A barely 18-year-old Mukul was ready to meet the boy’s family for the very first time. She was excited yet scared since it was the most significant day of her life. Fear and insecurities flooded her mind—what will they ask me? What if they don’t find me good enough for their son? What if they turn me down? Mukul entered the living room carrying a tray laden with delicacies. She stole a glance at the groom’s family to catch their initial reactions. Suddenly, a barrage of questions came hurtling at her: “Do you know how to cook? Did you make all of this? What are your hobbies? Can you sing?…” Trained by her parents, Mukul answered each question skilfully, and ever so gracefully. Two months later, she was married to the boy.
Back in the 1940s, ‘arranged marriage’ was common in India. For countless young people, it was the start of a new life with a complete stranger. The concept of arranged marriage has evolved ever since. In an age, when Indian society has opened up to the idea of two people falling in love and getting married, arranged marriage is still the preferred choice for many youngsters. In this feature, Soulveda explores how arranged marriage has evolved over the years, along with the cultural sensibilities and the general mindset around the subject.
Arranged marriage, then and now
According to a survey by Lok Foundation-Oxford University, about 93 percent of urban Indians opt for an arranged marriage and only three percent choose love marriage. The concept of arranged marriage has evolved over the years—from binding two strangers through marriage and expecting them to love each other eventually, to ‘arranging’ for the prospective bride and groom to meet first and then take it forward, if they both approve of each other.
Compatibility scores over a family’s social status
In the olden days, matchmakers preferred renowned and economically strong families, but today the bride and the groom’s companionship and compatibility matter more than the families’ social standing. Bangalore-based sociologist Malathi V Gopal says, “Earlier, you would get married into a family highly-rated in society—either for the family’s educational background, business and financial strength or because they were traditionally considered elite. These were important criteria then, but now it is changing to individual achievements. Slowly that change is coming about.”