I have somehow, never been able to accept the concept of an arranged marriage. Being an Indian, I have seen arranged marriages all around me since childhood, because this is part of our Indian tradition, and such marriages constitute an overwhelming majority in the subcontinent.
But something I have never been able to understand, is that how are two people, who know almost nothing, or maybe very little about each other, expected to share everything together, for the rest of their lives? How can their elders impose their choices upon them, and ask them to marry someone, who they think to be fit for their son or daughter? How is a girl expected to share the same bed, the same room, the same wardrobe with a man she met a few days ago? How is a man expected to suddenly share his room with someone who probably has no idea about his lifestyle, his habits, his likes and dislikes?
Many such questions have always plagued my mind, whenever I have heard of an arranged marriage either in my family, or in my neighbourhood, or among other people I know. And being an outsider, if this is what I feel, I guess I can not even imagine the questions, the nervousness, the expectations, the emotions of those who are getting married!
Although my parents have had a love marriage,( and boy am I grateful for that!), I do have certain relatives who would rather not have their children married, than have them go in for love marriages. So I have experienced the whole routine of arranged marriages from close quarters. When I was younger, I used to go with them for “fun”, knowing full well that my opinion would not really matter much, in choosing the suitable bride for my cousin. But as I grew up, something about the whole “going to see the girl” thing started bothering me on a much deeper level.
I felt disturbed by the way the girl had to deck up, and walk in gracefully with a tray of tea cups and cookies and sweets and what not. And then her mother would add, that she had spent the entire morning preparing the lip-smacking delicacies we were relishing. And then she would sit like a doll, in front of us, while every part of her body was being examined by my aunt. Be it her hands, her face, the length of her hair, or even her feet! I have still not understood how the shape of a person’s feet determines their ability of being a good spouse!
The girl would then be asked the mundane questions about her hobbies, how far she had studied, whether she was capable of doing household work, whether she used to be naughty as a child, or whether she had many friends (?!!). How would her answers determine whether she was capable of being happily married to my brother? How was everyone so sure she would say the truth? How were the girl’s parents so sure my brother would keep their daughter happy, or that he was not lying about his salary? Just HOW can a few meetings enable you to decide that your children should spend the rest of their lives with each other? How?
I mean, why should our parents or our elders decide who we should marry? They are not the ones who have to go through the marriage, or try breaking the ice each night with an almost stranger. They just fix the marriage and their job is done. But the boy and girl are left with the huge task of settling in, and trying to start a happy life with someone they barely know.
But don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that parents have no say when it comes to choosing our partners. But all i am saying is that they should not be the only ones who have a say, in a matter which could make or break our future.
There are certain people in my life, who I have known for quite some time, and yet I can not think of sharing my life with any of them. If I am not comfortable with the thought of marrying a particular friend,about whom I know almost everything, I can not even imagine what it must feel like to accept sharing your life, your room, your bathroom, and your bed with someone you barely know.
A marriage is probably the most serious of decisions we make in our lifetime. Because we spend more years of our lives with our husbands, than with our parents. And one wrong decision, can really change everything for us. That is why I believe that we should know the person we marry, we should love him/her, we should be comfortable with them, we should be able to imagine a life together with them, not make random guesses at what it might be like. A girl leaves her family, her house, everything she is familiar with to enter a world of unfamiliar. She has to embrace a new family, a partner, a new house, a new lifestyle over-night. And then if she has no idea about what it is going to be like, that’s a little too much on her young shoulders isn’t it?
Living with, and loving a new person out of compulsion, isn’t something anyone wants. And then, to get intimate with them is a whole new issue altogether. People may argue that arranged marriages usually last longer, because the love happens after marriage, and so there is something new to be learnt about your partner every day. But how do you know you will be comfortable with all the things you learn? According to me an arranged marriage is a life-long compromise, and if your luck is good, and you happen to love your partner, well and good. Otherwise here’s to a lifetime of compromise, sacrifice, emotional void, and a bed shared with a stranger..