Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Love And All That Jazz

I was checking my email when I saw this advertisement for a matrimonial services website:

Is it just me, or does anyone else see the irony of an arranged marriage advertisement that promises love?

Perhaps there is a blinding moment of romantic love somewhere during the lengthy process of arranging a marriage? Does love come suddenly tiptoeing in, as families check whether the horoscopes match, whether the bride is fair enough, and the groom comfortably wealthy?

Or maybe love comes later. On the wedding night, perhaps? Maybe there is a very Indian sort of love then; a heady cocktail of flower-strewn beds and dutiful sex, of virginal fumbling and earnest baby-making?

Or does it come still later, as the husband and wife settle into familiar traditions and festivals, and find their place in the larger family? Perhaps when he comes home from work bringing flowers for her hair, their relationship morphs into a real tenderness? Is it then that love develops?

If you ask me, I think the truth is that a very different sort of love develops in Indian marriages - and it is not between the husband and the wife. Parenthood - and the love of children - is the Big Love in an Indian marriage. It seems to me that when a child comes along, many couples put romantic love on the back-burner as they find a fiercer, deeper maternal or paternal love that all but consumes them. The legendary Indian attachment to children burns brighter than anything else, and provides life-long sustenance to the marriage, replacing notions of romantic and sexual love.

Maybe this sort of marriage is really what humans need - a stable, no-nonsense system that creates companionable partnerships, so that we can get on with the real business of making and raising children, populating the gene pool with little copies of ourselves.

Maybe the ancients got it right a long time ago. Why fret and fume over male-female relationships, when really, it’s all about babies?

I am too much a product of Western thinking to be happy with a partnership geared towards childrearing. But Darwin would have approved, don't you think?


Anonymous said...

What a great post. I am an indian living in US and at every visit to the homeland I get to hear comments like our culture teaches keeping kids with your warm chest no matter what. so when the elders see me having a life outside of my motherhood, I am considered very Umrican, someone who has ost respect for everything and only cares about herself. Oh well!!

Gowri Mohanakrishnan said...

Deepa, Bravo! You said it all!

Suchitra said...

Very well said ! This is true for a vast majority of Indians !

Kat said...

Can see that you've mowed with a machine gun, the love factor in arranged marriage.

but but but I saw one love episode called Titanic.... the portrayed Heroine gets bugged-with-love at first sight, some fumbling inside cars.... later pushes the poor chap mercilessly into the chilly Atlantic ocean, blows the whistle, gets saved, gives interview to tv channels and finally flings into the ocean that diamond she whacked from her fiancee, sweetly whispering... "my dear dead dumb Jack... keep this for company.."

Arranged marriages are better? :-)

kalyani said...

Deepa, true thoughts and you said it all. So well.
Maybe it is better to accept what you get and settle in comfortably instead of yearning for more and upsetting the apple cart. Find your satisfactions elsewhere- No I dont mean flings but in - as you say- kids and career and friends and other things.

Swarna said...

Deepa, so very well said!
Yes, Darwin would have approved this method of perpetuation of species, rather than the 'incidents and accidents' from the tie-today, untie-tomorrow kind?

Kat said...

Yes, tipping apple carts and sinking ships do not constitute a happy ending... but I think the blog is a clarion call to the youngsters to put on their thinking caps and decide between Deepa's theory vs Darwin's theory..!!

Anonymous said...

Maybe the ancients got it right a long time ago. Why fret and fume over male-female relationships, when really, it’s all about babies?

** You are making a sweeping set of statements. Perhaps you have not read the works of Kalidasa ( particularly Meghasandesha) and Bana. I suggest that you do so. While the Kings and the rich resorted to arranged marriages for obvious reasons, this was not the case for all others.

I am too much a product of Western thinking to be happy with a partnership geared towards childrearing.
** I am not sure what do you mean by 'Western thinking'. Here too the Kings and the rich tended to arrange marriages and not the case for others for a long time. Again, after the Protestant Reformation, Catholics tended to arrange marriage between Catholic families in England where Protestants were (are) in majority. Still in large parts of the Catholic belt in Europe- France, Spain , Portugal and Italy a form of arranged marriage exists in cerain sections of the communities. Jewish faith tend to have arranged marriage still. One should only look at Greek families in Greece to understand how arranged marriages still have an important place there.

But Darwin would have approved, don't you think?

** Not sure why you bring in Darwin here. Darwin is a complex subject.

I would have appreciated if you had done a bit more research work.

Deepa said...

Dear mysorean -

Thank you for your comments. I think I'll stick to my original belief that in India "it's all about babies". Procreation for the continuation of the all-important "vamsha" or family line is integral to Indian thinking. I have read Kalidasa's works in entirety, and even his love stories also state how important it is to have offspring. For example, read the passage when Dushyanta finally sees his son playing with a lion club (without knowing it is his son by Sakuntala). His hairs stand on end and he is moved.

In ancient India, there were multiple forms of marriage - I am sure you have read about all seven or eight types - but I continue to believe that the majority of Indian marriages are arranged by parents (or on the internet these days) in a practical way bearing in mind a lot of things. Other forms of marriage - Bana and Vidyadhara and Kalidasa notwithstanding - are only poetic exceptions to the general rule.

The sentence "I am too much a product of Western thinking to be happy with a marriage geared towards childbearing" refers to modern Western thinking, and not to medieval times. You've gone off the deep end on that one.

And as for the Darwinian reference - in the natural world, it seems to me as if it is ALL about survival of ones own genes, by passing it to the next generation. Darwin's theory of sexual selection suggests that peahens automatically mate with the strongest/best looking peacock so that those characteristics can be passed on to their offspring. If I have misunderstood Darwin, please correct me.

- Deepa

Anonymous said...

I am not sure whether you have read Kalidasa's work in Sankrit. For example, I suggest reading Magasandesha in Sanskrit or Bana's Kadambari. What you say about Abhignana Shakunatala again applies for Kings, which was my argument anyway. What about commoners? Did you ever serious research about when arranged marriages became an accepted practice instead of saying from 'ancient times'? For example, brahmins were not vegetarians in Vedic times and just when did this change? I was saying India was ahead in precepts and practices of love not necessarily in the arranged marriage setting. West evolved much later than India.

You completely ignored my argument about arranged marriages still in vogue in certain Catholic communities in the West even today. Religion is a strong player here. Similarly in Jewish communities in the West. In the Indian context, quite a few parents of daughters born in the West, particularly in America, have sought grooms from the same religion/caste in India through arranged marriage setting. Again the driver is religion or caste. I have seen tens of male south Indian brahmin engineering graduates of certain university in Pilani quickly snapped up by NRI parents for their American-born daughters!! So much about ‘Western thinking’!!! Childbearing is a big issue which need separate discussion. A couple who marry through arranged setting can postpone childbearing and understand and love each other first.

When you say Western thinking what do you mean by that? It is a set of very loaded terms. Western thinking began with Aristotle and Plato. Indians easily confuse the modern relationship between a man and a woman that takes place without the shackles of arranged marriage in the West as part of 'Western thinking'. I am saying such practices were there for a long time in India. Societal structures in India underwent upheaval during and after muslim invasion of India.

What you about Darwin is only partly true. Plenty of space is needed to quantify his postulates.