The arranged marriage conundrum

One of my close relatives is getting married in two weeks. In the traditional South Indian way. There is no romantic story to build here on how they met and fell in love; they are in the process of falling in love. So, instead of love being the reason for the marriage, in this case, it seems to be somewhat of an after-effect. Although an Indian myself, I can’t quite get my head around arranged marriages. The entire tradition is baffling and I decided I need to “write it off” to clear my head and find some clarity. Hope it helps you find some too in the process.

Although I have witnessed the arranged marriage in action my entire life, I can’t claim to understand any of it. Here are the specifics of some confounding points:

  1. The girl and boy are in most cases strangers to each other. Sometimes they are allowed to talk in private for an hour or so. Sometimes, they are not allowed to talk at all. Nevertheless, they need to make a choice – accept or reject the proposal. How do they do it given the absolute lack of information?
  2. Once they accept, they are forbidden to talk till the “engagement” ceremony where their intent to marry is announced to the entire world. Only then are they allowed to talk! How is it that they are not scared? How is it that they truly accept their partner AFTER the decision is made?
  3. Arranged marriages work – even when the girl is financially independent. They are not merely “stuck” to each other because they have no other option.The two strangers actually bond with each other and genuinely love each other and make a beautiful life together. How is it that they fall in love? What is the secret ingredient of arranged marriages?

On deeper thought, I have come to believe that arranged marriages work, even now, because of the characteristics typical of India.

  1. Faith: Most Indians have a strong belief system. We believe in God, destiny, karma, reincarnation and sometimes this faith is unquestioning and absolute. As a result, we believe in astrology too and in the matchmaking process, it takes center stage. (Even preliminary talks between the parties is contingent on a good horoscope match.) The youngsters in question have been conditioned over years to have similarly strong belief systems. Hence, when multiple astrologers concur about the horoscope match, the suitors themselves believe that “this is meant to be and has been sanctioned by the stars. This is what God wants. This is my destiny”. This faith in something “bigger than myself” lends them the courage to make difficult decisions; decisions that may not seem rational or logical.
  2. Acceptance: Once there is approval based on faith, it is followed by acceptance. When the suitors truly “accept” the decision, they enter into a new life full of hope, with strong faith and a resolute determination to make it work. This fierce determination on both sides based on whole-hearted acceptance is the foundation on which love takes root and reinforces itself.

That seems to clear the air – a bit. If all the above is true, then why is Riya, in Riya’s quandary  conflicted? What is it about her that differentiates her from the rest?

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