It is anathema to many that arranged marriages continue to prevail and even flourish in these increasingly progressive times. Somehow it comes across as anachronistic and unromantic at exactly the same time. Parents playing matchmaker and selecting a spouse for their son or daughter harkens back to an era which those living in this age would envision as something out of a period film where people swath themselves in yards of unnecessary fabric most unfashionably and with the docility of doormats allow themselves to be married to someone they had never even met let alone spoken to and probably made love in the dark at the auspicious hour appointed by their elders as per the tenets of the draconian laws framed by those from an even more remote timeframe.
The marriage websites that have mushroomed across the murky wetland of the internet provide a lot of fodder for derisive laughter on account of the fact that a vast majority of the users whose predominant criteria regarding the hunt for their better half appears to be to find themselves someone who is either fairer than the moon or wealthier than an oil sheik which of course lends support to the argument that an arranged marriage is a superficial, cold and business like arrangement bereft of the tender emotions that are needed to make a marriage really sing.
Naysayers would also scoff at the findings showing that the divorce rates are less among those who have opted for an arranged marriage compared to the many love marriages that crash and burn on account of waning passions, insisting that the statistics are misleading because the doormats and coldly calculative types in such marriages will carry on with the arrangement irrespective of whether they are happy or unhappy simply because they do not have the guts to walk out or because the reason they walked into this unsatisfactory partnership in the first place still holds.
However, there is the possibility however farfetched and ludicrous it may sound in this day and age that the foundation on which this creaking dinosaur of an institution was built may not be entirely unsound. Aside from the fact that it remains standing despite repeated condemnation, recent studies have led to experts concluding that lasting affection is more likely to be found in arranged matches than marriage bonds forged in the heat of passion.
This is mostly because those in arranged marriages tend to work harder on nurturing what they feel for each other till it blossoms into love over a period of time. Having made a commitment after careful consideration of compatibility either of their own accord or owing to the efforts of their family members, these couples are more willing to wade together past the rocky patches till they reach the Elysian fields of nuptial bliss.
On the other hand, those who marry for love tend to be so caught up in the heat of their romance that they forget that flames no matter how fiercely they burn eventually dissipate leaving nothing but cold disappointment behind. Unable to recapture the addictive highs of the heady romance that marked their early days together, the couple feel there is no reason to hang on to a relationship where the glowing embers are dying past the hope of rekindling. Consequently, rigid conservatives are quick to pounce on this unsavoury little aspect of romantic love and have pronounced it the predominant cause of promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases, burgeoning divorce rates and the spike in sex – related crimes.
Those inclined to sit on the fence regarding this question which is almost as ancient as the venerable institution of marriage depending on the natural bent of their minds will say that a marriage is a marriage irrespective of the reasons involved and there is always romance when two souls are joined together in holy matrimony or alternatively, that marriage irrespective of the causative factors is availed off solely by those with dangerously low IQ levels.
Both viewpoints make sense. Who amongst us can listen to charming tales from elders in the family about the first time they met their spouse even if it was in a room full of stiff – backed relatives and not feel warm and fuzzy seeing the gentle glow on their features? Of course, barring serial killers and rabid members of the moral police squad none can remain untouched by lovers, lost to all but each other and refrain from rooting for a fairy tale finish to their romance.
That being said though, it is hard not to feel cynical about love and marriage, when the papers are full of horror stories about women being tortured and killed over dowry – related issues, honour killings that see lovers ruthlessly hunted down and butchered or entire communities burnt down because two youngsters dared to fall in love ignoring traditional dictates favouring same – caste unions, one wonders if love and marriage both ought not to be relegated to the trash heap and left there to fester and rot.
However since that is neither here nor there, we may sum up the issue by acknowledging that true love is rare and Kama’s arrows bearing the gift of love at their tip strike only a chosen few. It is foolhardy to chase after it hoping to be taken soaring across the heavens for a gentle landing on the summit of happiness when in reality such a quest is far more likely to see the reckless voyager plummet into the depths of tragedy. That does not mean the vast majority has to settle for a loveless existence, especially since there is always arranged marriage with its promise of the ecstasies contained within - love, sex, passion, desire, romance and companionship, all dealt out in limited doses of course as a reward to those who persevere, steadfast in their belief that love triumphs over all, even the limitations of an arbitrary God of Desire and outdated institutions.
An edited version of this article is available at Indiabookstore.net which you can access here.