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Buying Humiliation At The Arranged Marriage Market

Posted: August 8, 2014

How does it feel to be screened for marriage? The Arranged Marriage process is full of humiliation at the hands of suitors, and your own parents, says this incredibly thoughtful piece.

I write this in anger.

I write this in grief.

I write this in frustration.

And I write this with disappointment!

I write this to tell you boys how lucky you are that you are born a boy, not a girl.

A middle class Indian family – an educated, cultured family – leaves no stone unturned when it comes to educating their children, be it a girl or a boy. But the difference begins when you are educated, and able to make choices.There comes a point when the same parents remind you that you are a girl.

I looked at myself again in the mirror. My mother was constantly pointing out that I must conceal these acne scars, apply a better shade of lipstick, and tie my hair in a better way.

I needed to look the best.

The boy from London and his family will soon arrive to meet me. I had been summoned to my home town. I had to resign from the job in Mumbai because the prospective groom lived in London, so it would not be possible to continue the job. My mother had requested that I spend some time with them so I get a pre-marriage training, which I seemed to have been deprived of, having lived in a hostel for the last ten years.

Aunts and relatives advised her – and she in turn demanded that I be a good and obedient daughter for once in my life, and say goodbye to Mumbai.

Mumbai, where I had been working for the last four years

So here I was. The moment of truth came. The boy’s family had arrived.

My father welcomed them, and they, in a truly royal fashion, with the condescending attitude, sat down. Then, I was ushered in for a probable meeting with the boy. But here the situation was a little different. The boy’s mother wanted to do the initial screening. So the question and answer round started, and I, as advised by my mother, kept my head down, and answered only in monosyllables.

…the question and answer round started, and I, as advised by my mother, kept my head down, and answered only in monosyllables.

The boy’s mother seemed a little unhappy since I was living in Bombay for the last four years, that too in my own rented apartment. What made her uncomfortable was that I had hired a maid and a cook!

The bone of contention here, she asked my mother – does your daughter know how to cook? (because her son in London cannot afford a cook and usually does his own cooking). On realizing this grave problem, the boy’s mother had convinced her son to get married! And here he was, Bride-Fishing.

My mother vehemently started defining my qualities and how, unlike other girls raised in the hostel, I have somehow learnt to cook as well. It was just due to my busy lifestyle that I had to hire a maid and a cook. I realized then, that my mother is excellent in Marketing. It took me two years to understand Sales Pitches and how to close the deal, but here, my mother -who has never worked in corporate- excelled at the art of Sales. The commodity was her own daughter.

My parents had given me the best education, freedom, and support every time I required. But in this Marriage Market they forgot that their daughter is not a commodity. They need not pay these people for my marriage. But the truth is ugly. Reality, more crude. They console me by saying this is how Arranged Marriage works.

I was sitting with my head down, just like a porcelain doll, being examined by these people who have agreed that I can be their daughter-in-law only if I meet certain criteria. The main criteria was the fees (dowry) which both set of parents have mutually agreed upon.

Now it was the turn of the boy from London to ask me questions.

This was the second round. The questions were equally interesting. From my work profile, to his clear instructions about how he does not need a wife who sits at home and does nothing all day. He wanted a girl who can continue working even in London and support him, since his Masters in Business Administration had left a dent in his pocket.

He even suggested that perhaps I can ask my parents to invest some more money in getting a diploma in London so it becomes easy for both of us.

After his question and answer sessions, followed a sumptuous feast. They informed my parents that they would need a week’s time to decide whether they have liked me or not. My parents both thanked them profusely for the kind consideration they had shown towards their first born.

My parents both thanked them profusely for the kind consideration they had shown towards their first born.

Now this did not happen just once. There were two other times, with different set of families and their well-behaved sons.

Like a job interview, I got rejected thrice. They also gave reasons:

  • She has acne marks
  • She is just 5 feet 3 inches tall
  • She wears reading glasses

All these reasons explained one thing – that how, as a woman, I was not suitable to be their daughter-in-law or their son’s bride. After cracking the GD/PI of even the IIMs, I was disqualified here!

After being rejected thrice, each day I woke up and looked at myself in the mirror, and wondered – were they correct?

That was three months ago. But better late than never! I realized in the right time, came back to my senses, and  explained to my parents that their daughter is not what they are trying to potray. I am a beautiful woman. I refuse to subjugate myself to the insults and the emotional trauma, each time. I want a marriage, but not based on my color, my height or my father’s bank balance.

 I want a marriage, but not based on my color, my height or my father’s bank balance.

I want a marriage based on love and respect. Maybe they understood, or maybe they were disappointed. Maybe they love me so much that they cannot withstand their daughter getting rejected thrice.

So, finally I am here. Single, but happy. My self-esteem intact. I do not curse my looks or my appearance any more. I am much more than my weight and my height. I am Me. I choose to be happy and proud. I am a good human being; I refuse to be judged based on my physical appearance. I want to marry someone who shares the same set of values.

It is high time that we, as women, learn to take responsibility. Society and the social rules won’t change any time soon. Instead of giving in to the unwanted demands, we must resist.

It is difficult, but not impossible. Taking dowry is a crime but why give dowry? Why support the tradition? Why not take charge and, in a small way, eradicate this curse? Let’s build a better future wherein we are respected for being women of substance. Where our self esteem is not dependent on somebody’s opinion. Let us be proud and celebrate our womanhood.

Pic credit: lwr (Used under a CC license)

Founder@AngeTactile ( Angel Touch). Tarot Card /Angel Card reader. Image Consultant An Engineer by Education,

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  1. Dear Sonal

    Thank you! its like i was reading my mind.


  2. Very truly portrays the real situation, thank you for writing this.

  3. Dear Sonal, I’m glad you put your foot down and I’m sorry you had to go through this humiliation. Please keep your head held high always, such people do not deserve you. Cheers!

  4. Dear Sonal,
    I really liked your blog post, and truly, this is a situation that many girls face but should not. However, i am sorry, but I am also disappointed in you. As you mentioned, you cracked the IIM exam. You worked independently in a city like Mumbai for 4 years. As I see from your profile pic, you are also uncommonly pretty. Yet, you allowed not 1, but 3 guys to put you in that humiliating position and reject you. If 1 of them had accepted you instead, would you have lived happily ever after? Or still said no to this system?
    It is also a sad reflection of the status of women in India, that even the best of us, girls like you, have to undergo the worst of these experiences. What hope is there then for the millions of less fortunate girls, who are not half as smart, but still want to preserve their self-respect.
    I do hope that you have come out stronger from the experience, and will be a role model for others now. And dont worry- good guys do exist, though they will probably never go to an arranged marriage setting. And trust me – i know from experience. I fought with my parents many years back in a similar situation, and never regretted it.
    Wish you All The Best in life!

  5. Unfortunately the harsh truth. 90% of women in India face this. I would also like to mention here this is definitely the case for Arrange marriages where they don’t find a suitable match but kinda buy them.. the process of self arranged marriages popularly known as love marriages are not too behind. The only difference being you know what you are in just once.. Culture and traditions show their real colors when it comes to marriage…

  6. Thankyou Tiyasa,Abha,Japleen and others 🙂
    @Abha : Yes I agree with you…Also we girls over think a lot and justify our helplessness by convincing that whatever we are doing is for the Sake of keeping our Parents happy!

    • Hi Sonal,
      Thanks for your reply. I totally agree with you here. Over-thinking and trying to keep the parents happy. Even I went through a tough time believing that I made my parents miserable by my actions.
      .. Abha

  7. Holy Guacamole! I am disappointed that your parents did this to you. I know that they are under a massive amount of pressure, too, but those boys and their families should have been GRATEFUL for the chance to marry a smart, pretty, articulate woman like you. And as a parent, I would have been “You people would be LUCKY to marry my girl, now prove your worth!” The whole system is bass-ackward! It needs to change!!

  8. Hats Off !! 🙂

  9. So well written Sonal! Unfortunately I don’t think people understand how humiliating it is. They find it normal!

    Will share this post next time someone says what is the big deal about answering a few questions

  10. Very well written sonal!

  11. Dear Sonal,
    Very well expressed! I felt like I was reading myself. Thank you so much!
    I am from Nepal and the situation of women is similar in both the countries.
    I have not come across this kind of situation yet. I am just 23 years old and its scares me each time when I think that one day I would face a similar situation because have seen my cousin being rejected because of body weight and color of the skin and it hurt me when I saw her hurt and depressed. I didn’t know how to make her understand that she is not a commodity and she is beautiful the way she is. But you know what, your experience is an inspiration. I will never in any condition tolerate if this situation pops up in my life. I have been constantly trying to convince women in my family that we are more than the color of our skin and weight, height etc. Hopefully one day, we will succeed!

    P.S. Women’s web, you people are awesome! 🙂

  12. Thankyou All !
    @Payal : Dont worry..Be the best in anything and everything you do,also try to focus more on education/career so that you are financially independent..Having a well paid job certainly helps 🙂

  13. Beautifully articulated thoughts!!.. Loved the last phrase celebrate womanhood!!.. lets be proud of what we are..

  14. How so well depicted
    Hope more n more ppl find the strength to think n deliberate the same 🙂
    stupid thing is that this patriarchal system like ours makes our women think that somehow it is normal, no it aint! That’s why we need Feminism. Period.
    shared it on FB n twitter

  15. That’s the spirit. Some women face this situation during the pre marriage screening while others go through the same process post wedding. There is only one thing which is common… Humiliation and treatment of girl as a glorified help and if she refuses to dance to their tunes, they leave no chance to raise a question on her upbringing. Sonal, you did a great job by rejecting the stereotype. HATS OFF!!!

  16. Thanks a ton for coming up with this post.. This is truly supportive for young women like me who are passing through this phase… 🙂

  17. I was asked whether I could make ‘fish curry” and “chicken curry” and was even asked to sing. One of them even wanted me to stop writing. Thereby, gave up on this business of buying humiliation, as you rightly said from these agents of patriarchy.

  18. 38 years ago my parents,my elder sister my brother and my brother in law arranged my wedding to my husband. We have been together ever since and we are happpily together ever since. I am grateful to them for having found me the perfect husband and we are inseperable. Although arranged marriages also have lots of criticism like any other marriages as well.

    • With due Respect,I am not Anti-Arrange Marriage! The only point is why to support DOWRY and also why to be subjugated to humiliations….

    • dowry is not bad . we were were liberal to the girls parents they didnt even give proper jewelry to the daughetr. but the same people are asking dowry in their son’s marriage.

  19. I refuse to face this.. yes I am fat..i am only 5 ft. who cares? if someone likes me he will do it any way. I wonder if the guy who is coming from far to meet me is the same or not. but one thing is sure, I will not let anyone be disrespectful to me or my mom..no way..

  20. Sonal, I am the co artistic director of Price of Silence, would love to share with you a monologue from our show about arranged marriage.

  21. The process can be stressful for both men and women (I know examples of both). The girls side looks for money, car,career, height, smoking drinking habits, etc and the guys side looks for weight, age, fairness!!, virginity!!, etc. I went through this system faced a lot of anguish found my husband (who had no such demands and neither did we) after 3-4 rejections and I am sure my parents also rejected a few people. It was heart breaking at the time and I did not deserve it, it was as if my parents suddenly morphed into scared beings who thought their daughter might not get married if not married by 23! Arranged marriage hits you like a train because it is years of dating distilled into a few meetings.But all is not bleak and in the end both type marriages have the same merit and require a lot of work.

  22. Though I am no particular fan of arranged marriages , I believe one’s angst is really about rejection and not really about arranged marriages. ( I may be wrong because judging usually is) For instance if you had met society’s notion of beauty and your first proposal gone through , would there have been this post despite the ludicrous demands placed in the marriage. I agree that the institution is awkward , yet it is always about rejection whether a boy or a girl. Even in non traditional forms of courting , there are criteria and rejections too are common place. I must agree that this is relatively less ludicrous though it has its flaws. I am really happy for the joy that followed the disappointment phase for this joy brings brings such clarity and understanding of the society.

  23. You have written what many girls have in their heart but are not able to express.
    Best wishes for being yourself and enjoying every moment of your life.

  24. I think most of middle class Indian woman with have gone through or are going through it. Atleast you got to the point of meeting the guy, I get rejected just by a look into my picture (yes i am dark complexioned). I was depressed and upset for quiet sometime. My nature , my education and my achievements nothing is of any significance till I win myself a husband. A concerned aunty said at my age I should say yes to any TDH. My own mother laments why she allowed me to study so much and with my current salary they can never find a match in the community.

    Then on a deeper reflection, I thought , why I am even bothered about these people whom i don’t even know , who are just judging a book by its cover. I know I am beautiful , i am a good person. If the person infront of me cannot appreciate it , why should i give a damn about his opinion. I said tata bye bye to marriage market and never felt happier and content in my life. Its not that I am not gonna ever get married , when the right person comes along who sees me for me, I will say, ”I do” . But till then I am going to enjoy my singledom …

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  26. Hi Sonal
    I read your post and I can empathize with u , as I am in the same situation from last three years unfortunately when I told my parents about my feelings they said its normal and you need to go through this till the moment you don’t get ,married .After having a good job good education what all matters is how you look and how much dowry u cn give .I really want to remove this from our society .After waking up in the morninng I tell myself that I am more than my physical features I am a living being nt a commodity So I luv myself . I want that every girl should understand their importance we can only protect us from such illogical humiliations and insults .

  27. This post is a reflection of what I feel and what I am undergoing right now 🙂 Fantastic post.

  28. Good one. But still its happening. Dare decision. i had been rejected more than 100 times with various rounds. I had to bear all these for 9 years. My parents started at my 20 and i got married at 29.

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