I will soon turn 24, and by general Indian standards, a suitable age for parents to start hunting for a suitable boy for their daughters.
And being an only child and daughter to my parents, perhaps this should be their first priority, getting me married off!! But luckily, I have wonderful parents, who encouraged my desire to study more, so now I am sitting in the orange land, in the pursuit of more knowledge and possibly some form of enlightenment as well!!
But why am I sitting here, thinking of marriages, amidst a final essay submission and exams.
For the longest time one of my favourite past time during weekends would be to go through the matrimonial ads in the supplement pages. Tall, fair, slim, NRI, handsome, 6 figure, manglik/non-manglik and the numerous ‘innocent divorcees’ which would always have me in splits. It reminded me of an auction market, but this here was a marriage market, parents labelling their children with qualities deemed in demand in the market, and whoever could get the best price, or rather the best catch for their children.
And even though it provided me with some wholesome weekend entertainment, I grew up to become wary of the arranged marriage scenario. I failed to comprehend how someone’s fairness or handsome attributes could be a guarantee for a happy and compatible marriage. How was it possible to get to know a person in a few meetings and decide you want to marry. And let’s not forget the undeniable pressure put on both the girl and boy to conform to their gender roles unquestionably.
My friends here in the Dutch land seem absolutely baffled by the arranged system. For them a marriage implies that you fall in love with someone and marry them. When you say you are getting married, it is always a marriage of love. Whereas in India, you often ask people, did you have an arranged or love marriage. This distinction I discovered exists only in India, and I would take the liberty of saying in the Indian subcontinent. But I was surprised at my own confusion when I tried to explain them how it worked.
It seems the idea that your parents will find a life partner for you seems incomprehensible. And I thought to myself and then countered, but what is so wrong if one’s parents do find someone for their children. Someone once gave a good analogy, that the arranged marriages can be viewed as a dating system arranged by parents. And it made sense to an extent, since you have online dating sites, where you list your attributes and characteristics, in the hopes that similar people will contact you. Similarly, in the arranged marriage system, parents and family look for potential suitable mates with similar backgrounds to ensure compatibility and understanding. Or another example could be when friends try and set you up, both in India and abroad. Similar rules apply?
My Dutch friend A mentioned how they have grown up watching everyone around them select their own life partners, without interference from parents, whereas I had grown up watching everyone in my family getting married in an arranged marriage set-up. It also made me question the role of parents in our lives. It seems here, after you turn 18, as much as parents are important, any decision is taken individually. But for me I cannot imagine not taking any major decision without involving my parents, or the fact that even if I am 40 years old, I will still listen to my parents. If they say NO to something, I will think twice before doing it. So is this where the confusion lies??
I have always felt that in the arranged marriage set-up, the involvement of the family and parents is a lot more than the couple. It appears the family needs to be more compatible with each other than the couple!! When in reality, it is two people who have to live together for the rest of their lives, live with their flaws and positives, build a life together. Additionally the patriarchal overtones of the system have always bothered me. I am neither slim, nor fair and not convent educated. And oh, I’m now way more educated than a girl should be, and now abroad, God knows upto what…such compulsions and rules, hell, I would never be able to get married. And not just me as a girl, men too, the pressure on them to earn a certain figure. Does that mean a guy who is not an NRI or earns a six figure salary cannot marry? How is it an indication of the guy’s qualities??
But then another confusion arises, and my confusion is probably swinging like a pendulum, from one confusion to another. I am a product of an arranged marriage and I have turned out perfectly fine. My parents met a few times before marriage, my grandparents had arranged the wedding, and neither of my parents had any complaints, and rather they live happily, perfectly compatible. My mother’s brother, i.e. my uncle saw his wife only on the day of their marriage. I always make fun of them, but hey! they are happy and compatible too. When I look at examples in my family and family friends, all have had a good marriage. And none were forced into it. My mother tells me she trusted my grandparents implicitly and would have agreed to marry any guy they would have selected for her. So then why bash up arranged marriages completely? Surely there are some merits??
But doesn’t this implicit faith in parents, and sometimes the compulsion to listen to parents and family, put undue pressure?? Unlike earlier times, when the guy and the girl hardly met each other before marriage, now most go out on few dates under the family’s supervision, and both figure out if something is possible. True, maybe arranged marriages are evolving overtime. Love marriages are becoming more acceptable in the Indian society. And both love and arranged marriages have an equal chance of either working out or not. Don’t they say marriage is a huge gamble? Or would it be of some merit, if one were to study different cultures and observe how patterns of mating and marriage have evolved among human beings?
My friend asked me if my parents want me to meet someone, will I then meet that guy?? And I heard myself responding in quite a similar fashion as my mother did, that yes I trust my parents, if they think they have found someone I might like, I will meet him, see if there is any common ground, but that is if I haven’t already found someone myself. But this only confused me further, remember I wrote earlier how I was wary of arranged marriages and sometimes even mocking it, and here I was, not averse to it completely either…
So what is it that really works?? Or am I thinking too much?? Or are these legit confusing line of thoughts in my mind??
P.S. Just so everyone knows, my parents are perfectly fine if I happen to fall in love and want to marry some guy. Caste and nationality no bar 😀