While this is an unaccepted and unacknowledged fact that life for a lot of people in India revolves around marriages, what is also true is that Marriages in India are complicated and the complexity of marriages has only increased over time. The complexity is not as much in the marriage itself (though that exists too), it is more in the build-up to the marriage. India, to a large extent, has come out of the parochial view point of casteism and religious divide. Atleast in the urban landscape and corporate world the Indian Middle Class has learnt to look at a unified merit based society, rather than viewing it with caste based hierarchy. Yet, one situation which brings out this divide more strongly than anything else is while deciding on a partner for marriage. Here, all Indians go back to their own caste based and religion based cocoons, almost like a sheepish sudden realisation!
Indian marriages could be classified under two large categories, Arranged Marriages and Love Marriages. Arranged is where parents find a bride or groom for their wards and solemnise the marriage and they live happily ever after. Love is where the girl and guy mutually agree that they are right for each other and decide to marry sometimes solemnised by parents sometimes not.
With whatever minimal savings I have, I would still like to risk betting that finding a life partner in India is the toughest task than anywhere else in the world. This, even without having to touch upon ‘matching wavelength’, ‘similar likes or dislikes’ and all the jazz involved in choosing a life partner.
There are some essential filters that a person has to cross before he or she could be considered as a possible partner. First is Religion, you have to be of the same religion; Second is Caste, you have to be of the same caste, some might feel that this is too less a complication for a simple life and might want to go to the micro level of particular sub-caste; Third is Language, you need to speak the same language. Yes you could be of the same religion and caste however, what fun is it if you abuse in a language that your partner and family won’t understand at all. Fourth is food habits, veg or non-veg? Fifth is Astrology, most families with varying degree, on what Astrology says. Sometimes even more than their own common sense or rational decision making. Sixth is Education/Salary- should earn sufficient for maintaining a family. Seventh – Job type, and Eighth – Looks, well atleast they should be bearable to look at, ain’t it?
Knowing the type of marriages in India and the requirements, am sure one would like to think that Arranged marriages should be easy. Parents just follow the filtering process and present the final result to the marriage ready ward and finalise. Well it is definitely not as easy as it sounds to be, firstly post Independence, India did notice some migration within the country. So there are many instances where a family settles for decades together in a Province which they don’t belong to. There are not many of their own type in the Province where they are settled and might have lost touch with people of their own Province and find it tough to find someone who could qualify all the filters or majority of the filters. Another big factor that has added to the complication is Women’s Liberation. No I am not a misogynist. Women’s Liberation meant that Indian women were getting educated and as in most occasions devoid of pressure of maintaining a household (exceptions do exist), getting very highly educated. So even if all the filters mentioned above match, now comes additional complications , Salary – should earn more than her, Job type – should be mentionable, Education – should be more educated than her, Life Style – few overseas trips and holiday in Thailand, English – should be fluent and so on and so forth.
If Arranged could get complicated like what I mention above, you could very well imagine how severely complicated could Love Marriages get. There are various permutation and combination among the basic requirements which would not pass the filter test. I will give just one example. Yes you are from same religion, yes you are from same caste but, you don’t speak the same language. How would you communicate with respective families, what language would you speak with each other all your life? What language would your kid speak?. I guess by now you are well equipped to think of much more complicated situations and could spend hours at it as well. The more India develops the more people migrate to other states in search of better job opportunities and meet people from various backgrounds, it is only more likely that now we see such complicated relations emerging more often than not.
Having said what I have said so far, Marriages do happen in India both love marriages and arranged marriages and happen in large numbers. Marriage as an institution has not lost it’s hold on the society and continues to be an essential aspect of Indian life. At this point we are not even questioning which form of marriages lead to more happier marriages, nor am I any authority to be able to comment on it. I only wanted to bring out the complications involved in deciding on a life partner in the Indian context. There are more aspects which I haven’t touched upon for simplicity sake, however might come back to at a later stage.