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!