First of all, I would like to apologize for this humongous two week gap. I was battling with some family issues and the minus thirty degree cold that’s bringing in waves of sicknesses. I am already counting down the days until spring would come and lift up our spirits once again ! (80 days)
Two weeks ago I wrote a rough draft about marriages which has now turned into a multi-part series. I never realized at the time, how much I had to say about it . Marriage is a building block of society and to ensure the proper evolution of the human race one can’t ignore the profound impact it has on our futures. The way marriages are conducted in both parts of the world has degraded the institution of marriage that is meant to merge two souls into a respectful companionship and union ordained by God. People are very interested to know if you had a love marriage or an arranged. If you tell Eastern people you married for love, you may be scorned upon. Tell Western people you were arranged and they look at you bewildered.
Yes, the divorce rates in the West may be high but the numbers may be equal if eastern people weren’t stigmatized by a divorce. It’s not a fair comparison between two regions but one thing is true. On one hand you have a high number of divorce rates and on the other hand you have high numbers of men and women stuck within a marriage and driving each other towards insanity, infidelity, misery or isolation. The subcontinent having lower divorce rates is nothing to be proud of. Evaluate the psychological damages and we will find out the truth.
Since this is just the introduction piece, I would like to clarify my position and state that I don’t believe there are only two ways to find a life partner. In this post, I will try and bring out the absurdity of arranged marriages and reveal some of my embarrassing moments I faced during my ordeals and with successive posts I will delve deeper into the subject.
It’s important to point out that there are all kinds of marriages and everyone has their success stories. Some have been lucky with love and some have even made an arrange marriage work remarkably. The competition between love or arranged often takes the attention and focus away from the adaptations of certain traits, the true recipe that makes a marriage successful regardless of whether it was love or arranged.
AND NOW THE STORY…
A decade ago, I was told that It was time to settle down. If there were no prospects of my own then a marriage must be arranged. I had turned twenty six which apparently is considered too late in the game. I was really concerned about the humiliation I would be put through and I will never forget the first time I met the matchmaker. She inspected me from every angle with a scrutinizing look on her face. I could tell she had already decided that I was going to be her hopeless case. Good for me !
The first thing she said to me, “Don’t you ever go to the salon? If you dye your hair, you would look much younger.”
I thought to myself “Ok, clearly this is not going to work.”
She went on “I already have a perfect match for you!”
“Oh Great! Who is the first kill of the day?”
“In fact, I can get them to come in as little as half hour”
By all means, please !.
The guy and his parents finally came and my family gets a little surprise. My parents are very broad minded and modern but they value simplicity and religion above everything else. Apparently this was conveyed to the matchmaker and she brought home an interesting and truly ‘simple’ family. When I was called in the room, the guy started blushing profusely and took out a handkerchief to cover up his public display of multiple and uncontrollable expressions. He looked over to mommy dearest and gave her a nod. I believe that reaction sufficed my running out of the room, followed by my mom and sister who were laughing uncontrollably and covering it up with fake coughing sounds until they reached my room.
Like every other person, I also had an ideal man in mind but no idea how, when and where I will meet this person. I was studying in Canada at the time and had to fly back every time any Tom, Dick or Harry arrived on the scene. I spoke to various suitors and felt exhausted by my overwhelming emotions and the expectations of my family. After every meeting, people would ask me “Did you like him?”, ” So is it a yes?”, ” What should we tell the boy’s family?”. Inside I would say “How can you decide if someone is right for me in a 20 minute meeting?” It felt ludicrous!
I began to realize how risky, flawed and frustrating the system was, especially for the two people involved. People are willing to dismiss your emotions, the very thing that connects two people, over someone who looks good on paper. I’m sorry? Are we buying a laptop, car or a house? Does he come with a brochure outlining his fine features?. “Don’t be emotional”, they would say. “Everything can’t be perfect, you will come to like him later, but first make a practical decision”. (More on that in Part II)
THE PROCESS OF AN ARRANGED MARRIAGE (DRUM ROLLS )
1. PRE REQUIREMENTS
The Pre-Requirements for a boy to pass the first stage are degree, job position (i.e., salary) and family status. Pre-Requirements for a girl entails, age, beauty, family status, domestic servitude and having a little intellect might help but preferably not too ambitious. Photographs of available suitors were provided to us with some attached to “biodatas” i.e profiles. I felt like shopping and most probably that’s how others viewed me as well with their catalogues opened.
2. MEETING THE FAMILIES
The first meeting is always interesting to watch. Everyone is so genteel, refined and they put up a good show of hiding their faults. One must master the art of balance. Reveal too much, and could come off as desperate, too little, and they may seem snobby. Essential details are left out in the hopes they could be ignored once the alliance is approved. It looks like a daunting business deal, and the objective is to convince the other party to just say “Yes” first. Everything is downhill from there. Minor (i.e. Major) details could be adjusted later.
3. “PRESENTING, THE GIRL”
Once there is a mutual liking between the families and values, castes, finances, religious and political differences have been discussed, the show goes on. The boy and his family are allowed to meet the girl. Who usually comes in accompanied by female members of the family or with the typical tea trolley and appetizers. (Just typing this out is making me cringe). The first thirty seconds are crucial and probably the deciding factor of the alliance.
I bet they have secret hand signals to let each other know if one should progress or back out before its too late. In one particular sitting I remember the boy’s father saying “She looks like the type of girl who will respect me”, with others following up with their “yes , yes” approval nods. I had not even sat down yet and already they had made a judgement about me. Were these people forecasters? I bet they could tell when it was going to rain without looking up at the sky !
4. “GETTING TO KNOW YOU”
The girl and boy are taken aside to speak more privately and the girl has been prepped for the ‘make it or break it moment.’ “Don’t talk too much,” “Don’t smile too much,” “Don’t look him in the eye,” ” Don’t say anything controversial”. I used the “advice” given to me and let the guy do all the speaking. I waited for the moment when they put their foot in their mouths and make things easier for me, which most of the times they did. Thank you Lord!
(Bachelorettes going through the process, pay heed to this advice! If they like to lead, please let them. You won’t have to come up with an answer, one will be provided for you ! ). The quiet boy sitting in front of all the elders now takes a moment to become a non-stop yapping monkey. He is there to explain to you (not ask you) what is expected of you and already tries to paint a picture of what life would look like together. Precious time lost. It would have been more interesting staring at blank walls with ear plugs !
Marriage is an integral part of our society. I understood the desperation my parents were feeling but my rebellions were not against them. They were against the preposterous and backward ways of our culture. I had seen too many mis-matched marriages happen this way and too many lives stuck in misery trying to uphold some sacred culture all the while dying inside day by day. If I have to choose between culture and me, I proudly choose me. Culture will not defend me tomorrow if my life becomes a mess.
We are people with multifaceted personalities. We are unique to each relationship we encounter in our lives. A person who is a son is not the same when he is a friend or when he is a brother. A mother vouching for his son gave me no assurance because when we were alone they turned out to be quite the opposite. Marriage is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution and complex personalities cannot be neatly shoved into a few categories. A human being needs to be taken into account and thats not so easy as they make it seem.
To my Western friends, its hard to explain why one must go through this process. Staying single is not an option and as absurd as this process sounds, parents still consider this as better than nothing. After going through this ordeal, it did cross my mind to remain single and sane rather than forced to make a choice. But when I thought about the horrific reactions I will get from my family, I thought, getting married would be much easier 🙂 . Its a journey one must take because with the right person it means being loved, cared for, stability, security and experiencing joy by having children etc etc. After being married ten years, I understand why my family was pushing me. So the conviction of one being married is not wrong, but the avenues taken to get one married is shoddy.
Keep checking back for Part II.