Friday, September 12, 2008

Arranging marriages

There are two posts by Roop and one by Thought Room that have spurred me on to writing this post. The first post by Roop made me sit back and think. It made me want to write a more balanced perspective. It was in this state of mind that I read Thought Room's take the issue. This post, tried on the other hand, to explain the arranged marriage custom to foreigners and sounded apologetic to me. It is easy to rationalise and explain why the custom evolved, in the absence of a social security system. It has existed all over the world at some point. In Europe, the upper classes, especially the aristocracy, have married its daughters off to another aristocratic family to further political or economic interests. The difference between India and Europe is that Europe dropped the concept with the fall of monarchy and the rise of democracy. We in India have not changed for 2000 years. The fact that arranged marriages acted as a social network at some point does not justify its continued existence today. As Roop says in her second post, I do not see why I should sacrifice individual liberties in the name of marriage. This holds true for both men and women. It is no less difficult for a man to live life with a complete stranger than it is for a woman to do so.

Also, the whole concept of arranged marriages is driven by considerations of caste, class, status and money. Take for example the issue of dowry. In some communities in South India, the girl's horoscope is given to the marriage broker with the total amount in cash, and of gold that the parents are willing to give the girl as dowry. So, if a family is looking for a bride, they will first look, not at the bride herself, nor her qualification or character, nor even her family, but the amount of money she will bring in as dowry. To me, that's not marriage. That's socially accepted selling of the bride as a marketable commodity. You still think it's acceptable? I also agree with Roop when she says that we must not be forced to listen to parents on the issue of marriage when trivial things like buying a dress or a pen are entirely up to us. Of course parents have a say in our life. But, that does not include treating one's own child like a marketable commodity, as is happening in several million families today.

It is scary to contemplate the scenario that Roop talk about. What if, after 5 years of an arranged marriage you realise this is not what you wanted for yourself? You may argue that such a situation can arise even if you chose your own partner. But, think about it. In the latter case, you would made a conscious decision. It would have been your choice. If you regret that decision, so be it. I would rather live with the regret for a bad decision that with the feeling that I could have been given a chance.

I would also like to respond to one comment on the second post by Roop. Sidhusaheb wants to know if we advocate replication of the United States' "failed society" model. No, we do not. But the climbing divorce rates in the US and elsewhere are not because they are "love marriages" but because more and more people feel the need to assert their individual identity. The fact that divorce rates in India are relatively low does not mean more marriages are happy marriages. It simply means that less number of people are choosing to opt out of an unhappy marriage. Couples stay together for various reasons: social ostracism, kids' welfare, lack of parental or family support, lack of finances for one of the couple etc. If divorce rates in India increase, that's not necessarily failure. It could well be an awakening.

19 comments:

Sidhusaaheb said...

I had pointed towards two basic facts i.e.:

1. Almost all marriages in the United States of America are 'love marriages'.

2. Six to seven of every ten marriages in the United States of America end up in divorce.

Can either of these facts be negated by you or any one else? If not, then how can a 'love marriage' be advocated as the panacea or cure for all that ails or might ail the institution of marriage?

Amrutha said...

No, I do not negate either of the statistics. I am simply saying that there is no obvious or direct correlation between the two.

Also, love marriages are not the panacea to all ills. To choose one's partner is a basic right that arranged marriages routinely deny to adult men and women. That's what I am speaking out against. Marriages will continue to have problems, irrespective of the way it was held. There is no single solution to the issue.

@lankr1ta said...

Sidhusaaheb, aren't you mistaking correlation for causality- and stating a fallacy like "even as global warming became a threat as the number of pirates lessened, so the decrease in the number of pirates caused global warming". Since you are not taking into account other factors - economic independence notably, you cannot present such a simple model. Also calling the West a "failed" society is a fallacy- why is the number of marriages that remain so, disregarding the emancipation of women "healthier" than a society with freer women and more broken marriages. If marriage is used to rein a woman's freedom, at the cost of keeping "society together" and probably in a atavistic patriarcal system, then better to let that society fail.

Indian Home Maker said...

Amrutha These are my own thoughts. Love this post.
Agree with these lines too: "The fact that divorce rates in India are relatively low does not mean more marriages are happy marriages. It simply means that less number of people are choosing to opt out of an unhappy marriage."
In India we think marriage is the goal and not a means to a goal. Divorce becomes a dirty word. Nice to see more people who think this way.
I think individuals should have a say in how they wish to live their lives.

Indian Home Maker said...

Came back to add, agree with @lankrita on this.

Thought Room said...

Hi

I was not really supporting the arranged marriage ideal, merely pointing out the need for it in India. You do realize that India lives in pockets of various times. While one part of the society might have gained economic independence enough to provide for themselves and their children, without the need for a social network, for many more Indians, this need has still not been met. There are pockets of the society that as you say live 2000 years behind time in your opinion, but they live none the less, and a ‘love marriage’ would never work in such a society, mainly because of the terrible lack of gender mingling, and the need for manpower within the family. More over you associate arranged marriage with dowry and cattle market of Indian marriage. It is true and I can’t deny that this happens only in arranged marriages. But for every marriage that happens this way. Perhaps there is an arranged marriage that happens merely to help a man and woman meet, in a society that frowns on gender interactions. I am velmently against forced marriages, that parents contribute to, or the cattle market of Indian marriages. I do believe that every individual has the right to set the terms of his or her life. I was merely writing in terms of the cart before the horse attitude, in talking of the removal of arranged marriages. To remove poverty, you cant argue in putting a ban on beggars, Shouldn’t the change come from a deeper source?

Indian Home Maker said...

Amrutha I am linking your post to this post of mine
http://lifeofanindianhomemaker.blogspot.com/2008/04/how-important-is-it-for-girl-to-get.html

Let me know if you would rather I didn't.

Amrutha said...

IHM: Am glad someone sees the point. Thanks for linking to by post.

Thought Room: Point taken. And yes, the change should come from somewhere deeper. I quite agree. And the best way to do that is to change at least at the personal level and stop frowning upon mingling of the sexes. And stop being judgemental. Easier said that done I suppose.

Destination Infinity said...

I heard a joke recently - "Opt for arranged marriages. You can put the blame on your parents" - That was only a joke and let us leave it at that. :-)
On a serious note, it does not matter. If parents do not do silly things like taking dowry and forcing, the children themselves would do silly things - Like falling in love with the most beautiful girl etc.... In our society some one has to make mistakes. After so many generations of civilization!

Destination Infinity

Ms Cris said...

Theres nothing more comprehensible than divorces. An individual, any thinking individual for that matter may find it difficult to get along with another individual. It doesnt mean either of the 2 are wrong, they just dont get along well. And its not always possible to keep living with someone like that.

But divorce is somehow considered this huge big taboo and people are brought to thinking there is nothing more shameful than a divorce in the family. So they end up having unhappy family lives, forever, for the sake of everyone else but themselves.

Amrutha said...

Destination Infinity: Unfortunately, it's not all that simple. Many parents think it is their right to decide who their child marries. They simply don't think it necessary to ASK the poor "child". That's what I have a problem with. And it's MY life. I will decide what to do with it. Not someone else. Not even if they are my parents.

Cris: Agree 100%

Nimmy said...

"The fact that divorce rates in India are relatively low does not mean more marriages are happy marriages. It simply means that less number of people are choosing to opt out of an unhappy marriage."


Sad but true..Not only divorce makes walking out hateful,but the trauma ones go through ,and at times,welfare of kids too make couples stick together..This doesn't apply to abusive couples,who fight in front of kids and thereby spoiling their life too..But if indifferences can somehow be pacified,it is better to hang on..

My policy is that "The grass is not greener on the other side"..

I loved your post.. I had written a comment few days ago,on your joint family post..For some reason i was not able to post even after trying for so much time..Never mind,i hope this one appers:)

Nimmy said...

Arranged marriages are fine..It is forced marriages that are inhumane..I guess there is a difference between both..

Amrutha said...

Nimmy: I agree that arranged marriages are different from forced marriages. I am just not sure how many women have the right to say no. I have a different viewpoint on divorce. I think it's better to split and be happy that stay together and be miserable. But, that said, to each his/her own...about the commenting thingy...maybe there was a prob with blogger that day...

roop said...

the only justification i keep hearing from the anti-divorce brigade is that 'kids suffer' or 'look at kids in america who suffer because of their parents' divorces' ... really? wouldn't the kids suffer more if they were living with two adults who are inherently unhappy with each other and cannot provide a happy environment for their children to grow in? separately, there might be financial troubles or visitation troubles et al, but atleast they have a happy adult to lean on in their times of need. there are many single mothers and single fathers who are doing a fantastic job as parents which they possibly couldn't have if they had remained in their unhappy marriages.

i think you should do a whole new post on this! I agree on the point that y'all make about correlation has nothing to do with causation.

Arun Meethale Chirakkal said...

Hi Amrutha, as usual, again you've come up with something nice. But I treat arranged marriage as something that needs to be treated as a 'world wonder', nopes no cynicism this time. I know people who are happily married (arranged) and love and respect each other quite weell...And hence there's no way I can agree with your statement 'aaranged marriages work because either of the spouse have no other options or because of some other concerns other than genuine love.' But I agree with you 100%, parents shouldn't consider their children as a commodity which is to be sold off. And for me, whenever they mention about my marriage what comes to my mind is "Your children are not your children, they are nature's longing for..." But one has to be really heartless to say that to one's parents huh?

Vikram Nandwani said...

There is no such thing as a 'happy marraige' - arranged or otherwise :)

Sidhusaaheb said...

I figured that the article at the following URL should be of interest to you:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/3614120.cms?TOI_mostemailed

:D

Sidhusaaheb said...

You might also want to take a look at:

http://www.eharmony.com/

:P