Arranged marriages work on the principle that every man or woman should be the family’s responsibility, especially when it comes to marriage. You might fall in love with this concept at first sight if you are from a European or American background. Parents would always stand by for their children and their newly formed family. When the grand children are born, their grandparents babysit them. This is a real cost cutter too, and you might want to try.
In the pre-50s era, families were established in the joint tradition, where members from one family lived in one house, with their children, their partners, and their partners’ partners. The downside of this “joint family” system is that the individual never got his voice heard. The elder in the family is always the decision maker, the dictator. If you fall in love with another person and if your family, especially the eldest member did not approve of your relationship, you would be ousted from the family. Caste, religion, social background and other rivalries can cause the older men or women to decide against your will to marry your sweetheart. Finally, you might have to shout like the Spartan king, in a Hollywood movie about 300 warriors, your insanity.
During the late 90s this familial set up transformed to give way entirely to the “nuclear family” system—husband, wife, one or two kids. In such families, marriages mean breaking away from one family and forming another atom or nuclei of a family. Parents who love their kids are reluctant to let them make decisions for themselves, especially in the case of choosing life partners. Somebody’s someone cheating someone else is a news item our newspapers and Television channels love to celebrate on a daily basis. This inevitably invites parents to step in the decision making process during a wedding proposal. Most families suffer severe emotional trauma and depression close to a marriage, anxious over the future of our family member getting married, and I myself have been through this great emotional turmoil during a marriage in my own family. This is the case of arranged marriages.
The so-called love marriages involve a direct infusion of individual rights with the ritual of marriage. In love marriages, parents’ consent would generally be lacking, due to caste, religious, or other issues. Two individuals choose their partners out of their free will and tie their relationship in the wedding knot. Wedding would still happen, but probably within a registrar office or in a temple of church, in the presence of their friends. The psychological trauma of the family on such an occasion should not be undermined, with the prejudiced media, caste, religion, and communal order on the other end with their mind-control games.
It is, however, merely a hypothetical question whether the involvement of parents assure marital happiness. At least, from the individual’s point of view, they could understand each other and learn to appreciate mutual values better through a love relationship.
When even their dating is pre-arranged by their respective families, it is a question to what extent one’s independent creative self could harmonize itself with the mechanical processes involved. What should be an organic process of meeting individuals turns into an orchestrated ritual guarded safely by the family.
I made my students promise, nothing in our discussion should go out of this class. Then our discussion continued. However, I still noticed some reluctance on their part to use explicit terminologies such as “love marriage”. Some of them had other ideas of marriage to discuss too. So I invented this quick metaphor. I said, “Let’s consider arranged marriages ‘ration shops’, where one has only limited choices. Also, consider love marriages supermarkets, where you have plenty of options to choose from, on your own.”
Then I urged them to suggest their ideas. I was looking for what each of them thought about the second question. Which form of marriage do you prefer? When family arranges marriages, proposals reached the man or woman only through the family. In other words, the individual’s say was only limited to the later part of the selection process; the first selection would already have taken place. This was the reason why I used the ration shop metaphor to suggest arranged marriages.
One of the students stood up. He said smiling, “Sir, I would like to go to a ration shop inside a supermarket.”
What he mentioned was a phenomenon the late 90s have witnessed in the culture, popularly known “arranged-love marriages”. Though it sounds a bit paradoxical, this super baby is born out of the nuclear family culture. The nuclear families could not afford to lose their only son or only daughter just because they had made their own choices in selecting their life partners. So the boy and girl would come to their parents and talk about their relationship, as usual. Here is the blessed part: after much word-battle, in some cases, if the family is traditional or orthodox or due to some psychological reason with the father or mother figure, the parents consent.
The good news is that within urban societies in India, “arranged-love marriages” are gaining popularity and acceptance. So love, finally, is on the march.
Author, Lecturer in English, and blogger