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'Arranged marriage seemed like a box of lies waiting to explode'

Last updated on: November 06, 2013 21:07 IST

'Arranged marriage seemed like a box of lies waiting to explode'

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Divya Nair

Three years ago, Divya Nair, then 24, wasn't convinced that getting married to a stranger was a good idea.

Is the known devil better than an unknown one? Is marriage an option or an alternative?

When does one actually know when to take the plunge?

In the first of a series, Divya discusses the events that led her to the most important decision of her life – marriage.

The confrontation

I was 24 when my parents first discussed the idea of marriage with me.

It was Mom who sat me down and told me: "We have always given the best to you. We let you choose the career you want and let you enjoy your life. You are 24 and have a fairly decent job now. We think this is just the right time for you to consider marriage."

I patiently waited for her to speak her heart out, while I looked away, listening to every word of hers and trying to make some sense of it.

For some reason, I could not look into her eyes. The twenty-minute conversation was loaded with parental emotions and concerns of my Dad's retirement and how it was important, particularly for girls, to get married at the right age.

Although most of my mother's arguments were valid, I wasn't convinced. The thought of marrying and spending the rest of my life with a complete stranger did not appeal to me.

I did not express my disapproval for fear that I might hurt her feelings.

Instead, I blogged about it – about the know-it-all astrologer, the 4x6 photograph that I'd require to click in uncomfortable expressions, the awkward first tea and chips meeting with the groom-to-be -- it all looked funny and unreasonable.

I tried talking to some of my senior cousins, but they told me that "marriage, love or arranged, is never going to be pleasant, but we simply can't afford to stay single for the rest of our lives."

I asked them why marriage was so important. My sister explained: 'You are 24 now and may still have friends with whom you can go out and spend an evening. Your parents are healthy enough to take care of you. So life is beautiful and complete for you.

"But what will you do when your friends have kids and a family of their own?

"What happens when your parents get old? Who will you talk to or turn to for support? How will you spend the rest of your life depending on your friends and parents? Don't you want a family of your own?"

Still confused, I thought of discussing the prospects with my already-married friends, thinking they'd give me a better view.

I was wrong. Their experiences only scared me further.

Marriage or Reality TV?

In most cases, my future in-laws would be more or less like this:

Eighty per cent of mothers-in-law were as cunning as Bollywood's Bindu.

It was she who made the rules in the house and no matter how well you cooked or cared for her, satisfying her would be a challenging task because apparently mothers-in-law will never love you the same as your own mother.

The husband, in seven out of 10 cases, would cling to his mother for almost every trivial decision of his life – in some cases, even the colour of underwear he'd wear to work was decided by his mother. One of them had ruled that whether it was innerwear or saree, black was inauspicious for the family.

After the first wedding anniversary or maybe after a kid was born, words like support, companionship and friendship were more or less confined to the four walls of the couple's bedroom.

As if the above two situations weren't enough to make a married life worse, in two out of five cases, there was a pampered sister-in-law who I was told would spend a larger part of her life complaining and finding fault with the new bride.

Sometimes the sisters-in-law turned out to be friends, but that was a distant possibility, I was warned.

Among all this, there was a non-participative father-in-law who was a mute spectator to all the happenings in the house, rather like our dear prime minister, Manmohan Singh.

After having digested all the above information, I was told to be hopeful about getting married and risk the tiny opportunity of being landed with less dramatic in-laws.

Within months, all those hopes came crashing down. The 30-something 'decent looking', Dubai-settled prospective groom, who came to see me at my aunt's place, turned down the proposal because I was a wee bit short for him.

The guy in question was a little over six feet and I, a humble 5 ft 3 inches.


Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/ Rediff.com

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Suicide or Murder? You decide!

I wasn't surprised because I was warned by some of my good friends that I should be prepared to face rejections, silly excuses and embarrassing background checks.

(A former friend's fiance had once called me to know the exact details of the affairs his future wife has had in the past and whether or not she'd had an abortion from her relationship with her ex-lover.)

Amidst all this disappointment, I felt a tiny ray of hope – that God probably had something better in store for me than these jokers I had met or heard of, who valued physical attributes, past experiences, annual salary and other personal details more than anything else.

Some more of such random matrimonial offers later, I realised that I was not cut out for an arranged marriage.

I was tired of explaining and selling myself as a prospective bride to people I had never met before.

Arranged marriage suddenly seemed like a box of lies waiting to explode, although the fact remains that many had reluctantly made peace with it.

I realised that marriage wasn't a deal that you made considering each other's star signs, religion or caste.

To me, it was a promise that you'd accepted each other with the good, bad and ugly side and come what may, you'd be there for the other, helping through thick and thin.

This I realised towards the second half of 2010, only after I met a special someone, who of course wasn't arranged by my parents or relatives.

Finding that 'special someone'

I met my special someone through Facebook.

He was from the same junior college as mine – but we'd never been friends or spoken to each other.

When he sent me a friend request on Facebook, he was sitting miles away from India in his university campus in Texas.

As days passed, we spoke to each other quite frequently. We graduated from chat messengers to phone conversations and Skype.

During those conversations, we realised that we had a lot of things in common, just as we differed on some things. As the months passed, we got along pretty well.

We could talk to each other as friends on almost every topic under the sun. We understood each other and that's what mattered.

Despite his imperfections, he seemed just perfect for me.

It did not matter whether he spoke my language or whether our respective time and dates of birth were perfect for each other.

Between us we decided we will fight the rahus, ketus and shanis when we get there.

That's how we fell in love, and I must confess that for the first time I wasn't scared of marriage at all.

In January 2011, when he returned to India, we shared the news with our respective parents, following which we received a lot of flak.

The reason for their disapproval was the difference in our caste -- I belong to Kerala and he is from Mangalore.

Between 2011 and 2012, things weren't smooth for either of us. But gradually as our families got to know each other, they relented.

Like any couple in a long distance relationship, we've had our fair share of fights and arguments as well, but we survived.

Today, as we are getting ready to take our relationship to the next level -- yes, we are getting married on January 24, 2014 -- there's a lot of excitement, contentment, happiness and also an unknown fear.

Will everything go as per the plan? Will our lives finally fall in place? Only time will tell!

That reminds me that there are less than three months left for my big day and there is so much I have to do. From finalising the venue to preparing the guest list, designing invitations... my hands are full.

But since this is going to be the journey of a lifetime, I'm not complaining.

In fact, I have decided to pen down every tiny part of the preparation and share it with you.

So, don't forget to watch this space for updates of my wedding preparations.

Meanwhile, if you have any advice for me and brides-to-be like me, you are free to share them here in the messageboard below. I'd love to hear from you.

Until my next post, wish me luck friends!


Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/ Rediff.com

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