Indian Marriage System

19 08 2006

We have some rights up on you and therefore your marriage happens to be our privilage although you will get enough freedom to make the final decision.

This might well be a stereotype dialogue from an Indian parent to a young son or daughter. My parents too made the statement recently. I wanted to rebel but then the thought that a debate about this with old parents is a futile exercise revocked me. I did not answer, which to them probably meant that although I might not like it, I neither protested, while for me it was a silent but outright disagreement. Still, it made me think about the whole institution of Indian marriage and love. The following are some of the conclusions.

  • Indian arranged marriage system by theory and practice puts sex (and therefore procreation) as a ritual to be performed and marriage as an institution to keep it under control. (we are yet to get out of the hangover of the “original sin”)
  • It revolves more arround the familes of people bounded by the wedding knot and therefore synonymous with the matrimonial-political deals of the ancient kings.
  • The whole practice is conducted as if the aspect of love – both mental and physical – has just a secondary role and presenting themselves as “happily married” cheerful couple before the society is more important.
  • It always lack a romantic touch.
  • All anachronous identities like religion, caste and subcaste are perpetuated (or procreated)till eternity by this system with a seemingly logical argument (an outright blunder or sophistry) of cultural coherence between the wedded pairs (yet another form of old racial purity theories).
  • The contempt or displeasure towards “self found mate” emerges from an appalling adherence to a status quo which most disagrees at heart. (for the parents never enjoyed that freedom and so they convince themselves that it need not be granted to off springs)
  • The system might work well apparently in very many cases(more because couples never let their displeasures be known to the world), but essentially kills the basic urge for freedom and hence progressive thinking by and large, for we are yet to reconcile with the concept that freedom of choice maynot essentially give you an everlasting happiness but only the pleasure that you are free.
  • By and large, an arranged marriage couple (because of the very process) never enjoys a great sex life. But this fact is kept as a taboo which ought not be uttered at any cause.
  • The openness of society is curbed and debates between diverse perspectives are never encouraged even inside familes due to this process.
  • The people to be married need to be really good actors to bear with the drama of meeting the prospective bride, marriage ceremony etc. The process tames an individual (a usual common man) to be a lesser individual by following certain dictums rather than expressing own genuine feelings.
  • The process encourages conservatism, religious power structures and patriarchial system.
  • Women are more oppressed and tamed as to be projected as wife of Mr X. rather than being a genuine Ms Y.

Well, I know that this is a really contravertial subject. Also, I agree that all the above mentioned things need not happen in all arranged marriages as a rule but more important is the general impact it has over society. I would rather advocate young people to go for self found mates at any stage. My other argument for it is that you can be responsible human being only when you take responsibilities into your hands without waiting for the time to deliver a solution.

Unfortunately, large many of us (men) were conditioned to look only through a traditional frame of thought. Thus alternative processes like dating happens to be an emberassment. This might change with time, although I do not expect a radical change among all communities. Caught in this ghost of past conditioning, I see myself in an awkward position. But one thing that I do believe is that it is not a rule that you should marry, but if it is to be done let it not be a sacrificial ritual to please the GODs of society (or even family).

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20 responses

19 08 2006
amal

true, true, true !!

19 08 2006
freebird

Well I do agree with all your arguemnts. But not with the advice “I would rather advocate young people to go for self found mates at any stage.”

I don’t think you have seen enough life to give that advice. 😉 But as a general rule even I do agree with it.

20 08 2006
Aparna

“# The whole practice is conducted as if the aspect of love – both mental and physical – has just a secondary ..
# It always lack a romantic touch.”

For a beautiful account of subdued, but nevertheless pleasant romance in an arranged marriage, RK Narayan’s “English Teacher”.. I guess foreign critics of the time treated man-wife relations in such-like writings by Narayan to be a faithful description of indian marital life;

“as if love is secondary”.. echoing the same lament, and strongly protesting it, C. J.’s essay, “Premam oru siddhiyaanu”

RKN’s was an arranged, same caste, “love marriage”.. that’s a beautiful way to get married, i suppose.. but the wife died very soon.. god hates anything good in human lives, doesn’t allow equilibrium to continue very long.. And C. J. must’ve written essay when he was lining up Rosie, MP Paul’s daughter, when he was a teacher at paul’s tutorial.

21 08 2006
Ayyappadas

Thanks to Amal, Bobinson and Aparna for the comments.

@Bob – You could say that my advice to look for SFM, whenever possible,emerges from these anachronisms (as I penned down) about arranged marriages.

Regarding the lack of worldly experiences to make such a comment as an arguement, I have disagreement. First until anybody of us marries and spend an year or two no body will have that right to comment, if I go by your line of thought. Neither did I intend to put SFM as a rule (and even if a rule, every rule need to have exceptions). I meant *desirable* for the reason that when you make the real choice you cannot blame somebody else for its consequences. This particular sense of being a responsible individual is important in the emerging society. Secondly, as a very personal remark itself, I would say that within my limitations I will be trying to search for somebody as a mate rather than giving the “right” to parents as a repayment of my debt (the stupidest of all reasons) and will end up with a (modified yet disgusting arranged marriage) as a last resort if uncommitted and unable to withstand that abominable emotional blackmail from parents. Come on bkb, I do not think I need to marry to satisy a social code of existance. 🙂

@ Aparna – I just felt that you resonate with a “conventional Indian counter argument” style by essentially attributing logic as a “western conspiracy” 🙂 Also would like to point that I was addressing the weighed total of an issue and not individual cases.

I never meant ALL arranged marriages end up as failures but only the broader social dimensions regarding the issue.

Think, why should you adhere to schisms of caste and religion when no individual lives a lesser life however different. Personal choices are good, but arranged marriage system is concentrating on mere superficial indices like religion, caste, horoscope, social status and what not. Do you think these are any measure of love between two individuals?

I am a STAUNCH opponent of putting schools of faiths we personally adhere to, first in a social life (including marriage). For there is no ultimate right or wrong, but only personal “more right” and “lesser right”. It kills broadmindedness and diversity and is encouraging narrowmindedness.

And if a western analysis of marriage sounds more logical and synchornous with time, I would love to accept that, which according to me is the real spirit of being Indian. No system is entirely blameless. Even SFM will have its own pros and cons. But it essentially is more progressive.

To quote M. N. Vijayan master (great Marxian thinker and intellectual)- “It is true that hunger and sex, as Freud put, are the fundamental issues for humanity. This might well be the reason why group feasts (‘pandhi bhooganam’) and mixed marriages (‘mishra vivaham’) became the symbols of renaissance years (‘navodhaana kaalaghattam’) in Kerala. ” And renaissance truly has been the backborn years that produced a better society.

22 08 2006
clash

Unconditional commitment makes a marriage! I never bothered to extrapolate my sense to grab the sentimentalities related to the opposite sex. May be, that is too much in asking; still i think u need to at times 😀

2 09 2006
Aparna

ok, here’s my personal “more right”: If two people are in love, they ought to get married, sooner or later; if two people are married(sfm/otherwise), they ought to be in love. which happens first, marriage/love, is just a matter of chance. ordinarily, love ought to happen first, if someone doesn’t get married too young; because love is essentially a biological phenomenon, time-bound, something clocked by nature, and marriage is more like a preplanned human programme. yea, ordinarily, it is love that happens first, but every instance of love doesn’t normally lead to either first, a two-way line, or if that too happened, later, to some form of fulfillment, eg union/marriage.
“If two people are in love, they ought to get married; if two people are married, they ought to be in love.”(in latter case, if they aren’t in love, then they must figure out a way to fall in). If I could have it my way, I’d wish that every instance of love led to fulfillment, ie, consent, marriage, children etc. But this is not possible most of the time. Every guy/girl that falls in love need not necessarily have the resolve to push it through the whole way to marriage and further. And ppl who can’t take it all the way, well, they don’t deserve the accompanying happiness&pain. And looking at marriage from the perspective of individual’s likes and dislikes is all very well; but in the larger scheme of things, Nature, I don’t think cares very much whether it’s sfm/otherwise. The genes must be passed on to a new carrier generation, that’s all. Evolution cannot come to a standstill. Of course, marriage is not necessary for reproduction, only bodily union is necessary. But for the children resulting thence to survive (until such time as it’s their turn to pass on to the next), and not just anyway, survive in fullest of health, the family structure is the best option; and this were impossible without marriage.

2 09 2006
Aparna

TO look at something as an individual, oneself, is the narrowest way of looking at it; to look at something from the perspective of society/culture gives a slightly broader view; to look from the viewpoint of all peoples of all times and places even broader a look; but looking through the eyes of God, Nature and Time is the broadest way of looking there is.

3 09 2006
Ayyappadas

@Aparna -“If two people are in love, they ought to get married; if two people are married, they ought to be in love.”

Completely disagree. Well, I believe both statements hold no base. Purpose of love is not marriage and marriage never implies love in its subtlities …….

There is nothing wrong with thinking from an individual’s perspective as long as you do not work against the broader purpose of society. BTW, I still do not understand what value does this “anachronous” Indian marriage system delivers the society …. Please do answer my earlier comment about, religion, caste, horoscope etc ..

3 09 2006
Aparna

“Purpose of love is not marriage and marriage never implies love in its subtlities”
if you mean purpose of love is .. well, what is the purpose of love? The immediate need arising from love is the thirst for bodily union; but human civilization tames one’s soul enough to force it to take the slow and arduous, tiring, hopeless, senseless, hurdle-ridden route towards that objective, but ultimately, is this immediate need arising out of love, is that the “purpose” of love? one explanation is, that love, in itself, has no ‘purpose’, that it is just a hunger that one human body feels for another. Hunger for food is cured by eating; is the hunger for sex cured by sexual union? Once hunger is fed, the need raises its head periodically; we need to keep eating over and over again. Love, premam, sexual love between man and woman, I do not equate it to the craving, the hunger for sex. Yes, hunger for sex, is, doubtless a part, a big-huge-part of this love, but that’s not all. There is a bigger purpose. (of course, nature has a bigger purpose, to make sure reproduction occurs), but as an individual, there is still a bigger purpose. Love is bigger than just hunger for sex, and marriage is bigger than just reproduction. Reproduction, the birth of children, is only the beginning of marriage. “marriage never implies love in its subtlities”.. Two people who are not in love cannot bring up children as happy and healthy individuals.. Perhaps, they’ll just about manage; but that’s not it. A loveless marriage is.. I don’t know how it can hold on for much long. Yes, I know loveless “marriages” that survive for long, but, it’s not marriage. It’s only marriage in name. I wouldn’t call it marriage. “If two people are in love, they ought to get married; if two people are married, they ought to be in love”: I only meant that if you and a woman were in love each other, marry her at all costs, and supposing that somehow you get conned/coerced/coaxed into a marriage by certain uncontrollable circumstances, try your best to fall in love with her (and I believe it won’t be very hard to fall in love with a woman, if one really wants to.. love is essentially, the wanting to ..mm, love is essentially, the wanting to fall in love? now, i’m scratching my head. recursive definition. something wrrong. wel, that’s a dead end of logic, i suppose.. perhaps i’m just, wrong. ) if that logic of mine was right, i’d have to say, the only thing that prevents people from being in love is the not wanting to be in love.

“mere superficial indices like religion, caste, horoscope, social status and what not. Do you think these are any measure of love between two individuals?”.. no, i don’t. but just that, those people who are lucky enough like RKN,

5 10 2006
pip

You’ve ‘hit it on the head’and that is very cruel, because through our religions, we have to find ourselves and that requires total freedom – The Gandhian Way. Although my Father was Indian, I was born in the UK. By the way, how do you blog? I have written my journal and don’t know how to go about it? Help!
Pip

21 06 2007
Jineesh

“By and large, an arranged marriage couple (because of the very process) never enjoys a great sex life. But this fact is kept as a taboo which ought not be uttered at any cause.”

I take the liberty to disagree with you (which i am sure you won’t mind). You are yet to go through the process and understand its very intricacies. (I don’t intend ‘grow up, Kid’ ;o)

Myself, a proponent of love marriage from time immemorial, finally landed up in an arranged set-up. And I am so very happily committed, to my great disbelief. I can’t imagine a reason why I won’t have a great sex life.

I agree with your basic ideology anyway. And I see hope in the horizon. Cheer up. All the best. (I really appreciate the thought process that went into this blog).

24 07 2007
constructivist

“I can’t imagine a reason why I won’t have a great sex life…”

Just because you can’t imagine it doesn’t mean it won’t happen..poor jineesh…you just don’t understand the boring life you are in for…buckle up:)

great post man!

21 06 2008
yashwant iitr

some indians take their OWN DECISIONS.

they indians study their own indian family thoroughly .
they find out how much strain it can bear . then they select their lover within the constraints (marriageable age , family , qualification, etc)and marry (love – arranged or vice-versa).

they are the practical and successful persons (karya-kushal).

we don’t find them blaming others or the system for their life

21 06 2008
yashwant iitr

what is sex?

a man gives birth to a seed of life (sperm!) within himself .( ATMA )
he inserts it into a woman to gain 3 kg weight in 9 months.(SEXUAL ACT)
then the baby comes out and grows further .(IS IT THE BIRTHDAY?)

on maturity the baby breeds to allow more ATMA to get bodies to try to satisfy their desires.

THE CYCLE GOES ON ……….

20 11 2008
yeahsure

I just hate the idea of “fixed marriage.” I have an Indian boyfriend and I’m a foreign and even if we’re together for so long, we deeply love each other, but because of the conservatism of thinking of most of the Indian people, he’s being pressured to get married to someone he barely knows. It hurts so much that even if you truly love each other you know that in the end of the day, you’ll never be together, forever. Moreover, it hurts me more knowing that his family is currently looking for his possible bride-to-be and because we built our relationship in trust and honesty, he tells me everything about it so that I won’t be surprised if one day, he has to leave me and end our relationship. I’m not looking for marriage yet, but if he’ll be free and not criticized by his community and Indian society, makes me feel so happy and our love free. Until now, I was introduced as only a “Friend” because he is scared that he might lose the respect of his family if they will know that he’s dating a foreign and even the idea of “dating” is unacceptable, more that he’s dating a “foreign.” It seems that in their own way, they are discriminating foreign people and just want to circle their lives around their community only.

All we want is for us to be happy, free and accepted by the Indian society. I hope, in future, Indian-foreign relationships will not be judged by the Indian society.

I just want to voice out that everyone has a right to choose whomever they want to share their life with no matter what race you are in.

I love my Indian boyfriend so much and until he’s free, we’re making the most of each days.

16 12 2008
standupforyourself

I totally understand ‘yeahsure’ above. Surprisingly, it’s the opposite in my case. I’m an Indian and had a foreigner as my boyfriend…well to make things short…we got married…finally!!! We have been together for 5 years now. I can feel your pain and your concerns about all this craziness in my society and culture. Let me shed some light on this from my perspective.

Falling in love, the whole concept as portrayed by the media and your friends is all very romantic and cool. But when your family or society comes to know about this, the first thing to do is say NO and try oppose it as much as they can. For some reason my society sees this as a sin or something unimaginable. They’ll do anything to not make it NOT work. And like most of my friends, once their families come to know about this, they are forced to marry someone else that the family chooses as that is the ‘right thing’ to do. I dont know how you can love someone deeply and then end up marrying someone. I am sorry. It’s just horrible. Either you werent in love in the first place or you just didnt have the balls to stand up for yourself.

Having said that, I do understand all my friends who did try to fight back but ended up with someone else. I have heard enough stories (and had that experience too) about emotional blackmail from the family. Honestly, it is something only Indians would understand. We feel it is our obligation to keep our family happy. I am not saying there is anything wrong with it. It is a great thought to have. But the family is not right always. And it is tough for us to go against our family 99% of the time. So I do feel for all my friends. The very few of us who did end up with the same person we loved…well most of us are happy and our families support us now but there are still some who were completely cut off from their families as they went against their family’s wish. They are happy in their life but always carry the burden of the pain of their family’s separation.

I honestly think the tradition we have about arranged marriages does work but is built on idiotic basis like physical beauty, society name, financial status, religion, caste,… and the list can just go on. We are basically just window shopping for 2 individuals for their external appearence and other traits, putting them into a life long commitment and just expecting them to run successfully. Sure, sex and reproduction runs in its course…but that is not just marriage. It is the sacred union between two people/souls. Now just because I used the word SACRED doesnt mean I’m talking about religion. It’s the spiritual relationship between them. This is more than just the being religious.

Yes, I do believe in God. I was taught when I was growing up that God made everyone equally. I dont see the point where once I grew up I have to filter people out based on their religion, status, horoscope, caste and other attributes that we built our society upon. No…that is not something God created. We made those for our own benefits. We just like to associate it with God so that it sounds more divine. Sure and God did ask all women to pay dowry for a successful marriage. When are we ever going to change?

I am glad that guys like Ayyappadas are starting to question our society and the ways it expects men and women to live their lives. I know some people questioned him saying he wasnt experienced. Well, I am. I went through all this. I see how I am more open minded and open to ideas now that I am outside my society. It gives me a chance to know my own existence. Having said that I do treasure all the values my family taught me. It still lives and growns in me. I have learned to see that not all other cultures are bad and we are not the only ones right. We grow within when we can see the good in everyone and accept them no matter what religion, creed, caste etc. We then make great parents for our kids.

Life is too short to blame others…learn, live, laugh and enjoy while it lasts 🙂

29 03 2012
N.Ratan Prasad Reddy

All those things u mentioned are trash.The writer seems to be ignorant of greatness of Indian marriage system.It is far more grater than fucking weern system

8 02 2013
Subrata Kr. Biswas, Kalyani, Nadia, West Bengal, India.

Indian marriage system is great. In case attraction acts between a boy and girl and the two unknown matured persons comes closer, tremendous romance grows in between two hearts due to natural call. Now Society would have to judge whether matching points like physical status, mentality, tastes, likings and dislikings etcs of both the boy and girl are satisfactorily allow for marriage or not. Unknown and untouched boy and girl enjoy sex and share thoughts much more than a pair who are habituated to touch each other every now and then and knows each other previously. Marriage interesting in all respects of Human life.

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