Many of us find the notion of an ‘arranged’ marriage both anachronistic and unromantic. Parents playing matchmaker seems like something out of a period film, where people swathe themselves in yards of fabric and allow themselves to be hitched to someone they have never met. One imagines the meekly compliant couple, strangers to each other but suddenly married, making fumbling and furtive love in the dark, probably at an auspicious hour decided by some remote tenet framed in an even more remote timeframe!
The marriage websites that have mushroomed across the internet provide a lot of fodder for derisive laughter. A vast majority of marriage market hopefuls (or their parents, maybe?) seem to focus on 2 aspects only: the beauty of the girl versus the salary of the guy!
The more ‘progressive’ among us also scoff at the findings that claim that divorce rates are lower among those who opt for an arranged marriage compared to a love marriage. Clearly, doormats and/or coldly calculative types will carry on with an arrangement irrespective of how happy or unhappy they are within it – love was never the criteria anyway, right?
However, despite naysayers, youthful hot passions and Yash Raj Films, arranged marriages are alive and well – and thriving. Why?
Is it only because it is the easier, safer, socially sanctioned option? Why then do so many young people, even those who have dated before, choose to go for it? Is it the fear of being left on the shelf? Or could it be because those in arranged marriages tend to work harder on nurturing affection till it blossoms into love over a period of time?
Having made a commitment (at least, one hopes this is the case) after a careful consideration of compatibility (either of their own accord or owing to the efforts of their family members), couples in arranged marriages might be more willing to wade together past the rocky patches till they reach the Elysian fields of nuptial bliss. On the other hand, those who marry for love may be so caught up in the heat of their romance that they forget that flames, no matter how fiercely they burn, eventually dissipate unless they are constantly fanned.
Ultimately, what nurtures a marriage – whether love or arranged – is romance. And friendship. And loyalty. And occasional compromise. And shared laughter and tears. The origin matters not – what matters is the destination, and both spouses determination to work towards it.
Who amongst us can listen to the charming tales of elders in the family about the first time they met, even if it was in a room full of stiff–backed relatives, and not feel warm and fuzzy seeing the gentle glow on their features? Who amongst us has watched Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and not fallen in love with the rebellious-yet-devoted-to-familial-bonds lovebirds?
No one, we say.
That being said though, it is hard not to feel cynical about both love and marriage, when the papers are full of horror stories about women being tortured and killed over dowry, or honor killings in which two youngsters who dared to fall in love are butchered to death. One wonders if love and marriage ought to be relegated to the trash heap! However, since that is neither here nor there, we may sum up the issue by acknowledging this: that true love is rare and Kama’s arrows bearing the gift of love at their tip strike only a chosen few. Still, all of us can aspire to fulfilling unions, especially since, for us in India, there will always arranged marriage, with its promise of the ecstasies contained within love, sex, passion, desire, romance and companionship, all dealt out as a reward to those who persevere against all odds. Especially the limitations of an arbitrary God of Desire.
This piece was written for IndiaBookStore by Anuja Chandramouli, whose new book Kamadeva: The God of Desire has just been published. Her earlier book, Arjuna, has been reviewed by us here. Thank you, Anuja, for sharing your thoughts!