I recall the time when I first visited Hong Kong on a business trip , I was 25 back then and we had a team lunch. Casual banter around the table as we dug into some lip smacking delicacies .My colleagues were interested in knowing more about “arranged marriages” which was an alien concept to them. Some seem horrified, others were amused, a few keen to understand it better.
“So is it like your parents literally arrange it for you, they decide and you just get married?” asked one.
“The dynamics of arranged marriage are changing. Many young and educated people take time to meet up and understand the prospective partner. People may meet multiple prospective brides/grooms. Family involvement is there no doubt but its no longer like the olden times where the parents just decide and the children mutely agree. Parents forcing their choice upon the kids is still prevalent in pockets but its changing with times and thats a welcome step” I explained.
“This is a nice thing “said another colleague. “For us , we do not have this choice. While its great to choose your own partner, someone you meet at a party or a friend’s place but it doesn’t always work out. You may have compatibility issues, break up, realise he/she is not the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. You are left stranded. Going back to the dating scene is not easy especially as you age. You are also more wary about the intentions of others. Having a medium like this when you are looking for companionship is wonderful. It may work, it may not, you may find the person of your dreams or you may not, its worthwhile trying.”
This made a lot of sense to me.
I tied the knot 3 years later, my husband and I met through a community matrimonial center. We took our time to get to know to each other, it wasn’t long of course. But there is this thing I firmly believe in – it sometimes takes ages to get to know someone and you still feel you don’t know them and sometimes its a matter of few heartbeats and you know the bond is sealed for eternity. I did not need that time nor did he. We were drawn to each other. Its been 6 years and we have had our share of ups and downs, terrible moments and a long distance.
Would I have it any other way, given a chance? I won’t. Yes he has his blind spots, but so do I. When you commit to someone, you embrace them fully with their flaws. There are things you endeavour to change and there may be some you are successful in changing but not everything. If you can alter everything you dont like in a person and make them that perfect role model just like you wish, would the bond still remain? When you have altered the very essence of a person you fell in love with, will love remain?
I see many people in India who are bad mouthing arranged marriages, rolling their eyes in disbelief and mocking at those who chose to go by the arranged marriage route. Just like my colleague in HK said, Its great to find your life partner by chance when you are not out looking for them but what when you don’t find the “chosen one” through this medium? You may have many friends from the opposite sex but none you are attracted to or there could be someone you like but they do not reciprocate your feelings . There may be a affair which turned sour or a handful of them. So is the expectation that the person keeps waiting, dating and hoping they find their Price Charming? Whats the harm in trying to meet someone in the arranged marriage way?
A few pointers which I feel are absolutely essential here
- The entire process of creating a profile, meeting and talking to the prospective partner, and decision should rest with the boy/girl and not parents/elders. There is no such rule of 3 meetings or only meeting at restaurant or home in front of family. Let the couple take as much time they deem fit, if they want spent longer time together , they shouldn’t be restrained. Why should this be treated any differently than meeting someone on a dating site? Its the couple in question who will spend their life together and let them decide if they really feel they are ready to get committed to this person.
- A thorough background check is absolutely essential. With the number of crooks and people misrepresenting information about themselves and their family on the rise, its necessary that this is done. Hire a private detective if essential. Do not shy away from asking questions directly to the person. I was once talking to a CA I met on a online matrimonial site and the first question my aunt asked is – Have you checked his membership number on the CA Institute site? How do you know he is a CA? I was a bit taken aback, how do I ask him that? I mean wont it look like I suspect him? “Ask him straight away, whats wrong? It would be worse if you discover later that the truth is something else” I did ask him and he was taken aback, looked offended but he gave me the membership number anyway and turned out that he was a CA!. We dint get ,married but this incident made me think how gullible we can be to simply believe things by word of mouth or based on what a relative or friend said. Lets not make that mistake and take things at face value.
- Things may fail. You may meet someone, not like them or they may reject you. Or you may tie the knot and end up divorced. Dont think its because you did not have a love marriage. Would things have been different had you met this person at your workplace, dated and married? Would it not have failed? If it was destined to fail, it would have.
Love marriages fail too. I always feel dating someone and living together after marriage are 2 different things. When you live with someone under one roof, day in and day out the dynamics are always different. In fact in arranged marriage the expectations are not as high as in love marriage. One thing I was absolutely clear about when I tied the knot after less than 6 months of meeting my husband was – my parents are as much a part of my family as they always were, nothing changes.
I am passionate about my career and would pursue my dreams relentlessly. I do hope you stand by me, if you don’t, I am going for it anyway. These were some basic expectations I had (which I couldn’t compromise on). I did not expect to be mollycuddled.
In fact the division of work between us is also not something which worked to my advantage. This is something I realised in hindsight I should have managed better. Would it have been different if we met at a friends place and started dating? If we were not living together, I don’t think I would have done things differently. I am the methodical person who likes to plan things in advance and he does it last minute. I love my “me time” and would prefer that anytime than entertaining guests at home. He loves to have people over and we did fight over these matters. We would have fought anyways. Its only when you start living together , do you truly discover the bitter sweet things about someone you thought you knew so well.
I am all for love marriages and I know there are several families which coerce their kids into taking hasty decisions or rather decide for them and thats certainly not the way to do it. But I also don’t get this wrath and negativity around arranged marriages and boycotting them. The lines that separate arranged marriages from love marriages needs to thin down and we can do that my opening up our minds and allowing the children to decide. Trust them.
Do you fear the other person will take advantage , have sex and dump your daughter? Maybe he will. Would he not if he were her boyfriend? Chastity is obsolete, it really is. Lets not live with these rigid thoughts. Think of matrimonial sites or marriage bureaus as a medium to meet someone who is looking out for a partner like you. Lets not cloud our thoughts with these words “arranged” “love” and think of companionship , enjoy the phase of “arranged dating” if I may call it while it lasts. It can be quite amusing. Who knows your knight in shining armour may be right there hidden in one of those profiles waiting for you to click a button and say hi!
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