Sunday, 30 September 2012
Arranged Marriage – First Thoughts
For the formative years of my life, I was away from India, in a place and around people where the term “arranged marriage” was as archaic as the Roman empire. But being the Indian girl that I was, with a typical conservative middle class up-bringing, I was never averse to the idea. I had seen arranged marriages around me, with practically every member of my close family being bound by the same institution. I had faith, as I still do, in the idea of my parents and relatives looking out for the right person for me, and a similar family for me to be married into. The idea was almost comforting.
Still, I was being raised in a society which was alien to the concept of an alliance arranged by families. At the age of 15-16, most of my friends were in relationships and had found what they called “love”, while I was the confused yet conservative teenager who had no idea what to consider as right or wrong. I was often asked the question, ”have your parents already found a match for you? Is your family going to get your marriage arranged?”, and I was somehow never able to explain the concept to them, to explain that there is no rule-book which dictates how it should be, and there is no hard-and-fast rule obliging me or forcing me to live a life of confinement, but rather an option, a different method of going about finding one’s life partner. I was amused at the surprised and often shocked faces of disbelief at the very idea of having someone else choose your life partner for you, but at that immature age I just couldn’t explain to them that it is not someone else choosing your partner for you, but rather facilitating the way you meet who you’d like to marry.
To put it simply, if love-marriage (or the “conventional” way of getting married by first meeting, then dating, then getting married after getting to know the person) is a buffet setting, an arranged marriage is like an a la carte menu. In a buffet, you go around on your own, and are not served by anyone, while in an a la carte setting, you are given a set menu where there are choices which help you decide what you would like to be served. At the end, you decide what you put on your plate, and what you want to try, the end objective being the same – Good Food.
But of course, I had my years of rebellion too. I did experience the phase where it seemed unfair that my choices were subjected to criteria which would decide on who I should marry or not. It did seem unsettling to know that I would be expected to spend my life with someone I had met only once or maybe a few times. At the time, it seemed almost rash to take such an important decision, which carried so much risk. I mean, how was I to know for sure, that this is the right person for me? How was I expected to take that decision so quickly, without really getting to know the person? And more importantly, how was I to get married to someone I did not love? Because, conservative or not, Indian or not, I am a girl and I wanted my fairy-tale love story.
My idea of love was Bollywood, and in particular, Yash Chopra romances. Call it cheesy, call it dramatic, sugar-coated, call it what you may, but a Yash Chopra movie was enough to transport me into a fantasy world where romance, poetry and love were so real and so plausible. I grew up singing songs like, “Mere khwabon mein jo aaye” and “dekha ek khwab toh yeh silsile hue”, and truly believed in a love story, a romance which would sweep me off my feet and where everything around me would be misty and musical and magical.
Then I grew up, and the talks of arranged marriage which were just merely talks, started to become real, where my parents got aware of the fact that I am of “marriageable age” and a suitable match must be found for me. Suddenly, with the blink of an eye, the idea started to take shape and before I knew it, there was a proposal of a “suitable match” who I was supposed to meet and decide on marrying.
We met, and talked and in a span of a few hours what I had believed and dreamt of my entire life, changed. The idea of love, transformed and the concept of commitment took a new level altogether. Suddenly, all the doubts, the apprehensions, the anxiety became irrelevant and I realized that when it’s right, you just know. You can meet the person one time or for years, but it is just in a moment that you decide to be with someone for life. From then on, everything becomes a process, something that the two of you do together. From that moment, when you make the decision, everything else seems like destiny which was waiting to happen.
And Love? Love happens. And it happens not like in Yash Chopra movies, it happens in a better, more real way. It happens in moments, in instances, in glances. It happens not in song and drama, but in smiles shared, in long conversations, in understanding. It happens with a message, with a phone call, with concern in a tone of voice. Love happens when you stand across the room from each other and are aware of each other’s presence and one glance is enough to make you feel secure. It happens when the person makes an extra effort to spend those extra ten minutes to be with you. Love happens when there is unshaken faith that you will spend the rest of your life together, come what may.
In a place I didn’t expect, I found my Yash Chopra moment.