At some level, arranged marriages are like Cattle Fairs. I know, I had an arranged marriage myself. But it’s not the kind that pops up on feminist blogs. We met through our parents but the decision to get married was entirely ours. I’m no typical desi bahu but I know that everyone respects me for it.
For this reason, it distresses me to see how educated women love to play the victim and get married out of “pure pressure”. My friends were all strong enough to have a real say in their marriages. Some held out until they were financially independent. Others found partners on their own. Yet others, despite approaching 30, have refused to succumb to pressure and marry the first “decent, well settled” guy who comes along. Some, I must admit, decided to marry people they never met. But they also decided they would rather be married than have a career (but they do work now). So, that’s that.
From what I see, one major reason arranged marriages don’t end with a happily ever after is because the two people involved have no clue why they’re getting into the arranged marriage thingie. I’m serious. Here are some reasons I’ve heard from people looking to get married the traditional way:
- It’s time
- My parents want me to
- I am well settled (this one’s mostly from men)
- I’m getting too old (this one’s mainly from women)
- I need to get married this year because of my immigration status (trust me, this one’s real)
- I need to get married anyway, why not now?
- My parents know best
- I don’t have time to look for a boyfriend/girlfriend
Here are the typical requirements from a spouse:
- Well educated (man or woman, whether the woman works or not)
- Able to adjust
- Genes to have tall, fair, beautiful children
- “Good family” (whatever that means)
- Traditional with progressive views (roughly translated means I’m going to do things the way they’ve been done for millennia but if someone wants to be gay shay, I don’t mind as long as it’s not anyone in my immediate family)
There are many, many more reasons and requirements but none of them revolve around wanting to share your life with someone, or compatibility, or worse still, love.
And it’s not parents who’re stating these reasons. Remember? It’s educated, employed, fairly cosmopolitan men and women. So, now I ask you, how is this different from the Pushkar Mela?
If you don’t believe that you deserve a marriage based on compatibility, respect and yes, love. Then how the hell are you going to get it? If you don’t ask your parents the questions that need to be asked, what’s the whole point of the entire charade? If you can’t stand up for yourself, who will? These are questions I reserve for the educated and the “aware” women.
Reading IHM’s blog depresses me sometimes. while I strongly sympathize with the honour killings, the domestic abuse, regressive laws, and advice to brides to give up on their mobile phones, I find myself hard pressed to sympathize with educated women who fall victim to evil in-laws. Here are some things that I would love to see the urban elite woman do:
- Stand up for yourself. If you don’t, no one else will. This point can never be overemphasized.
- The pressure to be “ideal daughter” and “perfect bahu” are sometimes more self inflicted than expected by the world. Separate the conditioning from the expectations and be clear what you “think you should be doing” and what you actually are expected to do. And then decide how much of it you’d like to do.
- Know what you want to be. Know who you are before you decide to get married. Know what you want of a spouse before you let your parents find you one. Know what you can and cannot put up with. Know what your own dreams are.
- Remember that your parents are always on your side. You might not always agree but they do want to see you happy. If you don’t tell them what will make you happy, they’ll do what they think will make you happy. Simple.
I know it’s not easy. I’ve been there and through it all. But if today, if The Hero and I hear “compliments” like, “You guys don’t look like you had an arranged marriage. You look like you had a love marriage”, then you can be sure that it wasn’t because I fasted for 16 weeks and my mother taught me how to cook.
I fail to see why the very prospect of marriage changes perfectly rational human beings into simpering savitris unable to control their own destiny. Why should the root cause of every problem be “evil in-laws”? I don’t mean to say that there are no evil in-laws. I just mean to say that a lot fewer women would be victim to them if they just stood up for themselves both before and after the dream wedding. Thoughts?