Anna’s jaw dropped at my response.  I was used to this reaction by now so it didn’t bother me.  I smiled, and said “Yes I know people think it’s odd to agree to an arranged marriage.  My parents had an arranged marriage and they have one of the best marriages I know of.  My parents have been married over 30 years and they are still so romantic with each other.  My older sister, Reema, also had an arranged marriage and I couldn’t imagine her with anyone else aside from my brother in law.  I’m not being forced into an arranged marriage – it’s my choice.  I’ve dated in the past and I haven’t found Mr. Right.  I’m a traditional girl who wants to get married and have a family.  I know that’s an oddity in New York City.  Most of my friends want to focus on their career and have a good time and aren’t ready to settle down.  This definitely makes dating in NYC difficult because I don’t think many of the guys want to settle down either.  I agreed to an arranged marriage since I know only the guys who are interested in settling down would go through with it.  It definitely helps weed out the guys who are serious.”

I stared at Anna and Alex trying to judge their reaction.  Anna was still floored and I could tell she thought I was an alien.  I was trying to judge Alex’s reaction.  He has an Indian last name even though he doesn’t look Indian so I was trying to figure out if was part Indian and if he thought I was crazy too.  Having an arranged marriage in the Indian community was normal and not that odd; in fact it’s common in many cultures.  I know here in the U.S. it just seems very foreign.  But, Alex seemed to have a neutral look on his face – neither floored by it nor really supportive – he was just listening.

Alex took a sip of beer and then said, “I know arranged marriages are common among Indians.  My dad is Indian and when he married an English woman it did not go down well with his family.  They had already picked out someone they wanted to arrange his marriage to.  I’m just surprised since you seem like you’ve been raised and brought up in the U.S that you would by choice want to have an arranged marriage.  What made you want to have an arranged marriage?”

“I look at my parents and my sister Reema and they both have wonderful relationships and they found the love of their lives through a set up.  So why not me? I think it’s the small things in a relationship that make it special and make you last through the ups and downs of life.  My dad is not romantic in the Western sense of doing grand romantic gestures; it’s the small things he does for my mom that shows me how much he cares for her.  My dad knows my mom’s favorite Indian sweets and whenever he comes to visit me he stops by her favorite sweet store in Jackson Heights and brings back her favorites, even though he doesn’t like sweets at all.  My mom never nags at him because he likes racing cars even though it terrifies her.  My brother-in-law always takes my sister to the latest Bollywood movie and will often let me tag along even though he hates them.  He will patiently sit through a 2.5 hour movie so she can get her fix.  I know it sounds trivial, but I want someone who will do the small things.  And of course, family is really important to me.  I want my husband to be a part of my family and I want to be a part of his family.  I’ve grown up in a traditional Indian home where there are always family and friends coming over.  Holidays are filled with chaos – lots of guests, cooking, noise, talking, singing and dancing.  I like that – I want someone who can fit into all of that and won’t be intimidated by it.  I know an arranged marriage is not for everyone, but it does work for some of us.”

I know it sounds quaint but that’s me.  I’m a simple girl who wants a companion in the true meaning of that word. 

Right at that moment, I finally spotted Raj and he was walking over to our table.  He came over and kissed me on the cheek and said, “Where have you been? I’ve been looking all over for you?”

“I’m sorry, I just got carried away and I didn’t know where to find you.”  (Mind you this is before everyone had cell phones – this is when I was 26).

I was about to introduce Alex and Anna to Raj when Raj turned and said “Alex what are you doing here? And how do you know Anjali?”

“I just met Anjali – I asked Daly to introduce me to the woman who kicked my butt.  Seems your fiancée knocked me out of the top 5 this year.  I didn’t know you were engaged.  Congratulations.” He held out his hand to congratulate Raj.

“Thanks.” Raj said and then turned his attention to Anna.  “You must be the beautiful Anna Diaz.  Alex I can’t believe someone as beautiful as Anna would be dating you.”  Anna smiled and said “It’s nice to meet you too Raj.  Anjali has been sharing with us how the two of you were set up by your parents.  I have to say I’m skeptical about parents setting their kids up and when I think of who my parents would likely set me up with I would never agree to it.  But, it seems that Indian parents do a much better job of finding the right partner then I would ever give my Porto Rican parents credit for.  Nice job Anjali.  I think you’ve changed my mind about arranged marriages.”

Raj looked at me funny and said “Anjali do you really have to tell everyone our parents set us up.  That’s so unromantic.  I think we need to come up with a better story.  I did have to court you to get you to say yes you know.”

I don’t know why, but, I was feeling irked.  I didn’t like Anna’s change in tone.  In fact I liked it better when she thought I was an alien for wanting an arranged marriage.  I know Raj is a good looking guy.  He's tall, thick dark hair cut in a conservative hairstyle, dark as night eyes, a lean athletic build, incredible chocolate covered skin and he's of course charming.  In Bollywood, they'd call him the chocolate lover boy.  So was Anna implying that because Raj is good looking that makes arranged marriages okay.  Did she not hear anything I said about the small things in a relationship.  Any why does it bother Raj if I I told everyone our parents set us up.  I'm not ashamed of it and I don't feel the need to make up some story so others can think we're "normal."

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