Blind date, beauty or beast?

Published: December 8, 2014
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The folk tales classification puts this fairy tale under the umbrella of `the search for a lost husband’.

Beauty and the not so beast

Saira is once divorced, twice married. Her second marriage is to her best friend, and this is a tumultuous one too. She claims that she knew the man extremely well before tying the knot but can’t seem to come to terms with his baggage or beastliness, whatever you may prefer to call it. She occasionally thinks of walking away from this marriage too.

Sophia, on the other hand, married a man who she was introduced to through friends. They met a few times at her house, went out once and decided to get engaged. They have been married for a while now. Sophia too has dealt with her husband’s baggage but with that ‘beastliness’ came a whole lot of tolerance and understanding. Maybe theirs being a semi-arranged match implied, at least in the initial bonding period, less expectations and more patience, hence less disappointment while the marriage was taking root and the love was building. What I imply here is the obvious, a blind date set up can be wondrous too if given a chance.

Beauty and the Beast is a folklore that was gifted a fairy tale status; it was written in 18th century France to protest the matrimonial arrangement of the day where women had no right to choose or refuse a man. In Suzanne Villeneuve’s writings of Beauty and the Beast, the latter is a somewhat non-abusive being who is trapped in a bestial body. It would be interesting to mention here that the folk tales classification puts this fairy tale under the umbrella of ‘the search for a lost husband’. Villeneuve writes about romantic love and marriage, while also touching women’s marital rights. Hence, it is safe to suggest that a young man and a woman, who may have been introduced by their associates, peers or family, have a great chance of making a courtship and marriage work.

It is considered somewhat old fashioned to be set up by family, friends or acquaintances but there is much wisdom in it. The assumption here is that most arranged set ups work better when the social, financial and religious backgrounds of the two involved are somewhat similar. Similarity of the basics creates bonding, respect, equality and with it follows the understanding of the personality.

Let me clarify that I’m not comparing the union that is termed as ‘love marriage’ and ‘conservative arranged marriages’ (where the intended may not be allowed to see each other, or engage in any kind of a dialogue) to a modern blind date set up. Instead, I’m making a case that the latter is very workable and makes for very happy endings too.

Here is a case – maybe you’ll find yourself or someone you know in it:

I looked at him across the trolley, the quintessential trolley, our families sat scattered in the drawing room. ‘Will he come back to meet me again’, I thought? Should I hint that I want a chance to get to know him better? So I did, in my own non-committal casual way. I indicated to tell him a story next time I would see him.

His cousin worked with my sister and that’s how I was introduced to him. And now, after having met him once, I found myself wanting to meet him again.

The very next day, I found myself sitting with him in my parents’ drawing room, getting to know him a little. I chatted, he laughed; he talked and I smiled shyly and giggled at times. A little flirting hurt no one, I told myself.

There was definite chemistry, and on my second meeting, I knew I wanted to marry him, all he had to do was ask.

A few people opposed my decision, saying

“No, you don’t know him.”

“Oh but I do, it feels right. The road to discovery seems very promising, almost magical,” I said.

I sat at a glitzy hotel with him, wondering whether it would work. If I move into his abode, would the tea kettle sing a song like it did in the Beauty and the Beast? Would the broom dance?

Maybe, maybe not, and living in the modern middle class society, I knew of many a successful semi-arranged marriages that worked so well. The success rate was high, the divorce rate low.

Will I fall in love with him?

Is that putting the cart before the horse, promising to marry first and falling in love after?

Will this gamble work?

“In Las Vegas, the gamble seems to be working pretty well. Maybe it’ll work with us too”

I found myself cracking a joke, and that was a good sign.

Yes, that is a modern day Beauty and the Beast; Beauty meets him through family or friends, across a trolley, coffee table, at a café or a hookah bar. If they hit it off the first time, they meet a few more times and decide to get married and love follows.

Simply speaking, getting to know someone who may appear to be somewhat similar yet different is usually fun, and if we add good chemistry to the mix, it may just be the recipe for a successful match.

Mystery makes for an adventurous beginning and can easily develop from friendship to a deep passionate love. I once heard a sage say,

“When someone suggests milnay may kaya harj hai (there is no harm in meeting), there is much wisdom in it; you never know who you might discover across the trolley in your drawing room, a casual cup of tea at a coffee house or an informal meet arranged at a friend’s place.”

Falling in love is easy but staying in love is the hard part; after the first rendezvous, one usually knows if the blind date/arranged setup is a success. The few following meetings are ample indication whether the deal is set to seal. And then arrives the fairy tale wedding and the sweet charm of discovery begins.

Many a passionate love stories are based on that one chance meeting, many a romantic poetry written is after that one glance at the beloved, many a fairy tales from the East and the West are love stories that take place after marriage. The physical bond in the poetic sense and the real sense is a beautiful thing to share with that one person, and culturally and religiously, most enter the sanctity of marriage pristine; that coupled with compatibility creates a promise of attachment and for many it develops into deep love.

We watch movies like Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, it leaves us with a warm fuzzy feeling, we root for the nerdy professor, and we cheer him on. Why? Sweetness of temper, an amiable disposition, decency, likability; it has the audience and the heroine falling in love with the main man.

We must ponder on a simple question – do marriages that spring from romantic love and arranged marriages arrive at the same destination but from different paths? If the arranged set up is with a compatible partner how different is the opportunity for love and happiness from the wedded bliss of a romantic love union?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions; lucky are those who find love, luckier are those who find love in a marriage, and luckiest are the ones who can write their own Beauty and the Beast, and live happily ever after.

Have you ever been on a blind date, how was it? Write to [email protected] and share your experience with us!

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Bisma Tirmizi

Bisma Tirmizi

The author lives for the simple pleasures and her musings over a cup of tea almost always find a way to be the written word. She also writes for pakteahouse.net. Her book 'Feast With A Taste Of Amir Khusro', published by Rupa Publications, is available in stores now.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.