“Married? Arranged or love?” Does it really matter?

(Published in The Huffington Post India: http://www.huffingtonpost.in/shaira-mohan/married-arranged-or-love-_b_9475360.html )

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!”
The more I think about it and hear about it, the more I am beginning to cringe each time this question is put forth. Because the fact of the matter is – the question itself – one that is just blindly being passed down generations like a banal legacy of sorts is increasingly losing its meaning and context.
When a man and woman (because God forbid in our country we even mention same sex marriages), 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. Meaning a match ‘arranged’ in heaven by the aforementioned individuals or others in these categories.
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 too, it miraculously becomes a whole other category called ‘Love’ marriage. And the underslying implication is that a Love marriage is the actual match made in heaven whereas an’Arranged’ one is just two people resigning to the institution of marriage – happy or not.
Here are a few myths on the topic of these two categories of marriage that I would like to dispel :
1. “Love” and “Arranged” – Being two ambiguously different words in the English dictionary, there aren’t a lot of other places where these two words can be justifiably placed together. But 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 the marriage that friends played cupid to or one in which the two met at a workplace, through a dating website or just social gatherings whereas “Arranged” became the given name for the holy matrimony that arose from the intervention (some even say ‘meddling’) of the revered elders.
Having been happily married for six years now as a result of falling under the ‘Arranged’ categorisation, ours is a marriage that also found the ‘love’ angle right from the word 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 its a bit of both and sometimes its none at all. It’s high time we stop following the herd and end this old and redundant categorisation. People introduced you, whoever they may be or you happened to meet directly elsewhere. Lead with that, tell your real story and you will see the redundance that I see.

2. “One kind of marriage lasts longer than the other” – This is one of the biggest myths of marriage and it surprises me that this mindset still exists among some sections of our educated societies. I think we have seen enough celebrity couples, friends, relatives, colleagues, college room mates and the like go through the quintessential happily ever after or the quick-as-can-be divorces even in India now to safely adjudge that whoever may have planted the seed, the lack of water and care is what makes the plant thrive or die. In my view the blink-of-an-eye marriage demises of celebrities and the ‘high society’ has started a trend of ‘up and leave’ that has trickled down various sections of society that now find it easier to walk out of a marriage than the effort of making it work. But how the marriage was conceived has nothing to do with its demise. Love marriages are as short or long lived as arranged ones. Its the couple that moves it ahead or rips its apart.

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; not the new-age pseudo feminism that has gripped many to believe that feminism means male-bashing and washing your hands off all things culturally Indian – like Arranged marriages and Karva Chauth. Having said that, I also despise the idea of raising a finger at women who want to work and conquer the corporate world along with running a household. 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 these pseudo – femininsts 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 condone the idea of marriage – Arranged or otherwise is unfathomable to them.
By spreading this wrongful perception of marriage as a sin or a prison, these people are tarnishing the image and idea of feminists across the world – real feminists doing real work to further the cause of 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 or guidebook that lists the rules for an Arranged or Love marriage to succeed. Marriage has no categories. It is only marriage and is only as successful or unsuccesful as the couple strive to make it. So lets spread the right message and lets start asking the right questions instead of the wrong ones that are laced with a thick undertone of condescension and prejudice.

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