Sri Lankan weddings are meat markets


December is wedding season in Colombo. The unspoken secret about Sri Lankan weddings is that the marriage itself is just a prop for something more critical. Essentially a venue for hooking up unmarried daughters to qualified (doctor/lawyer/accountant/engineer/executive) young men. This is very serious business for hordes of determined aunties and desperate mothers. I knew about the wedding market scene as a fact of Sri Lankan life, but I experienced the seriousness of the process at a very visceral level only recently – at the most recent wedding Mrs Cerno and I attended.

We arrived at the hall to find that most of the tables were taken. There was no seating plan and we didn’t know most of the couple’s relatives. In the free for all, we agreed that Mrs C would hold the two available seats we could find while I waded out to the other side of the hall to secure a less prominent table. Mrs C wanted to people watch, not answer probing questions by the matronly aunties/mothers chaperoning bejewelled pretty young things in fashionably revealing saris.

As I work my way through the hall, I get the weird sensation of being watched. I glance around carefully and what I see chills me to the core. Practically at every table is an elderly lady staring at me. Their beady eyed focus is that of predatory animals eyeing a juicy gazelle or similar vegetarian. I’ve seen that look in many National Geographic documentaries.

When they realise I have seen them, they quickly shift their target lock gaze. The whole thing is over in a flash but during that time everything felt as if it were in slow motion. Perhaps due to primordial some instinct, I make a vague adjustment of my tie which shows off the wedding band. Hopefully I’ve sent the right signal. Still rattled I finally find an unobtrusive table. We later find that its reserved for the band but that’s not an interesting story.

The Sri Lankan aunties network is really a database that contains a detailed history of your personal and family life. If you have physical deformity or a scandal in the family it knows all the details. I’m sure its the sort of thing every spy agency in the world dreams about but will never have.

Queries are based on facial recognition and your parent’s names. Relationships are mapped in terms of kinship, school and university attendance, companies people worked at etc. So I’m quite sure that by the time I sat down, details about me, my horoscope, and by extension spousal unit (and her horoscope) have already spread gone around the room.

We finally manage to plant ourselves and get down to people watching. Mrs C is already well on her way to eventual auntihood as she points out various people and describes the scandals they are associated with.

After the ceremonies are over, we notice the aunties floating about from table to table. Bending down to whisper with the anxious mothers and point out oblivious young animals in dashing suits who are too busy with their digital cameras. Meanwhile their pretty young things look suitably glamorous and demur – even if they are usually not in real life. They discreetly scan the their potential mates who mostly likely will be unattractively drunk by the end of the evening.

Ug well it looks like I am out of time to blog on for the day. More on this later (when ever I get around to it).

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24 comments

  1. If Mrs.C agrees why not ask those aunties for another proposal? should be fun huh? hehehehe then u cna wlak into a wedding wiht two wives and no one will stop staring at you even if you did! hahahaha just kidding…im used to this scenario….i think tmail weddings are the worst when it comes to staring at ppl…have to go with the flow!

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  2. Ado how come no one stares at me? Maybe I’m too crazy for them.. or there is some scandal in my past.. that I don’t even know about…

    Anyways it’ll be too late for me.. I’m choosing those rather expensive metal bands me self… 🙂

    With regard to the Database, I believe it’s like Google. Tons of servers placed all over Sri Lanka, gathering information, linking them, and at one press of a button (or a mention of So and so’s Son or Daughter), you can get a Wikipedia type research sheet on an individual.

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  3. MWD (Mothers With Daughters) are a common thing at weddings. Primarily because you have probably passed the “acceptability” test – in order to be there, you should be someone related to or at least known to one of the parties. This, and an information gathering network that makes CIA types green with envy is the starting point

    I’ve been to weddings where I was “introduced” to lots of young women. Sometimes its good, sometimes its bad, all the time you feel sorry for the girl. Once I was introduced to a girl who was somewhat interesting, but had no intention of dancing. I ended up dancing with a 14 year old who had more moves than a snake.

    Of course all this stopped when I grew my hair and beard. Somehow MWDs tend to bypass the “rasthiyaadu type” no matter HOW eligible his family is.

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  4. This is like soo true, I’ve had the misfortune a couple of times (even at my tender age) to have been subjected to the same scrutinising.
    And once at a Homecoming of a distant cousin, I had ambled around to a table with an ‘Aunty’ who I did not personally know. I had actually gone there for quite another reason to have a chat with an old pal who had turned up that night. Well eventually my pal was dragged away to the watering hole and unfortunately I was left alone at the tablewith the ‘aunty’. I could have easily risen and be off, but being the civil person I am started to chat up the ‘aunty’ who was like 60+.
    After a few wags about the wedding, and how beautiful the bride was she straight on got to the Q&A round. And wasn’t that some Interrogation. She kept digging and digging everything! EVERYTHING! about my family, the family tree, my uni work, what I’m going to specialise in, what would the potential earnings be like in a few years and on and on… In true FBI tactics she recruited another ‘aunty’ from another table also saying ‘darling Consi, look here girl, we’ve got a doctor in the family’. The onslaught kept on so strong that I had no chance of escaping! I finally managed to get free citing the dire need to answer a natures
    call. I was that desperate! For the rest of the evening I evaded that corner of the Hall like Medusa was lurking there.
    This incident was more direct I admit, not like the usual clandestine operations at work. This was just brute interrogation aimed at the single purpose of filing my biography to their database!

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  5. […] = “34d024″; var mooter_wrapper_url=””; var run_method = “onload”; var mooter_target = “0”; Sri Lankan weddings are meat markets saved by 1 others     xxbleedingxmascarax bookmarked on 01/14/08 | […]

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  6. 🙂 And I thought I had it bad…
    I really don’t mind the Q & A sessions. I usually laugh it off or steer the conversation away. It’s the staring, which unnerves me. They scrutinize you from to top to bottom silently appraising you.
    The ‘up-down look’, I like to call it.

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  7. Yeah the staring always gets my goat, I feel an incredible urge to flip the bird at them or just ask loudly ‘mokada hutho ballanne?’.

    Very unladylike, I know.

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  8. Hilarious post! Never had the experience myself, though.

    Maybe I’m pretty insensiive so i dont notice the stares or perhaps I’m too ugly to be noticed….:)

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  9. Parthi 😆

    chaarmax I think its because you might have been tagged as “taken” 😉 Yeah the A-net (Aunties Network) is very much a distributed processing thing – though each node – aunty – does not contain all the data. Even if the node you immediately access might not have the data you seek, you will be put in contact with a node that does. So response times can vary. Yet unlike wikipedia you can get audio data via the phone (with all the right tonal adjustments to communicate scandal info 😉 Also A-net is VERY globalised.

    Suchetha: Long hair and beard (specially if its a bit scruffy) does the trick. Though you got to be careful – it might muddy your profile. Switching back to a neater hairstyle will get notice. But they’ll be a record about it on your file starting with “you know at one time that boy….”

    Half Doctor Well you’d better get used to it. Your profile has now been logged and distributed aunty net wide. As a doctor (medical school is the same as on aunty net) you are a HOT commodity. Chances are it will be your parents who’ll be bombarded with proposals (even from other continents). 🙂 You will have the ladies pushed your way at EVERY wedding for sure. Fear not though, it will make for some great blog posts.

    Gutterflower: Yes that’s the right description for it.

    Darwin: 😀 Shocking my dear lady, shocking! 😀 That will surely wreck your aunty net profile 😉 I can almost hear it being broadcast “Would you believe what so and so’s daughter did at X’s wedding ….”

    Jack Point Most likely you didn’t notice. I’m pretty sure everyone gets scanned though this is the first time I noticed it myself. Then again I’m usually oblivious to such things 😯

    TimesEys : thanX 😀

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  10. Either I haven’t noticed either, or I’ll have to go with Suchetha’s theory and say the bald with goatee look turns them away too. Tho I generally grow my hair for family weddings. When you have a couple of months notice, you generally can do something. Still noticed nothing tho.

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  11. I’ve never had this experience before. This blog was introduced to me by a friend while we had this discussion about proposals and the little nuances that make up a successful kapu-kama. I must admit, I’ve had the whole scenario of disastrous consequences read out to me by my own aunts – if you wait much longer you’ll miss the bus, you’ll be so much older than you’re children, all the good ones will be taken, you’ll end up alone – that sort of thing. To which my answers have been – if I miss the bus I’ll take the train, even if I have a child at 15 I’m still older than the kid who will always look at me as THAT OLD PERSON, they aren’t a bunch of fruit for all the good ones to be taken and what’s so bad about being alone.
    But I’ve never really experienced the whole staring, interrogating or covert operations aspect of the A-network. Nor have I ever seen it, since I lived about a third of my life away from Sri Lanka. However, I may have the opportunity to see this league of extraordinary women in action setting up another friend at an upcoming wedding….so here’s to hoping the plan pans out and another blog comment follows as reply to this extraordinary past time of a mysterious and little understood sub species of humans 🙂

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    • I certainly hope the plans work out AND you’d better report back 🙂 As for the whole staring thing, I think its usually aimed at men. – and those not on the facial recognition database of the aunty-net. Women I think get a corner of the eye snapshot – then its on to the woman’s “owner” – the parents.

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