Is an arranged marriage the correct option or is it love that should be the determining factor in the choice of a soul-mate? This debate has been raging for ages in the context of the Indian society. But at no time before has this question assumed such gigantic proportions as in the present. The generation gap seems to have widened with time. The younger generation is eager to find love while the parents want to decide things for their offspring under the strong conviction that they know what is best for their children.
The older generation seems to firmly believe that a marriage arranged by the family with proper matching of horoscopes and approval of all parties concerned is enough to ensure a happy married life. I am not going to deny the validity of this assumption, for definitely an arranged marriage has certain things going in its favor.
First and foremost it has the approval of the families and whether we like it or not this makes things easier. A love marriage most often has to withstand caste and religious barriers and strong family disapproval. To stand up and fight against these is not everyone’s cup of tea. It requires phenomenal conviction in one’s beliefs and value systems and the ability to stand up with grit and determination to opposition.
If you do not mind choices being made for you and if you really believe that the heart of a successful marriage lies in compatibility in religious beliefs, food habits, astrological considerations and all the other factors that are taken into account when parents arrange a marriage for their offspring, then there is nothing like an arranged marriage for you.
The Indian society is not westernized and it is not everyone who finds love in the normal course of life. We don’t have a system of dating except in urban cities and not everyone has the opportunity to find a soul-mate for themselves. All these factors make an arranged marriage suitable in the Indian context for many people.
There are also arranged marriages of the independent kind. Many educated youngsters who are economically and socially independent, advertise in newspapers on their own asking for their choices of brides and grooms and it is not uncommon nowadays to come across advertisements that say: “Caste, religion – no bar”. This kind of marriage where the girl or boy has independence to choose is also an arranged marriage. The difference is that, the families are kept at arm’s length.
But what if someone finds love in their life and their choice of a marital partner does not have parental approval? Say, in the normal course of life one develops a relationship that can be committed to without fear or trepidation; should the society then be allowed to put barriers in the path of such a union? Should parental and societal pressures be allowed to put an end to a wonderful relationship that could last a lifetime without any problems?
Should people have to resort to elopement and police protection to take the cherished vows of marriage? It is only when a marriage is forced down people’s throats that the problem becomes magnified.
In most Indian families the announcement by a son or a daughter that they have made an independent decision regarding marriage is usually received with shock. The shock is profound if the chosen mate belongs to a different caste or religion. Immediately the parents start their campaign to convince the boy or girl about the unsuitability of such a marriage.
The relatives are called in and everyone takes turns to convince the boy or girl to give up the idea. Sometimes brazen tactics of emotional blackmail are resorted to. The usual arguments are: “We brought you into this world, we raised you with love and care and now you do this!!”. The whole family engages in a campaign to brainwash the boy or girl.
Sometimes raw trickery is used. I came across one particular case where the girl who had made such a decision was a firm believer in astrology. The family brought in an astrologer who was probably bribed and made him predict doom for her if she went ahead with the marriage. The astrologer informed her in no uncertain terms that as per astrological predictions, if she marries the boy in question, the marriage would not last two months and both of them would be in the streets.
Unfortunately the girl gave up the quest and married a boy chosen by the family and ended up as a divorcee within an year. Sometimes the boy or girl are even taken to quack marriage counselors who engage in brain washing sessions.
In extreme cases, physical violence and threats are also resorted to. Boys and girls are dragged to temples and fingers are pointed at the deity with the admonition: “If you go ahead with this, on your own head be it”. Threats of ostracism by the family and society are made. All this leaves the boy or girl an emotional wreck and they break off from the relationship and get unhappily married to someone else.
Such a forced marriage, as can be expected, is unsuccessful. Relationships that are not supported by the soul seldom thrive. That is when parents realize their mistake. It occurs to them that it would have been better to have allowed their offspring to marry the mates of their choice. But by then it is too late.
There is no clear choice between arranged and love marriages. For those of us who are happy with an arranged marriage there is nothing like it. If we want our parents to find our mates and we are happy with their choice, then there is nothing wrong in going for an arranged marriage.
The problem arises only when things are forced down people’s throats. If someone is a mature adult and has carefully thought out things and wants to commit for a lifetime to a mate they have chosen, it is far better to allow them to do so than to impose your opinions on them. Each to his own is the best policy.