(Published in Times of India Crest).
This was well and good while I was in college. I was grateful that my mum and dad weren’t annoying busybodies planning my future, but were instead happy to let me have boyfriends and find my own way. They were cool parents, who would be down with whoever I loved regardless of religion, nationality or bank account, and so I was unable to relate to some of the horror stories I heard of girls being forced to break-up with their sweethearts only to be ‘married off’ to someone they barely even knew. I actually felt sorry for these girls, they would never understand the joys and excitement of a love affair! Mine were modern parents and I was a modern chic. Yay for me.
By the time I got to my mid-twenties however had I changed my mind. While most of my girlfriends had received at least one offer of marriage via their families, my tally was depressingly a big fat zero (I refuse to count the really creepy Physics tutor who wanted to marry me when I was 17). I even had a friend whose second cousin sent her a proposal, and while she cringed at the idea I secretly envied her. As far as I was concerned the Arrangeds were at an unfair advantage.
To begin with, how wonderful it would be if I could, on the strength of my family’s reputation alone, find a man. I always believed that women in arranged marriages were not running around wasting time in the bargain basement of life, rummaging about for a good deal, instead she was shopping in a boutique where the products on display had been handpicked after an intensive whetting by sundry aunties, uncles and other do-gooders. Unlike me this girl would not have to dress up and parade around nightclubs until the odd hours of the night looking for a man, he would instead be presented to her in the dignified ambience of her home. It was with silently mounting terror that I realized I had mistaken my parent’s inability to pull a proposal for ‘coolness’. If I never found love it would be their fault. Unfair advantage #1.
Another thing an Arranged need not worry about is whether or not she is wasting her time with a commitment phobic moron. No of course not, thanks to the aforementioned aunties and do-gooders her selection set will comprise of men, not boys, who actually want to be wed. The rest of us on the other hand have to take our chances – which by the way are about as good as winning a lottery. Once we identify a guy we reallyreally like, we are then left wondering ‘how serious is he?’. This wondering by the way is bloody exhausting. You are not allowed to just come out and ask because men as we all know are rather timid creatures and get freaked out by all this commitment stuff. So instead you become a paranoid bundle of nerves trying to work this all out in your head and the head of your loving girl friends. Unfair Advantage #2.
And last but not least, one of the biggest challenges that face those of us who must marry for love – meeting the parents. The question of WHEN to introduce your significant other to mummy-ji and papa-ji is a big one. Introduce them too soon and you appear over-eager (my husband met my parents before we started dating), introduce them too late and it looks like you may be a commitment phobic moron (I met my future mother-in-law after I had lived with her son -shrouded in the kind of secrecy the KGB would have envied – for over three years, and I met my future father-in-law two weeks before my wedding.)
For obvious reasons the Arrangeds don’t have to give this type of thing a second thought. They meet the parents pretty much immediately, and if for any reason they haven’t had a chance to get acquainted, they have at the very least been pre-approved – like good credit card customers. In a Love Marriage on the other hand you are a high-risk applicant. Only one person in the family knows anything about you, and no one knows your khandan so you don’t even have good credit history. We have to kiss so much more arse just to be liked by our prospective in-laws. Unfair Advantage #3.
But no matter the differences, there is one striking similarity between a Love and an Arranged match. You see, regardless of how you met your husband, in a night-club, a strip-club or a church, know this – his mother will always think he could have done better.