My mother nagged me for pics all day yesterday. Each telephone conversation (and there were five of them altogether) went as follows:
Me: This is Sabila.
Amma: Have you emailed the photos to your father yet...
Me: I'm at work, amma...
Amma:...because we promised your cousins they'd have your photos...
Me: I don't have pics on my work computer.
Amma: ...two days ago, but you haven't sent us anything...
Me: I'll do it as soon as I get home.
Amma: ...and your cousin called me this morning asking about the photos...
Me: I'm really busy right now--
Amma: ...I told him you'd send them right away...
Me: --so let's talk later, okay?
Amma: ...so just send the photos, okay?
I suspect that a lot of thought goes into which rishta photos a family decides to circulate.
*There's the requisite natively-garbed shot, which illustrates the respect a girl has for her cultural heritage, thus proving that she must be a good person.
*Photos of the girl dressed in Western garb, demure enough to appeal to the parent's (well, more likely than not, the mother's) sensibilities, but edgy enough to attract the eligible bachelor's interest (please note that the ratio of natively-garbed shots to Western-garbed shots is directly proportional to how traditional or progressive an interested family is).
*While one must appear to be happy in most of the photos, happiness must manifest itself in varying degrees:
1) the open-mouthed smile (aka, the big smile) shot: because what kinds of dental monstrosities is a girl trying to hide by not including at least one big smile shot in her rishta portfolio?! No mother wants her son to have a dental case on his hands. And good teeth are indicative of overall goodness of character.
2) the close-lipped smile shot: because the big smile, when displayed too often, might be suggestive of loose morals.
3) the smile-with-your-eyes shot: I was channel surfing the other day when I happened upon reruns of this past season's America's Next Top Model. I watched long enough to witness Tyra Banks demonstrate how to smile with your eyes and not your lips. I'm not exactly sure why a girl might want to include this shot in her rishta portfolio, but I'm guessing that
a) it might further reinforce that she doesn't have loose morals,
b) shows that she watches reality television and
c) is downright model-like, all of which
d) confirms that she is a really good person.
4) the unsmiling shot: one should never frown in the unsmiling shot because no one likes a recalcitrant girl. Instead, a girl must appear to be pensive and lost in thought; perhaps she's dreaming of her wedding or imagining the dozens of children she will birth for her husband. This shot will surely add depth and dimension to her character...and she will come across as a very good and decent person.
*THERE MUST BE AT LEAST ONE FULL-BODY SHOT IN A RISHTA PORTFOLIO because too many close-up photos might lead the eligible bachelor as well as his mother to suspect that the girl is fat. And everyone knows that fat people can't possibly be good or worthy of marriage.
*A few overachieving parents pay to have professional pics (read: heavily airbrushed, close shots) of their offspring taken at photo studios. Prospective families (ie, moms) sometimes fall head-over-heels, not so much for the eligible bachelorettes featured in these shots, as much as for the time, effort, thought, care and money devoted to these shots. Surely, this means that the girl comes from a good family and, as a result, must be a good person, herself.
For my readers who are not familiar with the Pakistani or Indian mathcmaking process, these rules don't necessarily apply to men because a degree in medicine or engineering trumps all photos they will send to a girl's family. The degree, in such cases, becomes interchangeable with the bachelor.
All of that being said, you best believe I'm getting ready to ogle some male glamour shots!