Those of us who have not been raised within a culture that has planned your future bride to be since birth, simply cannot fathom the arranged marriage. Especially those who have decided to take a leap of faith to be in a bi-cultural relationship only to be dumped for a bride who your boyfriend has never met in his life. I have unfortunately experienced the pain and anguish of being left for an unknown woman. He couldn't even face me, he simply packed his bags and took the next flight for India. I got the picture after not hearing from him for weeks. He even had the audacity to then later ask me if we could still be friends but with benefits. This seems to be the cultural norm for many young Punjabi men who decide to live abroad. Whilst living in another culture they will selectively choose the aspects of the culture that suits them. They have been granted permission by their parents to enjoy life as long as they return to India to marry a respectable bride. Though with that said I have also been fortunate enough to marry, so there are still some who believe in love marriages.
Traditionally arranged marriages were the only acceptable form of marriage in Punjab, however nowadays love marriages are becoming more prevalent. Albeit arranged marriages still account for more than half of the marriages that occur today. So whilst the culture is adapting to modern times many still opt for the arranged marriage. So you can imagine how big the marriage industry is in India, with an array of matchmaking services to help you find the perfect bride or groom. They're not dissimilar to online dating whereby you provide your search criteria and are presented with the most suitable candidates. Finding the perfect match in Punjab is all about status, more often than not introductions start with your family name and that is enough to be able to determine your caste. Typically the bride and groom will be from the same caste as it is frowned upon to marry into a lower caste. Potential grooms will be sized up by family status, wealth, education, career and horoscopes/astrology. Whilst potential brides are usually sized up by family status, wealth, looks, personality, home keeping skills and must not drink or smoke.
It is the parents responsibility to select the perfect bride or groom for their child. They will either use a matchmaking service or they will know someone within their community. I read this interesting short story about the arranged marriage from the brides perspective, you can read that here. She details how it feels to have her parents marry her to a strange man due to his education and status in society. Some are fortunate enough to be chosen a husband whom they know even if so distantly, such as my cousin. Her parents recently married her to a family friend's son who she went to college with. They are now seeking to marry their son, so have been meeting with potential brides to be. The other day he got all dressed up in his best clothes as the bride's family were coming over to meet him and his family. She is from a lower caste however has entitlements to live abroad in Canada. So as part of the arrangement the bride's family had to show proof of her entitlements to live abroad. A photocopy simply wasn't good enough they wanted the original documents. In addition typically the bride's family must pay the grooms family dowry to enter into the marriage. Should they accept the proposal the bride and her family will then meet again with the groom and his family given she was not present for negotiations. Which is essentially what an arranged marriage is, a negotiation. There must be an advantage gained by either party and in this case my cousin gets to live abroad and the bride gets to live in a wealthier family.
Those whose parents believe in the arranged marriage, will usually begrudgingly marry whom their parents choose so as not to be disrespectful to their parents. It does not matter if they should be in a relationship for love especially if it is bi-cultural. Many Punjabi men who are in bi-cultural relationships are aware of their parent's wishes yet out of respect for their girlfriend will not display any affections of love. It is also believed that love does not come till after marriage. However respect is all about perception, as from the girlfriends point of view respect would be to not commit to a relationship if their intentions are to marry another woman. Personally I have been in this position, whereby I was left for a woman whom he had never met. He accepted that his parents knew him best and did not want to offend them. I noticed that there was something off when he became distant and stopped showing any affections for me. It turned out this was about the time his parents had found him a potential bride. Later he had the audacity to presume I would want to be friends with him but with benefits. Living abroad these men seem to think they can have the best of both cultures. A doting wife in India and a fun girlfriend abroad. Though give no thought to either of the women in the situation. The issue being that many believe that women from the western culture are just out for fun. Which is just not the case at all. With that said this obviously isn't the case for all men.
The concept of the arranged marriage isn't that dissimilar to dating. Most women have a list of prerequisites for their dream husband in life. Although it takes away from the experience, as isn't that what life is about? To experience emotions such true love and heartbreak, it is after all what makes us human.
Have you been in an arranged marriage or been left for one?