This is a letter that I wrote to Smriti Irani, the host of the TV talk show Kuch Diiil Se which is broadcast on SAB TV.
Dear Mrs. Smriti Irani
I am writing to express my views on the issue of love marriages versus arranged ones. While I don’t have a problem with parents choosing spouses for their children, I do disapprove strongly of the manner in which these ‘arranged’ marriages are conducted. For your convenience, I am arranging my viewpoints in an ordered list:
1. Marriage is arguably the most important decision in any person’s adult life. Despite this, in most cases where traditional/conservative families are concerned, the boy and girl hardly meet a couple of times before they decide to get married! This too, if the parents allow it. So, on what basis do these people get married to each other?
Logically, people marry a particular individual because they notice certain traits in that person which are important to them; traits which they do not find in other guys/girls whom they know. In other words, we all look for certain qualities in our would-be spouse. I fail to understand how it is possible to determine whether or not a particular person possesses these qualities, in just two or three meetings, a la Kahin na kahin koi hai.
I do not believe that most people opting for arranged marriages in India really exercise their discretion; they simply tag along with what their elders deem fit! This is why I feel that most arranged marriages in India are really, for all practical purposes, no different from child marriages, except that the boy and girl are physically older.
2. Secondly, most people (especially girls) have some sort of blind faith in arranged marriages, which stems from the fact that statistically, arranged marriages fare better than love marriages. I believe that the prime reason for this is not that the arranged marriage system is better, but simply that most people who enter into arranged marriages are very traditional people – they are brought up with the belief that parents know best, and are encouraged to follow all traditions dutifully without asking questions.
No wonder then that so many such people, despite being in severely mismatched alliances, don’t opt for a divorce, simply because they don’t wish to go against our society’s traditions!
3. Another strange facet is that, on the one hand, we hear the younger generation complaining about a ‘generation gap’ (meaning that their parents see things quite differently from the way they do, and that they don’t really understand each other very well), and yet, on the other hand, when it comes to finding a spouse, the same kids have no qualms about leaving the decision-making process to their elders!
4. I also dislike the arranged marriage system because it embodies the concept of “an appropriate time for marriage”. I feel that one should get married only when one finds a person who they feel, after a period of courtship, would be a good life partner for them. Marriage for the sake of marriage, or because it’s “time to get married”, is a ridiculous way of going about it.
One of the repercussions of this concept is that many girls are discouraged from pursuing higher studies or careers on the premise that their “marriageable age” will then pass off and they will find it difficult to find a good match later.
5. Another point to ponder is that for an arranged marriage, usually only a person from the same community, caste or religion is considered. I feel this is also wrong. Who says that only a Brahmin can keep a Brahmin happy, or that only a Punjabi can keep a Punjabi happy and not a Gujarati?
Actually I have many more views on this issue, but I guess these are enough for now. I hope you will raise these points on your programme, Kuch Diiil Se.