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.