Coming from a lineage of elopers and love marriage enthusiasts – my grandparents eloped, my parents had a registered marriage and told their parents as an afterthought – I was always sold on the idea of love marriage. Arranged marriages, in my mind, were archaic and belonged in the past.
However, life is a great teacher. I say this, not because I have had bitter experiences but because I have had a chance to observe, reflect, and also truly open my mind to the other side. A big factor was realizing that our fundamental value system has changed and our societal fabric has reached a new normal where the sense of self has outgrown the sense of society.
The rationalist in me had no choice but to try and understand – are arranged marriages even worth exploring? The most logical way seemed to be to weigh the pros and cons of each.
- The grunt work and initial filtering is done by your family
- Through the vast network of ‘Aunties’ and ‘Uncles’, marriage brokers, marriage sites, etc. the options are fairly extensive
- The saying ‘marriage is not between two people but two families’ is firmly taken care of
- It is all about exploring with an open mind. Once in it, most people come in with the explicit expectation to compromise, making these marriages more sustainable
- The people your family select are based on an ideal of you and not the ‘real’ you
- Superstition plays a significant role. The “horror”scope sagas are endless
- Beyond a certain age, the parents on the bride/groom-finding mission start to panic, thereby increasing the amount of hysteria, volume of tears, and cacophony of relatives
- Often (especially), if you are a girl, you are dressed as a show pony, paraded for the boy and his relatives
- You are supposed to let your personality ‘shine’ through in a one-hour meeting. I honestly feel the etymology of first impressions was a fall out of the Indian arranged marriage set up
- Romance is a given
- Your partner is someone who knows you and is interested in ‘you’ as a person not just your pedigree
- The chances of you having common interests and higher compatibility are more
- Likelihood of equality and setting of ground rules is better
- Putting yourself out there, to find your mate, is hard
- As you get older, your checklist gets long and unrealistic, making tougher to find the ‘perfect’ person
- Since it’s your choice, you often get more exacting. Fault finding becomes the name of the game
- Familial approval and support is like winning a lottery
- Winning your mother-in-law’s approval…who cracked that joke?
- Ability to compromise gets severely compromised as you try and balance the sense of self with familial pressure
At the end of the day, it isn’t about which one is better but really about what you want your marriage to mean for you. Is it about companionship, is it about love, and is it about a soul mate? Do you want to live out life like the current Internet joke where the last thing you ask your spouse is about whether the gas has been switched off or do you want to end it with something endearing like ‘I love you’ before falling asleep?
As for choices, I think I haven’t truly gotten over my arranged marriage baggage. So as of now, I will keep myself open to the people that come my way.
A silver lining in this muddle is that India’s arranged marriage system seems to be evolving to a middle ground of love-cum-arranged marriages, where you meet the person, spend time interacting, and then decide if marriage is an option, with the family’s blessings of course.
Who knows what the future will hold, may be I will become the rule breaker in my family, and marry a boy my parents introduce me to, deviating from my genetic predisposition to elope!
Till next time.