Why “The Groom’s Side” Will Continue to Act High-Handed with You

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An acquaintance of mine is now in the process of having her marriage arranged. She meets a new prospective groom every other day (and becomes ever so rich in the Hilarious Life Experience department).We were recently chitchatting about one such experience she had a few days back. She seemed really annoyed with the way the guy and his family treated her in their first (and understandably, only) meeting. Apparently they said they’d like it if she discontinued working after marriage, acted rude all along and to top it all – the guy’s mother took her to the kitchen where she had to demonstrate her cooking skills by preparing a few dishes of her choice under her probing gaze.

“But wasn’t that expected?” I wondered aloud. I’m not sure whether it was my reaction or the groom’s family’s actions which outraged her more.

“What do you mean?” She exclaimed.

“Well, you’ve chosen to have an arranged marriage. We all know that the bride/groom selection within the settings of an arranged marriage is a process which has been traditionally disparaging of women. It’s a patent fact that it is still thought of by most Indians – like this guy you unfortunately met – as the man’s privilege to pick and choose the women he’s presented with. If you wanted to be treated with the respect and equality you deserve, shouldn’t you have chosen the more natural way of getting married instead?”

“What do you mean??”

Arranged MarriagePhoto by Praveen_Verma

I realized the short version of my views on this had confused her more. So I explained, this time in detail.

“Let’s start from the A, B, C, shall we? Marriage in general is understood to be a way of giving legal validity to a bond of love between two people (and when I say “love”, I’m NOT talking about crazy, head over heels infatuation but a deep, stable bond between two people built over time, and based on shared values, beliefs, personalities etc.). So marriage is understood as a consequence of two people wanting to be with each other. Here the partner is primary and marriage is secondary because the marriage is a consequence of the existence of the partner. 

Only among certain specific communities (like the majority of people in the Indian subcontinent, some parts of middle East, some parts of China, a few thousand followers of the Unification Church in the US & Europe etc.) it is thought of as the exact opposite of that – a lifelong contract between two people based on various factors, which may or may not culminate in love (again, by love I don’t mean an emotional state but a bond based on compatibility). Here the marriage itself is primary. The partner is secondary, and hence easily replaceable.  

What happens when you’re easily replaceable?

Let’s take an example. Let’s say someone hires you for your unique qualities. They’ve got a job which you – and only you in this world – can perform. What salary would you ask for? As much as you want, right? Because no matter how much you ask for, the employer has to hire you because no one in this whole world can perform your job. In this case your replaceability is zero – you’re irreplaceable. (Think of superstars. They’re paid so highly because they’re unique – completely irreplaceable. Amitabh Bachchan doesn’t get paid for doing his job – acting or whatever. He gets paid for being him.)

On the other hand if you go to someone and offer to wash their floor, what salary would you ask for? Not very high, right? In this case you don’t get to name a price you’d like because yours is a relatively low-skilled job. Hence you’re easily replaceable. The employer is looking for enough skills to get his floor washed; he’s not looking for you specifically. If you don’t want to work for the price the employer is ready to pay you, someone else will.

Hence, the more replaceable you are, the less is your bargaining power.

Coming back to the marriage scene in the Indian context – marriage has been traditionally considered the ultimate achievement of a woman’s life, but not so for men. Even though in a sufficiently large pool of single people (as large as the population of a country/state/city) there would always be roughly equal no. of men and women, for cultural reasons the perceived risk of not being married is much, much higher for an Indian woman than it is for an Indian man. Hence the woman (and/or her family) becomes the “weaker side”, so to speak, in the Indian arranged marriage market. (Think of the earlier employer-employee example. Theoretically speaking both of them need each other equally. But practically, it’s an employers’ market.)

wife sex before marriagePhoto by VishalSinghx

Because of the partner being easily replaceable to followers of the second school of thought on marriage, the bargaining power of the weaker side goes drastically down in case of marriages among these people. As a natural consequence, the stronger side gets to call the shots. This can lead to all sorts of consequences like the stronger side taking an obvious upper hand, treating the weaker side disrespectfully (like in your case), expecting the weaker side to compensate financially in return for the “favour” they’re doing them. (“Since you’re easily replaceable, if you don’t pay someone else will.” That’s what’s called dowry. ;) )

Compare that with a natural process of marriage – “Love marriage”, as it is called in India. Someone wants to marry you because they love you. Hence you’re unique – they want to marry you, not just anybody. You’re irreplaceable to each other. Hence both of you are on equal footing. None is in a position to take an obvious upper-hand.

Anyone is free to choose either of the two interpretations of marriage for themselves. In a patriarchal society like India, in the context of arranged marriage, the various unkind gestures of the guy’s side which you’ve described are all very logical, easily deductible, natural consequences of following the second process of marriage. Particular families can of course be kind and gentle people who choose not to use the privilege which is logically theirs. But in general it’s surprising that these acts can come across as surprising to people who’ve willingly chosen to follow this process of marriage. 

That’s all I meant. :) ”

Well let’s not go into what happened next. Let’s just say … she was a very nice person. ;)

What about you? Irate? Angry? Hurt? Happy? Vindicated? Completely confused and decided never to come back?

Whatever is your reaction, I want to know it. Do pour in the comments. Let’s find out the truth. If it exists. :P 

10 thoughts on “Why “The Groom’s Side” Will Continue to Act High-Handed with You”

    1. Thanks a lot Vivek…The point I’m trying to make is – blaming individuals for acting in a certain way is like blaming cab drivers for charging extra for taking an unpopular route. Yeah, it is his fault. But then basically it’s an inevitable consequence of the demand-supply situation.

  1. Nice article, I read a lot of your stuff and it’s very good.

    Thoughts though – Now I’m a big believer in Love marriages (born and brought up in the UK), but I don’t really see any issue as such with arranged marriages – I have friends in India with arranged marriages, who are all soooo happy and loved up. You say to your friend ‘perhaps choose the natural way of getting married’ etc….. The natural way really is arranged marriages though… Love marriages have only really been around for a 100 years or so, maybe a little longer in the West. But arranged marriages have been around for thousands… Plus look at divorce rates between arranged marriages and love marriages…?

    However I think you are also portraying this article as quite sexist. My friend (guy) met a few very nasty, stuck up and demanding females in his arranged marriage process. This type of scenario with females behaving like such is actually becoming more and more common. Even I see it (I’m a regular visitor to India, have many friends and family there) the behaviour in females is changing dramatically over the years. I don’t know if this is a ‘feminist’ blog, but it’s increasingly beginning to seem so..

    Your friend may have perhaps had some bad experiences, but I don’t think the arranged marriage scene can be tarred with the same brush, there are more successes with arranged marriages than love marriages, that’s a fact.

    Your blogs are always a good, read, so keep on writing!

    Cheers,

    B x

    1. Thanks for the compliments Bhavesh. :) And thanks a lot for sharing the other side of the story – which I’d reply to in a separate post. In the meantime, could you please share a link/report containing data on divorce rates among Indian arranged marriages vs divorce rates among Indian love marriages? I’ve been looking for this data for quite some time, but haven’t been able to find it yet. All you get is the combined divorce rate in India, which doesn’t help at all because all Indian marriages aren’t arranged marriages and we’re looking precisely at comparing the rates between the two types of marriages.
      Waiting for your reply,
      Sulagna :)

      1. Sorry I do apologise, I didn’t word that correctly. You are correct stats only represent combined marriages (arranged and divorced).

        But it is important to note that countries where arranged marriages are traditionally high, have among the lowest divorce rate. But my apologies there for not wording correctly. Yes equally I know statistics can be manipulated, and generally womens rights etc may not be as established in these countries with low divorce rates. However again this is another assumption and generalisation, as I said I personally believe in love marriages. But is still an interesting topic none the less.

        You also I guess have almost a ‘hybrid’ marriage nowadays as well, where it’s not quite arranged, but not fully a ‘love’ marriage’ – you don’t have to give an answer immediately, but they are introduced, still perhaps with family expectations etc, but still have time to get to know the other personality. Not sure where these would be classed.

        Anyway that divorce rate point was only one of a number I raised, and I look forward to reading your article when you write it which addresses the other points that I mentioned, as I think they are quite important, especially from a male perspective, and how some females behave also (just as bad as men).

        Thanks, great stuff once again,
        B

      2. Well some end up killing each other in “love marriages” in India, take the case of IIM-A alumni, well an educated guy in love marriage stabbed his wife and killed her. Even in the most gruesome desolate-village-type of arranged marriages score over urban love marriages. Do check the link.

        1. I’m yet to see the connection between these two (whether the couple had a love marriage vs the fact that one of them killed the other).

    2. That’s happening largely because women in urban areas are well-educated and have more financial independence compared to previous generations.

      Also, a cultural shift is underway. Slowly, Indian society is beginning to move away from patriarchal norms.

      In any case, truly happy marriages, whether love or arranged, are built on mutual trust, respect and a mutually shared goal of building a happy family.

  2. This is a completely different view from current scenario of arranged marriages of educated people nowadays. Truth is girl’ side does a lot more probing than boys’ side. A very very intensive check up is conducted on our educational qualifications, salaries, family status, financial background of boy and family, habits, corporate background, relationship background, life of siblings, nature etc. It is verified through a lot of sources. While girl’s is judged on her beauty, educational qualifications and relationship background, family values and morale, sometimes salary. Things like cooking skills, singing, stitching are things of the past and mothers asking to cook !!! , the boy’s family will be tossed out if her mother does something like happened to your friend, that is uncommon not general. I am married for 2 years and if a there is a need for some stitching, I do it or if its complex and not urgent then my mother, my wife doesn’t know how, nor does it matter to me in anyway. Even villages in Haryana ( most male centered community in world ) are drifting away from this crap “http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?Daily=TOIJ&showST=true&login=default&pub=TOI&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&AW=1373998096774”.
    And dowry is not asked it is punishable offence nor is it given in normal cases . The boy’s family are more than happy to have a decent girl from a good honorable family. And just take a look at the sex ratio 940 females per thousand males, there are no females for approx 48 million guys in our country and you are asking for rejecting tonnes of girls. Who is “upper handed”. This is a hell bent feminist view, and replacing your wife, divorcee men are equally looked down as divorcee women in our country, perhaps more in cases when they initiate it directly or through actions. And boy’s privilege to choose girl, no way. It is an “arranged marriage” not a “forced marriage” being an Indian you would know this. And love between partners may of may not, I am sure you would agree that there are “naturally married” couples who now don’t love each other, love can fade away nor is everyone keen enough to find the “straight-from-a-book” type “ultimate” love. In the arranged couple at least they keep their family happy even though unhappy themselves, in “naturally” married couples both sides are at loss.
    And “http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1363176/Why-arranged-marriage-likely-develop-lasting-love.html” , a report by the most prestigious newspaper of a country full of “natural marriages with non-replaceable partners” having a divorce rate of just 42%.
    And there is not data of divorces in love marriages of India is these couples cannot divorce literally, even if spouse turns into an animal, because they have tremendous pressure on them to keep up their marriage. If they divorce their life is a living hell, in such cases if they divorce the parents instead of supporting them blame them. It is like standing on a pole in shark waters. The situation is way lot easier in arranged marriages.
    Still I am not at all against love marriages. But arranged marriages are no way below them. You have full support from your family and community, you have the first-time spice and many other factors which lag in love marriages in India.
    All it needs to make an arranged marriage work is dedication and some adjustments and truthfulness.
    But on the other side there are disastrous arranged marriages where girl knows that her in-laws are money hounds husband is a torturer,drunkard, he is hung up on a slut, etc. or the boy knows her wife is a whore and he is stuck up now.
    But in today’s context the boy and girl can meet a lot between the engagement and marriage period and clear things responsibly.

  3. Are you sure you are telling the current experience of your friend not 50 years old marriage experience of your friends mother…
    Rahul is right, it is totally different from the present situation. And as for divorce in love marriage not possible, totally not possible in any case even if one spouse starts beating the other. So they stick together.
    You might want to ask again because no mother tells a girl to demonstrate cooking skills, if she did they wouldn’t know when they were tossed out, when I had married my wife didn’t know anything more than bread and butter, while I knew something, for 3 months we struggled, innumerable stomach pains etc. but now we both know some dishes.

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