To cut a long story short, my mom and cousin (this is the good cousin; not to be mixed up with any of the bores I might have previously mentioned) took me to a marriage bureau.
So at the bureau there were these questions to be filled.
Caste - Hindu (that was easy)
Caste (this time with Brahmin options) - Smartha, Madhava, Iyer, Iyengar - Smartha on my mom's side, so that was easy too.
Sub-caste - I had no clue and didn't care so I left it blank.
So when we went to submit the forms, old Aunty from the bureau looked at me aghast - 'What is your subcaste?'
I said 'Oh, I left it blank'.
She repeated, 'what is your subcaste?'
I looked helplessly at my mom and sister. Neither my cousin nor my mom remembered what subcaste we were. So the lady very helpfully gave us options - Babboorkamme, Muruknadu, Hoysala Karnataka...
My mom and cousin said Babboorkamme the same time I said Muruknadu.
Obviously, Aunty wasn't pleased. She stood up. She looked at all the assembled peoples.
Old Aunty - 1 numbers.
Old Uncle - I numbers.
Cousin - 1 numbers.
Stressed-out mom - 1 numbers.
Very-unlikely-'to-be-bride'- 1 numbers.
So Aunty, completely outraged said, "What is this! You don't know your sub-caste."
My mom said, "We don't mind a boy from any caste."
Aunty said, "You may not mind; but the boys, they will mind."
My cousin held my hand before I could snap never mind the boys.
Aunty decided to help us out. She started inquiring about our family line. My mom's Muruknadu dad married his wife (my grandmother; there are whispers of her being his second wife; no, no, married after the first passed away - not like the soaps on TV before we all start getting excited and saying, ohoho) - a Babboorkamme.
(I'm just going to say M and B from now on-typing it is too darned annoying).
Now M peoples speak Telugu; but B peoples speak Kannada. And in my family we speak Kannada.
So although we were M by lineage, our mother-tongue was Kannada.
That confused Aunty. So she tried closer home. 'Your dad,' she asked me, 'what is he?'
Before my mom could answer, I said, 'He's a Bunt.' (Bunts are a caste in Mangalore.)
'What?' And here, Aunty sat down again. In high dudgeon she said, 'But you said you were Brahmins.'
My mom and cousin said in unison, 'but we are Brahmins.'
And that's the God's truth, they are. In fact, an uncle of mine is an actual priest. He even has a mobile phone that interrupts him when he is doing his pooja (prayers) in the temple or at someone's home!
Now I, I see myself as a global citizen in spite of never having traveled anywhere. (Oh shoot, scratch that, now I have.)
'This is unheard of. What should I do, now?' Aunty asked Uncle.
And here Uncle very gladly stepped in. 'See, it's like this. They say a thousand lies can make a marriage, but I say no, that is not true. So do not lie.' (Here again cousin clutched my hand to prevent me from interrupting.) 'And see, how it is you know, our society is very good - we are a patriarchal society. Totally male dominated, you know. It's very good to be like that. So the man, you know, is the most important thing... In my own...'
I couldn't take it anymore. 'If it's such a great problem, then please give us our money back and throw the form.' And added just to create extra drama, 'In this time and age, my God, ridiculous, I don't believe this...' (in classy British-English, always impresses the natives like Uncle Number 1) .
Now that money was mentioned, Aunty Number 2 decided that this moral/ethical/existential issue was actually a business one; so she sent Aunty Number 1 to telephone the manager.
Uncle was holding court minus all his courtiers still, 'You know, marriage in any age, the male, you know...'
My mom snapped, 'All this talk is because my daughter told the truth, how would anyone know anything if she hadn't? And in this age, all everyone sees is that the boy and girl like each other and look like they want to spend their lives together. If they decide to, what can we do?'
I think she hit very close to home with that one, because Uncle (no longer feeling like number 1) quietly slunk away at that.
By this time Aunty returned. 'You swear you know all Brahmin traditions?' she queried.
I said, 'Yes, I do. I actually know very little of Bunt customs.'
She quickly shushed me. I'm pretty sure she clutched my hand too. It was a great day for hand clutching. 'Don't mention that word here. We'll all pretend you are a Brahmin, I'll say B in the form. Don't say anything about being a you-know-what even when the boys come to marry you. Some boys and their families, you know, no? They will not be...ayyo, this is such trouble.'
I said, 'Don't worry, Aunty, I have no intention of marrying any man who can't handle the truth.'
(It sounds superb in Kannada as well.)
After my kick-ass dialogue, Aunties 1 and 2 thawed towards me. They both spontaneously blessed me. 'Hope you find a really good boy, ma, very fast. What do we know? We only want people to be happy. Hope you are very happy.'
And the parting shot, 'And when the boys come, don't tell them you are a you-know-what and that you registered here with us.'
And thusly marriages are made in India. In 2010.
Blessed be. Amen.