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Sunday, 20 January 2013

Lets arrange some Love

Arranged love. An interesting scenario when you come from a background where love is allowed to fester on its own between two people before they can announce their intentions to them that would care to hear. I first came face to face with the concept of arranged marriages on a bus ride to Moshi, Tanzania. There was this young looking Asian of Indian origin ( lets call him Abhinit) who seemed very fascinated with one of our daughters. As is expected on a long bus ride, it did not take long for the parents to get involved in the conversation between this stranger and their daughter. It emerged that this guy had had an arranged marriage and was beaming at the experience. He was working in Australia and when he felt ready for marriage, he asked his parents to look for a nice girl, they did, the guy went to India for 2 weeks, got married and went back to Australia with a wife. (of course I don't remember the exact time lines but it was something close to this). In fact, Abhinit's view of 'love marriages' was that the courtship and all that goes into bagging a bride was a great waste of time, resources, very stressing and led to immoral behaviour. I was intrigued by his views because until then, I had always thought that people were forced into arranged marriages and just had to perservere through it.

Fast forward to Aiims and I meet this guy, Lalit (names have been changed). He is very excited. Next week, he is going to his home area where his parents have arranged for him to meet a prospective wife. The excitement is palpable. He tells me that this is the first time he is going to meet the girl and if he is happy, he will marry her. 2 weeks later, I bump into him and enquire whether he liked the girl. He says he is fifty fifty about her. He says she is young and has lived for a long time in a hostel away from parents while studying and he was not sure. In addition, his family were also not so sure that she would be respectful and perform well as a wife; she may be childish. So, the long and short of it is that he may consider her but first he will look around a bit more.

In church, we meet this couple, Priya and Narang (not their real names). They have been married for 3 years and have 2 children. They seem very happy. Their marriage was arranged. Priya had had a fair bit of "window shopping" courtesy of her parents and had not found anyone suitable. By the time her meeting with Narang was arranged her mother was fed up with facilitating the 'window shopping'. According to Priya, the previous guys did not match up to her ideals. She had a list of questions that she would use to gauge the the appropriateness of her future spouse and if they did not march up, she would continue looking. After 2 weeks of hanging out with Narang, she knew that this guy was okay. Narang also felt she was okay. They let their parents know, were engaged 2 weeks later and married within 2 months of first laying sight on each other. Incredible!

Another couple, Suxenna and Ajit (lets assume these are their names) had an interesting story. Suxenna is light skinned and comes from a Christian family. Her dad is a pastor, I think. Ajit is dark skinned. If you know India, you will know that dark skin puts you at a definite disadvantage when you are dealing with Indians of lighter skin tone most of whom consider themselves to be of high caste. So Suxenna's dad tells her, they have found a nice young christian man for her to marry. Only problem is that he is dark skinned. She agrees to meet him, likes the guy and the rest is history.

Not all arranged marriages end well though. Sometimes, the family really wants to control who joins the family and problems then develop. The family will want to match for level of education, family economic status, beauty, caste, jobs held etc. I read of many suicides comitted because someone has been denied marriage to the person they want. This whole scenario of arranged marriages  has made me realise the wisdom of my form 1 social ethics teacher who once declared " Love is a decision !" I thought she was crazy then and had never been in love. Now I know better!

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