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Arranged Marriage – Desperate Parents, Clueless Daughters, And A Possible Recipe For Disaster?

Posted: December 14, 2017

Any marriage is a gamble. But isn’t an arranged marriage, something most Indians find themselves going through, an even bigger one? How does it really work?

The arranged marriage system has come a long way in India through the advancement of the internet. But despite the technology, is the risk much higher today, given our changing lifestyles, transitional mindsets and  complicated attitudes, with parents and children both relying on each other’s judgment?

“I am getting married next month!” Announced my friend on one of our whatsapp groups. I assumed it was a joke. I sent a laughing emoticon. Soon some other friends started congratulating her. She thanked everyone.

Why did I think it was a joke?

Rina was getting married to a man whom she had met a week back. He lives in Bangalore. She lives in Mumbai. Rina’s father had met the groom’s parents in their hometown two weeks back.

Rina is not some docile, helpless, financially dependent woman. She is a modern girl who I hang out with in modern places. This decision of hers came as a shock to me.

“You have met him once!”

“Even after meeting and dating, people end up getting divorced!”

“Are baba, that’s different. There is no guarantee in marriage. But those people at least like each other and want to move forward. What is there in it for you?”

“He is a nice guy. We talked on the phone for hours!  Doing well in his career. Well-settled.”

“These are materialistic things. You should like him. Know his nature, temperament. And how do you even know he is doing well there. Has anyone from your  family met him there?”

“No. But my bua’s devrani knows his mother’s neighbor. She had only nice things to say about him!”

“Wow! Very close connection!”

“There is no end to being negative Tanvi! Every marriage is a risk. People break-up after years of live-in also.”

How do I even argue that?

The risk is higher

It turned out after marriage that everything he had said was a lie. He lived in a rented apartment (had claimed to have his own house). His house was not at all livable with no power back-up, unsafe neighborhood, water supply issues, among others. He had lied about his salary also. He had a heavy home loan which he wanted his wife and in-laws to take care of completely.

I know these things may not matter so much. But the point is he lied. He breached her trust. This led to initial fights between them. His temper problems and abusive nature got the worst of him. His parents and siblings were equally greedy, and controlling. Rina decided to separate from him within a year.

Rina was a very protected girl. I remember the time when both of us were looking for a PG accommodations in Mumbai during our first job placement. Her parents would personally check out all the accommodations. They would ensure that the place was safe and had all the facilities, and that the landlord and roommates were decent people. Yes. A lot of effort went into it. After all, their daughter would spend a year in that PG!

But did they bother checking out the future son-in-law’s house? Did they try to find out anything about the person with whom she would spend a lifetime, and create a family?

Why be negative? Be positive!

Indian arranged marriages are a case-study in optimism. Parents have the answer to everything.

The groom’s parents want dowry!

So, what? After the wedding, their greed will disappear!

The boy seems to be very rigid in his thoughts!

So, what? All boys are like that in the beginning! After 30-40 years, he will become flexible!

We met the boy last month!

So, what! Look at the westerners and their divorce rates!!

What about sexual compatibility?!

What is that?! Our generation met on the wedding day and has borne perfectly healthy babies nine months later!

The same parents may raise objections on the same issues in a “love marriage” which they conveniently ignore in an arranged marriage.

My own transformation over the years

When I was studying in the seventh grade in the United States, our Social Studies teacher was discussing the reasons for getting married. She mentioned that in some parts of the “developing” world, people are “forced” to get married. It is called “arranged marriages”. I was offended. During the break, I told another girl of Indian origin (who wanted nothing to do with India) that arranged marriages are not forced. I gave her examples of my parents and other cousins whose marriages were arranged. They are happily married. She told me that I do not belong in the current generation with my archaic thoughts.

I also recollect watching a video of comedian Russel Peters few years later. Quoting a scene:

Mom: Beta, I will find a nice girl for you from India!
Russel: Maa! I don’t even let you pick my clothes!! I am not going to let you pick my wife!”

This one pinched me. More than the classmate’s remark. Because it was so true.

Matrimonial websites and Dating sites: A much needed medium

My friend and I were talking about getting 100 percent matches on Trulymadly. Her mother overheard. She was scandalized that her daughter was on a dating app. She got scared. The same mother manages the daughter’s profile on shaadi.com and bombards her with shortlisted profiles, forcing her to meet eligible new men every weekend.

At least, some dating apps verify profiles on Facebook, Aunty. The chances of encountering fake profiles is higher on matrimonial sites.” I said in an attempt to justify ourselves.

“But those boys want to get married, no beta. They have the right intentions.” Aunty replied with much wisdom.

I could not disagree. It is very difficult to meet people once we are out of college. Matrimonial websites provide a medium. How else do you find people who actually want to get married? Any woman who has been in the dating scene has heard men use the terms such as “no strings attached”, “friends with benefits”, “casual” “see where it goes,” “go with the flow” which all means one thing:

They are not interested in marrying us! Not now and probably never!

So can we stop looking through this medium? No. It provides options.

The current arranged marriage system – set up for disaster?

In our parents’ generation, marriages were arranged by well-wishers into known families as there was no internet. Some noble soul who knew both families would initiate the proposal. The world was not so cosmopolitan. Most alliances were made in the same towns. Children represented their parents’ values.

Can we say the same now? Did marriages survive because they were magically happily ever after? Or because women were financially dependent and had nowhere to go?

Today, most alliances are arranged through the internet. Careful girls who would ordinarily not talk to an unknown man, not even accept a friend request from a stranger, or give their number to a man on a dating app end up marrying a man they know very little about. The women lose their guard, feeling a false sense of security because the parents are facilitating the process. Clueless, desperate parents marvel at the reach of the internet, and their ability to find a groom which is now only a click away.  Parents who had met their spouses on the wedding day feel they have been liberal enough because their daughters have got the opportunity to meet the man a few times and like him.

When a woman dates a man, she at least gets to have some time with him, understand his nature, hang out with his social circles. These parts are skipped in an arranged set-up. Girls still end up feeling comfortable because they rely on the parents’ judgment. The parents feel that the daughter has liked the guy (a luxury during their times).

However, the daughter makes the choice relying on the parent’s judgment. The parents feel ultimately the daughter liked the man. Bottom-line, neither the parents, nor the daughter know the man much.

Intention is the key. Or is it?

Aunty’s comment is the key to understanding the mindset on which arranged marriages thrive – that the intention of the boy and his family is to get married.

Given our regressive thoughts, this may be the primary concern of parents. No man should touch their daughter and leave her! That is their worst fear. It is time we realized that getting married to the wrong man, and getting stuck with him is the worst thing that can happen to her. There can be a number of wrong intentions with which people marry:

  • Finding a woman from the same caste just to suit society, and continue a relationship elsewhere.
  • Finding a well-educated, earning woman to take care of the household and parents as an unpaid maid.
  • Marrying someone one is not attracted to because time is running out and age is catching up.

Wait! Take your chance!

Getting married is not as holy as it sounds. We need to put more thought into it than we do. I am aware that marriages break even after years of dating. But is that an excuse to be hasty and negligent, and marry someone we barely know? It is really not the lottery where we are trying our luck.

I also think it is not fair for parents to bear the responsibility of finding partners for their children. It is not their job! They are clueless, desperate, scared, yet empowered because of the internet!! We can at the least manage our matrimonial profiles ourselves. Some people say they need the guidance of elders in making such an important decision. If as an adult we are not sure about what we want, have no idea what kind of a man we should marry, then maybe we are not ready for marriage. Time, experience and maturity will help us make a better choice in due course. But for that we have to give ourselves time.

What if all the men are married by then?

What if I don’t find anyone later?

Isn’t it better to just select the best option I get this year?

The options will keep reducing with every passing year!

Don’t be so negative! It is a chance that you take. The same chance that you take when you marry. Take your time with the same optimism with which you decide to marry. Staying single is far more reversible than getting married!

Author’s note: The intent of this post is not to make a mockery of arranged marriages. It is just an attempt at  initiating a discussion on a relevant issue. This article has been written from a woman’s point of view because well, it is Women’s Web! However, the views expressed here may apply to men as well.

Header image is a still from the movie Hum Aapke Hain Kaun.

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  1. I don’t agree with you at all. Mine is an arrange marriage. Btw. I got married at the age of 35. I am an enterprenuer, US graduate and a writer. My parents supported me in all decisions like higher studies and opening my own company and of course, no pressure on me for getting married soon. I always wanted to go for arrange marriage not because my parents taught me that but I wanted that as I know myself and my parents. Parents taught you to make your choices that means they know what is good and bad for you and where and with whom you can adjust better according to your personality. love marriage or arrange marriage at the end of the day its marriage, you both have to nurture it with sensitivity and sensibility.
    PS: I am happily married and so are my cousins who opted for love marriage

    • Sure Storyteller. Thank you for sharing your personal experience. It is great when it works out for some people. Also, what I liked is that there was no pressure on you for marriage. Your comment made me feel happy. 🙂

  2. I agree with this article in many ways. Whether arranged marriage or love marriage, what matters is the home-work. In case of a love marriage you ought to have done it yourself and while in an arranged marriage it’s certainly the responsibility of the parents to do it. The home work done must be ‘a study of your self’ and ‘of the other party’ which must fairly tally – else life can end up to be disastrous at an emotional or psychological level while constantly putting up with pressures in a bid to keep the marriage going. Parents often mislead the girls into false impressions. They are under pressure to get over their responsibility (whether social, age etc.) and in desperation, they omit / forget / decide to overlook in checking up the vitals before finalising things. Many times they go along with the flow of demands of the other party without a choice, just to make it happen. They trust wrong people or people with unacceptable thought processes, bending in to the pressures.

    (Continued in the next comment)

  3. (continued from the earlier comment)
    Mine was an arranged marriage and I have an understanding and supportive husband and am quite happy about the way things have worked out for me. I am a Chartered Accountant and got married at 31 but that’s again because the issue every time was the homework. However, I was extremely alert during the search process (to my parents fault and also to my own requirements for that matter). I trusted none at that stage except myself and even with all this, I also kept going with an open mind in listening to my parents point of view (where it mattered) and definitely gave it a proper thought before rejecting anyone and made my parents see the reason. It was certainly an uphill effort at that stage but today when I look back it was worth it as my husband is like a son to my parents and same goes vice versa for my MIL. Both sides are secured.

  4. However, yes I agree with Storyteller’s point of view too where sensibility and sensitivity is concerned. But that is something which is ‘after the marriage scenario’ and not necessary that it will come from both the parties…they need to be worked out sometimes and that is definitely ‘some process’, the results of which are not guaranteed….that’s why it may be necessary to be alert to these things before hand and choose wisely.

    • Hi SR. Thank you for sharing your personal experience, and a balanced viewpoint. “Many times they go along with the flow of demands of the other party without a choice, just to make it happen” Very true. This is the most dangerous part. I am grateful that all of you have provided the necessary perspectives here. We are having a discussion on this topic that is more important, than my personal opinion.
      And I am also a chartered accountant!! 🙂

  5. I wish I had read this article ear;ier Tavi… Really good read… True every word…

    • HI Neha. Thanks. Glad you liked the article. Even I wish I had thought things our earlier in life. Writing this article now, but have made my share of mistakes in life. Hence the strong views.:-)

  6. Tanvi, Subha Rajeev here…we have corresponded before over an article of mine ‘looking back from mid-life: were all the compromises I made worth it?’ I like your write ups very much as what you say is most of the times the blatant truth, though it may sound a bit harsh…I have sought and read many of your articles by now, even after having only recently joined this forum and from the style, I can now make out right from the start itself that below it’s going to be ‘Tanvi Sinha’ 🙂 Kudos!!! Keep writing.

    • Yes, I remember you. CA Subha Rajeev! And your article too! Thank you so much for your encouraging words. This is a great platform. Keep reading and writing! 🙂

  7. Nice read . …There are two sides of the same coin….. Not all love marriages are successful.. There are people who have been cheated by their spouses in love marriages,abusive nature, money oriented, one who always doubts his wife.. Many other nature of men are discovered only after marriage and the disadvantage is no one bothers To Help them cos they would have gone and married against their families wishes… So can’t expect any support or advice from them. ..Also there have been many successful arranged marriages wherein the husband and wife are married to each other for many years…. My opinion is that you can guess the nature of the partner but when you actually lead your life with him you are bound to know his true nature… Everything depends on circumstances and yes you need to do the homework but a true relationship works out only through understanding and adjustment and not to have unrealistic expectatioNs

  8. Marriage is a gamble, be it arranged or love. I know of arranged marriages where the guy turned out to be a fraud. I know of love marriages where the guy started cheating on the girl. I know of arranged marriages which define the meaning of love. I know of love marriages that are going steady after years & year. So, let’s please not generalize.

    In both the cases, a background check is of utmost importance. Most parents want the best for their children. So, if something goes wrong, it is unfair to blame them. They did not do it deliberately. There is nothing archaic about arranged marriages. If I want to get married but have been unable to find someone on my own, what is the harm in letting my parents find someone for me or using a matrimonial website to do so?

    The keyword is caution my friend, be it any kind of marriage.

  9. Pingback: Time to say ‘No’ to the everytime ‘Yes’ – Shubha

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