Refusing a rishta

According to the handbook, saying no without good reason (love and mutual attraction don’t count) is like asking karma to come slap you in the face.


When someone offers you a position in their life by giving you a place in their heart, it’s very hard to say, “No”. For the person on the receiving end, “all’s fair in love” seems like the biggest lie ever told.

Whenever I watch a scene in a movie where a perfect man gets down on his knee to propose to a perfect woman, in the perfect place at the perfect time, I can feel my sensible self slowly submitting to the foolish girl in me.

It’s at this point, right before I go over the edge of romantic delirium, that I revamp that scene in my head. What good would all that perfection be if she just simply said, “No”? Their story would come to an abrupt halt right then and there.

This is exactly what I was thinking the first time I said no to a rishta. I thought it would be easier since no feelings had been put on the table and all I needed to give back was his bio-data. In South Asian culture marriage has two personalities: the smart, sensible, well-to-do arranged marriage and its younger, naughtier little sister, the love marriage.

At the time I was the cooler, naughtier type and I wasn’t interested in the boy next door, chartered accountant whose mother was both his secretary and his boss. But it wasn’t as easy as I had thought. Yes, there were no romantic feelings to navigate around on my way to freedom, but there were a lot of other issues I hadn’t considered.

For starters, to refuse a guy who scores 10 out of 10 on his bio-data (money, career, looks, family, religion, culture, cast, height, location, and immigration status) is considered a major faux pas. According to the Asian aunty handbook, saying no without any good reason (love and mutual attraction don’t count) is like asking karma to come slap you in the face.

In these situations women are often made to feel stupid for rejecting a good rishta just based on the fact there is no chemistry. My father always says, “What do you need chemistry for when he has enough math, science and English to keep you like a queen?”

It can become confusing; making you question your own decision, and ultimately leading to a woman accepting a relationship under pressure because she is made to believe there couldn’t possibly be anyone better. Saying no to him means you’re arrogant, fickle, picky and at this rate your ‘prime’ marriageable age will run out, rendering you old and alone. I was 16 when I was first given this lecture!

In the long run this type of arranged marriage causes more problems than it’s worth. Because she gave into him instead of falling in love with him, neither will get a wholesome relationship out of the deal.

If he arranged his way into her life, it shouldn’t be a problem for her to arrange his way out right? Wrong! I always assumed since arranged marriages are initiated in a formal way with an emphasis on technicalities, people would be less likely to take it personally when the answer is a “no”.

Surprisingly there’s a lot to get personal about in the arranged marriage preliminaries. First off is the matter of time. Every minute that goes into arranging a marriage is considered part of the investment.

An initial email conversation isn’t a very hard place to cut things off from; you simply don’t reply if you don’t like what you read. However if it took a little longer for you to come to that conclusion, it will be just as hard to back pedal.

Since a proposal is based on credentials, a “no” often feels like going for an interview and not getting the job. You put in all this effort to prepare, sharpen your skills, research the company, practice what you’re going to say, shine your shoes and perhaps buy a new tie, only to find out the answer is “sorry, you’re just not the ideal candidate” or even worse, “the position has been filled”. If you’re the one refusing, you’ll likely be accused of wasting everyone’s time and being too high maintenance to marry.

Perhaps the worst part about saying no to a rishta is seeing him and his family around. It can range from awkward to scary, the latter extreme occurring when his mother is more offended by your rejection of him then he is. I’ve experienced everything from being glared at, my polite greetings openly ignored, to having vicious rumors spread about me at the hands of a hurt mother of a momma’s boy.

Personally, if I’m going to go through stress, confusion, pressure, embarrassment, guilt, insults and threats, I might as well just fall in love.

— Summer Yasmin

‘No Sex in the City’ is inspired by the popular TV show Sex and the City, and is a voice representing Desi romance and culture in all its complexities!



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