Thursday, August 23, 2012


(23rd Aug 2012)At the outset, let me say that this piece is based on my observations of arranged marriages that I have seen in the last 25 years or so. Since I belong to the Gowda community of southern Karnataka, I have more interaction with these people...and the failed arranged marriages I am talking about are mostly from this community.
The Gowda community  is pretty diverse; we have Gowda family of  rural and urban backgrounds;  belonging to lower, middle and upper economic status, at many levels of literacy, etc. 
The failed arranged marriages I am referring to are mostly from the families I have closely interacted with i.e. middle-class, educated, professional background Gowda families . These are families who are settled in Bangalore but who originated...I mean their grandfathers  were farmers in villages of Tumkur, Chitradurga and Mysore districts.

What I have observed of the marriages of several close relatives and belonging to my father's generation ( In 2012,  I am in my forties and my dad is in his seventies) is that all of them were arranged marriages...arranged by their parents to spouses from the same caste, sub-caste after checking on the horoscopes, etc. At least 50% of these marriages have unhappily married people, who are staying in the marriage as they simply did not know of  arrangements other than (1)staying on with the husband/wife, (2)or the wife returning to parent's house if husband and in laws were impossible to live with and (3)being widowed/widowered. There is severe bickering in these marriages but as the  modern psychiatric,sociological and psychological labels such as 'battered wives', 'controlling', 'autocratic', 'paranoid',etc were unknown to my parents' generation, they did not think of their marriages as 'troubled' but accepted it as their fate!

Happily, there is a  slow but steady increase in the number of Gowda yougsters refusing to enter into arranged marriages; many of the current generation'fall in love' and marry a person of their choice.  The yougsters studying  in the technical courses such as engineering, medical , dental seem to meet with less opposition from parents (when they 'fall in love' and marry) as opposed to the ones studying BA, B.Sc and B.Com! Talk of biased parents!

Inspite of the gradual increase  of those entering love marriages, there are still a huge number of today's youth who are either opting for or forced into arranged marriages. I have seen many of these marriages fail miserably...not over time like in my parents time, but from the very first few weeks of marriage. There are many many reasons for this and the focus of this article is to give my take on the reasons as to why these marriages fail. I am hoping that the youth who intend to enter arranged marriages think about these causes and try to avoid them. The reasons are in no particular order...I am writing them as they come to my mind.

This para is written on 17th Jan 2016. I just saw a lovely movie "Meet the Patels" which is about arranged marriage. I enjoyed this movie a lot and it speaks positively about arranged marriages. I loved the parents of this Patel guy; his parents, both dad and mom are such a lovely couple...charming, articulate ,pragmatic and both believe in arranged marriage. I suppose this movie is a documentary  and so I think everything in this movie is true. People who read my bitter rant against arranged marriages should see this movie which is positive about arranged marriages. Then the reader is this article will get to see the positives of arranged marriages! 

Inadequate information about the family or person one is marrying:
To me, this is the most important or the only explanation as to why arranged marriages fail today. Analyzing the failed arranged marriages I have seen in the last 5-10 years, the biggest cause of failed marriages is the lack of information about the person one is marrying or lack of information about the family. The missing information may be major such as a serious mental illness in either the bride or the groom or minor information (but big enough to make it break the marriage) such as not knowing  that the person one is marrying is aloof and not as social as one wanted. 
Here are some (of the true cases and)   issues the person marrying was not aware of in the broken marriages I know of.
  • One marriage failed as the bride did not know the groom was suffering from schizophrenia.
  • In another, the groom was acting  'weird' and not consummating the marriage .
  • In several  failed marriages the bride or the groom informed the spouse, immediatly after marriage, that he /she was not interested in marrying but was forced to by the parents. Let me add here that  I have seen many men & women  of my parents generation who throw this in their spouses face daily for years and years!
  • In some, the groom was extremely controlling and paranoid and violent.
  • In at least one marriage, the groom had concealed from the bride's party that he was already married (and not divorced). the bride divorced him after she came to know of his earlier marriage but by then she had gone through this expensive bigamous wedding!
  • In another instance, the groom, who was already living in USA, 'with a woman'. He obeyed his parents when they suggested  an arranged marriage with another lady; he intended  to leave  his wife behind in India, to look after his aged parents...while he returns to USA, alone, and continues to live in bliss in the US with his girlfriend!
All these true cases, reveal that families, going into arranged marriages are not always truthful and can be very very deceptive. On the other hand it also reveals that there are families which can be duped  easily....inspite of their education, experience and intelligence.
The families hide major problems such as mental illnesses when they get their mentally ill son or daughter married. The other party would not have done 'due diligence' before marriage. I know that due diligence is not the right term but I hope you get what I mean...that you should obtain as much information as possible about the person/family whom you want to marry, before you decide to go ahead with the marriage.  

The second reason arranged marriages fail today is the expectations the brides and grooms of today have about marriage. While in the past i.e. my parents days, women had lesser level of education;were mostly housewives and did not work outside the home and were expected to have few expectations from the husband. If the husband had a job, did not have 'bad' habits like drinking, gambling or womanizing, he was considered 'good husband material'. 
 However, today young adults have much higher expectations from their partner. They want to be matched in looks, want someone who has similar interests, have expectations about the partner's education, job, social skills, etc. Since women are educated and working, they are no longer (and rightly so) ready to accept a guy just because he is of the same caste and the horoscope matches. The expectations of women have changed drastically . Empowerment of women through education & employment, being treated equally (or almost) as men by their parents and in educational institutions(I hope so!), the concepts of democracy and women's rights and equality, the huge influence of the west have  all contributed to women having higher expectations from their husbands than their mothers and grandmothers.
I have seen a few marriages break down soon after the wedding in my community as the men expected their wives to be subservient to them! One guy apparently wanted a 'tall and social girl' and when he married one, he objected to her talking to her friends! The young lady left him!
While in the past, married people were fatalistic about the person they married i.e. accepted whatever spouse, fate had given them, now people are ready to divorce and look for a better person to be with. I am so glad about this. It is better a person divorces than live , cursing and fighting an entire life time and also having children who in turn have endure their bickering parents all through their lives.

Ignoring red flags before or even during the wedding is another major reason for marriages flopping. I find it so frustrating that families ignore several red flags which show up before the wedding and go through the marriage only to see it fail. The trauma for the bride( I have seen brides suffer more often than the grooms), the wedding expenses, the trauma for the several people involved, the years spend in trying to cope with or get out of the miserable marrige could have been avoided if only people heeded their gut feeling, their instincts and the red flags. Here are a few examples:
Why the bloody hell do people not get a hint that their daughter will not be happy if she married this guy, whose parents are demanding a big fat dowry?
 Why the hell do they not realize that something is fishy if the groom makes no attempt to talk to the girl at all...after the marriage is finalized, the groom makes no attempt to phone or talk to the bride and this bizzare disinterest is labelled as reserved and dignified by stupid well-wishers instead of perceiving it as the disinterest it is.("huduga tumba gambeera" is the description for these assholes)
While I know several decent Gowdas, I also have seen several crude, rude, greedy, ruthless Gowdas, who think that marriage is one easy way of getting rich. Fortunately they are unable to act decent even for the few times they meet with the bride's family before the wedding. Yet, the bride's family does not react to their greed, boorish behaviour by running away from this family...they go ahead with the wedding!

Some parents are aware of the red flags but still go ahead, hoping that thier son or daughter will cope with the issue or that the issue will go away! Talk about wishful thinking!

Consenting to an arranged marriage, though not happy with the person selected : Consenting for reasons such as ' I may not get another offer' , 'I am getting older.. what if there is no one else out there: I have seen quite a few arranged marriages which flopped, where the bride or the groom was not at all interested in the person they were marrying but still agreed as they were forced by family or were themselves worried that they may not get anyone else if they refuse this one.
I feel really sorry for these people. Some of them seem to have self-esteem issues and their stupid parents attack their self-esteem even further(instead of being supportive) to brow-beat them into consenting to the marriage. I have heard mothers tell cruel and mean things to their daughters to bully them into agreeing to marry the guy they have found; they say things like,"You are dark. Still, he has agreed to marry you. If you refuse him, we will not be able to find anyone else, willing to marry you."
Or,  "You are nearing 28. All guys are married by the time they are 25 these days. Where can we find some for you if you get older?"
The attack on self-esteem can be are too dark/fat/short/tall/ not educated enough or too educated!
Can you imagine, attacking a girl by saying she is too educated or too tall? These are things of pride in the west but here, they can be reason for a groom rejecting you! I have seen a dark-skinned friend of mine, browbeaten into an early marriage to the first guy who came to 'see her' as her brother and sister-in-law (my friend's dad died when she was a child) thought she will not get any other offers.
I have seen men and several women who have been married(through arranged marriages)  to people who were  intellectually and in other ways  incompatible. They seem to have  married their spouses as they did not seem to have the hope that they will find someone more compatible if they wait. People simply endure and do not really enjoy marriages when they are not compatible intellectually or otherwise.

When Indian youth go to such great trouble to find a pair of pants or shirt which 'fits perfectly', why the hell, do they agree to marry someone they hardly know and spend the rest of their life, trying to 'fit' or 'adjust' to the other person?  Instead, they could get off their fat butts and  find someone compatible?

People unfamiliar with arranged marriages will wonder why their families did not find compatible spouses, when they were searching for brides and grooms.
 Parents can get only some information about a person such as his or her  level of education,  age, looks (photos are given), etc. If the family is new to them, they know nothing of them and can only go by the information the family gives them. They can  infer or guess only some facts by the family's or the prospective bride/groom's behaviour in the all-too-brief meeting when the prospective suitor comes to the girl's house to 'see her'. The families are treading blindly when they enter into marriage alliances with families they hardly know! They enter into the marriage allaince, hoping for the best! To me arranged marriages are like blind dates set up by your parents...only it does not end after one date if you dont like your are stuck with your date for life, whether you like it or not!!!

Let me add an example here. A girl may assume that if the guy  whom her parents have found has a professional degree( such as engineering, dental or medicine...these are  3 well-loved degrees in my community!) he must be bright. But the guy may turn out to be average or even dull as he has got into this professioal course by paying donations to the college and passed his exams with great difficulty. It is very very difficult to gauge a person's intellectual level, when he coes to see the girl and talks little or not at all! The girl has to simply assume he must be 'okay'  or 'bright' if he has passed engineering and has a job now!
Not to sound callous, but I have come across several super-duds who have passed out of Indian medical, dental and engineering colleges! I am going off-topic here but more than 50% of Indian youth passing out from Indian medical, engineering, dental, colleges are ill-qualified for their jobs. They get into the colleges though they have neither the brains nor the aptitude; their parents shell out huge sums of money(if you dont have good marks, you need to shell out money to join....then you pass the exams by bribing and then you get a job by bribing and then, if you are a male, your father's investment in you comes back in the form of there are several super-dud professionals wiht degrees but not even common-sense in their heads...let alone, technical expertise, in their area of study...why do so many people die in Indian hospitals? Why do Indian buildings fall during the construction stage itself? It is because of these morons who bought their seats in the colleges and bribed and passed and bribed and got their jobs)

My sincere advise to the young people going into arranged marriages...Please don't !

I will be writing some  more on this issue shortly. Pardon me for going on and on about this but I have seen three young arranged marriages break this year and I am boiling mad about it!
(24th Aug 2012) I got a few more ideas and am continuing this article.

Search-fatigue is another major reason for mismatched people getting married. I have seen several parents, go through a lot of prospective bride or groom's briefly or elaborately and start feeling exhausted by the search and reach a stage when they simply want the marriage to be fixed, over and done with. Let me explain: When parents search for a suitor, their examination of a suitor may be brief ...for example, decline a proposal within minutes or seconds as they spot reasons for this match  to fail such as ...horoscope not matching, too much of an age difference , looks not as expected, gotra being the same or unsuitable for other reasons, and so on.
But for the proposals which appear seemingly okay, at least initially,  they spend a lot of effort and time in tasks such as the suitor visiting the girl's house, lots of talk and discussion between the families, and sometimes the boy and girl may meet more than once. Inspite of investing so much time and effort the marriage proposal falls through for some reason sometimes. If this happens often, the family and the girl/boy to be married, start feeling exhausted and then they decide to be 'less choosy' and want to simply be done with the exhausted parents force their ward to simply agree to whoever they 'next' meet i.e.  when they are at their most exhausted or the person getting married will herself or himself simply agree as they are fed up with this process! I cannot imagine how one can reach this stage of indifference, when they are making the most important decision in their life but this unbelievable thing happens so often!

It is very very important the girl or boy going into arranged marriage keep these factors in mind and take precautions against it. Maintain self-esteem; maintain hope; be realistic; be not marry just for the sake of getting the  marriage over and done with! Also do not get brow-beaten into marrying by parents, uncles, grandparents or the marriage broker( I have never seen a marriage set up by a 'professional'marriage-broker  but I know they do exist)

Another important reason for lousy arranged marriages I forgot to mention till now.... parents with limited contacts, limited ability to judge people, parents who 'feel awkward' to ask around and search for a good match for their child
I know of at least four fathers who made little or no effort to find suitors for their children when they came to age of marriage. My analysis of why they were like that is this(my English is sounding terribly Indian now but I dont have the patience to edit now!)
Three of these four fathers were working in very high government  posts; they were  honest, never took bribes or ever used their official positions to grant favours to any of their families or friends...unlike majority of government employees in India. They never asked anyone for help during their working period probably due to the fear that they may be asked to do 'favours' in return;   This is my take on the reasons why they did not search for matches for their children. Even by asking someone to find a good spouse for their child meant that they are asking a favour and fear being asked one in return...and then they may be forced to  compromise their ethical standards!
Luckily for them, they had relatives(who did not expect any favours in return) who worried about their children and who did the search and came up with matches for them!

In the context of the above para, let me mention that I have seen three such arranged marriages where the brides were exceptionally brilliant and 'decent' decent I mean that they did not date and agreed for arranged marriages. I loved and admired all three of these women and all got husbands who were nice but not at their  intellectual level. But they accepted their lot. Can I say they are happy with their marriages as they get along fine with their husbands and have no 'problems'? No. I do not want to say they are happy as I feel I am overstating the happiness. I cannot say, they are unhappy as that is also overstating and untrue. The best way to define their marriages is to say these women(Indian young ladies of the 70s and 80s) seem to accept that they have to get along with whom their parents find for them..that the kind of husband they get is written in their fate and they simply have to 'adjust' with the person they get. They are grateful, if the guy they get is not 'too bad'..... they know or accept that it is near impossible to get someone who is really good or fantastic...that getting someone who suits them perfectly  happens only in movies. The bottom line is that people who enter arranged marriages, give up the dream of finding someone they can truly love; give up passion and become very passive...I think giving up passion and dreams is a defense mechanism which helps  one to accept arranged marriages. Having dreams and passion and going into arrnaged marriages is an impossibility!
Let me add here that I am sick of the bull-shit I see on the internet by people who support arranged marriages saying that they are better than western love marriages...that In Indian arranged marriages, the couple fall in love 'after' the marriage. It is such bull-shit nonsense! I have seen several who cant stand their spouses and have to endure them for years and years and the only reason they present a 'happy-marriage' face is because appearences are so damn important in Indian society.
Remember, these are marriages which took place in the 80s; most of the youth of the 70s and 80s whom I know(are Bangalore based, middle-class, Hindus) were conservative, focussed on 'studies' and expected their parents to find matches for them. None of them ever dated or befriended members of the opposite sex.
I have seen daughters and sons of these kinds of fathers simply agree to marry as they knew that their parents will not make any effort. This is such a crying shame! I have seen a father who was lost in his world of 'spirituality' and his kids had to hunt their spouses themselves! This man's wife would nag him but to no avail! I have seen another father who is a procrastinator and would always rush off to do something non-urgent and totally unimportant/irrelevant while his children aged, waiting for him to find matches! If the children, especially girls had tried to date and find a groom themselves, they would be labelled as 'fast' and 'not of good character'! Talking of procrastinators, I have seen a procrastinating father of grown daughters,  who would rather help a child find nests of weaverbirds for a child than go to court when his case was being heard!
In the 80s and earlier(maybe even now in some families)  adult singles were expected to marry the matches found/approved by their families and not supposed to mingle with the opposite sex and find a partner for themselves.
There was another father(who probably thought he was a big-shot) who in my opinion was very arrogant and simply did not make any effort to find matches for his children. He expected people to approach him(I think!) and unfortunately, this  did not work out. His kids remained single.
There is another father who found one or two grooms for his daughter and when she declined this guy or the guy declined to marry her,he simply stopped looking for anyone else. He also didn't allow his daughter to find someone on her own. When he was asked why he's not looking for anyone for his daughter he would rage that she refuses everyone he has found. His rages were so fearful that his family members remained silent. Can you imagine the situation...the girl is not allowed to find someone on her own and her dad refuses to find anyone because she 'refused' the alliances he brought her....Can you imagine being stuck in this stalemate for years, getting older and older and 'less marriagble' by the day while the rest of your friends lives move on?

You may be wondering, what  is the mother's role in all these cases. Mothers in those days(60s,70s and 80s) were mostly housewives and had no contacts except for relatives, neighbours and friends. Many of these mothers would ask their relatives to find matches for their children and relatives would try their best. I know of one exasperated grandmother, who was unhappy with her laid-back son's slowness in finding a partner for her grand-daughter.Much to her grand-daughter's embarassment, she would take initiative and would ask all and sundry(even complete strangers, sitting next to her on the bus, going to her home-town!) for a match for her granddaughter! She would give the full details of her granddaughter in the bus, within hearing range of about 20 people!

My advise to children of such parents is that you should recognize in time your parents personality traits especially those which have a bearing on their finding a match for you. If you have a parent who has any of these qualities, then you better do something about it! Also, check if your parent is a good judge of character. I have seen so many arranged marriages fail as the parent failed to judge the character of the match and the match's family. The ability to judge correctly is so damn important! As one friend of mine crudely put it, arranged marriages are like buying a pumpkin in the have to look at the  pumpkins from OUTSIDE and guess which one is  good ...and buy have to buy the pumpkin before you can cut it...and once you have bought it and  cut it, you cannot return even it if it turns out to be bad!
Parents who are too sticky and reject all matches or the opposite i.e. parents who agree to every single proposal ...even for matches who are grossly unsuited to their children are another set of  parents who are setting up their children for future marriage disasters.
I  just read this article to edit and I am realizing how much one's spouse selection is influenced by parents and how little control one has over it! The more I read this and think about arranged marriage, the more I realize how  archiac it is and that it  needs to be stopped...or changed drastically.

It is time for Indian youth to take charge of their lives and find spouses for themselves. Time to stop giving in to parents and families finding partners. Come on, please think. Who knows you better than yourself? Why do you think a spouse found by your mother and father will suit you better than one you find yourself?

Indian youth need to be assertive with families who push them into arranged marriages. They should realize that  marriage is one of the biggest decisons in one's  life and one which has a tremendous impact on quality of life. As this is the biggest and most important decision, the person marrying should make the decision and not someone else...even if it is the parents. 

You should agree to marry someone because you want to and NOT  because you want to obey someone or make someone else happy or get some nagger off your are the one marrying and living with the person, it is not your father or mother who has to live with the marry only if you are sure, you will be happy with the person.

You are spending the rest of  your  life with your spouse...your parents may force you to marry someone, but they are not going to live the are.

 It is utter foolishness to marry someone to make your family happy and then be bitter and resentful for the rest of your life saying that you were forced to marry and that you wanted to marry someone else! You are a grade A loser if you do that. It is better to gather courage, to be assertive and say no to your parents if you do not want to marry...instead of being meek and acquiescent with your parents. Please grow a spine people! Dont be spineless and say yes when you mean no....especially for important decisions such as marriage.

I have come across many blogs where the arranged marriage concept has been written about very well. Those authors' are witty, humorous and I have to admit with truth & envy  that they write better than me.
However, I do not want to  write about arranged marriages in a humorous vein. I am troubled by the large number of people in arranged marriages who are leading miserable lives, unable or unwilling to get out. Humour helps to cover up the mess;  I want to expose the ugliness of arranged marriages; I will not allow humour to make this ugly archiac concept palatable.

As I do not find many articles against arranged marriages by guys, I guess, women suffer more through arranged marriages than men. Maybe, arranged marriages work out very well for Indian men!

Here are the links to some funny articles on arranged marriages
above link is for  the article 'Arranged marriage, American-style'

and the book, Marrying Anita by Anita Jain.


Anonymous said...

very informative.thanks

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Anonymous said...

Arranged marriage controls a woman's sexual behavior and impulses. If a woman cheats with a man of a different background, she is punished by her husband, family, and in-laws. Most women don't always want to marry the same background but they are forced to do to the huge amount of available eligible bachelors who are of their background.

Anonymous said...

Spot on !!

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