Anupam Mishra is a language trainer. She has been teaching English for ten years. She loves to read and write poems, stories and articles.
Parents know our best, don't they? They know what we needed, what we liked, what favoured us and what made us happy. As they know so much about us, taking care of us till we are able to take our own responsibility, is it justified to take the most important decision of ours without consulting us?
Arranged marriage! What is this arrange marriage? Is it only that what our parents arrange for us? Not at all. Many couples in love also get their marriage proposal approved by their parents and family solemnising their marriage as an arranged marriage. Whereas there are many marriages which are arranged by the parents and the couple fall in love with each other after meeting.
But here my topic of discussion is such sort of arranged marriages in which couples are complete strangers for each other till they are married and later they are never able to adjust with each other. Unfortunately, there are several such cases in our nation in which many people stay in troubled marriages.
My Marriage in 2004
I was not even shown the photograph of the man with whom I was to be married. My parents and other relatives met him and finalised everything. My husband wanted to talk with me before the marriage but I could not go against the norms of my family. My sister in law was the one who selected me for her brother. Though they were sceptical about my height as against the 6ft 5inch of their bachelor I was just 5ft 2inch, they loved while interacting with me.
When I saw my sister in law, I was mesmerised by her beauty. I didn't want to marry until I saw her and talked with her. She asked me if I could talk with her brother for just once before the marriage. I told her that it was not possible for me as I couldn't do anything without the permission of my parents who would not allow for this.
The family of my in-laws is one of the most peculiar families in India. India the grooms are on sale. There is a tag attached to every specific bachelor. Where for the IAS an IPS the dowry can be millions, each and every job-specific has some sort of price that the bride's family has to pay before the marriage. While my in-laws didn't ask for anything from my father. They just requested the pay the marriage expenses as my father in law didn't have any asset at that time than his highly qualified children. My husband had recently got the job after his MBA while my sister in law was still pursuing it from one of the most famous management institutes of India. My husband's brother was still preparing for his CA finals.
Once I was married and settled at my in-laws family, I really felt as if it was a new birth for me. They showered me with love and blessings. They loved me a lot and fulfilled all my wishes. They were the one who educated me after my high schools. My husband became life for me. Even when he had to move to Mumbai for work while I stayed with my in laws, we were continuous in touch with calls and messages. For ten years we had loved each other, understood each other and took care of each other.
Somehow, the love between us vanished after the arrival of his old friend and I was thrown aside with our daughters. That's no more tragical for me but just a phase of life.
With this arranged marriage you can see that how arranged marriage can also be proved to be blissful.
Pressure of Dowry in Arranged Marriages
But not all the marriages are the same. It doesn't matter whether you started to love each other before the marriage or after the marriage. It all depends upon how much you care for each other and how long.
As a frog of the well, I can only tell about the families and people I am close to but on a broader perspective, it is well known how ladies are tortured in India for dowry. People don't want to have daughters as they feel troubled for the dowry that is to be paid for her. There are many examples in which an immature girl child is married to some old man to avoid the pressure of dowry.
I have seen many cases in my neighbour where the bride was sent back to her parents' place just because the promised amount of dowry was not paid in time.
My sister in law who is so intelligent and beautiful that any man would have died to make her the life partner. A few selected bachelors of our community were approached with her marriage proposal but none of them went ahead just because of their demands. "We don't need anything at all. But yes don't forget to give your daughter a Mercedes and diamond set," these were the demands of the settled bachelors.
My sister in law was told as highly ambitious as she was not less than any of the approached bachelors. She loved one of her college friends who later became her colleague as well. That boy was from different caste and it created a lot of chaos in our family but my parent in-laws approved their love marriage. Thank god, they are happily married for about thirteen years now and their couple is the worl's best couple that I know.
Love Marriage a Tabboo
Love marriage is still a taboo in our society. There are numerous religions and caste in our nation, for which it claims to show unity in diversity. When it comes to marriage, none of the religion wants to break their social barriers. Not only does the religion and caste create the problem but also the social status becomes a hindrance in marriage.
In 2007, my sister-in-law's marriage was the first in our family to go for intercaste marriage. When she was married, the whole society was against this except my parents-in-law. There were so many threats that our family received from the other members. But the father and the two brothers of my sister-in-law stood like strong pillars and didn't let anyone come on their way. And today this couple is one of my most favourite couples which is filled with immense love even after so long.
At present, there are two cases in front of me in which the couples are not allowed to marry just because they belong to two different castes of Hindu. one is my own brother who is just two years younger than me but still unmarried. The girl with whom he wants to marry belongs to some other castes than us. We are considered as the highest caste in Hindu, the Brahmin and all the other castes are considered inferior to this caste. My parents have threatened him that he can either marry her or stay with them but can't have both the relations. My brother is in love with that girl since he was in ninth grade. She is far better in qualification and other qualities than my brother but just because she is from some different caste she cannot be accepted as the daughter in law by my parents.
Then there is a colleague of mine who is also in his late twenties and wants to marry a girl with whom he too is in love since his school days. The same situation as my brother. His parents have warned him that they would poison the whole family if he married the girl. A few days ago he asked me for a suggestion as he loves the girl a lot. Now he has to choose in between the girl and his family. His mother is cursing him all the time stating it was a mistake to give birth to such a son. As an elder sister, I told him to take the decision on his own. He needs to convince his parents logically and if they are not ready to understand than the call is his. He can also tell them clearly that he is not going to marry any other girl if he can't marry her (as my brother has done). He will have to choose in between the girl and the parents. The decision is quite difficult but he has to choose wisely.
Movies Inspired from this Topic
Sairat: This was a Marathi movie but mesmerised by its popularity, I watched the movie with its subtitles. Here an elite class girl from a village falls in love with a poor boy. Both of them run away from the village and get married. They have a very sweet home built with their love in a small town. The girl's father finds out that place and reaches there to bestow blessings upon his grandchild but it was just a trick to reach to them and he brutally murders the whole family.
There are many other Bollywood movies motivated with a similar theme in which the couple is either disowned or tortured by the society making their life hell.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Anupam Mitu
William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on November 01, 2020:
Interesting article from an insider who knows. Thank you.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 16, 2020:
Amazing. Thanks for enlightening me on this issue. I just assumed that the practice was abandoned.
Arthur Russ from England on October 15, 2020:
Wow, quite an educational article. Arranged marriages are not illegal in the UK, but forced marriages are. The distinction being that in an arranged marriage the final decision is the bride and groom, and if either of them objects then it’s a forced marriage; which is illegal. Albeit, arranged marriages in the UK are very rare because it’s not part of British culture, and would only be found in tightknit Indian families living in the UK.
Having said that, there are some remnants of British Culture that strikes accord with some Indian traditions you mention; although these days they carry less weight than they did when I got married. For example when I got married it was still traditional in Britain for:-
• The Bride’s family to pay for the wedding,
• It was considered courteous for the groom to seek consent from the bride’s father, and
• The bride to be would keep a ‘bottom drawer’.
Although in practice in the UK both parents would often chip in, and the couple themselves would contribute what they could afford towards the cost of the wedding. Albeit these days weddings are often a lot more informal (cheaper), often just a ‘Registry Office’ wedding, and the couple themselves would pay the brunt of the costs; or even just decide to live together without getting married (common-law partnership).
In my case my father-in-law did pay most of the costs of our wedding, albeit I and my wife chipped in a little towards the cost (what we could afford).
These days British couples don’t usually seek the blessing of the bride’s parents; couples just tell their parents they are getting married, which is what we did; albeit we did consent to a formal church wedding to appease my in-laws even though we are not religious ourselves.
My wife did keep a ‘bottom drawer’ when we were engaged, although I doubt many British couples bother these days. A ‘bottom drawer’ being the bottom drawer of a dressing table where the bride-to-be starts collecting a few basic household items for setting up a new home in married life in advance of the wedding e.g. bathroom towels, tea-towels, bed sheets etc.
Rosina S Khan on October 14, 2020:
The outcome of arranged and love marriages can be fatal as your article shows. I do hope and pray that India would become easier for girls and their dowries. Thank you for bringing out awareness of the issue and provoking thoughts on it, Anupam.
FlourishAnyway from USA on October 14, 2020:
Thank you for sharing your personal account. Unfortunately, such systems tend to subjugate women. I don’t mean to denigrate your culture. I am simply concerned about those young girls you refer to who are married off to old geezers and then returned, women who are not treated well by husbands they don’t love and didn’t choose, men and women who want to marry for love but cannot, etc. More than ever before we need more love in this world.
I’ve been married to the love of my life for more than 25 years. Women and girls need to be uplifted and valued by good loving kind men they select as partners.
RoadMonkey on October 14, 2020:
I understand that some marriages are arranged with consent because both bride and groom want to find a suitable partner but forced marriage is never right. It is a pity that dowry can be an important factor and that women are still considered less worthy than men. I hop your brother and his friend get the marriages they want.
Kalpana Iyer from India on October 14, 2020:
I agree that any marriage, whether love or arranged, depends on compromise and care. Our Indian arranged marriage system is faulty, but many have found true love too this way. In the end all that matters is how compatible and loyal both you and your partner are.
Lorna Lamon on October 14, 2020:
I recently watched a documentary about the arrangement of marriages in India. I know our parents always want what is best for us, however, I'm not sure if this should extend into choosing a life partner, however, if this is what you are brought up to expect then it is more acceptable. I feel that getting to know the person with family present would at least make it easier. It is sad that so much emphasis is placed on a dowry and a system still exists which dictates the caste you are to marry. This was such an interesting article Anupam which explained and examined a traditional Indian marriage thoroughly.
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on October 14, 2020:
Anupam, how lovely, interestingly, curious, and thought provocating. When I was a boy of 13 years, I watch an Indian film about marriage. It is about love, and the couple had to elope when pressure was put on them because of the caste system. Later, in my college(not university) days, I learnt that Indian men did not pay dowry on bride, it is the other way round. Curious as the story is, I ask my informer if the brides were always wealthy? I received no answer. In later years, I research the facts. Any marriage can be destroy by a cast system. I had a story similar but some vast difference to tell about my culture. Thanks for sharing.