Self-Arranged Marriages?

The new arranged marriage and why love’s got a lot to do with it

Posted: 07.05.15

When it comes to romance I think I’m a bit of a paradox. I believe in love at first sight, just like when Veer first clapped eyes on Zaara as they clung for life off a very dodgy looking chopper hook. But then, I also believe that love can blossom over time, haule hauleRab Ne Bana Di Jodi style.

Apologies for the Shahrukh Khan film references, but if you read my last post you’ll know that, a) I’m a sucker for SRK and b) I’m a sucker for wishy-washy romance. Put these two things together and you get a single girl waiting for her dashing knight to appear on his horse, looking like a brown masked Zorro-gar. And sadly at this rate, I think I’ll be waiting forever.

If you read my last post, you’ll know I’m no stranger to the world of dating. But after experiencing a myriad of awkward dinners, butterfly-less drinks, ‘will he call me again??’ situations and ‘I’m just not that into him’ episodes – all that could quite frankly rival Mindy Lahiri’s dating conundrums – I’ve given up. I’ve called it a day, folks. Yup. At least for a year, that is. Failing to take my own advice of going with the dating flow, I’ve hedged a bet with a fellow colleague and I’m going date-less for one WHOLE YEAR. It’s going to be tough, but I reckon not as bad as going carb-less. And I aim to do some reflecting and self-improvement during this one year, like finally mastering the bansuri. Do feel free to sponsor my one-year-no-date quest, by the way.

“What’s your back up plan, girl?”
This is what one of my friends asked me when I asked her to cough up and sponsor me. Well, too many, where do I begin?! Um, I could start batting for the other team? But that involves more dating, so, nah. I could try out to be a nun? But apparently I have to convert to Catholicism and my Catholic brother-in-law just laughed in my face when I enquired about it. (Cheers bruv). Okay then, how about grow old gracefully with ten Tamagotchi cats for the occasional company? And when all ten die, as let’s face it, they will die and the Tamagotchi makers decide to stop producing them – what do I do then? 

So that leaves me with one other option. And being brown we all know what that is, don’t we. Mum, dad – one big fat arranged marriage, please!

It seems like this is Sona’s back-up plan as well, the protagonist in Pravesh Kumar’s smash-hit, The Deranged Marriage. I had the recent pleasure of going to see this delightful and very funny play (courtesy and by some spooky coincidence found myself relating to parts of Sona’s character. Having tried the conventional dating path of meeting people, seeing how things go, and then realising it’s not actually going anywhere, Sona appears dispirited by it all. I think by saying yes to an arranged marriage, she feels she’s being open-minded, whilst at the same time fulfilling any familial duties required of her. And of course as you can imagine, her family are delighted.

But help! My folks don’t want me to have an arranged marriage!
So, I went home this weekend and I asked my mum and dad to set me up, you know, get me sorted - fix me up, bruv (I don’t really talk to my parents like that, but in my head I like to think I do). Anyway, they laughed in my face. It seems a lot of my family members like to do that.

Here’s what you got to know about my folks and why, whilst on one level I could relate to parts of The Deranged Marriage, yet on so many others, such as the family tradition etc., I found myself seriously struggling. I’ve always been very lucky when it came to my parents, but I don’t think I ever realised this until I started getting more brown friends and we started exchanging stories about our folks (think Asian Top Trumps, minus the cards):

Friend one: ‘My mum and dad don’t want me to marry a Muslim, black guys or white guys – oh yeah or Chinese guys.’
Friend two: ‘Well, I gotta marry someone from the same caste as me – actually from the same village as me I think.’

When it came to my turn to say my story, I always feel like I’ve already lost: ‘Yeah, I can marry anyone, as long as they’re decent.’ Then I’d get envious stares. Being quite simple, I didn’t know why at first, but I gradually realised how lucky my sister and I were. When it comes to tradition, customs, and society – worrying about what the neighbours will think – that’s where Sona and I differ. My folks have always been very forward thinking and broad-minded - they’re all about our happiness, the neighbours have never come into it.

My parents would rather I find my life partner and get to know him in my own time. What he looks like, what language he speaks, what religion he believes in, doesn't come into it. The only thing they ask of me is to find him quickly. Well, they’re going to have to wait at least a year. And funnily enough, they’re refusing to sponsor me.

It’s all a bit ironic and you could say a bit hypocritical, considering my mum and dad had a very traditional path to marriage, using back then what was a ‘marriage broker’ (a human, if you like). And they met only twice before finally tying the knot. The first meeting was rather synonymous to the opening scene of Mira Nair’s The Namesake – girl appears from a university lecture, gets ambushed by her whispering mother as soon as she enters the door: ‘Go make yourself look presentable, a suitor has come to see you.’

Whenever mum recalls this meeting, I can’t help but get all soppy and romantic (naturally) and perhaps it’s the reason why I’m not completely averse to having an arranged marriage myself. I have visions of mum and dad clapping eyes on each other across the tea tray and falling in love instantly like Veer and Zaara, sans the helicopter. But I’m not completely away with the romantic desi fairies. To say my mum fell instantly in love with my dad and the then Indian Afro and handlebar moustache he was sporting, or that my dad fell instantly in love with my mum’s rakish figure, is a bit of a stretch. They didn’t know each other. Love must have happened gradually. While waiting for my mum to finally arrive in the UK (nowadays I’d imagine a bit like waiting for an international parcel from Amazon or something), they’d exchange a thing called a letter and I guess love or at least compassion, started to form - haule haule. This year they’ll be celebrating 35 years of arranged marriage success - guess that ‘tash did the trick, eh mum?

Arrange it yourself, beta

Life today is all about self-service or DIY – do it yourself. And that’s no different with marriage, it seems. One thing that really resonated with me from The Deranged Marriage, was when Sona referenced her marriage as being ‘self-arranged’ - having a choice in who your other half will be, getting to know them for longer than just two meetings and then finally tying the knot – with your family’s blessings of course.

A friend of mine recently found the love of his life in this very fashion. He knew he had certain ‘regulations’ he had to abide by, but at the same time, he wanted to find the right person for him – he wanted to make both him and his family happy. So he surfed one of those marriage sites, started chirpsing with a girl he liked and having courted for a good few months, they’re now totally and completely in love with each other and are engaged to be married. It makes me sick. All right I’m a wee bit envious, but more than anything, I am incredibly happy for him. He’s managed to find a person who’s compatible with him and his family. I disagree with the character in the play called Hema, who is Sona’s mother, when she says that there is no place for love – that when it comes to marriage, it’s all about duty to the family. My friend is a shining example of being able to find your true love, whilst still obeying family tradition.

Does Sona go ahead with her self-arranged marriage or does she cave? Well, I won’t give away the ending to the play, I’d advise you to go and enjoy it for yourself instead. But the idea of a self-arranged marriage has definitely made me think: could they be the way forward – could this be my back-up plan? If my folks won’t arrange it, then hey, maybe I will! At least that way, I’ll get some romance in there as well, get him to wine and dine me, buy me some chicken and that. But of course, all this will be happening after my one-year-no-date quest is over.

Oh and do feel free to sponsor me – all proceeds will be going towards my big fat self-arranged Indian wedding. Or potentially ten Tamagotchi cats.  

By Rema Chandran - A marketer, with a love for cricket, romance, bad-ass Bollywood, samosa chaat and men in capes.
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