Get me outta here!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

On Arranged Marriages

Before I launch into this one, fair warning - this post is going to be very biased - against arranged marriages. It stems mostly from the experiences I've had to endure in the course of my search for a potential life partner via an arranged set up, primarily driven by my parents. Needless to say this has been a futile exercise so far, causing much frustration and anger, and fights and arguments with my parents.

And I would, at the outset, like to acknowledge that arranged marriages work just fine for a lot of people. Some do it because that’s the only way they know, and really look forward to it. Or they’re open minded enough to try it. They genuinely put their heart and soul into it, are ready for all the compromises, and find a partner who they’re happy to spend the rest of their lives with. Some do it out of compulsion and emotional blackmail, make a half-hearted compromise, and live their entire lives neither completely happy nor unhappy - they did it because it had to be done. And then there are people like me, for whom this concept doesn't make any sense.

A marriage is something I can’t even hypothetically visualize unless and until I know who my partner is going to be. I can’t work with the logic – it’s time to get married, so find someone. For me, it’s the other way round – this is the guy I want to spend the rest of my life with, I want to get married to him. So you see my fundamental dilemma with arranged marriages. I’m also a difficult, complicated person who has very specific ideas about a lot of things. This is not to say I can’t compromise or change myself, just that I need a damn good reason for it.

And yet I took the plunge, agreed to be part of the great South Indian matrimonial search – mainly for my parents’ sake.

What’s the big deal, asks my mom. It’s just another way to meet new people. Think of it as making new friends. And one of them might become your future life partner. When you’re looking for a job, you have to put up your CV. You don’t mind putting that up online. You go for interviews with an open mind.

Yeah. Except, if I don’t like the job, I can quit and look for another one.

Mom: Stop talking nonsense. Think positive and be more open.

Sigh.

All the matrimonial ads want a tall, fair, well qualified bride, preferably working (should be ready to quit if relocation is needed), who can cook, be homely, respect elders, and be a perfect blend of traditional and modern. I swear, this summarizes about 80% of them ads.

The first thing that irks me is the forced interaction. You must email him or talk on the phone or meet him. I’m one person who is very comfortable left to myself, quite asocial. I talk to people and make friends based on my own sweet will. So, getting pushed to interact with someone is difficult for me. I just don’t know what to do, or say. Honestly. That first contact is awkward beyond all logic.

Then there is this whole interview session that goes on. Where do you work? Do you plan to work after marriage? What are your hobbies? Can you cook? When do you think is the right time to have kids? Can you sing?!! (Yes, despite what you might think, this still happens)! Can you send better pictures of yourself, a side profile, a close up and a full length one?

The problem, as I have experienced here, is that a few facts are exchanged. When you answer a question someone asks you, you tend to answer more idealistically than things actually are, or what you think you are. This doesn't really tell you who that person really is. Even with friends, family, co-workers, etc. you discover people and their personalities from interactions over a period of time. In cases if arranged marriages, majority of that discover happens after the marriage. That, right there, is scary shit for me.

There is too much emphasis on superficial elements, like looks, salaries, height, lifestyle etc. And in spite of yourself, you end up making up these benchmarks. Because your start off searching based on these criteria or benchmarks, which leads to a person. I've seen it happen in my own case. I've rejected a guy because he was 6’4’’ (I’m like 5’3’’ – more on this guy in a separate post). And yet, much later, I seriously considered getting into a relationship with someone else who was 6’4’’ (maybe another post on him too). It didn't seem like a big deal then, coz I knew this person, and wanted to be with him, based on my two-three years of knowing him as a friend.

Then come the awkward, confessional Q&A. At least from my end I’d like to be clear on these issues. Do you drink/smoke? Make it clear that I do drink and don’t intend to quit. I don’t smoke but have tried it a few times. I do eat non-veg. I have had past relationships and don’t mind telling you all the details, should you wish to know. But it is important to me that you know the basics of my past. This opens a new can of worms. Some guys can’t deal with these things, while others judge you a bit, but are okay with it anyway. And some guys are actually cool with it all.

There is almost never any talk about the things that matter -

What are you career aspirations? How often do you travel? What do you think about having kids? How do you think we should being up our kids, if we do decide to have them? What was your childhood like?

Then there is all the hoopla about religion, caste, horoscope, age. Every guy or girl has these tags, and they diminish a bit of what he or she is as a person. And eventually that person gets lost. That’s why you hear things like “what happened to that Iyer Srivatsa gotram boy? The one who did MS in the US”? Or, “that girl who has chevvai dosham in her fourth house, you’re not still talking to her, are you?” Or, let’s avoid Palakkad Iyers, that won’t work for us. These are real people for god’s sake, give them a chance to be themselves and not hash tags.

I’ve been rejected more than once for earning too much. I confess, I too pay attention to how much each guy earned. It doesn’t have to be equal to me or more than me, but it has to be in the ballpark of justifying the number of years the guy has been working. This, in a way tells me how ambitious and career minded a person is. Does he have a vision for his future, does he see his growth path and is he working towards it? I am! There was this one guy, who rejected me coz I earned a lot more than he did. A couple of years later, I took a sabbatical and was unemployed for a while. His family then approached mine again, saying, we should give this a chance!

I've been rejected couple of times for asking if the guy stays with his parents. I see myself living with my husband, alone. I need that space, I've been brought up that way and it’s an essential part of how I think. Both sets of parents can visit as often as they wish, of course. Living with in-laws – this is not necessarily in the context of arranged marriages, it happens in a lot of love marriages as well. But at a basic level, I feel a married couple should have their own space and home. I totally get the part about caring for your parents in their old age and stuff. Taking care of your parents is one of the biggest responsibilities every person should fulfill. That said, there is no need to live in the same house. And why just the guy’s parents? The girl has to leave her parents’ home, why not the guy??

Right from childhood, we’re taught not to talk to strangers. And yet, as per this much respected and revered institution of arranged marriage, you are expected to sleep with him the first chance you get!! And, in way, it’s like saying, this is the primary reason you got married. Whoever started this concept, WTF were they thinking??!

And one of the worst things – parents ask for regular updates. What did you talk about? What did he ask? What did you say? Does he want to meet you? Do you want to talk to his parents? Can we talk to him? And if you reject him or he rejects you, what led to it? Why didn't it work out? Did you give it enough time? Gawd!!

All in all, it’s been a futile exercise for me. I've met a lot of idiots, and suffered through this forced, awkward interaction. And I've met a couple of nice, sweet guys – but the problem there was that I was such a bad match for them, it just wasn't fair to them. They were okay with it, which in turn became a problem for me, coz one has to be judgmental enough to understand what makes sense and what doesn't.

Well, I could go on and on about this, but lemme sign off here. Mom just emailed saying there is some guy’s profile she wants me to look at. So it continues :S

P.S. This post and a lot of others in this blog, are solely from my perspective - a girl looking for a groom. That’s not to say that it’s easier or any less ridiculous the other way round – a boy looking for a bride. I have brothers and guy friends who have had many hilarious, ridiculous stories to tell about the kinda girls they’ve met. So this is not a sexist post/blog in any way.

46 comments:

  1. The whole interview is whole ridiculous session, belonging to the stone age. We live in a hypocrite society which is a mirror image of the whole patriarchal-cum-capitalist society. A very honest and blunt post. I hate the whole business of arranged marriage.
    Cheerz for this one

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  2. I am going through the same thing! And that point regarding the guy's salary, is as important to me for the very reason you stated. Sometimes people shove in their philosophies about money not being important. I personally think money isn't important, but it is a proof of how ambitious you are!

    I have a few guys lined up this coming weekend too, i thought this year would be a pleasant change, but there's no resting in peace until the elders get me hitched!
    It's a sad state!

    A great post, because I can relate to every single point! :)

    PS: you shud've started blogging way earlier!! :) But now that you have...keep blogging!! :)

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    1. Ah Mi....persevere! You might find someone good. If not, make a blog out of it :)
      PS: Your PS made my day...thank you! :)

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  3. There are so many things which are very questionable about an arranged wedding. It has got to do more with the way our family handles things. Finally, it comes down to what's in store for an individual. Ain't it? But sometimes I've seen people go through such lengths, we've to decide whether it is worth it.

    Cheer up. There is a new dawn in the sky!

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    1. You got that very right Ashwini. My family has been so understanding and supportive, I haven't felt compelled to make any hasty decisions. Thanks for your comment :)

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  4. Can totally understand your plight. I went through this grueling process sometime back and my parents and I were fed up of this arranged marriage process. But I am someone who could have never found a guy on my own. So I had to get my parents to find one for me. I don't think there is anything wrong with arranged marriage as such since I feel I wouldn't have found a better husband myself. But I hate the way Indian boys think. They want a modern educated girl but she must not be modern. She must cook, clean and take care of their family, before concentrating on her career. That is what irks me and focusing on shallow qualities like beauty and color is just disgusting. But yes, there are few guys who actually don't care for these things. I am sure you will find one such guy soon.

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    1. Thanks Avada Kedavra...and I'm glad you found a wonderful life partner...cheers :)

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  5. I second every single thing you said here. I hate it when people tell you that 'You should get married or it will be too late and you'll have to settle with a older/bald/divorcee/widower guy'. People say that really and my answer to them is 'I don't mind if a guy is any or all of aforementioned; if I want to be with him, nothing will matter'. Sometimes you just want to tell every one to stop meddling with your life, but then I also understand the concern our parents have. And though I totally agree with the awkwardness of arranged marriage meetings, I also believe you might just find the person you are looking for. So give it a shot.

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    1. I am giving it a shot aarya...hence this blog...stay tuned for the hilarious stories :)

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  6. I second every single thing you said here. I hate it when people tell you that 'You should get married or it will be too late and you'll have to settle with a older/bald/divorcee/widower guy'. People say that really and my answer to them is 'I don't mind if a guy is any or all of aforementioned; if I want to be with him, nothing will matter'. Sometimes you just want to tell every one to stop meddling with your life, but then I also understand the concern our parents have. And though I totally agree with the awkwardness of arranged marriage meetings, I also believe you might just find the person you are looking for. So give it a shot.

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  7. I perfectly understand the points you have raised here. The way I see it though is, any marriage, be it arranged or love or lovingly arranged or whatever you term it, entails a certain amount of adjustments and compromises from both the boy and the girl. So when you decide and choose to marry, you have to keep in mind that a success or failure does not depend on what kind of marriage you have or choose for yourself, it depends entirely on how well you nurture the relationship, understand each other, adjust while respecting each other's principles and how well you help each other to grow.


    I dont think we can generalize.

    It is just as possible for two people in a love-marriage to realize later that they are not compatible enough to live together as two people in an arranged marriage to realize how much they were meant to be together! And vice versa.

    At the end of the day, you choose what you feel is right and best for you :)

    All the best!

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  8. Hey,

    Loved this post!

    I agree with everything you said..

    I had an arranged marriage...hubby is a sweet guy..was somehow lucky! Totally agree that the couple needs to live alone..went through hell staying with MIL..now after 5 years, everything seems to be settling down..

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    1. That's great, about your hubby I mean, not so much the MIL part. But all's well that ends well! Cheers!

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  9. I can understand how you feel, Both marriages require lot of adjustments. If you are rigid, like how you mentioned about staying with parents, it is best you talk it out before marriage. Too bad if the other party doesn't understand. At least you have made your expectations clear.
    Great read this one, took me to my days of seeing guys week after week. :)

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    1. Yeah, such a complicated process, made more complicated by nut cases like me :D

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  10. I AND YOU ARE ON THE SAME BOAT. Only thing is, I am just friggin 24!!!!!!!
    MALAYOGAM, KERALA MATRIMONY, SHAADI.COM...I am every fucking where!!!!!!
    Have not met any guys as of now. But now that I am employed, the parade starts!!
    Thankfully I am a lawyer, so this might slow things down!!!!

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  11. BTW, How can someone follow you on the blog (not google+ and not subcribing to mail).
    Please add the follow me widget!

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    1. Please bear with me till I figure that out Red Handed, still quite new to blogging!

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    2. Go to blog LAYOUT... Click on add widget...a box will appear.... in it something about followers will come up...select that and save!

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    3. Blogger Dashboard--> Layout--> On the right hand side click on "Add a Gadget" --> Select "Follow on Email" in the pop up window --> Save

      That's how we can follow you ! :)

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    4. Okay so here's the thing, this fancy-shancy template that I finally chose after going through zillions, doesn't have any pre built widgets. The layouts page is empty. So I'm having to google away and add widgets through HTML.
      With my flat mate's help making some progress. Lemme know if the Follow Me thing works, will ya @Mi and @Red Handed?
      Still working to get an email subscription widget.

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  12. Pardon me for speaking my mind, but that's how I am - At my age, I am against both. Marriage is like a legal (and forced) binding that I feel is too constricting, at least in the Indian context. There is not much difference between love and arranged marriage when I realize that I am falling into the same well, at the end of it all. I don't want to generalize this - marriage may suit everyone else, but not me. To me, even the concept of getting into a 'relationship' looks silly.

    Destination Infinity

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    1. I totally understand, Destination Infinity. To each their own, and long as they're not hurting others. All these forced societal bindings - marriage, kids....these should be individual choices.

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  13. Oh I totally agree with you on this.. Though I am not looking in the arranged marriage setup, I have several friends who are.. The worst part is how some families expect you to meet the guy or girl for an hour or so and then decide to commit right then.. This happened to my best friend and I was freaking out about how can you know in an hour.. He did actually marry that girl and I think they are both very lucky that they are compatible and happy together!

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    1. Yes, some people do get lucky! And then there are people like me :S

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    2. Well I'm sure you'll fine the person you're looking for.. at some point..
      and yes, some people do get lucky.. but watching both of them live in a joint family and adjust and compromise everyday, I know that I would never trade my life for that.. So you know, in the end, it's all about figuring out what's more important to us and sticking by that!

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  14. Haha...I am against arranged marriages too but purely on principle...haven't had to encounter anything that you have! I hate the whole 'tall, fair' bit --- it doesn't matter if the guy is a shortie and dark but the girl has to be fair! Gah! I have a friend back in India who has been going through this process since we were 18. She is now almost 31. She is sick and tired of the whole process and is too educated for her community --- she has a masters. And in her community they don't like women working and she has been for the last 5 or more years!

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    1. All this hoopla about same community...it's so silly and inconsequential! Good luck to your friend!

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  15. wow!!.. I totally agree with you on 'I can’t work with the logic – it’s time to get married, so find someone. For me, it’s the other way round – this is the guy I want to spend the rest of my life with, I want to get married to him.' - this is even my logic. It is sad people and for that matter parents do not get it..

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    1. yupp, it's difficult to digest, isn't it. i wish we were a lot more open minded as a society.

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  16. Some of the stuff that I read in your post seemed like it's me! :) Well, I totally respect and believe in the institution of marriage. I don't agree that it's a social boundary. I think it's a beautiful gift of God to mankind, but we don't take it as a gift. We take it as a job. I simply don't understand who has given these terms - love marriage, arrange marriage? Crap! I don't get the point in getting married if there is not love. I wonder how people make babies without love? And it is so common. Marriage is not as inevitable as death. It is good if it happens with the right person, but it is not so important that one should risk two lives. Being single is far more fulfilling than getting married to a wrong person. And puhhlease....loneliness has got nothing to do with not being married. If you are with a wrong partner, you are the loneliest person in the world.

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    1. So agree with your last line renuka!

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  17. Ideally, one should find one's life partner by being in love and knowing each other... But that doesn't mean arranged marriages are stupid. I don't think there's any proof for arranged marriages being failures in comparison with love marriages. In fact, the converse could be true! In arranged marriages, the parents and other adults take a lot of responsibility and make necessary inquiries about the compatibility of the couple. In love marriage the responsibility falls entirely on oneself.

    Ultimately, marriage is a relationship between two different individuals who will have to make a lot of compromises - whether arranged or loved!

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    1. Touche. Quite true, it's the people and not the method. Arranged marriages work well for a lot of people.

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  18. I had to reply to your Blog . I agree to a lot you say especially after 15 years of an arranged marriage which I personaly consider as failed in my life.
    Its hard to figure out a person if you are compatible or not in a few hours , days or even months i would say in certain situations.
    Arranged Marriages work most of the time because both of the individuals learn to tolerate each other , You married as strangers and sometimes you live as strangers too if you don't connect .
    I am quitting mine since I am tired of pretending .

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    1. I'm sorry about the way this has gone for you. Works for some, doesn't for some. But very very few have the courage to walk away from something that is just not working for them, and quit the pretense. It is much too convenient to just carry on. I admire you strength to listen to your heart, after 15 years. Here's wishing you a good life ahead and a lot more strength!

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  19. I am in the same place as you. My family is driving me insane about marriage and of course all of the family knows someone from the old country just dying to move to America. And of course they are not the type of person that will divorce you after they receive their citizenship! How could you even think that about him? I am not the immigration service! I will not hand out a freaking green card. I would be happy to be married but really don't want the pressure. I want to find someone I can actually stand for more than 10 minutes. And if one more person calls me "too american" I might actually scream.

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    1. Ooh...now that's something I never thought of....getting married for a green card. Just curious, are you a guy or a girl? And hey, if you're "too American", then that's what you are. If someone wants take you as you are, for who you are, this whole American or not will not matter. Hang in there!

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  20. Well, bumped into your blog and can't agree more. I am a guy in a similar position. One thing I have understood is times have changed and the expectations and cultural aspects have progressed so much that the parents are unable to get in agreement when it comes to these things. Just stick to your views and make decisions only when you are convinced.

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    1. Thankfully, my parents have been quite supportive. But societal pressure remains. Good luck to you!

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  21. OMG! I feel as if you have done some mind reading! Well written :) This is exactly what I would have said about arranged marriages. I just got a little lucky and fished out Mr. Right from before the endless "meetings" and horoscope exchanges. It did create some ripple in the family, me being a Tam Brahm and him a Marwari Jain!! But both of us feel we could never have gone for an arranged marriage, though it works for many.

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  22. Why are ya guys here so negative? First of all u people couldn't find someone to marry u to save or life. Then the only thing left is arranged marriage. U can stay single if u want, or parents will be a little nosy but they will eventually understand.
    Next why such hostility for the person u r meeting. Yes he will be nervous and awkward. He has never done this before just like u. Plus u get to meet someone who wouldn't have met otherwise. Learn their life stories and experiences. I always found this concept fascinating. Being a judgemental hell-bitch is not cool. Yes, I understand most people will disappoint u but that's the challenge here.
    Bizzare article. U managed to twist something positive into a negetavity filled rant. Congratulation.

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    1. Oh, I offended you with my opinion? You should hear the ones I keep to myself! :):)

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  23. Going through the exact thing mentioned here. Its so frustrating how a guy or his parents expect you to move to where their son is working without even asking me. Not just that this whole thing is so frustrating that it has lowerd my self esteem to depths I have never thought it would reach. At times I feel that I am actually doing a crime by even stating that I need some time. I can write so much more. But its painful. Its like slowly I have this thoight that there is no hope and if I dont get married then it ll be the end of me. Sorry for the negative comment but I needed to let it out somewhere.

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So....what d'ya think?