To each his own- love or arranged!

I just happened to come across an article in The Hindu that was making out a case against arranged marriages and seemed to be proposing that the best way to fight off honour killings taking place in some still developing areas of our country would be ‘actively opposing arranged marriages‘.

I’m a 21 year old and in a few years time shall be asked by my parents to find a suitable other half for myself and settle down and the idea of having an arranged marriage freaks me out just like it would give the sweats to any other person my age and so, when I came across this article titled “Not for arranged marriage” published in The Hindu I hopped on to the link quite expectantly and without so much as a second thought to whether the article must be read or not. I almost happily started reading the article expecting that perhaps the author had some new missile to launch against the already old, feeble and deranged enemy it was aimed at- the enemy being arranged marriages. I was, quite honestly, expecting an attack that would kill the legitimacy of the whole concept in my mind, once and for all. However, what the article put forth as ‘arguments’ against arranged marriages turned out to be some age old ideas against the concept which don’t even hold good anymore.

For beginners, the definition itself, on which the author has based her arguments against arranged marriages, is flawed. Her description of the concept seems to be based on the idea of arranged marriages, which used to hold good back in the 60s and 70s- and entails situations where the bride and the groom have never met each other/ or seen one another’s faces before the night where they’re supposed to be sleeping together, where there is no ‘consensus ad idem’ either between the girl and the boy or between the girl’s parents and the girl or the boy’s parents and the boy, or any of the three, where girls are showcased before getting an acceptance for marriage and are tortured in various other ways (mentally, emotionally, physically and the like) for marrying their parents’ choice and where the marriage seems to be firstly, forced and secondly, a business, all in all.

To a certain extent, it is possible to accept this definition and concede to her arguments based on this definition. However, again, to a certain other extent, it seems impossible to accept either this definition or her arguments. She fails to understand the fact arranged marriages are in the first place, not forced at all, these days. From being an arrangement where parents would find suitable partners for their children and get them married without even asking for the kid’s opinion, this concept has now grown, with the help of many social factors like increased education, awareness, westernization, and decreased dependence of the youth (again, I’m not using the phrase ‘increased independence of the youth’ here, because I don’t think just getting to choose my life partner for myself and by myself, amounts to independence- independence is a vast concept in itself and needs to be discussed at a much larger scale and with much more knowledge than is available with me, right now) on their parents for financial and other assistance, into a much more liberal concept than it ever used to be. An arranged marriage, in even the most ‘backward’ (I wonder who gives us the right to even term these families backward in the first place) of families (and I’m speaking from my own experience here) has since the past 2 decades or so, come to be an affair where the girl and the boy are not only introduced to each other before being made to tie the knot, but are infact allowed a due courtship period pre-marriage, where they exercise their own brains and hearts before arriving at a decision about their prospective partners- we don’t need to go very far to find out the reality, a simple inquiry with our parents about their marriage would reveal this fact to us. Again, there might ofcourse be cases where  were your parents were not given a due opportunity to make their choices, but again, in these cases too, one will find that the parents are more than willing to bend the rules for their own kids. Point is, that arranged marriages are not what they used to be. We are no longer forced to marry according to our parents’ choice- we ‘choose’ and voluntarily ‘decide’ to marry our parents’ choice after having deliberated upon the issue in our minds and hearts. It would not be wrong to say that arranged marriages are now an affair where your parents attempt to ‘hook you up’ with someone just like say your friends tried to, a few years back in college/school. The concept has liberalized to varied extents in various areas and families and in this light, the attack on arranged marriages made in the article seems not only very naive but also very shallow.

Secondly, there is an underlying assumption in her article that the fact that the person is not of our own choosing, irrefutably implies that we are not in love with the person and are being forced to marry him/her. Point is that, just because my parents have chosen someone for me, does not mean that I don’t/can’t love the particular someone, anymore that it would imply this if say, my friends had chosen someone for me. Besides, the two important facts that should greatly tilt the balance in favor of one’s parents’ choice, would be that firstly, they are our parents- they can’t help but act with bona fide intentions when it comes to us. It’s like they’re simply programmed in a manner where it’s impossible for them to act (or for that matter, even think) against our good. Secondly, and more practically speaking, these are people who we have lived with us for almost 25 years of our lives, and who have not only seen, but also lived through, experienced, and in some cases, tolerated, every side of ours- and who are thus, ipso facto (by that fact itself) well equipped to choose for us, a suitable person. Ofcourse, if your parents are programmed in a different way or end up acting contrary to your interests, even with bona fide intentions at heart, or if you think that 25 days/ months or a couple of years with someone of your liking are enough for you to make a better decision than your parents’ or that you are reasonable/ mature enough to make good choices for yourself and stick by them, then it’s a different story altogether. 🙂

Thirdly, I tried and tried but failed to figure out just how “every time one of us, educated, supposedly independent, individuals agrees to marry someone not of our own choosing, someone we don’t love, we are silently condoning those who kill to oppose the concept of love marriage”. I mean, seriously? Now my well-informed decision to marry my parents’ choice has to amount to ‘condoning’ of those who have indulged in brutal honour-killings of people in love? We loathe and abhor the khap panchayat system just as much as you do, and truly believe with all our heart and soul, that the ones indulging in honour killings are mindless maniacs who deserve the worst of punishments, but what does any of that have to do with my voluntary and completely unconnected decision to go for an arranged marriage?

We are, ofcourse, completely stupid when we regard “love marriages as abnormal” but then again how are we wrong if we regard “arranged marriages as the norm“? Aren’t they indeed the norm in our country and what is so wrong about them being the norm? The former situation, ofcourse, needs to be changed and has changed and is still changing rapidly in various Indian societies.

The article perhaps should have been named “For love marriage” and not, “Not for arranged marriage” since the connection between how arranged marriages are having an adverse effect on love marriages and helping the khaps continue with their misdeeds, seems very weak indeed- the reasons why love marriages are attacked are plenty and varied, and none of them seem to be linked to the acceptance of arranged marriages.

It’s very saddening and disheartening to know that people are against love marriages in our country, yes, but why this sudden, unfair and uncalled for attack on the ‘lazy’ ones who trust their parents’ abilities to find them a suitable match? Why this kolaveri di against us peace-loving souls who don’t think it’s an issue to conform with our parents’ wishes? Haha.

Somewhere in the article is a line which says “No longer should young people proudly proclaim their arranged marriage status, — it’s best left a dirty secret, because lovers who run away aren’t freaks.” In light of all that I’ve written above, and many other unstated, reasonable reasons, one of them being that we do have the freedom to choose and proclaim our choices to the world, I don’t see just why if I choose my parents’ choice in future, I should leave it a ‘dirty’ secret. People have a right to proudly proclaim all their choices- be it that of getting an arranged marriage or a love marriage. Conceded, lovers who run away aren’t freaks- but neither are people who marry for reasons other than love, and in no way do their choices even remotely support the killing of the Heers and the Ranjhaas of the country.

[The article which has been dissected in my article can be found on http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/not-for-arranged-marriage/article5204945.ece.]

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