This article originally appeared on VICE India.
The idea that your parents get to pick the person you’re going to spend the rest of your numbered days with seems almost straight out of the pages of some Victorian-era novel and shoved down one’s throat in today’s day and age. Yet, arranged marriages remain one of the most intrinsically Indian concepts, fuelled by the classic “log kya kahenge?” (what will people say?). In India, many people treat marriage itself like it is a society-inflicted ticking time bomb set on anyone in their 20s as if staying unmarried is explosive and needs a bomb squad aka matchmaking relatives to come in and defuse the situation.
Statistics say that the global divorce rate is much lower for marriages in India, which many attribute to an arranged marriage, while others point out this could very well be a result of our society favouring sanskar (values) over self or a lack of agency for people to oppose their marriage. Meanwhile, a UN report found that the whole social compulsion of marriage has now evolved into semi-arranged marriages, where your parents pick someone they consider suitable but it’s up to you whether you want to swipe right on marriage after spending an adequate amount of time with the candidate.
But it seems that while it may have been totally cool for couples to find their happily ever after probably even a decade ago, an arranged marriage doesn’t quite ring right for a new generation that exudes individuality and would rather be goal-diggers than go hunting for a significant other. A recent survey of Indian Gen Z folks also revealed that most have little patience for the sanctity of marriage, with 63 percent of them choosing live-in relationships where both partners contribute equally, before jumping into marriage. In this new playing ground, what does India’s Gen Z, the newest players in the sacred game of saath janam (seven lives), really think about arranged marriage? We asked around.
Aashna, 22, student
VICE: Hey Aashna! What are your thoughts on arranged marriages?
Aashna: I personally feel we can do without arranged marriages. It's a throwback to when marriage was basically a business. And while the onus doesn’t always fall on women, families often use them to increase their status or wealth through marriage. It’s a casteist, patriarchal and archaic institution at this point and as a more socially conscious generation, we should be aware of this.
Do you feel that this idea of using arranged marriage as an excuse to increase your social standing still persists or have we risen above it?
Still persists for sure. The underlying thing with arranged marriages is that people will always look for families from the same or higher caste and class to move up the social ladder, and I don’t think that’s changed much.
However, I see a lot of young people still gravitating to the concept of arranged marriage and I feel this comes from having too many options, but not always having the right ones. We’re spoilt for choice so people look at it as parent-sanctioned dating. Also, we have so much else on our mind that sometimes it’s easier to outsource the responsibility of marriage to people we trust, like our parents.
Suhani, 21, writer
VICE: Hello Suhani. What do you really think about arranged marriages?
Suhani: I think people get into an arranged marriage for two reasons. Mainly it’s because the parents arranged it and they can't say no to them, or it’s people who want a partner without putting in much effort. At times, it’s a rebound when a long relationship doesn’t work and they don’t know what to do with themselves but I honestly think the concept is stupid because how can you promise to spend the rest of your life with someone you don’t know?
What about arranged marriages are you against?
What if things get really bad later on or you aren’t compatible or your interests don’t match and other stuff like that? Maybe it worked in earlier times, but that’s because it was the norm in India. Western countries didn’t have this. It also happened because a lot of people in India don’t feel they can stand up to their parents and that it would be disrespectful to their elders if they did so. But that’s not the norm anymore and people are much more aware of what they want. We’ve still got a long way to go, but I think most of us realise that sharing a bed with someone you barely know is too much.
Nihal, 23, marketing consultant
VICE: What’s up, Nihal? What is your perspective on arranged marriages?
Nihal: I’ve noticed that people in arranged marriages tend to stay together for longer. Maybe it’s because when you're in an arranged marriage, the first few years are spent in understanding the person. Your love is something that progresses over time. We’re a generation that gets so easily saturated and get bored of things over time, and arranged marriages have a sense of mystery and chase, that love marriages usually have in the relationship before they actually tie the knot, that keeps things exciting. Maybe that’s why they call it a honeymoon phase. Anyway, I think love marriages overcome that phase way faster, but a lot of it comes from your routine and lifestyle. Like, if your day is just about waking up, doing housework or your corporate job, runnings errands and going to bed, the romance goes away and boredom starts to strike.
So would you personally go for an arranged marriage?
Nowadays, so many people my age don't even want to get married and on average, the age when they get married has increased a lot. It's hard for me to quantify it, because I've seen both around me: cases that are both beautiful and others where the married couple doesn’t even talk to each other anymore. On a larger note, I find the whole term "arranged" used wrongly. People use it as you're getting married to someone you don't even know based purely on your parents’ choice. And while that might have been the case earlier, it's not so much anymore. Arranged is pretty much love. It's like using a dating site. You find someone who fits your personality, who is compatible and then you actually meet and take it from there. In both, there is love. No marriage is possible without love.
Shivani, 22, analyst
VICE: Hey there, Shivani. What are your views on the concept of your parents picking who you marry?
Shivani: I think that arranged marriages in today’s world are redundant because people my age know exactly what we want and we’re willing to wait to find that without settling for less. We’re willing to try and experiment with different kinds of people and explore our options before we make a choice. So I don’t think an arranged marriage will work because we need time to get to know that person and know whether we can have fun with them or just get along with them, which comes through dating someone for a long time.
So you don’t think that an arranged marriage can work today?
It entirely depends from person to person. If two people who get married in such a setting end up gelling well and like each other as people, then maybe it could work. But for me personally, it’s too big a risk and not a gamble I’m willing to get into.
Aman, 20, student
VICE: How’s it going, Aman? What do you think about arranged marriages?
Aman: The common notion about arranged marriages is that it’s got to do with religion and the pressures put onto individuals by the family. This is a big reason why there are many negatives attached to the concept of arranged marriages, but I don’t think that’s totally true today. Our generation hates feeling restricted and the fact that some people are pressured into getting married at a certain age does not necessarily mean that they are ready to get married. On the other hand, it’s not simple for individuals to find a partner and with all the religious and cultural factors prevalent in our society, it’s close to impossible to find a partner for yourself without there being any restrictions put onto your relationship with that person. Arranged marriages get completely rid of these implications because it’s the choice two families have made.
So you’re okay with the concept of arranged marriages?
A lot of parents of those from our generation have had arranged marriages so I think in India, it’s an extremely normal concept that is not stigmatised. Whereas with our generation, I feel as though there would be a lot more eyes on the couple choosing an arranged marriage because of everything attached to the concept. My view may be based on a very closed-community kind of environment but this is just what I think. I’m quite sure that arranged marriages would work for the people of our generation as well, but I also feel that it will not be as prevalent considering our beliefs are getting increasingly influenced by the west.
Kunal, 22, financial analyst
VICE: Hey Kunal. What’s your say on having an arranged marriage?
Kunal: I think arranged marriages are somewhat misunderstood and demonised in some way. The crux of arranged marriage is stability till the sunset years. Love marriage, on the other hand, is promising the person I’ve known for a while, and hopefully a long while, that I’ll spend the rest of my life with her. It’s purely emotional. But through the years people change and she might not be the same person I married, right? So there is that. On the other hand, from what I’ve seen, arranged marriages always seem to work.
Which one would you personally prefer?
Personally, I’ll prefer to marry the girl I love over the girl my family knows from some random relation because I’ll risk a life of stability for a few moments of intensity. But that’s just me.
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