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Thursday, October 29, 2009

So what the heck is 'arranged marriage'?

Arranged marriage is one phenomenon which seems to be the norm in some cultures, while it is totally inconceivable in others. Arranged marriage is still widely followed in south Asia and the middle east. Generations after generations, parents take it as their biggest responsibility to find a suitable bride/groom for their children. Alliances are not just made between the man and the woman but between the families.

Ever since I have been outside of India, all my friends from the western world are immensely curious to know how the whole deal works and if it is actually true. I have been asked over and over again, how in the world can two people who barely know each other enter into a life long commitment. How can one, who takes hours to select a piece of clothing, make such a decision within a couple of meetings? Well, every time I am deeply embarrassed by the question and quite honestly am bewildered myself. But I can make a reasonable assessment of the situation.

Dig this! India has about 30 official languages with over 1000 dialects. We have every possible religion on the earth thriving in this land which is further complicated by the caste system ( age old system of dividing people up by their jobs, which doesn't sit well in today's world but is quite rigidly still there). Hinduism, the predominant religion followed in India has over 330 million forms of Gods or deities with each having a separate following ( most of the countries' population is not so huge! :) ). As you can imagine not two households in India would have the same traditions and beliefs. Now top this all up with a strong tendency to hold on tight to all these customs. In India, kids are grown with immense care and protection. Parents literally give away their lives to get their children the best. In return the children feel obligated to give away the one thing that their parents treasure the most - to stay in line with the family traditions and seek their acceptance. Baam comes in the arranged marriage!

When the kids reach a suitable age (generally 21 for girls and 24-25 for guys), parents start scouting for 'suitable' partners through family contacts/agents/websites. The idea is that if a match is found between a family with similar values, social status and understanding, the possibility of the marriage being successful is high. Mostly a meeting is arranged between the families to discuss the issue and things are finalized within that meeting. Most couples barely talk before their wedding!! They some how have to figure it all out later!

So thats the general picture. But parts of India, especially the cities is rapidly being modernized. With more and more education and influences from the western world, people are realizing the flaws of such a life. While it offers security and acceptance within the family, alarm bells keep ringing in every youth's head at the very thought of living with a complete stranger. As several leaders in the country believe, true integration can only be achieved when people from all over, mix up. The whole arranged marriage business has taken a newer version now with the matrimonial websites playing a major role. Within a shortlisted group, choices can be made quite freely by the boy and the girl, giving them much more time to decide. Somehow this seems to create a win-win situation for both.

While some of the country's youth is of the rebellious nature, most of them are caught in the middle, knowing not whether to sway or not to sway! This is perhaps one of the biggest dilemma that today's youth has in my country. Living outside, I almost laugh over the fact that how certain things are just the way of life in the west while in the east we worry so much over something as basic and fundamental as the right to chose your life partner. Time, common sense (lots of it! :)) and some guts should be the remedy I guess.

Picture Courtesy - www.luxuryhinduweddings.com

17 comments:

Archana said...

Very well written! I know what you mean by how people outside of South Asia are baffled by this concept of an arranged marriage. I've spent my whole life having to answer questions thrown my way about it, lol. Though when you reason it out the way you have and explain that the entire concept has really modernized and boils down to a relatively win-win situation, I find a lot of people nodding along and understanding. :)

I think that nowadays the whole bride & groom don't converse except for that one coffee/tea they have during their "first meeting" with parents and everything is hopefully passe. I have nothing against being match made by the parents (if anything, makes life easier since the guy clearly passes the checklist in order for him to be considered "eligible" lol), but luckily for me, it's up to me to get to know the guy and decide for myself. :)

Great post Thamarai! And I'm officially following now. <3

thamarai said...

Hey Archana! thanks a lot! :) I agree, in the cities things have vastly improved. Its no longer the age old traditions as they used to be. But I must say that in the interior parts of India, things are still the same.

Oh ya...in most of cases, its funny to see the parents sweating it out to meet the huge demands that the kids have placed on the 'to be' guy..:).

Ramana said...

nice! Nd well written without delving into the messy details. :)

nd lol
24-25 for guys aa??

thamarai said...

hey thanks Ramana..this was a difficult topic to write...am not exactly sure if I did a good job...but its something which I thought was important....

ya, 24-25 illa?? I mean it starts at least at that point...

EFRUTIK said...

Thamarai, I like the crispy/personal rationale about the topic. My grandpa and grandma (mum's side) were married through an arranged marriage. They were very happily married for more than 50 years until grandpa passed away.
I don't think that arranged marriage is for everyone but it is not something to be scorned too heavily either. Honestly not everything the West has to offer, has a place in other cultures that are unique with their own ways.

By the way another thing that caught my interest is this "virtual hook up place", fascinating how technology is also influencing cultural norms.

Thank you for writing such a great post!

karthik said...

There is another dimension to this. With hinduism being followed mostly in India and with the family expecting the boy/girl to get an arranged marriage, its a huge dilemma for Indian born hindus who go abroad for studies/work and end up meeting a girl/boy from a different religion.

thamarai said...

hey Efrutik, thanks for the comments! I really enjoyed reading ur point of view...its true that the west and east should learn from each other..the east perhaps should move ahead with changing times and west perhaps learn more of commitment perhaps?

And so true..technology has influenced our society and culture so much!

Karthik, yes religion is even higher up there I think..we find it hard to mix even within our religion to begin with..other religions within and outside of India is definitely a huge step...

Anita said...

"Romantic Love" is, historically speaking, a very modern concept even in the Western Society. My grandparents from my mother side had an arranged marriage - that was common for farmers in Northeastern Brazil. And they were unhappy. Arranged marriage could be an extra option, not an obligation. I am picky, so I prefer to choose - always !

thamarai said...

Hey Anita, thanks for visiting my blog...very true..in the ancient times most of the marriages were arranged especially in the royal families...as you rightly pointed one must do what makes them feel happy and contended in the end...

Primary Work at Home said...

Great post. Now I understand more about arranged marriage and even in this modern days some are still doing this.

thamarai said...

hey thanks, Primary work at home..:)

~Lopa said...

Very well written Viji, so now when i am bombarded by same question, i can just divert them to your post :)

Well, it is really complicated when we are born and brought up in India, and even more than you are sure you are going to spend rest of your life also there...
In whole world I see people marrying to other culture, country, In India also mindsets are changing but still there does prevail a caste system, and i have heard those dialogues... you can find your life partner but he/she should be well-educated, from good family back-ground and our caste !!! Means what we would have searched ourselves for you, find yourself and get approved by us ! Now one can imagine what happens when it is different religion ! It's like standing in a war !

I was lucky my parents were not like that and i was always asked to take all decisions related to my life myself, but i have lots of people around who would have to get approval for each and everything, where to stay, where to go, whom to meet !

While staying here, when i look back it all looks funny, that what was all fuss about ! It is different world... but with time everything changes.... Like what our parents saw and what we see is totally different and so tomorrow will bring a new India as well.

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thamarai said...

Lopa, I was really glad to read your comment as you are someone who could easily relate to what I had written..:)..As you rightly pointed out, most Indians (I think) want to go back to their home or remain in constant touch with the people back there..So its just easier to marry someone who understands your culture better...

Indeed we are all lucky that our parents are much more forward thinking...I am sure the next generation would have more and more freedom to choose and do what they like..


Petes Blog, thanks a lot for visiting my blog and for your wonderful comments..:)..I have already visited your blog, will read through it more soon...

anniexp said...

Hi Thamarai, loved your arranged marriage blog and wrote to you about it in the email you had mentioned on your blogsite - path.untaken@gmail.com. Not sure if you received it..Annie Prasad

thamarai said...

Hi Annie, gmail played a trick on me..sorry, I just saw your mail. Thanks a ton for your wonderful comments..:)..Made my day!

anniexp said...

Hi Thamarai, I replied to your email, not sure if gmail has sent it to the junk mail again, hence posting a comment...Annie Prasad

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