How Arranged Marriages Push Our ‘Great Indian Morals’ To The Backseat

Posted on April 24, 2014 in Dowry, Society, Taboos

By Elisha Mittal:

The East is constantly looked upon by the rest of the world, particularly the west, for morals, value systems and religious beliefs. Hundreds and thousands of them travel to the East in search of peace or some sort of enlightenment. And, India has always been the favorite country when it comes to the hunt for morals.


One thing that has always been held high by India like a shining trophy is its institution of arrange marriage and customs that believe in tethering two people together for life. Hinduism alone describes eight types of marriages. Among them, arrange marriage is the most popular and favored way of deciding two human’s fate in India. Our ancestors probably chose to arrange their children’s weddings with the notion that if they marry them in good families (qualities of ‘good family’ largely remain unknown till date, so it’s basically based on hunch), since good families are expected to produce good sons which are  undoubtedly supposed to make good husbands. Same goes for girls. (I think that’s enough history for us.)

While I am more than glad to be born in the land of saints and sages and had my mind fully stuffed with all the morals and Hindu beliefs at a tender age just like every other Indian Hindu, I was caught by surprise when I recently learned about the hollowness of the whole so-praised-by-west value system of ours.

The ancient logic has clearly failed to live through modern times. Recently, one of my friends got interviewed by a prospective family. While the guy was shy and probably suffered from peachy-soft-voice syndrome, apart from that he was pretty decent and didn’t really seem to care much about what was happening around (or so, my friend gathered). In India, marriage is not just about gluing two people together, but more about gluing two families together. So, parents are the ones who lay all the ground rules of marriage. His mother did. His mother was really something. Sweet old woman and a teacher by profession but extremely trained at clearly spelling what she wanted.

Here’s her requirement sheet:

1. Girl should get up at 5 and cook, since she’s a teacher and of course will be needing lunch.

2. Girl should do everything on her own, without hiring help, because she is not a fan of not-doing-thing-on-your-own. (Neither I nor my friend are sure what it means exactly.)

3. Girl should bear a son. (Her son was her third kid after two girls, so it’s more than obvious. And people wonder how we became a nation of 1.237 billion people.)

4. Girl should welcome their relatives. (Well, another bizarre thing. We are still trying to figure out what it means).

5. Girl should bring shit load of money along as bonus. (Demands were obviously disguised in words like we don’t want anything but you should give enough to feel good about. Just one question: Who exactly feels good about giving their hard-earned-money away to someone else? Now, someone should make a movie called Scumbag-Wanna-Be-Millionaire-By-Marrying).

So, basically this was an opening for son-bearing-reproductive-machine cum maid cum shortcut-to-truckloads-of-money. Phew! I am so glad she rejected the job. (Well, in case there are any takers, she doesn’t mind passing on the number.)

Since the time she narrated me the whole experience, I have been searching for those damn morals and values that we, as Indians, choke upon right from the day we are born. Where are those much-talked-about-values in this whole business of marriage? On careful analysis, you would realize that arrange marriages are anything but a mere business transaction. Yes, you read it correctly! For one, there is commodity of value involved – the groom. Two, money exchanges hand; money is showered incessantly by the bride’s family (sometimes with more than eight zeros). Hence, derived. Arrange marriages are serious business. And, there are no real ethics in business. Are there?

No one knows exactly what they are buying. The groom seller obviously is busy painting the best picture the buyer has seen. The groom is busy acting like a product not reacting to dowry or anything else (It only makes sense, since that is what stationary things do). So, mostly someone is always getting scammed in this business.

No wonder domestic violence is an epidemic in India. What more can marriages based on printed numbers bring in a relationship otherwise considered so pious by Indians? Isn’t it time to put our modern education and ancient values to use by mending the flawed institution of arrange marriages? For starters, these are few new traditions we can encourage and practice without corrupting our shiny-invisible-morals:

1. Both sides split wedding expense in half.

2. Make the day more about bride and groom, instead of making it about uncles and aunt and their expensive gifts that leave holes in the bride’s father’s pocket.

3. Limit your guest list. For instance, chuck your neighbor’s neighbors. Just because someone else is paying for food, doesn’t mean you should invite every single person you know.

4. ‘Just Married’ car doesn’t always have to be extorted from bride’s family. No real pride in that. Its time your son bought one for himself, himself!

5. Groom’s parent should remind themselves every day, at least once, that their son did not get into a good college and took up a good job for someone else or so that someone could reimburse the cost with interest in future. Repeat more than once if needed.

This is not a write-up about lighting a torch up against dowry or arrange marriages. It is just a reminder of how we fail our value system everyday along with wise and old members of our society. It just explores the idea that maybe it’s time for us to act upon those morals that have been fed profusely and marry not based on money or requirement for maid. Try love for a change, or maybe compatibility if nothing else.

P.S.: Beware of the big Indian wedding scam!