This story appears in VICE magazine and Broadly's 2018 Privacy and Perception Photo Issue. Click HERE to subscribe to VICE magazine.
So, what are you looking for in a life partner?”
The question landed with a clang on the snow-white tablecloth. I imagined everyone in the room heard it—the married couple with a kid at the next table, the group of businessmen having a work lunch, the server who looked 100 years old and was hovering around us with a knowing grin. He was probably used to waiting on tables like ours: a man and a woman on a first date with only one intended outcome—marriage.
To be fair, it wouldn’t be decided on today. If all went well, there’d be more dates over the next few months before the wedding was arranged. But the only reason I was meeting this 28-year-old Merchant Navy officer—Abhay, we’ll call him—for a weekday lunch in an upscale restaurant in central Mumbai was to see if I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.
Being a woman in her early 20s who had only just begun to (secretly) explore the world of casual dating on Tinder, the modern arranged marriage process felt bizarrely streamlined. The pressures of tradition were so strong, though; I couldn’t refuse to participate.
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