Marriages are made in heaven – ‘heaven’ being either a quaint restaurant or the home of the prospective bride or groom – that’s where most of the Indian marriages are made. Entering the twenty-first century with a full swing, the age-old practice of arranging marriages is still strongly observed in many communities of our country. Parents are always on the prowl to find a suitable match for their offspring, once he/ she is of marriageable age.
Very often, some of these ‘girl or guy seeing ceremonies’ turn out quite contrary to one’s beliefs. In addition to the girl and guy, their parents are present. As Priti Botadkar rightly puts it, “It is like our own parents are setting us up for a blind date.” Priti has been out on the market, as it is termed, for a whole year now. Such meetings begin with a general talk and discussion after which the pair is left alone to talk in private. The talk may assume the proportion of an interview, which lends a sort of hilarity to the meeting. Geeta Sheshadri, who just started to look for a match, had this kind of experience. “Before I knew what was going on, I was answering questions related to anything and everything except married life. Questions about work, salary, commuting, business policies and what not. It was like a typical corporate interview and I am quite sure I would have got the job had it been one,” relates this computer engineer.
If in a restaurant, one might be faced with uncomprehending, quizzical looks from the other customers. When they do realise what is going on, they smirk, adding to the already existing awkwardness. “I was quite nervous at my first meeting. All the stares and glances made me so conscious that I actually went to the bathroom and threw up,” says Komal, who has come a long way since that first disastrous meeting. Siddharth, her husband, felt that all the staring made him feel like a clown providing entertainment to the onlookers. “After a couple of such meetings out, I clearly instructed my parents to arrange them at home.” Saagar Bansal, another candidate, had the queerest of experiences. Says he, “We were at a restaurant and had set up two consecutive meetings. As luck would have it, the second party walked in while we were still with the first. Perplexed as we already were, imagine our surprise at the revelation that both parties belonged to the same family and were evidently cross with the mediator for the mix up. We were relieved when the fiasco came to an end.” The trump card, however, is won by this incident that happened years ago in the 70s. Maya Shah, already married by then, had accompanied her cousin, almost her own age, to check out a groom. Somehow, he and his folks took Shah as the prospective bride as no formal introductions were made. “Things weren’t as open as they are now,” she says. “Private conversations were not allowed then. With their announcement of liking the girl, all of us were elated. His mother served sweets to celebrate and got out some traditional paraphernalia to perform the tikka ceremony. I could almost feel my cousin’s nervousness as his mother approached us. To our horror, she stopped to face me and was about to begin the ceremony. We sat there, flabbergasted, not knowing what to do. My husband then slowly pointed out the gross misunderstanding, which left us high and dry. After that unfortunate incident, I wasn’t allowed to accompany anyone else for such meetings, until I was well past the marriageable age.”
Though these incidents are along a lighter vein, society does take these matters seriously. “Who makes up society?” asks Aditya Roy, who is thoroughly frustrated and bored with the pressure. “My parents indulge in emotional blackmail to have me sit through these encounters. I’m completely disgusted and have decided to defy them and the system.” Thus speaking, he turns to his cupboard and fishes out a t-shirt, which says in bold letters, ‘Not all men are foolish. Some are bachelors.’
Arranged vs love
It is a very typical culture in India where everyone is busy categorising marriages either as arranged or love. So, if you managed to find your partner on your own, without any help from family members, you have had a ‘love marriage’. If not, it is definitely arranged. Though young Indians are now going out, dating and opting to live-in, a majority of Indian marriages happen the ‘arranged’ way. The sad part, according to many, is that people are not broad-minded enough to understand that a hook-up can happen anytime, anywhere and need not be categorised as ‘arranged’ or ‘love’. Arranged marriage in India has been a safe bet for many generations. The families are involved since the beginning so you have a safety net to fall back on in case something goes wrong. Also with an arranged marriage, you know that feelings for the person develop later, and gradually. You know you are spending your life with that certain someone and the love you feel is by virtue of this decision. And more often than not, it lasts.
Volume 1 Issue 6