Disclaimer: All characters in Ekta Talk Show are modelled after REAL characters (with names changed) and their experiences are entirely based on true stories. Ekta is the manifestation of an imaginary conversation between these characters, in a hypothetical scenario of their meeting
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome or welcome back to a fresh episode of our monthly talk show, Ekta- Talk your way to unity. If you’re no stranger to Ekta and have visited Ep-1 and Ep-2, you’ll notice that today’s topic is wildly different from our usual. I’m Shubhang Mishra, your host for today! Our translator at hand is Bahija Begum.
Ekta is a space for us to talk, to listen and to be heard. There are struggles and stories in both the sides of the coin. We acknowledge and appreciate them as we interact with those living in opposite ends of the spectrum.
Our topic today is a fashionable and popular one, especially among the younger generations. A healthy discussion, a debate, there’s room for both!
We have with us today, 4 very special guests. Let’s welcome Anthony Alexander, Nidhi Chopra, Sonam Singh and Bharath Kumar Hegde with a round of applause.
The topic today is “Marriages in Indian society.” There are two types for the same, one being the traditional arranged marriage, wherein the families find alliances for their children with lots of involvement from the extended family in choosing prospective spouses for their children within their own caste/community in compliance with astrology, and the other being marrying someone of one’s own choice.
Please describe the nature of your marriages, your experiences therein and whether or not the said mode worked for you, starting with Nidhi.
Nidhi: Mine was an arranged marriage. I’ve been married for 10 years now and it has definitely worked for me. We did fall in love after our marriage. It is my belief that it would not have been the same way had I married someone of my choice. All my high school and college relationships failed and I went into this marriage, not expecting anything spectacular. There are ups and downs ofcourse, but the rewarding part of it has made it worth it. The union has remained sacred.
Anthony: I married a partner of my choice. I’m a Christian, she’s a Hindu. She comes from a rural area and had moved to the city to work. Her parents disapproved of our marriage very strongly. They tried to kill us for their honour! Yes, honour killing still happens and few are lucky to escape. We were lucky enough to escape. We moved to Mumbai, far away from home and have been living there happily for 11 years now.
Bharath: I’m divorced. I had an arranged marriage, a terrible one. She was in love with another man and her family forced her to marry me, as she was already 30 years old and there weren’t many well-settled single men left in our caste. Her parents wouldn’t let her disgrace the family by eloping with the man of her choice. Hence, a worse disaster took the form of our marriage. She was depressed and suicidal. She blamed me for everything that went wrong in her life.
Sonam: I jumped into a love marriage, the biggest mistake I made in my life. I thought he was the one. I put my relationship with my family at stake for him. It all seemed flowery and glamorous in the beginning. A few months in and then began all the domestic violence, physical and verbal abuse. It was toxic and unbearable. Thankfully, we are divorced now.
According to statistics, 90% of marriages in India are arranged. Only 1% of all marriages end in divorce. Does that mean arranged marriage is the gateway to a successful marriage? Does it always work?
Anthony: Well, we’re the second most populated country in the world, so I think it worked. *Audience laughing*
Bharath: Well, it need not always work, as in my case. Low divorce rates may also be a reflection of the societal pressure to stay married. Divorce is largely a taboo in India. Arranged marriage can be a gamble. In most cases, one learns to adjust themselves to the setting. I can assure that arranged marriage teaches you to compromise. You don’t go in considering divorce as an option. It is a union of families, rather than just the bride and the groom. One is careful about not disappointing their birth family after all the wedding expenses and extravaganza. Sometimes, one continues to live in toxic marriages. Divorce rate is not sufficiently indicative of all unhappy marriages.
Nidhi: In my opinion, most unhappy marriages are capable of being fixed. Due to support from the birth family in arranged marriages, it is easier. The families work a way to mend their children’s marriage. Not all love marriages are family-approved and families do not put much effort into fixing their children’s marriage as they did not have much role in it to begin with. In such cases they’d have a “We said so” attitude about it.
What is the difference between the social perception of an arranged marriage and a love marriage.
Anthony: My wife and I were in a local park, when a middle aged woman started talking to her. I shared a small joke with my wife during her conversation with the woman. She noticed the holy cross on my neck and asked my wife “Is that your husband?” to which my wife nodded. “Christian?” She asked, pointing at me to which she said “yes.” “Then he is not your husband.” She told my wife. “You said your name is Radha and I see the Bindhi on your forehead. You are a Hindu. Any marriage outside one’s religion is invalid.” Saying this, she moved away. So, yes, the social perception is not always good in non-traditional marriages.
Sonam: As someone who was in such a non-traditional marriage, I can attest that you are harshly judged. By most people. There are many who are supportive too. The more urban the setting, the more support you get.
Bharath: My friends mocked me and called me “ancient” for doing as my family said. Some urban youth consider arranged marriages outdated.
Nidhi: Usually the first question posed by yester generation folks when they see a couple would be “Arranged or love?”. If the answer is the former, the more you are respected, as in my case.
From this discussion, what do you think should be the norm for marriages?
Bharath: Choosing a spouse for yourself is like an MCQ (multiple choice question). You choose the best option from the many options you have. Arranged marriage is like “True or false”. You’re given a question and you need to answer with a “yes” or “no”. Both of them equally have the potential to be right or wrong, I.e, to work or fall apart. It is more about the couple themselves than the nature of their marriage.
Sonam: Marriage and romantic relationships aren’t for everyone. They are only a supplement to life, not a necessity. Life is big and there’s more to it. No one should be pressurised into doing something they can very well live without when a certain age is reached. The society will talk, but talking is all they can do!
Anthony: Everyone should have the privilege to choose between tradition, choice and must also be empowered to choose neither, if that’s their calling.
We are at the end of this segment. Hearty thanks to the guests and the audience for making this segment a grand success! Signing off, Shubhang Mishra.
PS: Check out paeansunplugged’s masterpiece satirical poem on this topic! Beyond brilliant. 👌