Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Arranged marriages in India

Few days back I was chatting with Dorota and we exchanged some thoughts on 'Arranged Marriages' in India.  Its something which is virtually non - existent in the west and most of the countries.  But still in countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Middle - East countries and might be some other countries arranged marriages are still practiced and constitute a major way how marriages are fixed in this countries. Compared to how they were fixed several decades before, today the way arranged marriages are fixed has totally changed.  And I suppose this change is for the better. I've being born and brought up in India so I would like to put my thoughts about India only. May be some of my knowledge might be wrong too.  Correct me if you find any thing wrong.  :)

During the British rule and for few decades after that also child marriages were happening at large.  Children were married off and the girl used to stay with her parents till she grew up and then she was send to her husband's house.  Mostly parents of the boy and girl used to fix this marriages and it used to be fixed in the same community itself.  Both the boy and the girl were not even allowed to see each other before getting married.  With literacy rate increasing and strict government laws child marriages are now banned and illegal, but still not totally extinct from my country.  So many times I come across few questions like what is the difference between arranged marriages several decades back and in the present times ?  how can someone get married to a person without totally knowing him or her ?  how can parents force their children to get married to someone they don't want to ?  When I come across such questions it really makes me wonder, what can be the reasons ?  Well there is not just one psychology that comes up.

So what can be the reasons ? This is what I think.......

In earlier times in India people used to live in joint families.  Men used to work and earn money while the women folk used to take care of the children and the house hold things.  The head of the family used to have the financial control.  And hence out of respect or out of fear of loosing the financial comforts other young family members used to obey to the head of the family.  Also the upbringing was such that psychologically one didn't had the courage to go against the decision of the elders in the family.  Also the society was highly conservative.  Not many girls were send to school or college.  So there was lack of interaction between boys and girls.  So either the marriages were fixed very early before the children grow up or once they are young parents or elders would fix their marriages.  Parents were of the thinking that children don't have the maturity to think about the prospective partner.  So they themselves used to match the horoscopes which are of tremendous importance in Hindu arranged marriages.  Also since Indians had huge families, the social circle was also very big and the reputation of the family in this social circle was very important to the parents and elders.  So the parents and elders used to fix marriages without the consent of their children.

In today's India lots have changed when it comes to fix marriages.  Take a look at the first step.  Matrimonial advertisements are the first step towards finding a prospective partner for their son or daughter.

Sample : B'ful, slim, prof.qualified girl; for smart, h'some, indep boy 28/175/65 (I.I.T); MBA(ISB); Wkg in HSBC Bank in M'bai; Sal. 7 figures; Father Sr.IAS,GOI,Delhi; Pls include Bio,H'rscope,recent Photo of girl. Cont Email:; Box ….

This is how matrimonial advertisements are put up in newspapers. ;) Many times in families with large social circle, the relatives bring in the alliance for their known girl or boy and horoscopes & pictures are exchanged and if the boy and girl on seeing the picture like it and if the horoscopes are matched, meetings are arranged between the families.  The boy and the girl see each other for the first time.  On seeing each other if they like then they are given some time to talk alone with each other.  This first meeting mostly never goes beyond 30 - 45 minutes.  Once the first meeting is over parents discuss with their kids about the prospective partner.  Lot of if's and but's are talked about.  Finally if both the boy and girl agree then 2nd round of meeting is arranged and even 3rd.  Many times if the families are little bit open minded they allow both of them to go out and talk freely with each other.  Most of the times after 3 meetings the marriage is fixed and all the relatives from both sides meet and have an agreement for it.  Than the dates are fixed and other preparations are carried on.  Here the base of liking each other is mostly attraction towards the other persons physical beauty.  Some times even after meeting thrice the marriage is not fixed due to some reason or the other.  Before fixing the marriages both families try to get the background of the other family and the prospective partner of their child.  This is a typical way of arranged marriages happening now a days where the choice is mostly the girl and the boy's.  Its not that the parents force their children to marry their choice.   But then the question again arises why do parents and families have to search for a prospective partner for their children and how this girls and boys agree for such an arrangement and how they still live together for their entire life.

60 to 70 % of Indian population lives in villages.  And the people are very conservative. Also people living in cities, not all of them are open minded.  Being brought up in a conservative atmosphere girls and boys many times don't interact with each other or the interaction is limited.  This leads to young people having almost no chance of meeting a suitable prospective partner.  Hence parents or relatives intervene and try to fix their marriages.  Also this arrange marriages take place in the same community or same caste.  One of the many reasons why this marriages happen in the same caste or community is because, the girl when she moves to her in-laws house the traditions and customs followed there are not much different from her parents house.  So its relatively much much easier for her to adjust.  Since in villages joint families are still existent, elder people in the family are strict about following the old customs passed on from earlier generations.  

In cities where one can find more open minded people things are changing slowly.  Interaction between boys and girls apart from school and university is also happening in offices, sometimes in cafe's and restaurants or during some concerts or festivals.  There is more exposure to the opposite gender.  All this contributes to more and more love marriages this days.  Yes love marriages are on increase but still the importance of arranged marriage in Indian society hasn't gone down as such.  Many boys and girls are still brought up with the idea of getting married by arranged marriage only and they are also willing to do so.  They are ready to compromise and adjust with the person they marry.  It isn't always that they fall in love with the person they marry.  But still they carry on. :(

Young boys and girls today are falling in love, but still living relationships are still not accepted in Indian society.  Still its considered as a thing of west.  But slowly with young people moving out from their families and small towns to big cities in search of good jobs, nuclear families are on the rise.  Hence in metro's living relationships are on a rise.  I've always felt that a person is best known or tested in times of problems and calamities.  How two people in a couple are with each other during problems, that's when u are able to know their real self.  Otherwise when everything around is perfect and comfortable life seems easy with your partner.  Hence while in a relationship most of the times the true self of your partner can be known the same in arranged marriage is known only after you get married to each other.

Its not that arranged marriages haven't worked in the Indian society.  Majority of the arranged marriages are still going strong and probably in future too they will remain strong.  But there are still lots of couples who had arranged marriages, given an option would want to opt out of the alliance.  The only obstacle is the so call society and social circle of the family.  Still today divorce is something not that easy to think about because of the social stigma attached to it.  People view a divorced person as someone who has got a problem, either physically or mentally that doesn't matter.  Divorce rate today is increasing and its fast.  With people getting better education, becoming financially independent and also the joint family system breaking up fast the young generation is not giving much heed to what the society and social circle would think of them getting divorced.

Today marriages across cultures, across religions and across countries are definitely on a rise.  It shows that when two people are ready to accept the differences and are willing to work on adapting each others culture, why can't things work for them.  There are so many cases that I personally have known where a person had to let go of his / her wish to marry someone of their choice because he / she was from different caste or different economic level.  How many times lives have been ended cause of this emotional pressure and stress.  Its also true that young people while choosing their life partner has to show that maturity.  Many times boys take advantage of girls by trapping them on the pretext of loving them and promising them to marry them.  But when the true side is known to the girl, the emotional stress that she goes through is horrible.  Fearing this many parents don't want their daughters to fall into such a trap.

I believe that today India is going through a cultural revolution and the maturity and freedom that the young generation is seeking might come still after at least a decade or two.  The binding of the society by caste and culture is so strong today, that it'll take time to break the shackles.  And I hope and wish that if and when this freedom is achieved the society doesn't go the way how it is in the west where divorce and separation is so very common.  Ideally I feel the mixture of western ideology and eastern tradition can be best.  Lets see where we go in the next few decades.........

1 comment:

  1. Nipun, you are a rebel! Do you think people are ready for a freedom?! They don't need it because they don't know what to do with it. That's why tradition is the optimum variant for them. Your text is really interesting. Thank you for it!