Arranged marriages where parents choose the bride and groom are still very common in India. Often the girl and boy hardly know each other, or may have never met, before the wedding ceremony.
In India when a marriage is not ‘arranged’ except by Cupid’s arrow, it is called a ‘love marriage ‘. My wife and I had a love marriage. When our daughter was very young she must have learned about arranged marriages from someone or at school because one day she said to us, assuming that we had had an arranged marriage :
“When I grow up, I am going to marry whoever I like unlike you.” We told her that we had chosen each other.
I am not qualified to discuss the relative merits of love and arranged marriages but both of them can be quite successful. To westerners, arranged marriages might seem strange. The reverse is true for many Indians, for whom the idea of love marriages often seem alien.
Once, I was talking to some young men in a bookshop in Bangalore. When I told them that my wife is Indian, one of them asked me if we had had a love marriage. I said we did have one. They asked me how I felt about love marriage. I told them that I can recommend it.
My in-laws, both Indians, married in India in the late 1940s. In those days, the majority of marriages were arranged. My in-laws were very unusual for that era because they had a love marriage. My father in law and his bride came from different communities. At first, the marriage could not occur because the bride’s family did not want their daughter to marry out of her community. After some time, they softened their views and a very successful married life began.
My wife and I come from different continents, but no objection to us marrying came from any quarter.
Recently, we were chatting with an elderly Indian gentleman, whose story illustrates how little say the participants in an arranged marriage might have. He told us that he had married in the late 1940s. He said that he did not meet his bride until the day he got married. He was working away from his home town when he received a telegram from his mother. It contained the words:
“SEEN GIRL BRING RING”