Where do I begin …
I got married in the lovely Rajasthani city of Jodhpur in India in December 2014. I had an arranged marriage. We met in person over 3 days in April 2014, and we said “yes” to each other on the second day of meeting. I can sense the collective gasp from many of you reading this. How can anyone make such a huge decision in 2 days? They must have been under so much pressure to decide! How is this even allowed anymore?! Well, to be fair, it wasn’t an arranged marriage in the truest sense of the word. Allow me to explain.
See, back in the days when my parents got married (more than 30 years ago), their families made the decision for them. The boy’s family would get references for good matches, and then once they like a match, they approach the girl’s family with a proposal. Both families meet for afternoon tea, and in that same meeting, the couple get to see each other in person. The decision is made that same day, or very shortly after. You didn’t really have too much of a choice. But now, parents do all that a matchmaking service would, with the added benefit that they know you extremely well. They do all the legwork for you, scanning hundreds of profiles, crafting your “biodata” (rather like a wedding résumé) and conducting extensive background checks on potential matches by speaking to dozens of people. That’s really what my parents did over the course of 2 years. I highly doubt any matchmaking service would go to those lengths!
Of course, with advancements in technology, parents can now put profiles online at websites such as Shaadi.com or Jeevansathi.com to access a larger pool of matches. And when you go on to such portals, you can further refine your preferences by categories such as, non-smoker, non-drinker, vegetarian. In India it is still common for families to prefer matches from a similar community; for instance a Jain bride for a Jain groom, a Brahmin for a Brahmin and so on and so forth. So back to our story. We met online, through one such matrimonial website. Our parents exchanged our email addresses, and we started chatting on Google Hangouts. The first chat was so awkward – and so many thoughts swirled in my head. This is nuts. Why am I doing this? I don’t even know if I want to move to the US. He too had doubts of his own. She is a lawyer. I’m not sure I like lawyers. At the time, I really didn’t think that much would happen – after all, he was in San Francisco, and I was in Singapore. The probability of us meeting seemed pretty low. We continued chatting for about 4 months without meeting in person. Fast forward to April 2014, the day of our in-person-meeting (of course, our parents were there).
Although I had been speaking with Sagar for a long time now, the first meeting was still weird. There were many awkward silences. And then, after fumbling around topics for some time, the topic of travel came up. We spoke for hours at length, switching from this place to that place. His love of mountains and backpacking, and mine for cities and architecture. Throughout it all, our parents kept reminding us that this was our decision and ours alone. They were there just to offer friendly advice. Well, on the second day, both of us knew that we couldn’t gather any more information that our conversations over 4 months had given us. I wouldn’t say our hearts were “aflutter”, but we liked each other. And that was enough.
I hope my account helped you to realize that the Indian cultural practice of arranged marriages (in the vast majority of cases), aren’t forced decisions. And we believe that there is much to be gained from the wisdom and experience of our parents, who have walked the road before us.