I met this really engaging Indian-American girl in the UK. I’ll call her Rishma. She was a career driven liberal feminist from California, who decided to study abroad for a year in France before her final year of University.
The Indian American acquaintances I’d made up to that point had seemed pretty ‘normal’ to me – standardized in the way that most people of a non-western ethnicity become culturally whitewashed.
The next day, when a group of us met at Chocolate Soup for lunch, she warned that she cannot be tagged in any photos online, because it might dishonor her family and affect the arrangements of her and her sister’s marriages.
It was such a wake up call – a slap in the face – that all our beliefs make up only a tiny facet of the world order, hearing that is bright young woman from California would willingly adhere to such restrictive cultural norms just to appease her family. Nobody could believe it. A debate ensued.
Rishma’s main point was that she could have it all without even having to worry about the biggest thing: companionship. Every woman wants to have the holy trifecta of the perfect husband, career, and family, right? Well, she rationalized, with an arranged marriage, one part of that is aleady settled. She doesn’t have to worry about it, and all her energy can be spent on furthering her career and starting a family.
My friend Vigit puts things into a clearer perspective. At age 25 , he is expecting to get married within the next two years. His parents will choose, and the bride to be must be a) younger than he is, b) in the same caste, and c) Hindu. He says the issues of “love marriages” vs. Arranged, and marriages between castes generally aren’t so much a problem as intermarrying between religions, particularly a non-Muslim marrying into a Muslim family.
Another contributor Edward, insists that the system has changed to coincide with modernity, but that it still has it’s weaknesses. “The more modern introduction process has its drawbacks. A friend of mine was rejected for her looks, and in the old days you didn’t have that and you learned to adjust – something a lot of western marriages lack. A worse deal now for the ladies perhaps.”
Vigit insists that the process has indeed liberalized, and that if the case is such that two people are a couple at the time an arrangement is to be made, they can lobby to marry each other.
However, some do not get the chance to refuse. One source shared the story of his former worker whose father arranged his marriage to the first daughter of one of his friends before he was born. There was an age difference of nine years between them, and when asked about his predicament, the worker regretted that his father had not died of alcoholism before he set it up.
Think about every book, movie, TV show, magazine (men’s and women’s), and plethora of additional material all reflecting the energy society puts on attracting potential mates. Think of all those first date jitters, time spent wondering if he/she likes you too, doodling your crush’s name on your Jr. high notebook, to asking Jenny out to the prom: the constant reinforcement of the bottom line search for that special someone.
Now remove all that from your life’s equation。
What do you have left?