Anu found herself tested as a young woman as her parents tried to find the right person for her to marry. After her father answered a newspaper advertisement from a young professor, she agreed to an arranged marriage, which meant leaving India.
It is 1967, and I’ve been married one month—an arranged marriage to a stranger who has taken me to this country: Canada. I am getting ready to go to a party. Tonight, I’ll meet his colleagues: the physicists. I arrange the folds of my pink silver brocade sari and slip my feet into the silver sandals, remembering how I acquired them.
My parents had come to me: “Now that you are teaching in a college and are independent, it’s time to get married.” My mother added, “If you know of someone or like someone, let us know, and we will meet him.”
But I’d been raised in a protective family environment, studying in an all-girls college, staying in girls-only residences. I never had the chance to meet anyone! I replied, “You’re my parents—I trust you.”
Thus, the marriage process started. Parents contacted their friends, who contacted friends of friends. That is how I found myself at my dad’s friend’s house in Delhi, waiting to be interviewed by a suitable boy and his family. “Uncle” briefed me about the boy’s family. They belonged to an upper-middle-class family and were looking for a well-educated girl. Uncle said, “Show me which sari and shoes you’ll be wearing.” My clothing was approved, but my shoes were totally rejected. “You have to wear some heels. They’re classy and sophisticated.” His opinion carried weight as he knew the ways of the big city!
Off I went, with Uncle, to the best shoe shop in Delhi. I spent hours trying on pumps, platforms, pencils, kittens, stilettos, sandals, slingbacks, teetering in heels. Then Eureka! A pair of silver slingbacks with three-inch heels. The next morning was spent mastering the technique of walking in them without tripping over myself.
The suitable boy and his family came, and I brought in a tray full of dainty teacups and sweets without tripping even once! I replied to all the questions. I was approved. Then came the shocking part of the interview. The suitable boy’s family mentioned a dowry in a roundabout way. “We’re sure you’ll want your daughter to be happy. This is our only son, and we have spent a lot on his study. Maybe a car would be in order? For her?”
My parents and I were totally against any type of dowry. My foremost thought was that my parents had spent a lot on my education too. I relayed my response through Uncle: “NO.” I went back to my teaching job, with those heels tucked in my suitcase. The process went on for months. Suitable boys interviewing me; me interviewing them. He’s too traditional; he’s not traditional enough; he drinks. She’s too independent; she’s too dark. She studied away from home. Sources from friends tapered off. I was labelled too picky. My mother got very frustrated. My father resorted to answering newspaper matrimonial ads, and that is how he found me the perfect boy. With compassion for my parents, this boy wrote, “You only have two daughters—would you be willing to let your eldest go so far away from you?” He had absolutely no demands and actually insisted I should leave my parental home without buying new clothes, bringing only the clothes on my back.
It has been a month since marrying this gentle stranger with kind eyes, a lovely smile, strong principles, and high ideals. I’m in Canada with my silver heels as a reminder to stay true to my values and integrity and still have something, and someone, beautiful in my life
Anu Joshi came to Canada from India in 1967 after working in a college as a home economics teacher. She married a physics professor at St. Francis Xavier University, raised her family and worked in a doctor’s office for many years.