22 August, 2013

When arranged marriages become 'love' marriages..

I have heard of stories from my grandmothers about their arranged marriages. My maternal grandmother was married to her sister's husband's brother. Her engagement was done with another guy when her brother in law fought for her hand for his brother. Apparently her father gave in and got her married immediately, at the age of 13. She bore no children for 7 years and then my eldest aunt arrived and my mum followed, then my uncle and then my youngest aunt. My paternal grandmother's wedding story goes like this... She was the last child in her family. Being a girl baby, the villagers suggested her mother to kill her as soon as she was born but my great grandma didn't cave. After ten years of love, she passed away leaving my grandma the sole woman in the family who started running the kitchen, the fields and everything on her own at a very young age. My grandpa had no father and he was raised by one of the village elders who also paid for his education. Being the only young man in the village with an SSLC certificate he was offered jobs out of town which made it difficult to find a bride for him. No one wanted to see their daughter go away. Who does! My grandpa's brother and his girlfriend were getting anxious to get married somy great grandma got my grandpa married to this girl who lived like a queen since she was 13. They moved out immediately after marriage and ended up in Tirupur. Arranged marriages in those days were so quick, practical and dealt with in any way. They learned to fall in love, they learned to stick it out and they just didn't let go. They saved, they starved, they strived and they lived. 

Arranged marriages in my father's generation were a little more luxurious I'd say. My father's sister was married to someone who had a government job and she lived with her parents till they built a house for her and then she moved out. Luxury. My father was married to someone who he didn't know, who was younger than him by 13 years and a sportswoman. They saw each other twice before their wedding. Or that's what we know. They had a few telephone calls, which were pretty expensive then. Then apparently they met once when my mum was on her way to a badminton match in the train which stopped in Tirupur for 5 minutes. Hmm. Then they met only when they got married.

Arranged marriages today are different. So different. This is how it goes in Tirupur today. The two families meet at a temple or public place to allow the girl and guy to talk for maybe 5 minutes. Before this there is an extensive Facebook search for the obvious. They agree or disagree based n those few minutes. Then they go back home. Obviously in those desperate 5 minutes they have exchanged phone numbers and common friends names. The courting over the phone begins. Then the day where the families officially eat at each others houses comes. The boy is allowed to come to the girl's house but the vice versa isn't possible. You know what happens when the girl sets foot in the guy's house even before marriage. Sky falls down, really. Wen the guy's family comes to the girl's house, they eat,  exchange gifts, give the bride jewellery. Please note I said bride only after she gets the jewellery. Cause till then it's not confirmed no. Thanku. The girls family in turn gives the guy jewellery at his house. The men sit together talking politics, trade and the whole who knows who aspects. The women sit in groups discussing the house, the room where the bride will live in after marriage, the maid aspects (if the groom's house has a maid). Then they eat and leave. Then comes the shopping for the engagement and wedding. Bride and groom go with siblings or cousins one day prior to shopping day and select jewellery and clothes they will wear for the wedding and engagement. The next day the same amount of people come back to see what the two families have bought. The older ladies change the bride's saree selections and the men just stand outside and talk politics, trade and the who knows who aspects. The clothes and jewellery are billed and paid for at an auspicious hour. Cause it is really difficult for the bride and groom to have done it the previous day. What will the world think. Unmarried girl and boy buying their own wedding clothes. Sky will fall, really. Did I mention the jewellery worth Crores which will lie in a bank locker for years together? Exchange of gifts - guy gives girl iPad/phone/puppy (in some cases). 

They Skype, they call, they SMS, they MMS, they flirt (officially), they make promises, write their own vows without paper. This is also love. 

But the fun doesn't end. 

So now comes the day where the bride and groom choose their card. The wedding card that the two give out together to friends. With the tackiest lyrics inside copied from good old google. The card cannot be in colours like black and white amuse you know, the sky will fall. Well, invites printed, sent. The comes the days with the long phone calls like we see in all movies. Somehow the whole world has been thinking these two haven't met separately before. But they obviously have gone for dinners and dates together with the knowledge of no one but their parents. There is always someone who they know who has sen them and the word spreads like wildfire. Anyway, sky hasn't fallen yet. The day of the wedding is here and the whole Mandap is full. The bride and groom have each their personal photographer shooting every bit of their wedding. The food, the menu, the flowers, the make up, the make up box, the makeup woman, the flowers at the arrival desk, the flowers at the buffet, flowers everywhere, flowers n the girls' hair also cause if she doesn't wear them, the sky will fall. 

Pictures clicked, videos taken, parents crying, best friends smiling, hundred million phones clicking along, smoke, fire, kum kum, thread, tied - DONE. Done? No way. You think it would stop with that? What about the reception? A thousand guests again, elaborate menu, flowers he, flowers there, makeup, clothes, jewellery - entire bling. Pictures clicked and the end. Now? Officially yes, but this is where we really get showy. Remember those personal photographers? They aren't getting paid in lakhs just so they can click pictures of flowers and other people and get away with a big fat album and cheque. We have the outdoor photography. Then the out of town photography. Then the portraits, ok explanation. Wear the same clothes and jewellery like at the wedding, reception and engagement and have a shoot of just the bride and groom... Sorry husband and wife AGAIN so there will be some pictures where they aren't tired or sweaty. Fancy huh! Then comes the Indian honeymoon shoot. Explanation again -Take ur new wife to a beautiful place within India and pose like you both are in a song from a tacky Tamil movie and have a photographer click pictures of you. In the woods, by the new car your father in law gave you as a wedding present, by the new car you father bought for you cause you know you got married, with the girl in a saree, wit the girl in a saree with her hair loose, with the girl in a saree and her hair let loose looking at the husband and all that jazz. Indian honeymoon recorded. 

Somewhere after all this a honeymoon abroad is planned and time well spent. No photographer. 

Pregnant yet? If yes? Please read two lines below. If no, read on still. 
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Here we are. If she's pregnant, there is more photography. Pregnancy photography. Baby shower photography. Birth. Infant photography. First family pictures. Meanwhile someone somewhere is arguing as to why the wedding pictures haven't arrived yet? Of course the photographer had time to work on them. Wedding pictures arrive... Amidst diapers and sleepless nights, pictures are seen, enjoyed and shared on Facebook, whatsapped. 

Love exists. 
Right from the times where girls saw their grooms only the moment they got married to now, where girls see the guys everyday, in any which way. 

Love exists. Arranged marriages don't. 
Right from the times when the girl shyly picked up the receiver to speak that STD call her to be husband made just so he could hear her voice, to now, where every other second there is text, mms or SMS. 

1 comment:

Amy, Brad, Eli and Charlie said...

Love your comments on arranged marriages. I'm an American who recently attended the wedding of an Indian friend in Kerala. It was very much as you described. I look forward to reading more! Amy

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