OPINION

Love And All That Jazz

June 25, 2008
Deepa Krishnan

I was checking my email when I saw this advertisement for a matrimonial services website.



Is it just me, or does anyone else see the irony of an arranged marriage advertisement that promises love?

Perhaps there is a blinding moment of romantic love somewhere during the lengthy process of arranging a marriage? Does love come suddenly tiptoeing in, as families check whether the horoscopes match, whether the bride is fair enough, and the groom wealthy enough?

Or maybe love comes later. On the wedding night, perhaps? Maybe there is a very Indian sort of love then; a heady cocktail of flower-strewn beds and dutiful sex, of virginal fumbling and earnest baby-making?

Or does it come still later, as the husband and wife settle into familiar traditions and festivals, and find their place in the larger family? Perhaps when he comes home from work bringing flowers for her hair, their relationship morphs into a real tenderness? Is it then that love develops?

If you ask me, I think the truth is that a very different sort of love develops in Indian marriages - and it is the arrival of a baby that brings it on. It seems to me that many couples put romantic love on the back-burner as they find a fiercer, deeper parental love that all but consumes them. The legendary Indian attachment to children burns brighter than anything else, and provides life-long sustenance to the marriage, replacing notions of romantic and sexual love.

Maybe this sort of marriage is really what humans need - a stable, no-nonsense system that creates companionable partnerships, so that we can get on with the real business of making and raising children, and populating the gene pool with little copies of ourselves.

Maybe the ancients got it right a long time ago. Why fret and fume over male-female relationships, when really, it’s all about babies? I am too much a product of Western thinking to be happy with a partnership geared towards childrearing. But Darwin would have approved, I think!

Deepa Krishnan has a consulting practice in banking technology. She owns Mumbai Magic and Delhi Magic, companies that offer insightful, off-beat city tours.
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#1
RK
URL
June 25, 2008
12:49 PM

Depending on what stage in life you are in, you'd gain perspective of what love is, at which point this whole blog would seem meaningless.

Hope you get it :-)

#2
Deepa Krishnan
URL
June 25, 2008
12:55 PM

RK, you are too profound for me.

#3
SK
June 25, 2008
02:54 PM

I think the truth is that a very different sort of love develops in Indian marriages - and it is the arrival of a baby that brings it on.

fluff.

Any cold data (even anecdotes will do) to back your conjecture?

#4
Deepa Krishnan
URL
June 25, 2008
03:17 PM

It is just that, SK, conjecture.

#5
temporal
URL
June 25, 2008
03:26 PM

deepa:

If you ask me, I think the truth is that a very different sort of love develops in Indian marriages - and it is the arrival of a baby that brings it on. It seems to me that many couples put romantic love on the back-burner ....

first: i find it impossible to pin it down in words...whatever the word limit...

one can see it in lover's eyes, gestures

one can sense it in one's own heartbeat and elated sense of touch

one can feel it in the air

one can transmit it acorss continents

but

this love am attempting to portray is NOT dependent on the arrival of children...rather it is independent of offspirings

(i know you did not ask me)

;)



#6
Deepa Krishnan
URL
June 26, 2008
12:46 AM

temporal - this article is about babies and Darwin. It is based on my observations of many arranged marriages. I'm not saying there is no love in Indian arranged marriages, but it is a small percentage of Indian women, in my view, who are "in love" with their husbands, whereas nearly all women experience a fierce, strong, constant motherly love throughout their lives.

#7
KALYAN
June 26, 2008
08:55 AM

Hi Deepa,

You have indeed hit the nail on the head. I have been married for the last 13 years, and I find your statement for the most part to be true. The joy of a new arrival completely overwhelms Indian parents, and consumes them inside out. But there is a joy in this, and I really enjoy that. I also concur with your last statement that all women experience strong constant motherly love. It is not for nothing that our ancient saints coined adages like "Matru devo Bhavo,...", "Matha, Pitha,...". Mother is central to the Indic civilization, and is no small secret that the Indic represents the only existing civilization that worships "Shakthi" or the "Mother Goddess". You may even be surprised to know that GLORIA STEINHEM( Founder of Feminist Movement in the West) spent a number of years in India before embarking upon her famous journey towards feminism.

KALYAN

#8
Ritu
URL
June 26, 2008
11:01 AM

Honestly Deepa, if you ask me, I don't think it is as cut and dry. Whichever way you enter matrimony, arranged or love, the chances are the same 50-50. Even people who enter matrimony through an arranged set-up end up having very fruitful marriages with a lot of affection and love and conversly things don't work for love marriages as frequently. It is presumptious to assume romantic love cannot develop in an arranged set-up.

Parenthood is a far more natural(being biological) a bond. It is natural it would be stronger. Nature ordained it that way. There is not much rumination to be done there.

As far as being a product of western thinking, having lived here in the West for a couple of years, and approaching this whole issue from the other end, I can assure you it is as confusing for people on this end :)

Eventually, I now think our traditional systems had some merit :)


#9
suresh naig
June 26, 2008
11:32 AM

Deepa, I was reminded of a joke of my own creation.

A middle aged person approaches a young man in an Air-port and asks him hesistantly, 'Excuse me young man, by any chance are you the son of Mr.Nambiar?
The young man replies, 'Yes, I am. But I am not sure whether it was by any chance.

That's about the arrival of children in India, seldom planned.

#10
Deepa Krishnan
URL
June 26, 2008
11:58 AM

Ritu - I found it very strange, and I still do, that the ad talks about "love" in an arranged marriage. Anyone who has experienced love will agree that the heady flush it generates, the highs and the lows, the crazy hormonal reactions, and the total loss of control are nothing remotely like what a bride or groom experiences in an arranged marriage with a stranger.

When that sort of crazy head-over-head feeling is originally not there, I think the first really strong uncontrollable surge of feeling that enters married life is parental love. For Indian women it is even stronger than for men, because they have been displaced from their own 'maika' and now here is this little thing that is finally her own, her own private world where she can build dreams. Apart from that, of course, there are also biological and evolutionary reasons for why women feel that way. Another thing is that there is so much cultural importance attached to progeny, that it makes us totally sublimate ourselves into our roles as mothers.

#11
Ritu
URL
June 26, 2008
12:37 PM

Deepa,

Strange as it sounds, I have seen it. Honestly, if you ask me that initial uncontrollable highs and lows phase of romantic love is not really love. That is the infatuation part of it. That does not sustain. Neither in love marriages nor arranged ones. To me, true love is deeper, calmer and more enduring in nature. It is the sustained attraction and chemistry between two individuals. The kind of thing that persists even after seeing all the warts. And believe me that is quite rare (look at any couple any where who has been married for more than 15 years). I think you are just blessed if you can get that in your life. I have observed that equations change constantly and after a while, how you got married equalizes and both set of couples are pretty much on the same playing ground.

But, yes, if your point is about how to summon romantic love for a stranger I can quite agree with you. I for one would not be able to summon feelings on demand for a person. Yet, I have seen so many different equations that I can safely say that romantic love(of the heady variety) is very much a part of the arranged marriage scenario. Usually, it has a time lag. Which means it probably manifests 6-7 months after people get married.

Let me give you an example. I have a friend who went through the arranged marriage route and quite early in life. Right after he started working. He had absolutely no attraction for his wife. During their courtship period (he was in Delhi and she in Surat), he would call her every saturday mainly as a chore. And being slightly parsimonious in his ways, he would put the phone down after the STD bill crossed 100 Rs. :). After they got married, their initial chemistry was nil. They gradually settled in to each other. But surprisingly after 4 years of their marriage they suddenly went through a completely love-in-the-eyes phase. The chemistry suddenly sizzled. It was quite amusing.

The usual engagement-courtship-marriage kind of scenario that most arranged marriages follow give the couple sufficient time to get into the in-love phase.

Personally, as I said, I don't know if it would work for me. It's like you don't have a choice but to fall in love. But I have seen enough people do it all the time and it seems like a formula that works atleast 50% of the times. So never say never 

Cheers

#12
Ledzius
June 26, 2008
01:01 PM

First of all, I don't think that people hooking up through matrimonial sites falls strictly into the class of "arranged marriages". Matrimonial sites are not that different from dating websites in the west and serve only as a means of introduction. How a couple takes the relationship from there on is entirely up to them. Many have a long period of courtship before they decide to take the plunge. (I even know cases where couples, after having been even physical, have broken up.) In that respect I don't think it is all that different from dating.

In fact, I suspect, more youngsters in India now have an active courtship and dating scene thanks to these websites. Imagine if they had to leave everything in the hands of their parents.




#13
Mike
June 26, 2008
10:34 PM

I think the subject of arranged marriage is coming up more and more as Westerners embrace more Eastern thought. LATimes wrote a story on the subject and HBO is even planning a TV show on the concept:

http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/hbo-now-casting-volunteers-for-upcoming-reality-tv-show-arranged-marriage

#14
Thinker
August 22, 2008
10:22 AM

Love is not a commodity to be exchanged or bargained for a price.Love is abstract in nature,it is an innate feeling that comes in one through constant attachment intimacy and sharing of concerns for each other.It is immaterial whether union of the two is brought through arranged means or by friendship.It is misleading to suggest that arranged marriage is love-less and it is the birth of the child that generates bonding.Do not marriages after long courtship end up in agony and disasters?

#15
Ajoy Varghese
URL
October 25, 2008
10:11 AM

Hi, Deepa
I guess that anything that conflicts with our unbridled belief in the correctness of our cultural value of self-interest and self-preservation would be confusing. However, the world would stop if people were not other centred umpteen times in a myriad of ways every single day!
Most married couples -either arranged marriage or otherwise - would happily admit that the arrival of a child brings much pleasure and the joy amidst the added responsibilities. Maybe, that's how we are meant to be - to include others into our circle (and not just always seek our own pleasure and interest). After all, didnt the parents include the other first before including the child?! And perhaps, its deeper than Darwin. Dont people include/adopt children who are not "copies of themselves"?
Ajoy

#16
Vinod Joseph
October 25, 2008
10:38 AM

Deepa, I agree with your thesis on the practical nature of love that is generated out of arranged marriages. Makes sense. And I am sure Darwin would approve.

#17
kerty
October 25, 2008
12:02 PM

Deepa

Very thoughtful and thought-provoking observations. Many of us who have seen arranged marriages up close and gone thru them ourselves can relate to what you have observed.

I will add few of mine.

- love is not always at first sight. Attraction and romance can also develop over a time. Both persons are no better than strangers while they are falling in love, while trying to discover each other. same process can occur after marriage too.

- Arranged marriage creates the biggest challenge for persons and biggest test for their personal ability to love - to love another person unconditionally, even when love and attraction may not manifest on day one, even when person may have obvious flaws or incompatibility. There is only on the plate other than resolve and commitment to make it work and make it last - and faith in a tradition - a tradition built on a belief that each human is inherently lovable, and each human is inherently capable of loving another human being unconditionally - that is the sole foundation of arranged marriage, at whose alter, countless couples have built enduring relationships for ages. That is why it is humanism in action - To create humanity built on unconditional love - where people love one another unconditionally without preconditions, thru thick and thin - and build such humanity one family at a time. That must be the original idea behind arranged marriages - how the concept has strayed and evolved from its basic premise, how parents and families have made it into a vanity fair of preconditions and commercializations is quite stark in the age of individualism. But than love marriages too has not fared any better - Union out of love is a natural and desirable concept but how something so noble and desirable has been ridden with its own pre-conditions and conditional love, that demands we can love each other only if it matches our own personal interests, and love dies the minute those conditions change or our interests change. Thus love marriages are known more for falling out of love than staying in love. Because, in most cases and predictably so, love of lovers is not able to go beyond its thrill-seeking stage, and conditional mindset on which love of lovers is predicated never allows it to outgrow maze of conditions and self-interests.

- Physical attraction, romance, thrill of discovering each other physically creates euphoria during courtship phase and initial stages of relationship, but they are skin deep, temporary, transient, evolving. They have to go beyond and deeper. Over time, they give way to tenderness, companionship, caring, nurturing, looking after each other, being there for each other, building something bigger than themselves ie their own family. Love and intimacy are present but they may no longer get expressed by exchanging valentine cards, flowers, gifts or holding hands or public exhibition of love - lovers usually move on to create their own subtle and mundane expressions of love, and find their own highly personalized way of expressing them - one can say, love gets thoroughly personalized and domesticated.

There is nothing romantic about child raising, running a household, making a living, making ends meet, meeting social obligations - these are the things bulk of couple's life is made of. Romance and love are false advertising to suck us all in - life that follows has no much to do with it. It takes lot more to make it all work - that is where arranged marriages might offer a better edge.

#18
kaffir
October 25, 2008
12:41 PM

Is it just me, or does anyone else see the irony of an arranged marriage advertisement that promises love?

I haven't done a survey so I wouldn't know about "everyone else," but speaking for myself, I certainly do not see the irony that you do. Then again, I do appreciate the value of an "arranged" marriage and don't summarily dismiss it as antiquated or regressive, while also being accepting of other people's choice to go for "love marriage" if that's what works for them.

Question: Why do you need others to validate your view (of seeing irony in this)? If you see irony in it and don't want an "arranged" marriage for *yourself*, good for you. From your post, it seems that you have certain notions of romantic love which are quite subjective (which is fine), and that's what is driving you to extrapolate and make sweeping statements about "arranged marriage" in general.

#19
kaffir
October 25, 2008
02:41 PM

correction: ...I wouldn't know about "anyone else,"...

#20
kerty
October 25, 2008
03:11 PM

correction:......At the outset, there is nothing on the plate other than resolve and commitment to make it work and make it last - and faith in a tradition......(para 3)

#21
commonsense
October 26, 2008
11:19 AM

love at first sex is not an impossibility.

#22
Deepa Krishnan
URL
October 26, 2008
02:09 PM

For women, commonsense, love at first sex is an impossibility. With men being what they are, i.e., usually inexperienced and downright clueless, it is usually painful and bewilderingly sticky and the hurt lasts for multiple nights.

#23
Deepti Lamba
URL
October 26, 2008
03:25 PM

And then Deepa there are those who would beg to differ;)

#24
Deepa Krishnan
URL
October 27, 2008
03:05 AM

In that case Deepti, I recommend reading any serious study of sexual relations in India.
Sudhir Kakkar is a good start:
http://www.flipkart.com/sudhir-kakkar/

#25
Deepa Krishnan
URL
October 27, 2008
03:11 AM

Just so we don't get our wires crossed, Deepti, I am referring to the state of Indian men in general. Given that the average age of marriage is 19-20, they are at best callow youths, with no exposure or even understanding of the female orgasm. To expect them to spend their "first night" patiently awakening a tired and tense bride into sexual fulfilment is really asking for too much.

#26
Loser
January 19, 2009
01:59 PM

I have had an arranged marriage and we are still married after 7 years - as parents to our daughter. Arranged marriage works for certain kind of people...who have subdued tastes and live life as per norms. But for slightly weird, intense and off-beat people like me, compatibility issues in an arrange marriage can take gigantic proportions that are hard to resolve, yet leave you stuck - because the incompatibility is emotional, there is no real solid excuse for a divorce. O watever! Welcome to the world of loveless room mate marriages...

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