A Love Arranged, A Life Deranged?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

"Love is blind, marriage is an eye-opener.”

Remember what it was like when we were kids? The sweets, the presents, the lame jokes and the laughs? Seems like yesterday doesn’t it? Remember how we looked up to our parents for assurance? Remember how great it was to actually satisfy our parents' wishes as we sought their approval? Will we still do the same now? Will we satisfy them when it comes to finding that life partner? Will we actually give into their belief that love comes after marriage?

I have a couple of friends who got married and have since dreaded waking up next to their arranged-husbands each day. The sex is horrible and there is absolutely no understanding whatsoever. Nada. Zilch. In fact, they aren’t even trying to understand each other anymore. They lead their own lives despite sharing the same bed. They put on a front only for the public and their kids. Their marriages were merely social and economic contracts. Our conversations are filled with bitter complaints where they do nothing else but bitch and bitch. They just wish they could reverse time and say no.

I had often wondered if I would be a victim of arranged marriage. I'd wondered if I’d get to meet my husband-to-be just thrice before getting married. I'd wondered if I would actually be able to share a bed with the man I’m bound to in paper and worse still, I'd wondered if I could stand sharing the bathroom with him! I found myself wondering if I was far too modern for arranged marriages. Could I truly love him and live happily ever after?

My parents are a prime example of how love comes after marriage. Mom had her own TV show and was pretty well-known as a dynamic debater who had never lost a competition. She was holidaying with my grandparents and when she walked into her hotel room, a little girl came running behind her, asking for her autograph. Mom was talking to the little girl when the girl’s mother rushed in after her. She saw mom and went “Oh wow! Hi! My daughter watches all your shows! Are your parents here?” My grandparents soon came into the room and that lady talked about some guy in the family who’s of marriageable age. They met a couple of weeks after that and soon got engaged. Mom got married two days before her 19th birthday and gave birth to me on her 20th. (Yes, we share the same birthday.)

If I was part of those times, I would have crossed the unmarriageable threshold at 21 and should’ve been married with at least one child. I wondered how mom could’ve actually got married at the tender age of 18. The thought just seems so far-fetched to me. I got the shock of my life when I found out grandmamma got married at 15! Both mom and grams complained of how their respective husbands refused to understand them. Yet I realized that the understanding came intuitively with time. Was it because they were in love or because they've just lived together for years?

While we, as modern women, eschew the idea of marrying without love, the idea that we’re being too picky tends to nag even more than it otherwise would. I mean is it too much to ask for a man who is well-educated, open-minded, successful and honest? Is it too much to ask for someone who has a good mix of both the East and the West? Is it too much to ask for a man who truly knows what he wants and is grounded? I feared my parents would think so.

I thought about all my 'failed' relationships- the pediatric surgical resident, the influential businessman who dined with the elite, the government official and last but not the least, the man I was engaged to, the royal Ex.

Our engagement was dismayingly abrupt and we decided to part ways. He was someone who prided himself in being modern and open-minded but who in fact had horribly crusty notions passed down from his parents. I don’t think he actually thought I would give up my education and get married to him in two months, did he? I know it was his mother’s doing but hey- I was literally going to be married to the in-laws too!

I guess I’m like every other woman, complaining that a man is either too ambitious or not ambitious enough, too eager or not eager enough. But they are picky, too. These men, in their bid to fit into Wall Street or the golf course, would like a wife who is eminently presentable to their boss, friends and family. They would like a woman to be sophisticated enough to have a martini and not a Diet Coke at an office party, but God forbid, not “sophisticated” enough to have three. Sometimes I worry that I’m a bit too sophisticated for most of our men.

Alright, so I’ll admit to needing a little romantic assistance but the question remains: Can my parents truly find The One? Can they really find the man I’ll have and from that day onward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish 'till death do us part or will they find the diametric opposite? Will the conundrum be exacerbated by the fact that our parents had no choice for a partner; the only choice was how hard they’d work to be happy?

Well to be honest, I have no doubt they can find him. I sat down with mom and had a talk with her some time back about the entire predicament. She was shocked I even thought about such a thing! She told me that I can marry whoever I want as long as it truly feels right. She also went on, assuring me that I won’t be in a wedding I didn’t ask for, to a guy I don’t know. Mom knows me well enough and she knows exactly the kind of man I go for. If she does fix me up with someone, I’d be more than willing to meet him and get to know him over a period of time. If it feels right, I’ll go on. If it doesn’t, I’m just one step closer to the right guy.

MayaSutra: If you could meet a right man in a café, in the park, in some hotel in France or in a bookstore, you could very well meet him through your parents. Be bold enough to meet him. Who knows? He might just be the one for you! You don’t lose anything by saying “no” but gain the world by saying “yes”.