Arranged Marriages May Not Be The Most Romantic, But They Are Practical

29/11/2015 9:49 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
Navaneeth via Getty Images
This moment is captured during the rituals process in a Indian Hindu wedding.

A 'love marriage' is every Indian girl's true fantasy.

We were a bunch of 8 girlfriends - all intelligent (or so we thought), reasonably attractive young ladies from Mount Carmel College, the institution in Bengaluru recently made famous by Rahul Gandhi's 'dude visit gone wrong'.

In my time in Mount Carmel one day, bunking class as usual and 'hanging' on the driveway, we found ourselves deep in discussion about our ultimate turn-ons. Seven of us thought we were liberated, overt and "out there" in the dating market. The ultimate goal in our lives at the time was marriage, of course. Our fantasies, however, ranged from discovering sex toys which we knew precious little about, to being wooed by multiple unattainable men like Amitabh Bachchan.

That some gorgeous wealthy man would sweep us off the dance floor and marry us promptly and deliver us into a life of racy sex, champagne, liveried chauffeurs and gloved domestic help was perhaps all we thought we should desire at the time. Perhaps we were naïve and brought up on Mills and Boon romance. In hindsight, as the seven of us made complete fools of ourselves that afternoon, the eighth and the only one of us always in the salwar kameez and prone to blushing through our wicked banter, hesitatingly revealed her deepest fantasy: to have an arranged marriage and feel her 'ghunghat' lifted by her husband on her 'suhag raat' so she could fall in love with her husband on her wedding night. We laughed her out of the gate and laughed over her for years. Today, 30 years hence, she is the only one of us who has been in a long, stable marriage, has two robust sons and claims to have an enviable sex life. She had an arranged marriage while some of us spent our twenties searching for our own Rhett Butler. For many of us, the fantasy was literally gone with the wind. We should have listened to her harder.

An arranged marriage in India is an unwritten contract, often with one rigid clause: Love and compatibilty need not apply.

Today, ' matrimonial deals' are making a big comeback after we have seen a whole generation of our gone-abroad kids, now in their thirties and forties, misplaced in foreign lands without an appropriate spouse, often lonely and thoroughly confused about why they are unmarried. It seems they have confused marriage with falling in love.

It's fascinating to know that such forthright and bright men and women are today willing candidates for what some say is the outdated 'arranged marriage'. There seems to be a return of this phenomenon, almost in sync with the return of the 78 vinyl record to be played on a stylus. Only this is version 2.0. More sophisticated in its experience and definitely technologically advanced. If the Hollywood hit Seven Brides for Seven Brothers made the song "Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a match..." eternally famous, then today's online wedding sites are singing the same tune, only in unmelodic 'code'.

It's all rather unromantic and feels like a bank transaction. The real pre-marital romance comes from Bollywood movies, which probably explains why every wedding now has a 'Bollywood performance' to initiate the foreplay (hectic dance pratice sessions for the friends and family of the couple often precede the traditional ceremony, choreographed by a Bollywood specialist, of course). The matchmaker, whether digital or in the flesh, takes a cut on the amount the wedding will cost, or may charge a flat fee depending on the bank records of the two families. It's an excellent business model. And they don't even have to replace rejected spouses. And no money back guarantee either. Sorry, no EMIs allowed.

The difference in yesterday's arranged marriage and today's big fat shaadi arranged by a tech savvy matchmaker, is that all financial and legal disclosures are made and matched but no longer just religion and horoscope. These traditional factors are often overlooked if the young man and woman 'like' each other on sight and agree to be wed and become parents to their offspring and carry on with life. A good standard of living today is more important than the compatibility of the stars. Let's be practical. If you expect no real love, fidelity or even companionship, then money and social status do just fine to make the marriage stay 'tickety-boo'.

No wonder that divorce rates in India are still the lowest in the world. There is great merit in being realistic about marriage, Indian ishtyle. Arrange it, celebrate it and then get on with it. Love? Forget it.

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