. Now, my biggest priority is the damage my bank account will have to handle and the nagging worry that married life might start with bad credit. But the woes I’m currently facing pales in comparison to what women in other countries such as Saudi Arabia or Egypt face.
‘A Suitable Girl’ zeroes in on the story of three women in India, Dipti, Ritu and Amrita, each going about their everyday lives while their families worry about their potential suitors. I don’t deny that parents do like to stick their noses into marriage preparation, and they feel like they’re responsible for making sure that we marry the “right” man or woman. However, the parents of these young women will go the distance and hitch up their saris to scour India to find their daughters a “perfect” man.
Over four years, their stories develop and showed the women’s desperation and reluctance to get married. Dipti has always put her career first—pushing for further education to gain her Masters before pursuing a job in the industry. Her unwillingness to commit is scant reason to stop her parents from visiting fortune-tellers and face-readers to find her a “perfect” groom. She fears that holy matrimony will result in her loss of ambition and drive.
In stark contrast to Dipti’s resistance to marriage, Ritu’s unusual enthusiasm is one you could liken to a child’s fairytale fantasy. She willingly flips through the local newspaper alongside her parents, browsing the advertisements and discussing the various characteristics of each potential groom. A visit from a shortlisted candidate, a brief question and answer session revolving around his favourite tea and his ideal woman, leaves her love-struck.
However, the reality soon hits her when she realises that despite making multiple calls to the ones she’s drawn to, having a short conversation that makes them compatible, and anticipating their “I’ll call you” that never comes, love is never that easy. It’s an all too common situation most of us are familiar with—ghosting. All that’s left is a dejected and devastated young woman questioning her worth and wondering whether her Prince Charming would come and rescue her from the embarrassment of singlehood.
Finally, you’ll see Amrita advising a friend about her main worry—not being able to bear a child despite being married for three years. It’s expected that women bear children once they’re married, hence she feels like a big disappointment. Besides, she had to move from the big city she’s used to, to a small confined town on the outskirts of India. She has to embrace the traditional lifestyle—wearing a sari even at home, stashing away her Western clothes as a sign of respect for her in-laws.
‘A Suitable Girl’ is an incredibly approachable documentary; taking on themes that are still relevant in the modern age and shedding new light on them—allowing us to glimpse at a different perspective from a different part of the world. You end up comparing the lives of these young women to your own, wondering how would you react if you were in their position of having marriage forced down your throat.
Having conversations about marriage and adult life is common, but I’m unable to picture myself in the position where my friend is telling me “I need a child now, it’s been three years. I’ll be dead,” because society finds it a need whether or not your life is stable.
I suppose my worry about money for a simple wedding isn’t that bad after all. One day, I could be looking through an advertisement in the paper and worrying if a guy is ‘halal’ enough for my family, the next, asking him what nasi goreng he likes and 24 hours later, I could be his wife.
Now that’s a scary thought.
Watch Now: A Suitable Girl
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