My Dearest Komal, Anjli and Amar,
I was considered quite old when I got married at the age of 25. How fortunate for you that times have changed! It was all different then. Familiar words each generation tells the new one and you too have heard these words often!
The phrase ‘arranged marriage’ always reminds me of being an observer in a ‘vetting-a-bride’ scenario. This was the late 1960s, so I must have been around 12 at this time. A few of us ‘children’ had tagged along a guest who was on a lookout for a suitable partner.(Please read ‘A Suitable Boy’ by Vikram Seth….long but great book.) This prospective groom was tall, handsome, fair and wealthy. A perfect catch looking for the perfect wife! We were in the living room of a family whose daughter was of a marriageable age. This was the common first stage of finding a partner. Everyone was trying to make idle talk and in walked the girl dressed up in an elegant sari. She was carrying a tray full of cups filled with tea. I could sense the trembling of the hands and the clinking of the cups on their saucers. Us giggling children were trying to grasp the seriousness of the situation and failing miserably. All the adults were eyeing this embarrassed girl from the corner of their eyes. Unfortunately at this stage it was all about the looks and nothing about the character. I can’t remember the ensuing details but the usual format was for the girl to be subjected to a full blown interrogation. Suffice to say, this pairing never progressed! With this scene in mind, this was exactly the situation I had never wanted to be in. But never say never right?
These days, finding a partner is not as embarrassing as the above situation. One must also remember that ‘arranged marriages’ are not forced liaisons. What is more embarrassing(and risky):
- Trying to find a fitting date during an evening out or
- Being set up for a date with your parent’s input?
Historically arranged marriages in the west meant the brides were used as currency, for social or political reasons. Love marriages only became the expected in the west in the last century! Marriage was more practical than emotional.
Modern arranged marriages are more of an introduction by the family. Parents usually look at factors like education, shared interests, shared religion, wealth, caste, etc., before putting the proposal on the table. Statistically arranged marriages have a lower rate of divorces than arranged. You can debate on this statement in many different angles, but take the following factors into consideration:
- In an arranged situation, both parties know what the end game is.
- Both parties and their families are more committed for the partnership to work.
- Many marriages break down due to the insurmountably discrepancies of the individual’s backgrounds. A ‘love marriage’ situation?
- Love can develop once the friendship has been established. Being in a partnership is always about give and take, about compromise, about understanding each other…….I could go on.
- One can not stay deeply in love forever! What happens afterwards?
- Understanding each other’s culture is important.
- Marriages survive even when love is not paramount.
Some photos of couples you will recognise and who have weathered all the ups and downs of arranged marriage. Each couple has their own unique and interesting background. If I were able to find more photos, then this gallery would be endless.
Trying to write this difficult letter has got me researching all over the internet. Using this research and being influenced by what happened around me, I have compiled a playlist which might make you smile or cringe. Let me know which it is!
I am now beginning to question my attitude of, ‘I do not want to interfere in my children’s life. They are adults and can make their own decisions’. Reminiscing on my own parent’s behaviour, am I taking the cowardly way and giving up on the responsibility of finding a partner for my children? Perhaps I need to work towards more introductions and give more encouragement. Arranged marriage is still prevalent in India, though in a more modern form. A bit more like computer dating where the parents are the computers! There are numerous dating sites where one, young or old, can find a partner. We know of many such examples. For the Indian diaspora family like ours, it is like being stuck between two different worlds…the Indian one and the Western world. Loads of research and articles on this subject can be found again on the internet. You can look it up yourselves or look at the ones that I found engaging:
Being single is not always fun. There is a lot of pressure to find a soulmate, if not by the parents, at least by your peer group and environment. My advice would be: Take a risk! Evaluate your past decisions. Be more open minded. You will find your happiness whether single or not but it is always more fun when you can share this with someone intimate.
Hope this wasn’t too exhausting a read! Just to ease the tension, I have uploaded a few recipes which you will find a lot easier to follow.
Pasta and other alternative sauces, white and/or pesto to use with the pasta. To make it really easy, you might even be able to buy one or all of these items ready-prepared! First though why don’t you try the recipe(s)?
I shall end this letter here. My very best wishes to you in tackling all the hurdles thrown at you in the coming months. Really looking forward to being with you this summer which is just round the corner now!
With all my love, hugs and kisses,