Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Indian Marriages (some explanatory notes first!)

I believe it was when I read Chetan Bhagat's "2 States" (a book based on the story of his marriage) that I have truly been interested to learn more about Indian marriages. Coming from a place where the so- called "love marriages" (though we never called it like this) is the norm, the idea of "arranged marriages" in India seemed an almost alien concept to me.

Yes, these were not unheard of in the Philippines. But, as I so often describe, these arranged marriages mostly happen to pure Chinese families and to those belonging to the alta sociedad aka Philippines' high society. There may be instances in remote villages or tribal areas but this does not really exist in the contemporary and "modernized" Filipino culture. In India, however, arranged marriages still seem to happen more commonly than love marriages. In fact, most of those I know who already got married had it arranged by their families.

Before coming to India, I couldn't grasp the concept of arranged marriages. And I was stunned to find that there are websites that offer profile advertising and matching services which are as legit as facebook can get. And, with a population of 1.2 billion, you can only imagine how big the market is for people already in marriable ages!

But still, I remain clueless as to how arranged marriages can actually work. I've heard stories of people not even meeting before the wedding day, or just meeting a few times before deciding to get married. If there is such a thing as love at first sight, I still think it doesn't really apply, nor begin to cover it. A friend of mine actually shared that this is the good thing about arranged marriages: you actually have the entire lifetime of being together to discover each other and get to know the other person.

So, yes, arranged marriages work. Well, most of the time anyway. And it really amazes me. Plus, if it doesn't, the actual advantage of having your parents and relatives agree to the marriage is that, as my colleague has put it, there will be people to help you fix what is wrong in your relationship. Well, this is a matter of perspective. Some might say that the in-laws are really very helpful while some might say that they are too meddlesome.

And then, there's the thing with love marriages. Although this is an "emerging trend", this remains to be a road less traveled. Why, you may ask? Well, I guess, in Indian love marriages, loving one another is not enough. Your family has to love him/her, and his/her family has to love you. And then, there's the issue of compatibility: do you belong to the same religion? the same caste? the same social strata? the same State? are you willing to move? are you willing to quit your job and be a home maker? are you vegetarian or non-vegetarian? And, will you get along well with your in-laws? Whether it's an arranged marriage or a union of love, it is customary, err make that common as things are changing these days, for the bride to move in with the in-laws in what they call "joint families".

More often than not, single Indian men and women, well ok, divorcees and widows/widowers included, will be married off to someone belonging to the same religion, caste, and economic standing, with careful scrutiny over previous marriages or children of one's own. Even your zodiac should be matching. I actually laughed when I found out that a divorcee guy friend of mine has re-activated his online marriage profile. But when he showed me what goes in it (zodiac, caste, religion, degree, job, annual income, eating habits, and many more!), I realized that it was no laughing matter and people take it really seriously. That is why the elders get involved in arranging marriages here in India. And, if they are tech-savvy enough, even in setting up your profile in marriage matching sites!

See, there are so many things to deal with in love marriages that people no longer have to think about if the marriage is arranged. Perhaps that is why the majority still believes that arranged marriages is the best way to go. And yes, I will not deny it as I have heard true to life accounts. But there are people who may think that they love each other in a "You and Me Against the World" kind of way but once their families have intervened, they cave in to the pressure and lets the love of their life slip away and get married to someone they don't even like, or barely know.

I am not saying that all arranged marriages are forced nor that love marriages are acts of rebellion against the Indian social norms. Actually, there are stories where parents are only involved in the beginning, like a friend setting up their single friend in a blind date. There are also parents who, upon seeing that their son or daughter have found love and happiness, give in to their child's insistence. And then, they start arranging the marriage with the guy or girl's family. This is what Indians call "arranged love marriages". It never fails to make me feel happy whenever I hear of stories like this. Arranged love marriages is like a win-win for all, won't you agree?!

Throughout my time in India, whenever I get the chance, I always ask two things of people: First, "Are you married?" and second, "Was it an arranged or a love marriage?" And whatever the answer might be, my next line will be: "I am really interested in hearing stories about marriages in India. I'd love to hear your story!" I've heard several already. A lot of them were happy ever after tales but there are heartbreaks too!

Still, I want to hear more. And, if everything I've just shared with you sparked some interest as well, then you are in for a treat as I'm putting in here some of the stories of marriages in India that I've heard over the last months! Whether it's an arranged marriage, love marriage, or the win-win arranged love marriage, join me in learning (gossiping) more about Indian marriages!


  1. Good that you are learning about this social practice in India which is also common in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Many insights to learn.

  2. Yes Tito! It's a different kind of learning!


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