Do You Know Any Good Boys – Meeti Shroff-Shah

This book was sent to me by Pan MacMillan India in exchange of an honest review

The title of this book is an oft-repeated sentence heard in social gatherings and family functions in India courtesy of the parents of girls who have reached ‘marriageable’ age. This age varies according to region, ethnicity and social status of the family, but the question always remains the same. The definition of good boys also varies accordingly in bits, like being a vegetarian may be a must for a Gujarati family while the same may be a deal-breaker for a Punjabi one, but the main points remain the same. He should be tall (looking to the future generations), good-looking (again, future generations), from a good family (read monetary support), have great values (must listen to elders), be a tee-totaller (or at least that good at hiding his vices), non-smoker, and have a good job (least important in most circumstances if all the other boxes are ticked). The girl’s preferences come next, if she is allowed any.

This is a book that will resonate with every Indian girl. You may be educated to the hilt, you may be a millionaire or a noble-prize winner, but if you are an Indian girl of marriageable age and unattached you will have to tolerate all the match-making shenanigans of your parents and everyone else remotely connected to your family. (And people wonder why Jane Austen enjoys such a large fan following in this country).

Meeti Shroff presents her trials as a prospective bride in a hilarious and easily relatable manner, but when you read about the number of men she met before actually meeting ‘the guy’ you cannot but applaud her grit. And certainly that of her parents. It can be a harrowing experience for both the girl and her parents when things refuse to fall into place after the first or second time. Quite apart from the monetary consideration, the psychological toll on the whole family is phenomenal.

The first most important lesson here is that you should be mentally prepared to dive into groom hunting and have at least some idea of how things may or may not work out. If you just cannot imagine yourself going through the parent route, take matters into your own hands and be pro-active. Only, it will be that much harder to whet the prospective candidates on your ‘ownsome’ since matrimonial sites are filled with creeps, I mean men, simply looking for a ‘good time’ and some ‘time pass’.

This book is a pick-me-up for all those women who are searching for their mates through the traditional routes and need encouragement and moral support. It tells you to be upbeat and definitely seek the help of your friends even if it is simply to find a shoulder to cry on. It relates almost all the different kinds of prospective mum-in-laws that you may have the misfortune of bumping into as well as the different types of men that pop up at these meetings.

But it is wise to remember that this is also a book written by someone in the upper middle-class bracket living in a liberal city like Bombay. If the situations Meeti lists are common place when the girls and parents are well-educated and well-off, it is unnerving to imagine the state of groom searching families in the lower strata’s of society and in small towns.

I think men should also read this book. They are usually so obtuse when it comes to ‘feelings’ and ‘sentiments’ that this book should give them an idea how vulnerable a girl feels at these ‘meet cutes’ that are arranged for them. Little things like how a girl wishes you would treat her parents with respect and dignity matter a lot. It may be a simple matter of picking up the bill (not necessarily paying it), but the gesture will go a long way in raising your esteem in the eyes of the girl. On the other hand, if you are one of those men who are not interested in marriage and come along just to keep your parents happy, there are quite a few tips on how to act like a complete douche so no self-respecting girl will ever bother with you.

The greatest usp of this book would I think be the message ‘you are not alone’ in the most non-Scully way possible, because even though you may be navigating an alien landscape with strange creatures, remember someone has already been through this or is currently going through the same situation. Misery loves company, so read this book and rejoice. And remember, this too shall pass. It might even be unbelievably rewarding in the end.


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