SOLSC21, Day 31
I’ve been following the wedding ceremonies and celebrations on It’s Elementary, and the absolutely drop-dead gorgeous pictures of her special day. I’ve naturally been drawing comparisons with how weddings back home in India are. Now, I’m sure we’re very familiar with the proverbial big fat Indian wedding, and they are pretty much that. (Yeah, Ben and Preeta’s wedding in Tom and Jerry: The Movie might be slightly exaggerated, but it’s not too far removed from the truth)But I’ve not been drawing comparisons between the size or girth or even the ‘wedding’ as such, but rather ruminating on how marriages are ‘fixed’ in India, and on the ‘custom’ of marriages.
We have two kinds of marriages there. There is a clear demarcation. There’s the common ‘arranged marriage’ and the now-not-uncommon ‘love marriage’. The arranged marriage is the most common kind we have there. Our parents and relatives start looking for a suitable match for us when we graduate from college, sometimes even earlier. How do they ‘look’ for a match? They ask around, they eye acquaintances with daughters or sons who might make what they think is a good match. They check family credentials, education, financial status, and I don’t even know what else, and, if satisfied, they approach the parents of this suitable match and propose. The two families meet, the two people up for grabs see each other, meet under family supervision, maybe go out together a couple of times, get married and then fall in love. If you’re wondering what happens if the acquaintances don’t have suitable sons and daughters, well, marriage is a business. There are agencies – professional matchmakers, just like job hunters and job sites. They will take the resume of your son/daughter (yes, an entire CV is prepared for the partner-hunt), and come up with a matching one from their database (and yes, they have a pre-existing database of CVs). They introduce the families, who introduce the two people up for grabs. They meet under family supervision, maybe go out together a couple of times, get married and then fall in love. There are Facebook pages and Whatsapp groups where parents and guardians post profiles of their children/nieces/nephews/friends’ children, and other people looking for partners for their children/nieces/nephews/friends’ children can contact the families on those pages. The two families meet, the two people up for grabs see each other, meet under family supervision, maybe go out together a couple of times, get married and then fall in love. This is NOW. My grandparents’ generation got married without even meeting their spouse-to-be! They’d be shown a photograph, and be asked for the go-ahead. It was absolutely normal for couples to meet in person only on their wedding night. I have an aunt who didn’t even see any photograph of her husband (I don’t know why!) before she married him, and they’ve been happily married for more than three decades now. My parents met once with large families from both sides over dinner.
The other kind of marriage is what we refer as the love marriage. This is the usual kind that is common elsewhere in the world. Maybe a decade or two ago, parents of youngsters going for a ‘love marriage’ would be too embarrassed to admit to their friends and family, and would still say it was an ‘arranged marriage’! And the friends and family, obviously, knew. And would talk about it in hushed tones. While this kind of a marriage is not uncommon now and is not even hidden from the public eye, the earlier arrangement still remains the norm. Families are okay with reversing the order of first-marriage-then-love, but since old habits are known to die hard, we still keep one eye open for a ‘suitable match’ for our children as they enter their early- and mid-twenties.
So, these are quirks, I suppose, but it is what works for us. For as far back as anyone I know can remember, our society has lived this way with not many hiccups. It is what makes up the fabric of our society. And if something works, then why not?