The Arranged Marriage Chronicles

The views expressed are the author’s own, based on real life personal experiences (I kid you not) and may or may not reflect the behaviour of society at large.

Imagine walking into a bar or a coffee shop and meeting the man of your dreams: he’s the right age, wants the same things you do from life and you don’t have to worry about him being a commitment-phobe, serial rapist/killer or all of the above. This is not shockingly honest speed dating or a rom com where Meg Ryan lives happily ever after; it’s present day urban India and I’m talking about “arranged marriages”, where finding a beau is like cracking a business deal. Backgrounds checks are a norm, bio-datas are exchanged and the man of your dreams is just a meeting away.

When I turned 23 and I’d been broken up with my long-term boyfriend for a year and a half, my unorthodox (or so I’d thought) mother announced it was time for me to attend the all-you-can-meet man buffet. Of course, what followed were tears, recrimination and the seven stages of grief.

In shock and disbelief, I began to question my self worth: will I not be okay if I don’t have a man? Does my mother not think I’m capable of finding someone myself? Denial and anger pretty much went hand in hand, with me refusing to acknowledge this absurd idea or my mother’s presence. Then began the bargaining: “If I see one guy and I don’t like him, I get to take a break for a few months; give me a year to find someone myself.”Then the guilt; after ranting and raving that this was an archaic and orthodox tradition, one that mirrored society’s views and wants of my life and not my own, I was forced to face an alarming number of marriages – the result of arranged meetings – and of course the subtle guilt tripping from well meaning relatives who wanted to see me ‘settled’, with comments ranging from (and not limited to): “Once you turn 30, all you’ll get are the divorcees or the crazies” and “I might die, do you really want your grandfather to die without seeing you married?”

And currently, like any normal 20-something year old, I swing between depression, acceptance-hope, and the ever present, confusion. While part of me thinks that I’ll never fall for someone because I’m supposed to, the number of compatriots who found their husbands on these awkward-parents lurking in the background (sometimes, in spirit) dates, is high. So I bit, and that’s when I was introduced to the marriage makers:

The Players aka The Eligibles:

1: The Groom

A fairly relative term that, based on my track record, is usually someone too old, too young or a generally awful to me—but the accepted qualities for a groom include and are not restricted to:

  • No current romantic entanglements
  • A ‘respectable’ family background—mirroring the brides
  • Enough income to support a family (or his father has, depending on age of said group—certain communities encourage getting hitched as soon you’re 21 years old)
  • Ambition and a flourishing career are generally encouraged

2: The Bride to Be:

No current romantic entanglements. Bonus points if you’re pure as the driven snow (yes, we’re in the 21st century, and yes some in-laws still expect this)
Ambition and a career encouraged by the more liberal families—but not a requisite. In fact, I’ve been asked to give up my job so I could “focus” on a wholesome family life

While some prefer a parent approved partner, some agree to be set up, others ask for it, finding it impossible to do it on their own—while the lucky ones, like me, are coerced into it, with emotional blackmail and teary guilt trips thrown in for good measure

The Perpetrators

1: Enthusiastic Parent:

A Mrs. Bennet type figure who nurtures the dream of having her child find a partner, he/she while previously displaying normal socialised behaviour seems to have been plagued by the “I need to find my child a mate” disease. Usually the byproduct of witnessing compatriots children tie the knot, own child’s inability to find suitable mate and general parent-ness.

2: All too doting Aunt / Helpful (read nosy) Acquaintance

In many cases, they have children of their own, all grown up – which makes you wonder, “Why are you setting me up with these people? What exactly is wrong with them? How are they good enough for me and not your own spawn?”

If they’re childless or otherwise, these happy suggestions might come from a noble place and equally often, boredom. Tread with caution.

3. The Godman

In Hindu culture, we boast pandits who visit the households on special spiritual occasions and by virtue of this, consider themselves experts on said family. They suggest “eligible” bachelor and bachelorettes to those on the lookout, vouching for their righteousness and often, setting up meetings. A fail-safe middle man, because of course, when a priest is visiting your home, you’re likely to be your alcoholic guzzling, chain smoking, swearing self, right?

The Process

Once the middleman locates two families, or one family tracks down a suitable single, the checks begin. Mutual friends and family help with uncover information, followed by an exchange of bio-datas. These are like a personal CV and include physical attributes, educational and work qualifications and enthusiastic narcissists even add photographs.

Once the two parties (and families) approve of one-another on paper, a meeting is set up, with or without the parents: a blind date, if you will. Of course, normal human beings scarcely attach hopes and dreams to blind dates, but these are ones that are supposed to culminate into marriage. So, asking when they’d like to get married is not off limits, it’s encouraged and if you’re inquiring about past sexual partners—you’re not being crazy, you’re just being thorough.

It’s the ideal set up… or is it?

Featured image via ShutterStock

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