The paradox of arranged marriages

Interesting stuff has been going on in the country in the last two days. On one end, we have the case of an NGO called Bhrashtachar Nivaran Sanstha threatening to file a suit against producer Sajid Nadiadwala for the item number Anarkali Disco Chali in his movie Houseful 2. The NGO feels that the line, “Oye hoye chod chaad ke apne Saleem ki gali, Anarkali disco chali…” from the song could have a negative impact on children. I wonder how an organization named Bhrashtachar Nivaran Sanstha (Corruption Prevention Organization) finds itself so hopelessly jobless in a country like India, but this whole affair is so retarded that I won’t comment on it further.

In more interesting news, the Delhi High Court said that a marriage without sex is insipid. Surprise!

It upheld the divorce petition of a man who claimed that his wife was not interested in having a normal sexual relationship with him and denied sex to him even on the first night of their marriage.

To me, this whole thing demonstrates a) the paradoxical nature of purely arranged marriages and b) the extremely problematic terrain of viewing marriages as anything more than civil unions.

The mere discussion of sex complicates matters. For one, you have to start talking in hushed voices. This gives the entire conversation a conspiratorial tone, which is not helped by the fact that no-one wants their personal lives being discussed by middle-aged women as they chop vegetables in the kitchen or sip mocktails at fund-raisers.

At one end, you aren’t supposed to be have pre-marital or extra-marital sex (what will the aunties and the neighbours say!). Given this social scenario, sex deserves to be an integral part of marriage, because that’s the only way you can get some. But, while society expects people to have sex only within marriage and only with one person, it doesn’t seem to give a lot of weight to whether prospective partners would be willing to enter into such an intimate relationship with each other. The only really important things, of course, are whether the planets aligned well at the time of their birth, whether the parents have cheap Maruti 800s are less cheap Maruti Altos, whether they have air-conditioners or desert coolers, and so on. I am not claiming that economic and social status should be irrelevant while deciding who to marry with, but I find it surprising that desirability and sufficient interaction before marriage are never considered all that vital.

In absence of that groundwork, expecting (thereby socially forcing) a woman (or a man) to have sex with a complete stranger right on the first day of marriage not only seems silly, it seems to go against all established protocols of social intercourse. All this made sense when marriage was purely for political and economic reasons, but it doesn’t seem to hold a lot of ground in today’s world.

But questioning long-established norms is seen as an adverse effect of ‘Foreign Cultures’. While we are quick to reject intrusions into our ‘culture’, we don’t pause to think about the loopholes in our cultures that these intrusions expose.

  • http://www.facebook.com/milind.ravindranath Milind Ravindranath

    Yep… most marriages begin to look very much like (literally) horse trading deals, if you really examine. I don’t know if it should have ever been acceptable for marriage to be purely for economic and political reasons, but certainly not now. People are too caught up however with their “patriotism”, saying that divorce rates among arranged marriages being low is a sure vindication of the methodology of the same.

  • mayur

    arranged marriage does not imply forced marriages.
    from what i have observed in my society, marriage is somewhat a year long program(engagement, something…something… then marriage).. giving the ‘to be couple’ enough time to understand each other and then follow the protocol…
    May be that is the rationale behind which the high court gave its decision.

  • Abha Avinash Kulkarni

    Antariksh,I totally agree with you on every point that you have made here. I wish more Indian parents would understand this point. It definitely is an eye-opener.

  • Vikram

    Yes they are funny. But they do last for ever. Watch this funny video about them too.

    Article is nice, a funny take. Though I agree to Mayur below more. There are always somethings that can happen out of order in an arranged marriage too. Its trust and sincerity that makes a marriage win.

  • http://www.facebook.com/isush4u Sushrut Thorat

    Leave the parents apart; why does someone want to have an arranged marriage? Maybe because they didn’t have time for him/her before, or maybe they didn’t find anyone interesting enough. So, then when they come of the ‘societally-normed’ marriage age, they start thinking of marrying. Then they resort to an arranged marriage because, now they aren’t in a college where you’ll find all sorts of girls/boys around, or maybe there aren’t many girls/boys in the office, or no one that good. Well, even now, if you are desperate on getting married, you could resort to matrimonials. But again, you should take time out. It’s ok that you didn’t get that girl/boy from the matrimonial site, as someone got the girl/boy from the college or workplace or somewhere, but why to change the next steps involved? Why not just date for a while, leaving out the society, and ten try to figure out and decide? Where do all these relatives and families come into picture from the first day you meet? They might be the cause of your meet, but that’s not a reason to interfere any further. Just let the boy n girl be themselves, and let them figure out stuff as a couple.
    If your surrounding is as what I say above- which won’t interfere.., then dude arranged marriages are good and normal.. But if there’s interference, it isn’t natural. There’s this bad uncertainty involved.. :(
    About sex: As long as I want it and my partner wants it, no one can stop us!!! :D All you can do is make us stop for a moment and ponder on the implications as to pregnancy, and how can avoid it, and all that ‘health’ and ‘financial-constraint’ stuff. But if you bullshit me with this isn’t according to society’s norm, you might as well go to hell… :D
    Btw Antariksh,
    you rock! :) I’ve been reading many of your writings, and I am happy to see someone who I can relate to in terms of ideas.. :) Keep doing what you do.. :)

  • Rizwan

    Brilliant article man, we have the same shit in Pakistan in the name of religion and culture. Marriage hardly means anything when there is no love to begin with. I could never understand, how could one fall in love after the marriage (it’s an expensive experiment otherwise i would have loved to try! :P) I find white woman so much easier to make friends with, date and marry than desi girls who still have a very negative view of dating and pre-marital love affairs.