The Changes In The Institution Called Marriage
Marriage- the word itself is considered to be seen with a lot of sanctity, respect. A lot of thought is put into taking the big decision of getting into it. It is a huge stigma, as far as society is concerned, to see a single woman or a man who is reaching 30 or even crossing; it will become a huge debate in their respective families. Moreover, there is this crazy pressure of getting married, “settle” in life and then have kids – to suit the ideal family picture frame and also swarm the social media profiles with their family success stories!
All these along with various other religious, social and financial factors creates a pressure on families who have young sons and daughters. In India, where education is considered important merely for breadwinning purposes and getting a stable income. There is no surprise to see that marriage is something like a “mandatory” activity which has to be done irrespective of the individual’s likes or dislikes. In fact, in ancient India- the bride and groom used to meet only on the day of the wedding ceremony! In short, marriage was a family affair and less of a dream story of two individuals coming together. If the families are “happy” with each other’s respective financial conditions, caste, creed, language and region- the wedding was on. The individuals had negligible say in their respective marriages, and being a nation where the word of parents is next to God’s order- generations continued in this manner.
A woman’s say in marriage is another huge debate in this regard. Often, people forget that women have the ability (as competent as men) to think, rationalize and also take crucial decisions in their life. It is either her family members or the male guardian who would take the final call on her marriage. In fact, every person in the family (at times even the servants in the house) would have an opinion on a girl’s marriage. People like relatives or neighbours suddenly claim every right to decide that a particular guy is “perfect” for the girl and magically disappear after the big event wedding is done.
However, with changing, times and growing literacy rate in the country things have slowly started changing in urban India. The bride and groom are “allowed” to meet and interact, to exchange their ideas before tying the final knot. Of course, there are instances even when parents force their decision, even if it opposes the individual’s thought. In short, these meetings are allowed not for the purpose of getting to know each other, but just to prove that they are “modern” enough.
Off the topic, there is a pseudo-movement which is happening in the middle class Indian urban families, who claim to be a blend of traditional and modern values. In fact, this term is the most commonly seen one, in every “about family” section in matrimony sites! But what do traditional and modern values mean? These terms are too abstract to be defined and each person has their own interpretation of it. Isn’t it crazy that such a big decision is dependent on such a generic description (which looks like it has been copy-pasted)?
Post independence, marriages in India took place within known family alliances, resulting in ‘mediatorship’ becoming a sought-after after position. With many Indians going to foreign countries for jobs and businesses, the craze of getting a daughter married to an NRI began. With the advent of the computer generation and also the Y2K fever, a software engineering job was considered to be the greatest job one could ever get. An NRI software engineer earning a good salary was considered to be an ideal bachelor!
The Requisites For Getting Married
To my knowledge, the parents look at the following qualities (depending on the gender) to get ‘the’ alliance
If it is for a prospective bride:
1. Good looks AKA shouldn’t be fat
2. Fairness ( I am serious! Being fair is the mandatory quality in arranged marriages)
3. Family background
4. Financial status
5. Homekeeping skills (cooking, house management)
6. Soft-spoken and able to “mingle” with the inlaws
7. Vegetarian (only for Brahmins!)
8. Horoscope (no mangalik please!) and no stars like ashlesha (mother in law will die), moola (it is a bad star you see)
9. NO bad habits! (What does that even mean?)
If it is for a prospective bridegroom:
1. Good Looks
2. “Respectable” job ( IT, Engineering, IAS, IPS, CA- other jobs are irrelevant)
3. Monthly Salary
4. No “bad” habits (alcohol, drugs, smoking)
5. No sister(s) (This is to avoid any future problems for the bride with the in-laws)
6. Readymade infrastructure ( apartment, car and all amenities)
7. No joint family commitment (The boy shouldn’t live with parents or family after marriage)
Marriage Of A Man And Woman Or Marriage Of Two Profiles?
Well, these are all a consolidation of generic expectations which are listed in matrimony sites. The shocking fact is, most of these profiles are maintained by the bride or groom’s families and the initial filtering happens here itself. The filtering is done by looks and an overall score of these above-mentioned characteristics. The phone conversation between the bride’s mother and bridegroom’s father/mother will happen in the following way:
Bridegroom’s mother: Hello, I am ———– and looking for alliances for my son. He is working in (location) and in a good position——-can you please tell about the girl?
Bride’s mother: Sure. My daughter is working in ——–and is very thin and fair looking. We are looking at a boy who is taller than her and the age difference shouldn’t be more than two years.
Bridegroom’s mother: Great. My son is very fair too. We have been getting many matches actually and we are considering your match in particular. He will be coming to town this weekend. Can we have a formal meet up then? And please add more photos of your daughter in traditional wear (saree) and a close-up.
Bride’s mother: Yes. We will add the photos but they are password protected. I will send you the password in WhatsApp. Where do you stay? Do you have an own house?Is it an independent house or an apartment?
(And the conversation goes on!)
By referring to the above conversation, it is quite evident that the factors which are considered for marriage have been narrowed down by the parents more than the actual individuals. Even if the bride or bridegroom is old enough and qualified as a PhD, they will look to their parents to search for an alliance and get married (within a timeline). Websites like Bharatmatrimony bank on this trend and even puts the filter search in such a way that one can search the alliances based on monthly salary, job, height and some downright generic habits such as listening to music, reading books, and travel.
There is no way to verify the habits of a person. Depending on their caste and creed along with cultural values, 90% of the bridegroom’s profiles say that they neither smoke or drink (because it is a “great” qualification) and many expect that matching horoscopes is a MUST before approaching for a match.
While we might be tempted to say that girls are victimized the most in this system, I dare to disagree. Even the prospective bridegrooms have to face the worst of the lot in this process. Bride’s parents expect the boy to be a “Superman” who can solve financial issues, who is sensitive, strong and even conquer the daily level of stress. Even if the girl stays idle and doesn’t contribute anything to the family, just by banking on her looks- the groom should blindly accept her as her family background is great!
There is no specification of an individual’s unique characteristics, likes or dislikes in this entire process. Being so desperate and with photo editing advancements, every photo posted in a matrimony site looks nothing like the person in real life. Some bridegroom profiles even have unrealistic salary specifications like 10 crores a year (what’s the IT department doing? Conduct raids on such people and the country will never be in the deficit!).
The Marriage Menu Card
Some observations found in prospective bridegroom profiles:
1. Some bridegroom’s parents get even more overboard by mentioning that they have few houses in specific demanding areas of the city which would indirectly give an information to the bride’s parents about the property valuation. Additional brownie points if he is the only son because the bride would get the claim on entire property!! (Oh no..these shouldn’t be revealed in public)
2. There are some groom’s parents who even mention that they are against dowry. Come on! Dowry is a social crime and of course, we need to be against it! Why mention it as of doing a huge favour for the bride’s parents?
3. Certain bridegrooms also mention that they are modern in one sense and again mention that the future wife shouldn’t do a job- but be a homemaker and well put up!
4. This is exclusively for NRI bridegrooms- the parents mention that the boy will be coming on a specific date to India, and in that short time, everything should be finalized! A trend of getting engaged on Skype without the respective families meeting each other. It naturally shows zero concern towards the girls’ family.
5. We still have those bridegroom families who mention that the girl should be well qualified and able to cook well (As if cooking is a woman’s job alone but not an essential life skill for any person- irrespective of gender).
Does this mean the bride’s profiles are absolutely perfect? Definitely not! Their skyrocketing demands on the bridegroom’s families would make an average middle-class guy in marriageable age impossible to tie the knot.
Here are some observations made in profiles of prospective brides:
1. Irrespective of her qualifications, looks, financial status etc- the bride’s parents are not willing to get their daughter married to a guy hailing from a village/town. This is one of the first prerequisites of the bride that the guy MUST work in a metro city. It obviously creates more pressure on the bridegrooms to migrate to cities even if their job demands something else.
2. NRI crazy parents expect the boy to not just be employed in a foreign country but should also SETTLE there. The onsite company job must be converted to a green card status and ONLY that would secure their daughter’s future.
3. Almost every profile mentions that they have a blend of traditional and modern values (alright, I come to that point once again!). The main reason behind putting up ‘modern values’ as an important point is because- the girl shouldn’t be forced to dress traditionally all the time. Alas, in current day India, tradition is confined only to festivals and celebrations, where one is dressed in ethnic attire. In the remaining time, the girl shouldn’t dress traditionally and it shouldn’t happen out of force!
4. The bride’s parents are inculcating such ideas in their daughter that- she should be totally burdened free in the in-laws’ house. While in the earlier generations, parents used to preach that obstacles are inevitable and should be fought when the time arrives, the current day parents expect a utopian situation for their daughter post marriage where there is NO problem at all. But is that possible at all? Only God knows!
5. Complexion is a big issue for a bride to get married. No bridegroom would be willing to marry a bride who is less fair them he, isn’t it? This leads to bride’s parents mentioning the “Complexion” as FAIR- irrespective of the reality. Isn’t this enough to say how obsessed we are with the colour of the skin?
All in all, these aspects easily let us conclude that the plight of arranged marriages is heavily relying on matrimony sites which are banking on the preferences of the family. It has been reduced to a crazy business these days, which has, even more, deeper aspects to it!