It really startled me when a guy told me that he was going to get married in two years' time but he didn't have a girlfriend yet. Innocently, I asked him how he was so sure. He, as if it was the most natural thing on earth, explained that since his mother was becoming quite old, he needed someone to take care of him and of his mother!
In our western minds, maybe, obliging someone to marry a complete stranger raises rejection and horror; we consider it a barbarism from the Middle Ages. I guess that's because we've been brought up where freedom of thought and action are basic values. Nevertheless, there are historic, social and cultural reasons for arranged marriages.
A woman in India spends all her life under someone's command, as a daughter first and as a wife afterwards. Only when she becomes a mother-in-law will she have some authority!
Indian marriages are the union of two families. Cast and income outweigh the fact that the husband-to-be and wife-to-be like each other or not. They think that the fact that both spouses have the same background guarantees the durability of the marriage (quite arguable, I believe). Love'll come afterwards! According to them a physical attraction may fade, while this browed "love" will not!
Parents have more experience than children, hence, they are more capable of choosing the right person. Children accept that since obedience is basic in the family. A love marriage would mean that you are setting yourself before your culture and your family. If love fails and you get divorced, your family will be dishonoured and you'll be rejected by all your community.
Nowadays, marriages are "semi-arranged". The parents select an aspirant asking friends, accepting relatives' suggestions, peeking through mating sites, thumbing through the papers,... Yeah! You read it right! In the papers you can find matrimonial ads! They, together with the net, are the modern matchmakers! These ads are categorized by cast, religion and profession. Browsing them you can find a manglik (if you're also one), your vegetarian sweet heart, your fair and glowing Shahrukh Khan-like guy, or whoever you are looking for!
When they estimate they have the appropriate candidate, they organize a "date". It's the future couple's task to hook up or not. Could we take this as a step towards liberation?
By the way, it's the bride's family the one who has to pay the groom's family the dowry! Unbelievable!
Not being married, especially a woman, is something they consider fishy. I was often asked why I wasn't married, what my flaw was! Why wouldn't a not that bad-looking 41-year-old woman be married? In the end, we concluded that it was because of my character (too strong for men, especially Indian) and because my index toes were longer than my big toes! I just couldn't stop laughing! I'll tell you about Indian superstitions in another blog.
Meanwhile, have a look at this hilarious Goodness Gracious Me video and at a matrimonial ad parody!
P.S.: I did go to a wedding in India (well, to the reception), but I didn't take any pictures. How silly of me! The photo at the beginning of this post is pasted.