My Malevolent Society

I am a child of an arranged marriage and as long as I saw my parents together, they were happy. My mother shared a deep relationship with my paternal grandmother. Hence, I can call myself a child of a successful arranged marriage.

During my late teens and my adult years, I have seen all kinds of marriages work and not work and am therefore of the opinion that be it an arranged marriage or a marriage by choice, neither can guarantee you a ‘Happily Ever After.’

Personally, I preferred to choose my own partner, but I have full respect for the traditional arranged marriages. In fact, unless we talk of the olden times where the bride and groom saw each other for the first time during the ceremony, the arranged marriages of the millennium are quite a good custom. It ensures that if a person is interested in marriage but their environment or circumstances do not enable them to meet new people, the family can intervene and arrange a meeting with someone they think matches the seeker’s lifestyle. When I put it so, is it very different from a blind date your friend sets you on? Reality, however, is not so elementary. There are numerous external factors that come into play: social pressures, age, caste, religion, family background, siblings, professions, and worst of all, other people’s opinion. The fact that your parents or your aunt introduced you to this girl implies that the aunt now has a say in what you do going forward. Just because your parents found the boy through the matrimonial column automatically gives them the full right to judge the boy on the first meeting. You are also obliged to divulge every single detail of your meeting and conversation. All of this makes it dissimilar to a blind date that we talked about a while ago. You are no longer blind, but have borrowed the eyes of the aunt who set up the meeting.

What irks me the most about the whole thing is the custom of ‘Bride Viewing.’ Of course, in any culture or society, the parents will meet the boy/girl, but it will be a meeting. The Americans made a movie called ‘Meet the Parents’ not ‘View the Boy.’ And in this lies my problem.

As soon as you change the word from ‘meet’ to ‘view,’ it automatically gives the other party the right to judge you. They are no longer planning to get to know you, they are coming to check you out. The ‘viewer’ gets an upper hand and with this great power comes great ruthlessness. The reasons for rejections that I now cite are all true and have happened either in front of me or to people I know closely.

  • Dark complexion (this is by far the most popular reason for rejecting a girl. It has been noted that often the ‘viewer’s’ son is also dark complexioned. But it is okay when you are a man.)
  • Crooked teeth
  • Cannot sing (No baby, I am not kidding you!)
  • Fat (The girl must be thin at the time of the wedding, else the pictures get spoilt. The family will take the responsibility of feeding her pure butter oil during her pregnancy to fatten her later.)
  • Not homely (Don’t you know, we want a working homely girl?)
  • Too modern (She wore a pair of jeans during the bride viewing session! )

I think you get the drift. Now, while everyone has the right to select their life partner with care, I do not think it is anybody’s business to walk into someone’s house, eat their snacks and sweets, and insult their daughter, mostly based on her appearance. But this happens every day. Large families get together to check out girls and rate them on everything from their weight, height, skin color, to their cooking skills, job profiles, working hours. And I am not even talking about some remote villages in rural India. I am talking about the capital and other metropolitan cities, which are bursting to seams with people who call themselves modern and educated.

I am ranting. I do not have a solution. I know that in a large society like ours we need customs like arranged marriages. I just wish that each person becomes a little empathetic when they decide to judge other people’s children, and thinks for a moment before they announce things like, “She is a sweet girl, but is she not adopted?” in a room full of people.

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7 Responses to “My Malevolent Society”

  1. Anupma, thank you for writing this post.

    While growing up, I dreaded the time when I would have to be at my presentable best in front of another family who will visit to ‘check me out’. I was acutely conscious of my color, height, and looks. I avoided the fate for as long as I could.

    My only saving grace, my parents weren’t in any hurry to get me married, and so I was spared of the bride-watching sessions till I was in Delhi.

    Then Bombay happened. And as luck would have it, there was no escape. I still faced the same issues from my now in-laws before the boy finally lost patience with them, and put his foot down.

    The result, despite trying hard, I can not bring myself to accept his family. And I live with them!

  2. Calling it a custom is giving it pride of place, it’s convenience. Blind dates, even. But custom? No, thank you! 🙂

  3. All this is very sad. I wonder if this will ever change. Will girls continue to face this sort of torture if they are destined to get married in an aranged manner? I really wonder.
    It is not just the boy’s folks who are to blame. In our society, the girl’s parents thoroughly believe in this ‘bride viewing’ ideology and make sure that the poor girl feels horrible at the end of the day.
    Your post makes me think about this, once again. You see, people will never become nice and compassionate, neither are all the girls in our society independent and free spirited. There are girls who think that there is no way and it is their ill-fate. How can we bring about a change? These are such impinging issues. You can ponder on and on about this as also other issues like marital violence. My heart goes out to all those who suffer. But, at the end of the day, I do not have a solution.

  4. sunshin3girl Says:

    @purely-narcotic: I totally concur with you! It is convenience.

    Sush, you are right. It is not the boy’s family’s fault, but its something that is flowing in the veins of our society. As Mala points out, even people like you and me who chose their own partner had to go through some kind of ‘bride viewing.’ I agree that the pressure was comparatively lesser, but still I remember feeling humiliated. And you know what? The “adopted girl” incident is real. Imagine finding out about being an adopted child in front of a room full of strangers and at the age of 24! Disgusting.

  5. Wow! That’s some profound stuff you’ve penned down. While I agree that the practices that take place during the typical marriage are down-right degrading, I do not see many people doing something about it. Most women, would get around to accepting them for the sake of their family’s honour and a reason could be that women have been conditioned to be obedient and all that.

    Enjoyed reading your post.

    Cheers,
    ~ Madinindia

  6. You’ve raised some really valid points through your thought-provoking article.

    I think marriage is overrated…and as long as it’s deemed important to the point of suffocation by the society and its staunch followers, it will continue to bring in its share of willing bakras and unfortunate sacrificial lambs.

    I mean this whole conditioning — you need an anchor to go on in life is a bullshit basis to get/stay married. Marriage –arranged/love is about connecting together to form a unit…to put yourself on exhibition to achieve the same is really sad and one ought to show complete resistance to such norms.

    But, honestly, I don’t think it’s restricted to the Indian society alone. Abroad too, they make a big deal out of it.

  7. 2BigChefs Says:

    The “adopted girl” is probably the one of the sweetest girls I have come across. She “adopted” everything that was nice around her, I guess. And that announcer aunty — she ended up with a witch of a bahu. Of course — no crooked teeth, very fair, working and homely and RICH, and all. But she kicked the aunty out of the house and keeps the son/hubby under her toes. I truly believe in revenge. And this one was real sweet (to me).
    Hah.

    Now, let me get back to what I was doing a little earlier — wishing that certain people fall in open manholes and stay there for a while. Probably overnight. Or maybe three days. Make that seven. Ugh.

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