When I think about marriage, the first thing that comes to my mind is the fear of being body-shamed. The procedure of conventional arranged marriages in our society has legalised this. It feels like you just can’t reach a perfect match until you body shame 10-15 people. This stereotypical behaviour is mandatory, without which matchmaking seems to not happen!
I have often heard aunties saying when they go to see a girl, “She is too short/too fat/too thin, her nose is not straight, her chin is not in alignment, her forehead isn’t broad enough, she is not curvy, her complexion is not as fair, she wears glasses, she has a gap in her teeth, etc“. All this criticism doesn’t end with body shaming, sometimes they have other issues as well, “She is too educated will not help in the household chores, She is working and independent will not respect her in-laws, her eyes lack modesty,” so on so forth, and this false finding continues.
In addition to that, we have matrimony sites that openly promote body shaming and conventional ideas of beauty. Hardly will you be able to find a profile that doesn’t mention ‘fair’ complexion as a preference.
In India as soon as a girl is born her parents start saving money for her marriage, and instead of thinking about her education, they think about the dowry instead. Dowry, as we know, isn’t legal, not according to the country’s laws nor the religious ones. But wait, we, the citizens of India, don’t follow the laws. We are here to break them.
As soon as you turn 20, people start talking about marriage, at a time when you are already dealing with your career and job crisis. At a crucial time when you are analysing your goals, ambitions, dreams, the ghost of marriage comes into the picture and starts haunting you day and night.
They set a ‘deadline’ for you after which you supposedly won’t be able to find a good match. Your mother makes a list of certain things that you are eligible to do only after marriage. This is the time when the pressure of financial independence falls on the shoulder of a man who is told to find a job or you won’t get a wife. For women, it is the pressure of learning how to cook. You are repeatedly told that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
The whole idea of an arranged marriage is like a nightmare to me, where you get commodified. People come to your house to have fancy dinners, scanning you head-to-toe with their biased lenses, and then rejecting or selecting you on the basis of their own definition of beautiful.
It sounds strange but is true that even in the 21st century there exist people who subscribe to this rigid mindset, who believe that girl and the boy shouldn’t see or meet each other before the marriage. Some of them get to see the picture of their future spouse, and some don’t even get to see that. This might have been a thing in our parents’ time, but today, it seems stranger than fiction, extremely absurd, and to me, it is horrifying and unimaginable.
Another thing that I would like to mention here is that I never understand why people have to invest so much in weddings. Why are marriages in India so overhyped? Why it can’t just be a simple affair, with only important rituals and ceremonies required? Why are people ready to go bankrupt but not give up on this trend of ‘big fat Indian weddings’? Why do you have to impress the relatives, who are anyways going to find the faults in your arrangements? If you really have to spend then why not spend it for someone’s benefit and for a social cause?
Why can’t people be more flexible and stop burdening themselves mentally as well as financially in the name of marriage?
Is there an escape from this whole drama that goes on in our 20s? Can we just move ahead of these conventions? Connecting to your roots and traditions and being stubborn about them are two different things. When the world is evolving why can’t our mindsets too? Just calling yourself modern and progressive isn’t enough, and your actions should speak the same.