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Arranged Marriage Or Love, Does It Even Matter?

21/03/2016 8:11 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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An Indian couple enjoy a sunset view from Marine Drive in Mumbai, India.

"Did you have a love marriage or an arranged one?" I am asked this question all the time. And every time my answer (arranged) seems to stun the other person into a loud, "No way! Who would have thought?"

I cringe each time I get asked this. Because the fact of the matter is that the question itself--one that is blindly passed down generations like a banal legacy -- is increasingly losing its meaning and relevance.

When a man and woman (because God forbid if we even mention same sex marriages in our country) are introduced to each other through the conventional route of parental connections, relatives, friends of friends, that annoyingly nasal aunt or that distantly related but overly enthusiastic uncle, then they fall under the 'arranged' category.

The implication is that a 'love marriage' is an actual match made in heaven whereas an 'arranged' one is just two people resigning to enter an institution...

When a man and woman are introduced socially through friends or those of their own age group perhaps, spend a few weeks or months 'dating' (which is the arranged marriage equivalent of the conventional courtship period) and ultimately tie the knot, it miraculously becomes a whole other category called 'love' marriage. And the underlying implication is that a 'love marriage' is a match made in heaven whereas an 'arranged' one is just two people resigning to enter an institution, happily or not.

Here are a few myths on the topic of these two categories of marriage that I would like to dispel.

Myth 1. Love and arranged marriages are mutually exclusive categories

Being ardent fans of compartmentalizing virtually everything from our detergent soaps to our lipstick shades, something as gargantuan as the institution of marriage didn't stand a chance. "Love" became the coined name for a marriage that was set into motion by friends playing or a chance meeting at a workplace/social gathering or via a dating website. "Arranged" became the given name for holy matrimony arising from the intervention (some even say 'meddling') of revered elders.

My marriage was 'arranged', but we fell in love right from the get go. So what does that make us?

My marriage (six happy years now) was 'arranged', but we fell in love right from the get go. So what does that make us? Which brings me to my point. Sometimes marriage can't be put into boxes of 'love' or 'arranged'. Sometimes it's a bit of both and sometimes it falls into neither category as it is traditionally understood. It's high time we stop following the herd and end redundant categorization. People introduced you, whoever they may be, or you happened to meet directly. Lead with that, tell your real story and you will see the irrelevance that I see in tags.

Myth 2. One kind of marriage lasts longer

This is one of the biggest myths of marriage and it surprises me that this mindset still exists among even educated people. I think we have seen enough celebrity couples, friends, relatives, colleagues, college roommates experience diverse types of marital unions, some of which lasted and some of which ended in the divorce courts.

How a marriage was conceived has nothing to do with its demise. Love marriages are as short or long-lived as arranged ones.

I think by now we should be able to see that whoever may have planted the seed, it's the amount of water and that makes a plant thrive or die. In my view the blink-of-an-eye marriage demises of celebrities and in high society' have started a trend of 'up and leave' that has trickled down to various sections of society that now find it easier to walk out of a marriage than do the work of rescuing it from the brink. But how a marriage was conceived has nothing to do with its demise. Love marriages are as short- or long-lived as arranged ones. It's the couple that keeps it whole or rips it apart.

Myth 3. You are not a 'feminist' if you have an 'arranged' marriage

I consider myself a feminist. That is, I believe in equality for both men and women. Yet, unlike certain pseudo-feminists, I don't believe in male-bashing or excoriating cultural traditions like Karva Chauth or arranged marriages. Having said that, I also despise the idea of pointing fingers at women who want to work and conquer the corporate world. It is their right and anyone who says otherwise needs a visit from the danda of activists. The idea of a happy marriage that stems from a meeting arranged by parents or other elders (and also for many in love or in a relationship) is revolting for certain pseudo -feminists who raise slogans of 'don't get chained by men' or 'don't keep Karva Chauth' because they wrongly perceive marriage as a prison that a couple is being thrown into against their will. The idea that two people actually believe the idea of marriage--arranged or otherwise--is unfathomable to them.

I consider myself a feminist. Yet, unlike certain pseudo-feminists, I don't believe in male-bashing or excoriating cultural traditions like Karva Chauth or arranged marriages.

By spreading this wrongful perception of marriage as a sin or a prison, these people are tarnishing the image and cause of real feminists, who are doing real work to promote equality for women. It is a shame that for many, feminism has come to mean superiority not equality and abandonment not inclusion.

Love can be found in the smallest, most obscure places and through the simplest or most complicated means. There are no rules for a happy married life. Marriage has no categories. It is only marriage and is only as successful or unsuccessful as the couple strives to make it. So let's just do away with the condescension and prejudice already.

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