7pm, Delhi, India. Conversation between Mother of ‘Marriageable’ Son and Father of ‘Marriageable’ Daughter: “So… your daughter is beautiful?” “Errr….yes, she is beautiful.” “How beautiful?” “Errr….what??” “I mean, beautiful or very beautiful?” “Errr…I haven’t thought about that really, she is pretty beautiful.” “Oh but is she very beautiful? You see, our son is very handsome!”
Father of ‘Marriageable’ Daughter muttering to self: “Why couldn’t she just fall in love and marry against our wishes!”
Meanwhile, two houses away, father of another marriageable daughter is asking mother of another marriageable son exactly what his current salary is and exactly what his future financial prospects are!
The world of Arranged Marriage
Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the world of arranged love. If you are looking for a soul mate, go no further, we have one…in fact thousands for you! Just sign up to the arranged marriage mart and get your parents crackin’ (yes you heard it right, parents please; who do you think will negotiate beauty and financial prospects?)
The age old tradition of arranged marriage has been followed since 200 BC in India (yeah that old!). Families decide a suitable match, boy and girl meet briefly and the ‘happily ever after’ is fixed. As times have changed people have modernized in all aspects of life, but, this system remains very much relevant. Of course people can and do find their own partners, but they are a minority. Even today, 7 out of 10 Indian marriages are arranged. Just log onto any matrimonial website (designed specifically for arranged marriages) and you will see multiple descriptions of the ‘perfect partner’
“Beautiful and slim, ambitious yet homely, modern yet traditional, fitness freak yet foodie, loves to travel, loves to cook, loves to dance, loves to read and of course a great sense of humor. Employed in a job which is high paying but not too high paying, with hours that are not too long but not too short and enough travel that makes her well travelled but not too well travelled. Hails from a cultured family with liberal values but traditional outlook.”
While the description might conjure the image of a 10 headed, 50 armed wonder woman, this is just a regular custom made ‘Marriage Material Indian Girl’ for the Confused Indian Boy. He wants a wife who can drink beer with his friends while also making regular religious trips to the temple with his mother. A wife who can have an intelligent intellectual conversation with him but go demurely quiet in front of his family’s elders.
No no no, this is not another male bashing session on women’s emancipation. For every girl trying to figure out what the hell is ‘liberal values but traditional outlook’, there is a boy dealing with the Confused Indian Girl who is independent and seeks equal partnership (A.K.A I ain’t doing your laundry buddy!), but just the same wants a man who pays for dinner, drives her home and never ever needs her money (A.K.A you better be paying for the maid doing our laundry buddy!)
Arranged Marriages are changing
Gone are the days where needs were simple. Pretty girl who does household chores + Decent boy who earns well + One Meeting = ‘Happy Arranged Marriage’ to you. (Well, thank god those days are gone or I would be compelled to commit suicide!)
At the same time we have not exactly entered the era of ‘society who that’ where marriage itself is optional and sometimes an obsolete concept.
Caught in the midst of an evolving society are a hoard of ‘Marriageables’. We have flown out of our nests and experienced a global way of life, at the same time the conditioning of early years and family bonds stay strong. This results in a happy array of choices in certain aspects of life – chicken curry one day, fillet mignon the next. Religious pilgrimage with family, Thailand with friends. A rainbow life indeed!
But what do you do when it comes to arranged marriage? Years are spent looking for love, but a few break ups and many tears later if you are still single, BOOM, it hits you right between your eyes – time is up!
The realization dawns either with the help of a nagging mother or by friends’ wedding pictures splashed across Facebook (which ideally should be illegal, just saying!). The decreasing supply of single friends and the increasing blood pressure of parents ultimately leads you down the alien path of ‘arranged marriage’ which sticks out like a sore thumb in our no compromise rainbow lives.
It doesn’t have to be perfect
It goes against all our evolved belief systems – people who pride themselves on making independent career choices have to now enter a parent dependent process, there is no ‘falling in love’, no heartfelt romance, only practical calculations.
The idea of making a choice itself is difficult because we want everything – we want our chicken curry and we want our fillet mignon, we want a partner we can connect with and we want a partner our parents can connect with. We want independence and space but also want the security of boundaries. We are caught in rationalizing everything. If he doesn’t drink he is boring, if he drinks too much he is unstable. If she doesn’t work she is not an intellectual match, if she works too much she will never have time for family. The magic balance eludes us, not to mention this is the most life defining choice you will ever make, no pressure!
As I grapple with the conundrum, I can’t help but feel that we need to stop looking for ‘Mr./Ms. Right’ who fits accurately into our carefully planned lives. There is no ‘all-in-one’ someone that will appear one day like a super saver all flavor combo pack of biscuits. There is no one soulmate made for you who will guarantee a happily ever after. It’s about finding a person who ‘feels somewhat right’ and building a life together. No guarantees, brace up!
So of course a lot of your plans will go to hell, of course she will fight with your mom, of course he will need your financial support and of course you will attempt to pull out your hair every once in a while (or every day).
The beauty is in telling yourself ‘That’s OK’. It’s OK if your partner is not your perfect fit ‘soul mate’ on your wedding day, you will get there one day and the ride would have been worth it!
Featured photo credit: Eudaimonia Recovery Homes Blog via google.co.in