Monday, July 20, 2015

Rise and Fall of Arrange Marriages in India: Part 2

By the time I wrote, reviewed, and published the part one of this post, I was exhausted. In the process, I also realized that arranged Hindu marriage is indeed very complex in nature.

After reading the post, one of my friends felt that the post might portray India negatively. It made me wonder if I was demeaning the country/religion. It, certainly, was not my intention. I was writing it as a matter of fact from personal experience and observations. It is true that things are changing and exceptions are being made more than ever now. Will the system remain relevant in the years to come is to be seen.

Before I come to the challenges that the system faces, it is worthwhile to take few moments to appreciate the system that is probably "successful".
  1. Grey hair over hormones: Experience does count. Having gone through the trials and tribulations, the elders probably have a better sense over raging hormones. Assuming that they have a broader outlook and wisdom, families can provide a third person viewpoint. This can make selection process holistic. 
  2. Highway or offroad: The fact that there are so many parameters that are applied while choosing a spouse, one can expect that there will be many things common between the life partners. Even for two people who have known each other well, marriage can reveal perfect strangers to each other. Since the system brings together people who have had similar upbringing, culture, traditions, beliefs, food production & consumption habits et al it ensuring homogeneity. While offroading does give hormonal rush, driving on the highway with clear directions and a smoother surface does provide one an opportunity to zoom ahead in life. 
  3. Family at the core: Marriages in India have always been more about the families coming together than the bride and the groom binding themselves in the wedlock. It is more about the confluence of two families. If you consider a couple to a tree, the families act as farmer enriching the soil. Arranged marriage allows the family to plan and prepare the ground for the two individuals to ease into the highly complex institution of marriage. 
  4. System for escalation and arbitration: As arranged marriages is about families, ensuring that the relationship lasts becomes responsibilities of the families. The success of a marriage is not two individuals' crusade but a collective movement. And collective strength can be much stronger than individual will. Families provide a platform for the couples not only to share happiness but also use it as a platform to smoothen the rough edges. 
Indeed, there is no qualitative data to say with certainty that arranged marriage works better than a system of free will. But I wonder if there is any data to prove that love marriage is a better system. If divorce rate is any indicator of success, then certainly arranged marriages last longer, at least in India. Again, these numbers do not indicate the success of a marriage, love or arranged. 

That brings us to the important question. What is marriage? I got into an intense discussion and debate on the topic of marriage with three educated, urban and erudite women. Must say, I am now confused what marriage even means? That and much more in the final part of this series! 
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