I was having the good old love vs arranged marriage debate with a friend a few days back (Yes. Again.) His point was – isn’t dating similar to arranged marriages? A modern arranged marriage is about meeting different people shortlisted by your parents based on certain preset criteria, getting to know them over a period of time and finally selecting one of them. How different is that from inputting certain criteria on a dating website, meeting people based on these and selecting one of them finally?
Not very, I conceded.
But that’s not the image that comes to my mind when I think of arranged marriages. I’m reminded of young girls forced out of jobs and into marriages they weren’t ready for. I’m reminded of young couples forced out of their existing relationships into marriages they never wanted. I’m reminded of incompatible matches made on the basis of castes, religions, gotras and kundlis.
Clearly he and I couldn’t possibly be talking about the same thing even though we both thought we were describing “arranged marriages”. That’s when I realised we need to reclassify marriages.
So what are the different types of arranged marriages?
#1. Guided marriages
In this case a man or a woman willingly allows their parents to look for possible matches for them, at a time when he or she is ready for marriage (not at a point of time chosen unilaterally by the parents). The parents then shortlist a set of possible matches as per criteria jointly decided by the parents and the child (again, not unilaterally dictated by the parents). The child then meets and spends time with the selected people over months/years. They start “dating” the ones they like. Eventually they get married after a year or so of knowing each other, if everything goes as per plan.
A minuscule but increasing proportion of modern, ultra-urban arranged marriages are done this way nowadays. As you can see, this is a win-win solution for everyone. This doesn’t, in any way, sacrifice anyone’s freedom and no one – leave alone me – can possibly have anything against a spontaneous exercise of free will by every individual concerned. I’m all for guided marriages.
#2. Forced marriages
This, on the other hand, is a decision on a person’s marriage taken unilaterally by their parents and extended family. Usually it’s the family which decides the timing of the marriage. They select a set of potential matches. The final selection might be made by the guy/girl themselves. But the base criteria for selection are laid out by the parents (including caste, religion etc.).
Sadly, forced marriages often involve coercing a guy/ girl OUT of an EXISTING relationship into an unwanted marriage. It can also involve getting a daughter, or even son, married off at a much earlier life stage than they’re ready for.
Now this, as we all know, is a kind of marriage that doesn’t recognise the concept of individual freedom. By failing to take individual choice into account, this sometimes sacrifices the happiness of the new couple.
Unfortunately, a significant proportion of Indian arranged marriages end up going down the forced route. I’m sure you’ll agree – no rational person in their right mind can support such coercion of innocent individuals into a life they never wanted. Neither do I.
Have you had an arranged marriage? Have you observed one from close quarters? Was it guided or forced? Share the experience with us by leaving a comment.