How Arranged Marriages Work by Neharika

Blog post by Neharika Rajagopalan

Arranged marriages. Scary for some, normal for some, and absolutely crazy for some others. In fact, arranged marriages in the Brahmin community belong to a different category itself! Where these types of marriages are concerned, the term “arranged” has a deeper meaning. “Arranged” here refers to subservience of the bride’s family (forever and after) to the groom’s family, while accepting that the latter will be the supreme overlord of all decision making with respect to the wedding, and also the couple’s life after that. Does decision making entail investing in the same ideas? Of course not.  The bride, her father, her mother, their fathers and mothers, and their fathers and mothers, and their fathers and mothers are indebted (financially, morally, physically) to the bridegroom’s family, for no particular reason whatsoever. Oh wait. There is a reason. Because the groom is a man. Because he is capable of reproducing. Because, by virtue of some miracle, he was born with the Y-Chromosome.

If you think this post sounds really old-fashioned in an era like this, you’re mistaken. If you think “Oh well, maybe this is something which happens in remote areas”, you’re seriously mistaken. If you think “how many educated people in urban areas will behave this way?”, please revise the theory of parallel lines from Class 8 Mathematics. “Parallel” means “occurring or existing at the same time”. Similarly, both broad-minded and absolutely irrational narrow-minded thoughts occur at the same time to the same person, who thinks “Oh, I want a well-educated, fair, beautiful, intelligent, independent working girl for my son”, who has also “not loved before, has traditional values, wears only pattu saree at home (with original golden zari, otherwise her parents are sodead), lights lamp every day at home, and takes my permission to talk to my son”.

In the middle of all this is a poor guy, who has been brought up as the well-oiled machine who can work with a lifetime guarantee and produce money until the end of his lifetime, the oil here being “We are your parents, so you’re indebted to us, our ancestors, our family, our house, our cat, our dog, and even the ants that run around our ancestral home”. This ill-fated person’s future is written by his parents the moment he enters this world, bawling at the top of his voice. “Ah. He has to study engineering, do MBA, earn Rs.2 lakh per month, and take care of us when we are old and waiting for Perumal to take us away”. This little soul is raised with a continuous rant of “I gave birth to you, I am funding you, I am taking care of you…so, once you grow up, you and the girl you marry give birth to a child of my choice, raise him/her (preferably him, since the family line will die if a girl is born) like I say, fund me, and take care of me”.

And, ladies and gentlemen, this is precisely why arranged marriages are a cause of major concern, especially in Brahmin families. For one, the entire wedding expenses have to be borne by the bride’s family, but have to occur according to the groom’s family’s wishes (for example, groom’s family will eat Saravana Bhavan sambhar with two onions per spoon, but will not eat onions served in dishes in the reception “Perumal nammala mannikka maataer!”). It doesn’t end there. The groom wants the girl to be independent, intelligent, loving, caring, and bold enough to take army officers by shame. The groom’s family wants the girl to be all of the above (so that their son is happy) and also, from the minute she enters their home, wear a bindi (because otherwise their son will die), wear a saree (because otherwise their relatives will die), wear toe rings (because otherwise the society itself will die), and wear a permanent smile on her face (I am surprised how the bride is not dead by this point).

This doesn’t mean that the couple doesn’t love each other. Of course they do. And, believe me, they want to be left alone for some years until they have healthy respect and understanding for each other and have the necessary resources to take care of someone else. And seriously, the guy doesn’t care if the girl runs the house her way…in shorts or in maxi gowns, with or without his help, with or without her mother’s help, or in any way. He just wants to love her and wants her to love him (and pamper him) and wants three meals a day. His needs are simple, but his parents complicate them. And extrapolate them to an extent that his wife not consulting them for running his family is akin to the girl imprisoning him for a lifetime so that he doesn’t belong to anyone else. Seriously, doesn’t this girl have anything else to do other than “trapping” the guy? Even if she had trapped him, and is torturing him, wouldn’t he be running to his parents for help? He isn’t. So he’s fine. He is not in an asylum. Frankly, he is a little relieved to have someone share his responsibilities and thinks it’s cool to have a life of his own and have someone by his side always.

The message from this post?

“Dear groom’s parents…please back off. Just because your son is a man, the girl married to him is not indebted to you. Neither is she the one responsible of taking care of you. Your son wearspattai or naamam when he comes to visit you, but doesn’t care tuppence about it at his own home. Your son is very chamathu at your home, but parties and drinks hard where he lives. Your son takes your permission to be with his wife when he is at your home, but can’t wait to be with her each minute of the day and even skips work deadlines to meet her. He loves her. She loves him. He likes her family and entertains them for her sake. She likes you and entertains you for his sake. He will take care of her family if need be. She will take care of you if need be. They don’t want a big wedding. They just want a silent promise of comfort to be with each other for a lifetime, and probably a small party later to announce to their friends and family that they’re together. Your son lifts bags for her. It’s okay. Your son waits in the sun for her. It’s okay. Your son thinks she is beautiful. It’s okay. Your son thinks she can do anything for her. It’s not a crime. She feels the same way, too. He tells her things he has never told you before. It’s fine. She is his companion, as he is hers. She is the one, coming from some corner of the universe, who has the magnanimity to accept him for who he is. He accepts her with all her faults, too. So, relax. Breathe. Share the wedding expenses. If you want something, pay for it yourself. If you want your son to have something, ask his wife first. It’s her home, too! Sure, your son likes having an elephant at home, but it might be a wee bit too taxing for her. Because your son won’t take care of the elephant. He will talk to it and greet it. But she will be the one taking care of it, because she will do it for him. And finally, focus on not being the elephant in his and his wife’s home – huge, out of place, taking up too much space, making deafening noises, and trampling everything, including them and their life. Please be like cute little teddy bears (in hibernation, and coming out only when needed. Your son and his wife are cute little teddy bears, too. They will come out if you need them. And they know when they need you or when you need them). And please remember, she has a family, too! (Also, don’t rub her on the wrong side. Much like the girl’s parents maintain a good rapport with her husband so that he takes care of her well, you have a responsibility to do so, too.)”

PS: Being an elephant is possible at close quarters, or even if the couple is in the US and the parents are in Mayavaram. Trampling can be literal as well as virtual!

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16 thoughts on “How Arranged Marriages Work by Neharika

  1. Hi There @Sidiyerblog , how many things must a women wear to signify her alliance with a guy (in the holy bond of matrimony) is my subsequent question to your brilliant answer to my queries. 😀

    I am not asking anybody to shun those traditions, but my ask really is why force them, let people decide for themselves what they want to follow and they do not want to(Based on their knowledge about these traditions and their power of acceptance). I am not disrespecting any individual’s interest , but simply speaking my mind out on some of the “guidelines of being a good wife” that are being imposed upon women.

    P.S : Women who speak their mind out are considered rebellious and of the nature of “bring disharmony in relations” . 😀 😀

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  2. I like the way you listed out the issues that one faces being on the girls side , infact i going through it in my process of groom hunting.There are lot of traditions that we follow post marriage like making sure we have a bindi on our forehead and lot of other things.The whole concept of wearing a bindi is to channelize the energy of the chakra on the forehead.So in my humble opinion married or not married,wearing a bindi is totally a choice that should be left to the girl.I am not quite sure on what is the deal with wearing shorts/Capri at home when men can wear them at home with no shame.I see in one of the comments where a person states about the significance of a toe ring , it is basically to balance the nerve that passes through the second toe also passes through the uterus and heart.If that is the case then why are widows asked to remove them dont they have the nerve still in their body irrespective of married or not ?

    There are somethings that are followed blindly i dont see a consistency behind following a lot of these traditions except that they are followed with the fear of almighty (who should never be feared,instead should be worshiped)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there!!! It was me who mentioned about the ‘toe-ring’ thingy :P. You are spot on regarding the significance of ‘metti’, so answering your subsequent question on why where they asked to remove it when they became widows.
      Okay to start with I hope you married men wore a toe ring too along with their better half (men on the big toe and women on the second toe).
      Apart from its effects on balancing the nerve (and whatever related significances), it also was an indicator of their relationship. A signal for other people that the man/woman is already married and shouldn’t be approached for courtship (or make any advancements).
      So what I deduce from this is, when a lady became a widow she was asked to remove the toe-ring so that if she chooses to may see other men (which I don’t think should be wrong) or vice versa (a man interested may approach the woman and ask her hand for marriage).
      Now commenting on your last sentence, you unable to find consistency in a particular act or tradition doesn’t make the traditions and procedures that has been passed down from our ancestors bootless. We need to broaden our domain knowledge and understand why things were done the way they were done. I’m sure you would find proper scientific justification for the above said acts and traditions in which you saw inconsistency. Let our lack of knowledge not be the reason for us to shun “a lot of these traditions” (as mentioned by you :P). And I also strongly believe as you said it should never be followed with the fear of almighty.

      PS: Completely in agreement with girls wearing what they are comfortable in (before and after marriage).

      Cheers,
      Sid (tambrahm from Mumbai)

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  3. Well written and this can be seen almost in every house with variations….
    Respecting and taking her as own daughter [even though they say “Enga athule ponne illa, unga ponna en ponnu mari parthupen”] is still some ages away!!!!

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  4. I am sorry Neharika — I can empathise with you — VV but I also feel that you are being a tad unfeeling. Please hear me out.

    I agree that parents should not become an overbearing presence in the life of son and daughter in law. Son or daughter — the newly married couple need to live their own lives. The young couple need their own space — even physically. I would be the first to advise them — please set up your own household, even if living in the same city. I completely agree that there should be no interference from any parent. I am a mother to two married children, a son and daughter, each living in different continents.My spouse and I are a part of their lives without becoming an overbearing presence. Yes, we do quietly gives some suggestions, but that’s about it.

    But some of your points — I cannot agree. I am upset.

    So the parents become the ‘elephant in the room’! You want them to remain teddy bears. Hmm.

    Son or daughter, today’s parents advise children to obtain a degree that will fetch them a good income. And considering the reservation status for Brahmins in Tamil Nadu — parents need to pay through the nose, during the process of educating a child. With the result that post- shaadi status of kids — parental savings are wiped out. Many parents start retirement with pinched purses.

    Anything wrong if the children are asked to help out a bit to whatever extent possible? An earning son or daughter needs to help out a non- earning parent — without too much prompting.

    You have obviously written from bitter experience. But do put yourself in the shoes of the spouse’s parent, occasionally, try and understand their point of view.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the comments. And for the people who think I’m putting down the tambrahm community, you’re mistaken. I have only written what I saw. Other communities might also be doing this. So, peace out.

    And I agree parents want to see their children well off. But every soul is born to achieve something in this earth. They must be allowed to do what they want. Even if they do that and the child troubles them for money, then it is wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You say you have written from what you saw. Well I guess you haven’t seen enough or are living in some medieval age.
      This is the first article on this blog, which I couldn’t (did not want to) read till the end.
      “Subservience of the bride’s family” – whoaaa….Okay this may be (just may be) still be persistent, but times are changing and I feel sorry for you wherein you haven’t been a part of a family where everybody is equal (bride’s side or the groom’s side).
      And please, you can’t generalize all tambrahm parents to be this way. Also, do you even know the significance of wearing a metti (toe ring), if you had you wouldn’t be mentioning that either.
      All said, I really appreciate your effort in writing this, but completely differ from your point of view.
      Sorry and peace.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. People in North India take loans to perform elaborate weddings. Don’t just babble stuff and say that it is only for tambrahms. Take a deep breath. I think you know that your husband loves you and understands and supports you. I think that is more than enough for you to lead a happy life. If there are problems, he will take your side. So be happy. I feel for you if your parents had to spent a lot on wedding. If that was not agreeable to you, why did you marry into this family in the first place??

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am a 30 year old tambrahm female and I don’t agree with most of the stuff here..Yes, I agree when I got married and moved to my husband’s home, my MIL had expectations of me waking up at 6 am and cooking and doing most of the household chores, but I have seen most of the in-laws have accepted us being dressed in whatever we are comfortable in (shorts and tank tops are exception). Most of my friends and myself have very understanding in-laws. I believe that if you have an understanding husband, you can find privacy in your home/room and enjoyment in vacation/movies/outing etc. Whatever stuff you have written can be found in most of the communities in India and not just tambrahms. Please don’t try to put down the tambrahm community.
    And by the way, in India, people want their kids to do Engineering/MBBS/MBA because they are the high-paying jobs and every parent wants to see their children well-off. I did my Engineering in India and MBA in US.moved to the US. I couldn’t find an MBA job, but could find an Engineering job. I am thankful that my parents made me an Engineer first.

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  8. You nailed it! *claps* being a guy’s parents doesn’t make them the rulers of the world. Times have changed, girls are equally/better qualified and have better career with which they can sustain themselves but still groom’s parents are treated like descendents from heaven and bride’s parents are second class citizens… About the bride side taking up entire cost of wedding, it is just very unfair. Hopefully things change soon!

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  9. TamBrahms have simply grown annoyingly arrogant. Haven’t seen people who are better assholes than TamBrahms are. Their stupidity is their downfall. Hopefully their descendants will have proper, functioning brains.

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    1. Let me ask, considering the hatred in your comment;
      Why did you even read the post.

      And let me answer that for you,
      Because you are practically that jobless.

      Get a life!

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  10. Ouch. Seems to be a “keep off our territory- we need space” blog. Lot of trampled feelings visible. Seems that the transition from one civilization to another has taken place, but not yet realized and accepted by the parents. When the man and woman are educated in modern sense of the term and are economically independent ( from parents), then they should have to courage to say that this is how we want to lead our life. If religious rituals and external symbols of our caste ((sandhyavandhanam, wearing vibhuti, kumkumam/bindi, matti ) are not desired to be observed, then it is better to state this upfront rather than pretend to believe in them.

    Our education should have taught us to have that honesty with people who matter to us. If physical and emotional space is needed, then nuclear family is a very viable option, which the couple should clarify quite early. I live in Mumbai and joint families are an exception. However, the difficulty in dealing with aged parents/parents-in law especially by employed couple having school going kids is a modern phenomenon.

    The other side of the coin is the exploitation of aged parents to look after the children by employed parents. I have heard many old couples bitterly complaining about having to look after grand children at an age when they are short of energy and enthusiasm. Many couples shift between India and abroad on “Baghbaan” fashion . My cousin used to sarcastically call it as IAS ( Indian Ayah Service).

    Another perhaps sensiitve aspect I want to touch upon is the disillusionment/non-observance of “nityanusthanam” ( daily observances) by our community and public statement thereof. I have not heard any similar explicit statements by individuals from other religion in our social or public interaction. For e.g. In Mumbai I see members of Jain Community- of all ages- observing their regular rituals on a daily basis. This involves going bare footed and bare chested to their temples and fasting on a rigors basis during certain festivals and so on.I have Jain colleagues and know this first hand.Similarly examples are Parsi & Sikh Community .

    Each individual has the right to approach God in his or her own way. But I believe that the system we have been taught and handed down over several thousand years have some value and needs to be seriously looked at before being discarded. It should not be by lapse.

    No offense intended.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Probably the next gen ppl won’t have this prob. We’re in a transition period, expecting the mindset of people to change. As you have mentioned the thinking is inherited from previous generations, if not in the near future this thinking is bound to change.

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  12. Wow…for that pack of cards! A must read for all those aspiring and also on the other side of the bridge.Parents,children all inclusive…kootum undu…..i ode about our mix of outlandish and conservative genes at work…( a modest genetist at work,post-retirement). We still have a tribe of no nonsense pattu kuttis and chamuthu payans,all bundled in a roller coaster ride,in the rocky roads to an avial palate!

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