As friendship goes, it's an unwritten rule that any topic which captures the whim and fancy of either party will be discussed and scrutinised in depth with every opinion taken into consideration no matter how ludicrous. Quite naturally then, my best friend and I found ourselves engaging in the most varied topics and for a while it's been playing hop-scotch over words like relationships, single life, break-ups, weddings and the much dreaded/awaited of them all; marriage. It all started when her mom made her intention of becoming a mother-in-law within the next year quite clear.
"You're twenty-three now beta", she said, in a tone that best suits the Indian mother; the combination of a mother's worry with an underlining sense of a subtle reprimand mixed with a hidden agenda of a statement thrown open to be challenged. Must hand it to moms to know how best to get their daughters to divulge any secret affairs.
"If I start looking now then I can find you a nice, good looking, rich guy in a year or so".
My best friend couldn't tell her worried mother that she longed to fall in love with the guy she would eventually be married to. But the stars seemed to keep that at a distance, for the time being at least. And so the proposals started pouring in. The slumbering matchmaking genes are given a double espresso-like boost and the suddenly interested relatives, uncles, aunts, their extended family and their families in turn become a part of the grand scheme of finding you a life partner. These wannabe cupids, who probably wouldn't know what your favourite food is even, spend days and weeks trying to find your perfect match. They bring with them a collection of the best matches they think would be the most apt husbands/wives. You know the type, "... this one has a steel industry to his name", "... this one has a brilliant smile","... oh wait this one's uncle is in the same field as yours!!".
A person's entire future being weighed not with how someone IS but what they HAVE, how they LOOK and other such important aspects. Welcome to the world of arranged marriages. The success rate may be sitting pretty high up, right where the manufactures of stars and asteroids sit at their workstation busy with their plans, but I shudder at the very thought of it. How can one decide if they want to spend the rest of their lives with someone based on easy spending and easy smiles? How will any of that decide for you if that match is the right one, if they would stand by you through hell or high seas or if they would choose to run through the catalogue once more and get themselves a brand new partner once the old one starts to wear out? Nothing does. It's appalling how many zillions of women from centuries have been doing this. It's so ingrained in our system that this arrangement is considered normal; a love marriage would mark you as some sort of rebel. You're expected to get married that way. It's been around for ages, they say. And you're expected to follow.
I sought the opinion of someone experienced in this whole marriage business, who's well into her 28th year of marriage. My mom.
She has no qualms about her daughter marrying for love, yes they need to approve of it, she adds and then quickly starts prattling on about the qualities any prospective groom should NOT have. I get her back to the subject on hand. I tell her I never understood as to how someone mentally readies themselves for an arranged marriage? I go on to state very decidedly that it's unimaginable, marrying someone you do not like, leave alone love; marrying a stranger, someone you don't really know! After giving me the usual talk about how it has always been around, she asks me "..how does loving someone prove you know them, love is quite irrational you know. People you love can turn out to be different as well".
People might argue that you never know how any person would turn out. But you'll have to live it to learn it. There might be a possibility that this lurks somewhere in the shadows of the love, waiting to reveal its ugly face but then again, there is a sense of security and oodles of trust that comes from knowing your partner loves you. You don't have it when your marriage is arranged by someone else. She agreed but not one to give up, on she went "...yes the magnitude of risk is a little lower when you think you know a person enough to marry him, but could you be a 100% sure?" The answer was no.
And so, very smartly my mother continued to justify the whole concept of arranged marriages.
"Not everyone falls in love, and by a certain age you need to have a companion by your side".
I open my mouth to protest, but she silences me by saying, "You can disagree all you want, but there comes a time in everyone's life when they need a constant companion, a support system. You need a family, you need to experience having and building a family of your own, and if love hasn't knocked the doors of your life, what is so wrong with arranging for a companion who you would most likely grow to love? Touché. Very well reasoned.
"It's not like old times", she says, "where the groom and the bride saw each other on the day of their wedding. You can go out and meet him, it'll just be like you have a boyfriend", she says, attempting to hide the hope and excitement in her voice. I smile realising how serious my mom is about this hilarious idea. "You'll get to know him, slowly, just like you would get to know someone you're dating and then get married". I stop her before she can go any further; what if I keep meeting him, and after a few months realise I can't stand him at all? Then will they be ok if I dump him (which I would without doubt)and find me another boyfriend to marry? I ask her playfully, knowing too well she'd hope I'm joking but yet be annoyed by the idea. She seems to have no answer and true to form grumbles about how she doesn't understand what's the fuss about, arranged marriages are not all that frightful, no big deal.
"Oh please, mom", I say as I laugh," how would you know, yours is a love marriage!!!". This does it and the topic is closed for further discussions, although I can't help that smug look on my face.
She married the love of her life, never had to once sit through the torturous awkward meetings with the prospective groom and excited members of his family. Is the risk of getting into a wedlock with a rich good looking guy less than the risk of getting into a wedlock with the love of your life? Those unknown hands your pictures must have been passed on to, for strangers to comment on your looks, right from how your eye-brows arch to how your jaws show when you smile. Opinions from siblings to friends, from gossip-loving aunts to their indulging neighbours.
An advocate of arranged marriages, one such aunt of mine defended the importance given to money and looks; she told me that given a choice a person would want their partner to be good looking and it wasn't shallow. You're compromising, you've agreed to be a part of this set up, so why not have the best looking one at that? And, she continued, money would come and go, but it's better to have enough to not be bothered too much when it does indeed decide to take a vacation from your life. This reasoning hardly proves anything; still superficial and shallow. But in love, neither makes any difference; love transcends them and more. Isn't it always a better and solid reason to marry someone for love than because they have a smile like your favourite actor?
Whatever the arguments, love will always be a better reason to embark on a lifelong journey with someone; the concept of arranged marriage, a compromise, always comes second. Even then, what makes an arranged marriage between two people a success in its true sense is the love that eventually grows in their hearts for each other. In either case there is but one winner, love.
A/N: This post has managed to crawl all the way from my journal to this blog after finding the same topic, Love Marriage ya Arranged Marriage as a contest on Indiblogger.