The Marriage Plot

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How can I inject some emotional satisfaction into my life?Two weeks ago, in the name of research for my Dating Blog, I turned on my television and waited with baited breath for Nine’s new show, ‘Married at First Sight’ to debut. The reality show follows the journey of six individuals who have been previously unlucky in love and become scientifically matched together, meeting one another for the first time on their wedding days. Thus starts their documented social experiment to see if they can prosper, grow and find love with one another on the basis of psychological expertise, personality traits and scientific formulas. In other words, what many Indian mothers (amongst several other cultures including Greeks/Chinese) call finding you a ‘rishta’ (a match).
Being the daughter of an arranged marriage couple and coming from an extended family of many who have followed the same tradition, the concept of meeting and marrying someone you didn’t fall in love with but were introduced to for the sole purposes of wedlock, doesn’t shock me. For years, I have watched my cousins meet and marry women/men through matchmaking services, online matrimonial ads and a bit of inconspicuous spy work between elder relatives. However, inspite of my exposure to all the above, I like so many of my westernised-Indian peers, sat with my mouth open as I watched these beautiful, successful men and women walk down the aisle and declare vows of love and devotion to total and utter strangers. In that moment, I immediately told myself, I could never imagine falling in love with someone I’d never met until my wedding day. No way. I deserved better. These men and women were clearly lacking something in them, otherwise why wouldn’t anyone want to be with them?
That is when I realised: why is there such a stigma around arranged marriage in our westernised societies today? Once a celebrated custom and an ingrained part of human civilised society, the concept of ‘arranged marriage’ seems to have devolved and attached itself to a stigma of pity and compromise. You don’t need to look much further into the tradition of the late 1800s/early 1900s to see the role that arranged matchmaking has played in shaping our modern societies today. Reigning kings and queens of the world from the queens of England to Denmark have married out of custom as opposed to the ‘swept-me-off-my-feet’ love story we all crave and idolise today. And boy, they seem to be doing just fine.
If I observe closer to home, so many of my family members who are great, fun, loving, kind and beautiful people have met and married their counterparts this way. So why is it that if you agree to marry a stranger, you must surely have something wrong with you? Why do we automatically conclude that you’re probably not pretty enough, not successful, not ambitious, just not quite everything you could be. In reality, this notion could not be further from the truth.
With over 100,000 more women than men to the age of 35 in Australia, it is not surprising that woman may be panicking over the so-called man drought. After all, of the men we do have that are of a long-term relationship or marriageable age, how are men really eligible anyway? Once you’ve finished eliminating the drifting and the unemployed, the narcissists, the jerks, the liars and the cheaters, the downright crazy and, of course, those who are gay, there are actually some seriously slim pickings for the average intelligent woman to choose from and of course, vice versa for men. So is it any wonder that we’re turning to old-fashioned methods like arranged marriage that may seem backwards in execution, but guarantee the security of nabbing a partner (not of course keeping them) in the big, lonely world of love.
For many women, chasing that feeling of meeting ‘The One’ is often the single most important goal of our lives. Egged on and conditioned by never-ending exposure to films and television shows depicting enchanting and magical love stories has us believing that if it doesn’t feel like your world is on fire when you’re with the one you’re meant to be with, they can’t possibly be that person. If Rachel McAdams can overcome all adversity and run into the arms of Ryan Gosling in ‘The Notebook’ and if Shah Rukh Khan can infiltrate her impeding wedding to fight for Kajol, then why should we settle for less? Yes, we understand these are movies and are works of fiction, but surely they must be based on some foundation of truth and reality?
Forget the world of cinema. How many friends do we all have that have found love in the most serendipitous of ways. I can’t possibly count the number of times I’ve popped into a coffee shop and sat beside a tall, dark stranger, spilled my coffee and hoped he’d turn out to be the one who mops it up and steals my heart simultaneously. But what guarantee do I have that me and my coffee-absorbing stranger I fall head-over-heels for will turn out to have a more successful marriage than someone my parents introduce me to in a couple of years? The answer is none. Like anything a person may choose to commit to achieving in their lives, marriage will always require work, patience and compromise, be it out of love or arrangement.
Statistically speaking, arranged marriages have proven to be at least twice as effective at providing long-term success in wedlock as those where the partners meet, fall in love and then marry. In India, 84% of marriages are arranged and 56% of them worldwide (UNICEF, 2014). Having seen my own parents who are both incredibly talented, creative, attractive and successful people in their own right celebrate their 26th wedding anniversary this year, I can vouch that arranged marriage truly does work when approached with the right mindset and dedication. I have firsthand seen the love and compassion prosper between them over these years and seen the pivotal role they have played in one another’s lives. At the end of the day, isn’t that what marriage and true love really is? Two people who commit to the support, love and growth of one another. And if true love is really what we’re seeking, maybe it’s time we opened our eyes to all the possibilities to find it.
As I switch on the TV every week to tune into this show, sure, I find it mind-boggling that you could agree to meet your future husband or wife on their wedding day. Just the same as it does when I watch 20 women fight over a single man on ‘The Bachelor’. Honey, he’s not that special. However, what I do take away from my experience is the realisation that sometimes, love doesn’t always come in the form of an SRK-arms-wide sweeping declaration and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean it’s any less true or you’re undeserving. It just means you put your faith in the universe and at the end of the day, what is life without a little belief, even if it means your husband turns out to be more Johhny Lever than John Abraham!
By Rahat Kapur