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The Reality And Irony Of Arranged Marriages In India

If there is anything more common than the common cold, it’s arranged marriages in India. Come to think of it, arranged marriages are like the common cold. There’s no escaping it. Everyone has experienced it, either first hand, or seen someone very close go through it. It’s no big deal.

For centuries now, marriages have been arranged in our country. At the time when ‘barter system’ was prevalent, if you had a cow at home, or some utensils, you’d be married! Well, since then, a lot has changed, including the value of brides and grooms, and perhaps now it’s more than just an exchange of belongings.

Suggested read: My quest to find ‘the one’ through arranged marriage

Arranged marriages in India have worked rather well for the parties involved, if not perfectly well. You see, you can’t go wrong with it, for, a decision so big is made not just by one person, but many people. Parents, other elders in the family, influential neighbors, heads of a religious community, and sometimes distant relatives too. So, all these people can’t be wrong collectively.

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Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

Plus, you don’t have to worry about finding the right person, going on multiple dates, suffering a heartbreak, putting up with dating drama, and all those other things. Once the wedding is ‘fixed,’ you simply end up as man and wife minus all the frills that dating comes with.

These days, things are changing (oh so slightly, but they surely are), and the term  ‘arranged marriage’ is replaced by ‘arranged love.’ The difference is that now these couples get some time to fall in love with the person who has been arranged for them. The time frame could be anything from three to six months before they tie the knot, and to be honest, that’s a good enough time for courtship. Think about it; even in case of a ‘love marriage’ (the opposite of arranged where two people find life partners on their own – in most other countries, it’s simply called…uh… marriage) you could end up dating or knowing your girl/boyfriend for about that much time until you decide you want to spend the rest of your life with them. So there, arranged marriage scores a +1 and comes to an equal score with love marriages/marriages.

Back in the day, I remember my grandmother narrating stories which I instantly put in the ‘horror’ category. Legend has it that in the olden days, when men went hunting and women grilled meat on open fire, well, not that long ago either. But, probably sixty years back or thereabouts, a girl and a boy would see each other for the very first time on their wedding day (or night), and of course, they were married really young. Imagine seeing the person you’d be spending the rest of your life with after having signed a ‘bond’ or a no exchange – no returns policy! I really wonder what that would feel like, literally having no say in the matter and putting up with what has been given to you. *Shudders*

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Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

Thank God for 2016 and the drastic influence of the west on our culture, we don’t do that anymore. Now, we wait for our kids to attain a ‘marriageable’ age which is not more than thirty years, and fix them up with prospective suitors. To make this process a little more interesting, we are now open to the idea of finding a suitor online as well. That’s what matrimonial sites are for; they’re a platform for eligible bachelors & bachelorettes to be able to see each other virtually, understand about their likes and dislikes, know a little more about their religious & social beliefs, and sometimes their hobbies too. So, once you’ve fallen for a particular profile, you make the first move and show it to your parents, who will then get in touch with the parents on the other side and simply fix a date.

Suggested read: 8 compelling reasons to have an arranged marriage

This way, you are spared the horror of going to someone’s house to drink coffee, discuss your salary in front of a bunch of unknown people, pretend to feel shy occasionally. Or, you could be the person who has to deck up, walk into a room full of strangers with a tray of coffee and some home baked cookies, get totally judged for the consistency of milk in the coffee, and then sit down for a round of interrogation which includes questions on your educational qualification, your desire to work after getting married, your wish to have children, or your preference in clothing! So, things could be a lot worse had it not been for these matrimonial websites.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend – female, unmarried, who hails from a decent family, has two siblings, a dog, and who works with a reputed HR firm. In case you know of an eligible bachelor, I could put you in touch with her. Oh well, that wasn’t why I began telling you this story!

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Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Like most modern-day parents, her folks also got her registered on one of these matrimonial websites with her photograph, hobbies, socio-economic beliefs, religious sentiments et al. And it all began from there, day in and day out, a lot of eligible bachelor profiles would make subtle inquiries to show their interest in her.

One day, she asked me what she thought was a very simple question:

“How would you decide who to get married to and spend the rest of your life with, by simply looking at a picture? Or probably meeting the person four or five times?”

I didn’t have an answer to that, because I never had given the topic much thought. When it was time for me to get married, I chose a guy, dated him long enough to decide that I could probably spend the rest of my life with him (without killing myself or him!). So, in all honesty, I didn’t have an answer to her question. But nonetheless, I began telling her that sometimes you can never know a person despite knowing them for years together. There’s one weak moment and they could snap like your fingers, and it’s really hard to come to a decision. So, her worry was valid, and it would have been valid, even if she were to date someone and then fall in love. So, the problem wasn’t about having an arranged marriage, it simply was ‘marriage’. There is no guarantee whatsoever.

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Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

But, the only difference would be that in case of ‘arranged-love,’ it would all be a surprise/shock, depending on the outcome. You know how it’s said that a known devil is better than an unknown angel? Same thing. You could probably buy yourself about three to four months during which you had time to discover the other person, force yourself to like him/her, and simply get married by the end of it. Note that some people could put up appearances for that long, so there was a risk, but again, that could happen in a non-arranged set up too.

The fact that you grew up listening to your parents to not talk to strangers would now seem ironic, because you’d be spending the rest of your life with one such stranger who you’d barely know, and the time you are allowed to make yourself familiar with them may seem really short. Woefully short, in fact.

But on the other hand, your willingness to accept this stranger and their entire family as is, is ahem, commendable. Most Indians are like that; I say most, our tolerance levels are relatively higher than our standards. We almost quickly accept anything, anyone, and everything for what they are or appear to be. Our hospitality, culture, family values, integrity, and eagerness to compromise make us suitable for arranged marriages even today. Our grandparents did it, so did our parents, and our neighbors too – and everything seems to be functioning without any glitch, so we’d do it too (in a heartbeat).

Suggested read: Why you should ‘date’ your arranged marriage partner before saying YES

You’d be surprised at how many youngsters these days prefer to have an arranged marriage. A few months ago, I was having a conversation with a colleague, and despite his active dating life, he had said that he would simply settle down with a girl his mom would choose for him. I was baffled, but I had to ask why. “If something were to go wrong, I could blame my mother. But if I were to seek someone on my own, my family wouldn’t stand by me if things went south,” he had said nonchalantly.

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Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

So, it would seem like arranged marriages in India are a great way to pin the blame on others (mostly parents) if a couple cannot get along after getting married. So, it’s probably safe to say that people care less for compatibility, love (which apparently happens after the wedding), and companionship. Well, we aren’t saying that people who have dated for decades don’t face compatibility issues or fall out of love with each other. But in case of an arranged marriage, a person doesn’t give him/herself a chance to explore these things to make a well-informed decision.

That said, I’m a fan of arranged marriages because it’s beyond me to understand its technicalities or functionalities. I’m often fascinated by things I don’t understand, like science, geography, inflation, Mexican food, Pinterest, the Kardashians, and religion.

Featured image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Article Name
The Reality And Irony Of Arranged Marriages In India
If there is anything more common than the common cold, it’s arranged marriages in India. You might hate it, but you just can't escape it!
Steffi D'Souza

Steffi D'Souza

I am a converted dog lover, lipstick addict, and travel enthusiast. I have a distinct love for old architecture and the ocean. I like reading books but love writing more. After experimenting with a gamut of roles in various leading corporations, I have finally discovered my passion. Thus, I have given up my corporate job to pursue a full time career in writing. I hope to write books and I'm already working on my first novel. I blog about all happy things on