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The Static Face of an Evolving India

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  The term 'marriage' generally bears a striking connotation: love and a life together. Love is the key ingredient of this social union between two people who are committed to spending their lives together. What logically ensues is that in order to get married one needs to be in love. Wedlock seals the romantic involvement and a new life begins for two people. True. This is commonly and most naturally the case the world over. In India, however, the scenario is entirely different.

 

 

This is one country that regales in its age old tradition of 'arranged marriages'. While, getting married becomes almost imperative for every Indian, falling in love is even today frowned upon. Paradoxically, in a land where remaining unmarried is considered lacking a fundamental ingredient of life and an embarrassment, a youngster in love, evokes the piquant curiosity of his peers and invites nasty insinuations from the elderly about his/her romantic relationship. In major parts of India, being in love before marriage is a virtual stigma. So is remaining single. A girl in love supposedly brings 'shame' upon her family. And all hell breaks loose if the boy she's in love with happens to be from a caste/ community different from hers. In order to salvage the family's 'honour', the girl is either hastily married off to another boy of a 'respectable' background, falling within the 'caste/community' compartment, or in worst cases the unwavering, undeterred girl and her lover are sacrificed by their own people in the name of 'honour killing'. Shocking as it may seem, yet this act of barbarism continues to be practiced in parts of the country. Most couples in love, however, are lucky enough to get a positive nod from their respective families. In such cases too it seldom is an easy win for them. Often parents put up a stiff resistance to their children's choices and ultimately, fearing an estrangement from their heirs, give in. At other times, however, the girl and the boy, two consenting adults, are forced to marry someone against their own wishes.

 

 

In the background of these somber, sour and unyielding practices, the age old tradition of arranged marriage still exists as the most acceptable way to matrimony. Funnily enough, Indian parents proudly take the onus of finding suitable matches for their children, and getting their 'independent' children married off is an incumbency carried out almost theatrically.The practice, in today's world that significantly values individual freedom and choices in all that one does, appears downright stifling and outdated. Recently, while talking to a cousin in India, who works as a software engineer with a reputed multinational, I casually asked her about her plans for marriage. The youngster replied saying that while marriage was most plainly on the cards, she was still waiting for Mr. Right. I asked her if she had someone in mind, to which she replied in the negative, and said that she expected her parents to do that for her. Some twenty years back the answer would not have befuddled me, but today I found it difficult to stomach that. What is simply beyond comprehension is, the way a person who's come to be independent, with a distinct conception of life and choices, allows someone else to choose a 'life partner' for him/her. Isn't that a decision reserved exclusively to the individuals concerned?

 

 

Most Indian parents, in their mid-ages, spend a chunk of their time and resources playing match makers to their offspring. The burgeoning matrimonial websites come appreciably to their aid. Bharat Matrimony, a ubiquitous name in Indian households, boasts of having entered the Limca Book of Records with a record number of marriages. Not that 'love marriages' are non- existent. With changing times, 'love matches'- a term not used in the western world, are gaining grounds especially in urban India. However, such marriages are arranged by families, dutifully and most self- righteously, by way of mutual approval and compliance. In ancient India, where the idea and role of the individual was not well recognized and remained relatively blurred, the concept of arranged marriage did work, and those marriages were fairly successful too. Today, however, Indians with a decent education and career have veered far from the age old way of living, but when it comes to settling down in marriage, they most often lie, bereft of any romantic association, almost wholly at the wishes of their parents. And it thus is a 'loveless match' to begin with. It would be further intriguing to note that many of the youngsters have had no romantic involvement at all until they get married, which happens anytime around their mid- twenties or later. And this is highly regarded by the older generation and often passed off as a mark of 'integrity of character'. To such couples, sex comes, not as a result of love, but more as a result of a natural transpiration between a man and a woman being 'made to sleep together' for the purpose of nurturing the family tree, and for enabling a ‘socially accepted’ way to satisfy their basic human instinct.What follows marriage is a life bogged down with family pressures and responsibility, so much, so that love merely remains an object of fantasy, restricted to books and films.

 

 

In a land where individuality and personal space do not come easily and naturally, it appears that the age old tradition of arranged marriage has not just survived, it is continually evolving to suit the needs of a changing populace. And so, a 'fair complexioned, smart, beautiful convent educated, 5ft2'' docile, homely, graduate, Brahmin girl of 22,' of the 80s and 90s has now progressed to a 'beautiful, Hindu, Mumbai based investment banker 25, progressive woman with a spiritual bent, seeks alliance with like-minded Hindu man, preferably based in the US ; caste no bar'. In a progressing India the old arrangement still works, with a constant variable of 'beauty' as an essential criterion for an Indian bride. Not just in India, but scores of Indians settled in America and other parts of the world, continue to opt for arranged matches with a view to retain their culture. The difference is that back home, parents play a decisive role in these marriages. Romance and courtship between couples-to-be is not encouraged. And all clandestine meetings, if any, to that effect are often swept under the carpet and not given enough importance. Indians living westwards generally have a strong say in their own, arranged relationship. Furthermore, the need to know one another is far more crucial and relevant than what goes on at the family levels.

 

 

It can be summed up that arranged marriages continue to hold their charm for Indians. The flavors get somewhat marinated in the changing times, but families still look for decent brides and a US based software engineer continues to be the most sought after groom.

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An imitation!

Gosh! what a coincidence!! Just now I read the original article from which you wrote this. It is published by anita jain. Well, at least yours is a little interesting than the boring original article.

http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/culture/features/11621/

My reply

Ruby Sahay's picture

And NOW my reply

Just read the above article you've quoted. If you've read that well enough, you would notice that there is absolutely no relation between that and this. Yet, a parallelism can be drawn in the central idea- the idea that disregards a practice that does not hold much practicality to its users. I would urge you to re-read both. And if you still find mine the same, then all I can say is that the web holds a cluster of similar ideas. I have written about something that many feel strongly about and thus there'll be several related write ups on the net. I have nothing more to say!!

Fully agree Ruby !

AB's picture

Completely agree Ruby. YOur article is original and wonderful. I fail to understand why people start looking around corners for errors when the main frame is so nice ! And if a theme is common, obviously the factual bits are bound to be similar - whats the rocket science in pointing that out ?
Keep writing ! YOu rock !
Ayon

Thank you so much, Ayon!

Ruby Sahay's picture

Thank you so much, Ayon!

quite right

"Funnily enough, Indian parents proudly take the onus of finding suitable matches for their children, and getting their 'independent' children married off is an incumbency carried out almost theatrically."....loved this!

Enjoyed this.

Thank you

Ruby Sahay's picture

Thank you, Monika :D

I am not here to contest your

I am not here to contest your arguments, except to let you know i'm a big fan of your writing style ! The Hindu way of life is always in transition, unlike you i'm not penning it's epitaph--just not yet ! goodluck !

viveik pandit

An imitation! Submitted by

Ruby Sahay's picture

An imitation!
Submitted by Guest User on Tue, 10/02/2012 - 09:15.
Gosh! what a coincidence!! Just now I read the original article from which you wrote this. It is published by anita jain. Well, at least yours is a little interesting than the boring original article.

http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/culture/features/11621/

And NOW my reply

Just read the above article you've quoted. If you've read that well enough, you would notice that there is absolutely no relation between that and this. Yet, a parallelism can be drawn in the central idea- the idea that disregards a practice that does not hold much practicality to its users. I would urge you to re-read both. And still if you find mine the same, then all I can say is that the web holds a cluster of similar ideas. I have written about something that many feel strongly about and thus there'll be several related write ups on the net. I have nothing more to say!!

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