Arranged Marriage of My Cousin

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“Do you want a shaadi ka laddoo?” My aunt would offer me with a smirk, nearly every day I went to her house after her daughter got married. It wasn’t a surprise that she had a bountiful supply of sweets, as everyone who was invited to the wedding brought a box or two. I scrunched up my nose every time she mentioned that sweet, round, and orange confection.

You might be thinking that I’m not so fond of desserts — but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Each scrunch was not for the calories I would be taking in with each bite, but for the satisfaction my relatives would get from telling me that I would be a year closer to getting married with each shaadi ka laddoo I ate. After all, a Bengali wedding meant celebrations, new relations, money, and of course, sweets, for relatives. For myself, the one getting married, it meant meeting a man I have never heard of, possibly from another country. After a while, I realized the man is not chosen primarily for the type of person he is, but for the property and money with his name engraved upon it. My cousin was married at the age of nineteen, and I found about her marriage before she did. Naturally, I tried to dismiss the idea of her being married to a man in Bangladesh, as she did too. No matter how many legitimate disadvantages she and I gave about the marriage to our mothers, both involved in arranging the marriage, they told us the man was “perfect,” and the decision remained intact. It meant moving to this person’s parents’ house after marriage, and having my ability to cook traditional dishes put to the test. Could I make a good chicken curry? Was my vegetable stir fry well seasoned? The person’s parents would expect me to cook for them daily.

I’ve always wondered if that was a realistic demand, given that young females in the twenty first century don’t spend a lot of their time cooking. I’ve made countless batches of cupcakes and cookies, but have never made a single curry, unless stirring the contents of the pot for my mother counts. Since there was no way out of her situation, I decided to help my cousin prepare for her new role. As far as I knew, she never cooked any curries either, as both of our mothers did their cooking while we were at school. I spent my weekends looking up recipe after recipe, making sure with my mother that the amount of spices in each dish was correct.

Once my list was complete, I invited my cousin to my house, and we made two curries every day each weekend until we made all of those that I had arranged for. We let our parents taste each curry, and if they suggested an improvement could be made, we altered the recipe. Upon their approval, we sat down together and had a complete meal which we had concocted ourselves. By the end, I had the names of all the spices memorized. The savory smell that circulated our kitchen gave me the same invigorating energy that the sweet, chocolatey scent my cupcakes gave me on Valentine’s Day. Cooking curry on my own was not as bad as I had expected, and I would not mind doing it in my spouse’s house, either. I told my cousin she had nothing to worry about, as her mother-in-law could help her cook, in the same way that I did.

After a while, my aunt asked me less often if I wanted a shaadi ka laddoo, but when she did, I eagerly took one. The instinctive scrunch was replaced with a longing for the laddoo to melt in my mouth, taking in all the sugar, and along with it, the memories of my cousin’s wedding and longing for my own.

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