This is a question that I have been asked many times over while in India. BYU does not have a monopoly on the preoccupation with matrimony by a long shot.
This question has been posed to me by every single widow I have interviewed.
And you? Are you married? Why not? Do you want to get married? When do you want to get married? How can you expect to get married when you are traveling all over the world like this?
No. My parents (I) haven't found the right man yet. Yes. Oh, within two years I would like to be. I am only traveling for a few months and then going back home.
These answers, which I kind of make up on the spot, seem to mostly satisfy them. The Muslim women I met through John were suprised when I told them yes, yes I would like to be married. They said that that was odd for an American, and that India must be rubbing off on me.
The latest question came not from a woman, but from a Kashmiri jewelry merchant I made friends with while I was in Puttaparti - a small town in the south of Andhra Pradesh completely given over to Satya Sai Baba - the reincarnated god in the flesh - the avatar - and catering to his rich and foreign devotees. And the Kashmiri jeweler asked the question.
Setting: sitting on cushioned stools at the glass counter of a tucked-away shop full of loose semi - and precious stones, set stones, earrings, necklaces, pendants fit for a Mayan priest, and Kashmir scarves and wall hangings.
Actors: a young, vivacious anthropologist (your's truly) and a 40-something Kashmiri merchant with an august nose and flattering disposition. The young cloth merchant who shares store space is conspicuous in his absence.
Prologue: I had met the said dealer in gems and jewelry on Tuesday while I was out with some of the other girls from the program. They oohed and awed over the jewelry while I concentrated on the textiles and on convincing the charismatic salesman that, no, I did not want 5, 6, 7, 10 scarves and 3 large wall hangings.
The next day I was back with John who was looking for loose aquamarines. This time I talked with the jeweler personally, and while John also fell under the attraction of "thousand, thousand scarves. See, I have all colors. Hand wash, machine wash, no problem. This one, two colors. Wear on Sunday then switch over and wear on Monday. No one knows." I had quite the conversation with the jeweler.
"Ma'am, come back over here, please."
"Oh, no thank you, I do not want to buy."
"Not for buying and selling. For making friendship only."
"Just friendship? Okay."
And leaning over several thousand dollars worth of jewelry, the man asked me to tea the next day.
"Oh, but I only drink herbal tea."
"No problem. What kind is your favorite? I bring. You must come."
"Ah, rose tea? I will try, but I am not sure I can."
"Come, you must come."
Well, I ended up not going, partly because I was tired, partly because Meghan kept telling me about her friends who were drugged into buying very expensive rugs in Turkey after they drank tea with shop owners, and partly because in India, no one gets upset if you don't keep appointments. You may not believe me, but it is true. They mostly don't expect you to show up anyway.
Friday was our last day in the town, and so after finishing up some errands and before our train left, I stopped into his shop once more to say goodbye.
"Ah you came! You came! Sit down, sit down. We make friendship."
"Oh I can only stay for a short time because our train is leaving soon." Ha, a ironclad excuse.
"Ah! Why must you leave?! You are coming back to Puttaparti?"
"No, in a few weeks I am going back to America."
"Ah, an angel comes into your lives, and then she must leave." Yes, the angel must leave. Especially since suspicion is creeping in.
So we talked about his shop and my family for a few minutes.
"Your sisters, are they all married?"
"No, only one is. One is finishing up at university and the others are too young."
"And you? Are you married?"
"And why not?"
"I guess I just haven't met the right man yet." Oh no! Wrong thing to say! Wrong! Ah!
"What about me?"
"Are you married?" Deliberately misunderstand!
"No I am not." And he decides to make it clearer. "Why don't you marry me?"
At least I didn't drink any drugged tea.