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Lessons from an arranged marriage

Lessons from an arranged marriage
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First Published: Fri, Oct 31 2008. 11 09 PM IST

Classified: Why arranged is still in. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
Classified: Why arranged is still in. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
Updated: Fri, Oct 31 2008. 11 09 PM IST
Last weekend, I was ploughing my way through bad news and more bad news in the newspapers when the husband, who never begins his Sundays with financial news, started reading something aloud.
“Well settled match for daughter 5’-9” Aug 78 born, extremely B’ful convent educated M.A. English, PG Mass Communications, Wrkg as Editor National TV Channel. Homely, believes in old traditional values. Dr. parents high status fmly.”
Classified: Why arranged is still in. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
Now, I gave up trying to understand India through a study of its matrimonial advertisements in the 1980s, but I couldn’t get this one out of my head. I think it was the designation that did it. Why would a woman who was an editor of a national television channel, and whose new India job allowed her to interact with the world, want her parents to find her a stranger she could spend the rest of her life with?
Or was she one of those video editors who worked long hours in a windowless room staring at a screen, interacting only with machines, making sense of raw footage and packaging it for viewers like us?
The matrimonial was followed by a phone number and Gmail address, so the next day I gathered courage and called. Her mum answered.
So here’s their story, or at least the little her sweet mother told me before she started sounding exasperated and I hurriedly hung up.
Both this girl’s (let’s call her Ms Ed) parents are doctors; she comes from a traditional Agarwal family where the woman, irrespective of whether she’s a doctor or not, handles the kitchen and does the cooking. Until two years ago, Ms Ed wasn’t ready to get married, but then she changed her mind. Her mother never met her father before they got married, and they’ve stayed together for 30 years. Mum says yes, Ms Ed meets a lot of people in her line of work but she has never indulged in an affair (and if you see the date of birth in the matrimonial, this year marked the end of the carefree 20s for Ms Ed). Mum said arranged marriages work better because there are fewer “disparities of customs, cultures and economic status”. “Disparities lead to quarrels,” she says.
Isn’t that what Raj Thackeray and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad believe too? These days everyone wants to be surrounded by people like themselves. Hindus with Hindus, Muslims with Muslims and, of course, Maharashtrians only with Maharashtrians. So, why pass judgement on an Agarwal girl looking for an Agarwal boy?
Besides, if you believe Reva Seth, author of this year’s First Comes Marriage, arranged marriages can teach women lots about how to find — and hang on to — Mr Right. Seth interviewed 300 women in arranged marriages over a period of five years and says that arranged marriages offer “lessons and guidelines that are increasingly relevant to the modern dating scene”. Some secrets Seth uncovered in her book:
Your man doesn’t have to be your best friend. (That’s why you’ve had a best girlfriend all along, right?)
It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t dance (common interests are less important than shared values).
Sexual chemistry isn’t always organic (attraction can be created — if you know how to unlock your passion).
I disagree with Seth on two of the three points, but then again, I also believe that in this country you can be different and live together.
PS: I’m looking to surround myself with people who agree.
Write to lounge@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Oct 31 2008. 11 09 PM IST