Date: 3 October 2017
I am a senior citizen, nearing 70 years. During my time, marriages were mostly arranged. Love marriages were frowned upon. Horoscopes were matched, after matching, photographs were exchanged and if approved by the boy’s family (seldom the girl’ views were taken), the boy met the girl in her house along with his family members. Sometimes, an elderly aunt or uncle who are known for critical views on all matters and considered competent in finalizing the marriage after the due process of negotiations, meaning dowry, gold etc., accompanied the entourage.
Over some snacks and sweets, the families would meet and exchange pleasantries, including the boy’s great qualifications and virtues (he does not drink, smoke or has any bad habits!). The girl would make an appearance escorted by a lady from the girl’s family, offering sweets or coffee to every one individually. All eyes would be on that girl and, every step carefully watched to see if she has any limp! And then a few questions would be thrown at her and her answers would be listened carefully to find out if she stammers. The girl’s achievements in educational and other fields would be made known. If she is a singer, she may be asked to sing a song especially a Carnatic song. Fortunately, if she were trained in Bhartanatyam, she would not be asked to dance and show her talent!
The boy would be told to ask the girl anything he wants to know. If he likes her from these five to ten minutes’ non-interaction, he would decline from asking any question lest the questions showed his lack of intelligence! Normally, the girl’s views were never asked and, her answer was always taken granted as “yes”. In modern families, the boy and the girl may be asked to move to another room and speak to each other and decide if fate approved their holy union. This decision was subject to the successful negotiations of the boy’s family’s demands – after all should not the old uncle or aunt display their talents?
Modern Day Women:
But times have indeed changed. We have four eligible bachelors in our team who cannot find a girl to marry them. Out of curiosity one day I asked them what is the problem of finding a girl and get married? Their answers shocked me since I belong to the generation of arranged marriages.
In Tamil Nadu, today it is the girls who dictate terms and not the boys for “arranged marriages”. Forget Haryana, where the condition of men is miserable, as the female infanticide has ensured that the ratio between men and women is very badly loaded in favor of men. Though Tamil Nadu too has female infanticide, thanks to education, the girls now demand their pound of flesh.
The girl’s parents want to know the job that he boy is doing (drivers are not welcome as they can die in an accident) , his salary and perks, insurance, bank balance, whether the house is owned by him or his parents or rented, whether the house has concrete roof or tiled roof, what is the “baggage” – meaning his parents are dependent on the boy, number of sisters and their marital status (unmarried sister can make the boy spend money for her marriage), brothers and if they are employed or studying (if studying, it may make the prospective groom to spend money for their education) availability of toilets, dowry expectations (nil stands better chance), views on the girl going to work and mother in law taking care of her and not troubling the girl to do household chores etc. If majority of the demands from the girl are met, the girl may seek an interview alone with the boy (not necessarily in the house but preferably in a café) and find out for herself, if he is fit enough to spend the rest of his life with her and more importantly he will remain tamed for ever.
So life is a full circle! Thank God, I was born before the fifties. I feel sorry for the four members in our team. All of them have been to all the temples to pray and have even taken some penance, which they would fulfill if they get married. All of them go to Sabari Malai every year. Some walk to Palani to pray. Some of them are so worried that they are entering in their forties and, every additional day makes marriage that much more difficult (who wants to marry a balding or graying old man?)
I told them to fall in love and marry. Their answer baffled me. “We do not know how to fall in love?” “Then why marry,” I asked. Their answer shows their desperation, “because we want to love after marriage!” Catch 22?
Colonel Achal Sridharan, VSM