Arranged marriage...a video...and my thoughts

August 23, 2011

They talk about 90% of marriages in India and show only the urban, educated people who are equal to each other, which is a miniscule minority in our country. In most marriages, the woman has hardly any say in the process. And the fact that only 5% end in divorce…is often NOT because the marriage is successful….it’s because other options are not feasible.

If all marriages could take place after such honest dialogue (and notice, the guy professes his strong predeliction within a short time and bowls her over)….probably marriages would be 100% successful.

Within the very narrow framework of the English-speaking, “both-are-equally-educated-articulate-and-honest” urban youth…it’s a well-made video….but extrapolating to the entire Indian scenario is not a valid step at all. The guy that brings them the tea/coffee…how does HIS wedding process go? In all probability, he goes to his village, where his parents have selected a girl for him, depending upon what she can earn, and what dowry she’ll bring (oh yes.)…and he’s the one who can agree or refuse, not her.

My maid got married when I was away in the US. She is all of 23, and her family has been very worried because three or four prospective grooms said “no” to her because she is “dark” and “fat”. She came back home to spend the inauspicious month (AshAdhA, or Adi) at her mother’s place.

Her husband was with her, and would not even allow her to come and visit the people for whom she worked (she was like family to me.) I just spoke to her on the phone, and I might not see her even when she comes for Deepavali, because, once again, she will be accompanied by her husband, who will dictate what she can and cannot do.

From being a free bird, who was earning well, had a happy circle of friends, she’s become a young woman who is not going to be allowed to work, must spend the days doing housework and gossiping, with the wings of her independence clipped. And why? Because the astrologer decreed that if she doesn’t get married now, she will never be married, and she will be an obstacle to the marriage of her sisters, and a waiting-in-the-wings cousin.

“They don’t beat her,and he doesn’t drink”, her sister tells me, trying to find some good in this alliance. Then she gets to wondering, “How is she going to live this kind of tied-down life?”

I have nothing against arranged marriages…when they are entered into with free choice on both sides. That’s what, alas, does not happen often.