Thursday, September 20, 2007

East is east!

I met a South American lady recently - she was the Technology Head for a large bank, she had studied in the US, and she was taking one of my tours. During the tour, we saw a very young couple, they seemed recently married. The girl could not have been more than 16, the guy perhaps 18 or 20.

"She's very young", said my guest. "Do you think this was an arranged marriage?".

Probably", I said, giving her my stock answer.

"I don't know any official statistics, but I think over 90% of marriages are arranged."

"Does everyone marry this young?"

" No, the national average age is 19-20 for women."

"Nineteen? That's young as well!"

"Yes, but at the time the British left India, the average age of marriage was 14. We've come quite a way from there, especially if you look at the size of our population, and what it takes to change a whole nation's average in 50 years. It's nothing short of a revolution."

She looked at the young bride again. I could see her thinking, how does this girl feel about this? A stranger in her bed, chosen by her parents? What is this relationship really like?

And, seeing the couple again through my guest's eyes, I thought yes, how does this girl put up with this stranger in her bed?

My guest turned to me.

"Can I ask you something personal?"

I could see it coming.

"Did you have an arranged marriage?" she asked me.

"No", I said.

Her relief was palpable.

"I cannot understand this arranged marriage business! How do you put up with it!!", she said.

I could see that for her, being told who to marry was about as medieval as it gets.

I launched into an explanation of expectations and conditioning, and how marriage in India is not between individuals, you marry into a family, so the more similar your backgrounds and religion, the easier it is to fit in. We spoke of East versus West, Hollywood's romantic brainwashing, divorce rates, the caste system, the obsession with fair skin, matrimonials, the revolution, and so on. She was a highly intelligent lady, a pleasure to talk to.

At the end of the conversation, she had heard it all, and it didn't change her mind a bit. The bottomline was - sometimes East is East and West is West, and there ain't no middle ground!

1 comment:

chani said...

I used to feel the same can one decide to spend the entire life with someone who's a complete stranger!!!
Now here i am married since last three yrs and that too an "arranged one"
And after these three yrs i do not see any difference between my marriage and my friends' who had a love marriage.
I feel that it does not matter whether you have a love marriage or an arranged one. Any ways you need to work upon the man you are marrying and you just need a good eye to identify the best raw material.