This isn't the love vs. arranged marriage debate. That's beaten to death. I might beat it some more sometime, but that's for another day.
So this friend of a friend, is going through the marriage-process. The things most girls in India go through at some point before their 30's. Unless you have found yourself a partner who is agreeable to your parents. Which, by combining the odds of (a) Finding a Partner who's any good, and (b) Of him being agreeable to your parents, becomes very highly improbable. In the event of a & !b (I am an engineer), you also have the option of running away from home, but that's gone out of fashion ever since the legendary DDLJ of a decade back. (If Shahrukh tells us all to win over our parents, we will. Hail, SRK!)
The Marriage-Process. It gives me great pleasure in describing this once-in-a-lifetime(-mostly) activity. The Marriage-Process would be a misnomer actually. Lets call it the Hunt-For-Man-Eligible-to-Get-Daughter-Married-to. The hunt. The search for the one, the big battle that culminates in the ultimate - the marriage. The peace of mind that comes with seeing the daughter safe with the stranger. Well, to be fair, the stranger is mostly, by the time the marriage happens, known for atleast a couple of months.
Hunting through multiple profiles and photographs. Sifting through the innumerable lies, and lying photographs. The meetings. It all seems so odd. And well, understandably discomforting. I'm taking the safe path here and not going all out against this stuff, because someday, in the event of ! a, I will, in all probability also be subjected to such rituals.
What follows the meetings, if positive, will be the phone calls and the recently added to the means of communication, chats (in the face of technological advancements and potential grooms in widely separated time zones - but of course.)
As if all this is not strange enough, what is most amusing, is that all these activities happen in parallel with many potentials. I'm not too sure of the exact situation here, but from the tales that reach these ears, some have 'em one by one, some all together. The men have what is the equivalent of parallel talks on business deals with multiple clients. The girls talk in parallel with their many suitors. Each is judging the other. Each is being judged. If not by many, then atleast the one chosen for that time period.
And this is where the irony of the Indian culture shows itself in full form. The very same parents who might have been scandalised at the idea of you going on a date will now offer you an array of (filtered, no less) men to choose from.. Here kid, look what we have for you.. go on, take a pick.
Once they have filtered the men in the categories of Financial Stability/Well paying Job, Education, Family and other itsies - not necessarily in that order of priority, they will encourage you to have long conversations with a man you don't know, to chat with another (and read over your shoulder), and maybe meet a third for coffee. :) You're not going to marry all of them, but now its okay. Okay to step out of what would ordinarily be inappropriate territory. Propriety, Indian culture, what will people say all forgotten :)
:D It all seems ridden with hypocrisy. It also amuses.
It only seems like all involved should enjoy this one window of parental license to flirt and date. But then, at the end of it all is the responsibility to make decisions that'll stick with you for life. Uh huh.