‘Slim, trim, and beautiful’. This is the title of the first episode of Netflix India’s trending show ‘Indian Matchmaking’. Although Sima ‘from Mumbai’, Pradhyuman and Preeti (Akshay’s mom) gave us our much-needed stock of memes for the next two months, the show did restart the conversation around arranged marriages and matchmaking in India.
No one grows up dreaming of finding their spouse in the matrimonial columns of a newspaper, right? Even though arranged marriages have come a long way since the chai-tray tradition, they remain the last option for many young women and men from urban, westernized India. We spoke to some of our most-read romance authors and got their take on this whole ‘mummy-papa know best’ situation.
Are arranged marriages outdated now?
“I think all marriages are outdated now and I’m sure many married women will concur with me after spending four months in lockdown with their better(bitter) halves,” says Andaleeb Wajid. On the other hand, Sahana Ahmed, who met her husband through the arranged marriage process, disagrees – “No, I don’t think so. We still do not raise our children to think they can make major life decisions themselves. Indian parents can’t and won’t give up control that easily.”
The urban, modern, westernized India that most of us are a part of have women who even today decide to have arranged marriages. Do people still believe in waiting for the right guy? Don’t they just get tired after a point? Sahana is not fooled by the façade of modernity we put on.
“Most of emancipated, westernised India comes from not-so-cool, sanskar-driven families. Also, the choices we make are dictated by many things. Take Aparna from the Netflix show. I don’t think she was tired of waiting for the right guy, unlike, say, Nadia. Different strokes for different folks.”
Match-making: yay or nay?
Kiran Manral, author of the ‘True Love Story’ series and several bestsellers, had ‘proposals’ coming her way while she was in college in her teens.
“I was completely disinterested in getting married. The one ‘meeting’ a family friend set up I think I completely went against the grain of what was expected of me by being upfront that I hated cooking and would never get into the kitchen and that I was agnostic and didn’t believe in ritual. That was that. Fell in love, got married six years down the line. I think there is immense bravery in those who agree to an arranged marriage, and I admire them. I understand the convenience of getting married to someone who comes from a similar background, culture, etc, so the period of adjusting to life post marriage becomes easier. Having said that, I wouldn’t have it any other way and have instructed my son to please find his own spouse, I’m not going to be hunting one down for him.”
Contrary to Kiran’s rebellion of sorts, Sahana’s mother used to surprise her with several proposals. “Oh yes! My mother would ambush me with surprise encounters with eligible bachelors all the time! My father and I would have major eye-roll sessions, but I obviously had to be polite to the candidates. That’s how I met my husband, in fact, and he was the first man I thought I could tolerate. It’s been seventeen years.”
Debeshi Gooptu, author of some of our most downloaded stories, doesn’t believe in the concept of arranged marriages at all. An astrologer had told her mom that there would be hell to pay if she arranged a match for Debeshi and it didn’t work out. “Sensible woman that she was, she steered clear.”, says Debeshi. “She fell in love and married my father against considerable odds. So I was lucky. I met my husband in an elevator when I was 23 years old and decided to spend the rest of my life with him. Being financially independent, for me, is the main thing. The husband or wife can come later. And it is always better to pick out your spouse yourself. No one else can or should make that decision for you.”
And with people still being cautious about going outside and meeting people, we had to ask Liji Narayan, author of Love in The Time of WhatsApp, what she thought about this process. To her surprise, she hadn’t come across the concept of elite matchmaking till she watched the Netflix show! She says it was both “an eye opener and eye popper at the same time” and that it left her dealing with a “cocktail of amusement, delusion and disgust”. “Whatever happened to the good old ‘falling in love’ and serendipitous stumbling upon a true soulmate?” she says.
Many of Andaleeb’s short stories have a marriage weaved into the plot. When asked what prompted her to do that, she said, “Because they’re fun and messy and writing about them is less stressful than actually living through one.”
We hope you are taking notes, folks!