The US had failed her. So Anita Jain turned to her ancestral home to provide a husband.
At 32, Anita Jain is an object of pity. Never mind her Harvard degree and a journalism career with its expat adventures in far-flung destinations such as London, Mexico City, and Singapore. Ask any auntie or uncle, and they will most assuredly shake their heads at “Naresh’s daughter who is still unmarried.”Skip to next paragraph
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Naresh – said father of the pitiable girl – has regularly been placing matrimonial ads on his daughter’s behalf since her 20s: “They read something like, ‘Match for Jain girl, Harvard-educated journalist, 25, fair, slim.’” (Jain is both the family’s religion and last name.)
Her mother, meanwhile, has been worried since her daughter fell out the window of a three-story building at age 1: “My mother’s greatest concern at the time, after learning that I hadn’t been gravely injured, was my marriageability. ‘What boy will marry her when he finds out?’”
So what’s an accomplished woman to do under such pressure? In Jain’s case, she relocates to the land of her immigrant parents to search for that elusive mate. And, in contemporary full-disclosure fashion, she writes a rollicking memoir: Marrying Anita: A Quest for Love in the New India.
Although the child of a blissfully happy arranged marriage, Jain enjoyed “a rare amount of freedom during [her] twenties to find someone of [her] own choosing.”
Marriage remained the goal: “It would not be a stretch to say that ‘shaadi,’ the word for ‘marriage’ in many Indian languages, is the first word a child in an Indian family understands after mummy and papa. To an Indian, marriage is a matter of karmic destiny.”
Entering her 30s, Jain finds herself in Manhattan, caught up in the nightlife of young professionals, which translates into parties, bars, and forgetful hook-ups. Intimidated by talk of “JDate and booty calls” and other unappealing methods of courtship, Jain eventually succumbs to her father’s Internet dating efforts on her behalf – he not only writes her profile but also screens unsuspecting prospects.
Even as she eschews her father’s updated version of arranged marriage, Jain’s opposition starts to falter: “…after a decade of Juan Carloses, and affairs with married men, and Craigslist flirtations, and emotionally bankrupt boyfriends, and (oddly, the most painful of all) the guys who just never call, [arranged marriage] no longer seemed like the most outlandish possibility.”