eMatrimony? Tut-tut, we're Indians... part I
An interesting question raised this past week by a family situation. What do I think of the internet-based matrimonial sites (eMatrimony) that are becoming increasingly popular in India, with sites such as BharatMatrimony.com and shaadi.com receiving over a million of hits every day? BTW, "Bharat" is the traditional name for India, and "shaadi" in Hindi means marriage.
I guess, to begin with, I was not very favourably disposed towards this entire concept. But over the past few years, my views have undergone a good deal of change. In order to explain that change, I must first describe the existing familial arrangements in India. Please surf to some other site if I begin to bore you...
There are two types of marriage arrangements in India, for those not in the know, namely, 'arranged marriage' and 'love marriage'. Arranged marriage, the so-called traditional form, is not (contrary to popular belief) designed to be love-less. It is just that parents or relatives take an active part in finding a partner for their children. Of course, as you can understand, this selection is bound to be colored by the parents' perception of what (or who) is good for their ward.
It was not very common for Indian men to live away from the parents, an arrangement that facilitated taking close personal care of their aged parents. The system of finding a suitable bride for the son, therefore, necessarily involved complex considerations of the compatibility between the bride and her mother-in-law, who would be living under the same roof. This was an important consideration, since the interests of both these parties essentially intersected upon one man, the son and husband, who was often torn between mixed loyalties.
As has been the norm since the beginning of times, both female protagonists in this saga, with the best of intentions and the interests of the son/husband at heart, want to retain a measure of control on that poor man; for the mother is loath to relinquish control of someone she has given birth to and seen growing up in front of her eyes, and the wife is naturally insistent on having the sole attention of the person she has chosen to spend her life with. Amicable settlements between them, though not unheard of, have often proved difficult to achieve, and the constant tussle between them has formed the subjects of many humorous movies and sitcoms over the years.
But wherever these two parties have allowed the reign of reason, quite satisfactory and, indeed, peaceful and pleasurable co-existence has been effected. The young bride would come to know and love the man she has been married to, and through his eyes she would look affectionately upon the rest of the family. Love and affection would flow on both sides. A case in point is the generations of our parents, grandparents, and earlier.
Antagonists of this system have argued often and loud, that this rosy picture is not necessarily true. I agree. Perhaps conjugal romance and passion were often sacrificed in favour of comfort. Traditional roles of men as the provider and women as the domestic arranger were strictly defined and adhered to, and any deviation therefrom was frowned upon and discouraged. It has been said that women did not dissent, simply because they would not be heard or paid heed to, or because dissenting would have to involve breaking down an existing, extremely inflexible social structure. The problem was not simple by any means, having had to factor in multiple socio-economic, as well as psychological situations.
However, by and large, things had worked, or were made to work. And so the tradition was perpetualized. And then came the age of individuality (I sound like a Lord of the Rings narrative), which brings me to the part II of this monologue. If you have read till this far, pray continue.