Has arranged marriage become an impossible challenge in India?

Published: October 12, 2015 at 8:39 pm

Last Updated on December 31, 2015 at 8:40 pm

Due to increasingly specific demands from the boy and girl, arranged marriage is becoming harder and harder to accomplish, at least in urban setups. Has it become an impossible challenge for some communities?

A few decades ago, it was important to have a steady job (assuming other more important metrics like caste, religion, sect, sub-sect,  lineage and general community reputation are compatible). It was extra special if the boy had a “government job”.

The girl never had a say in such matters. Often the boy too. The girls education was irrelevant and there was no question of her working before or after marriage.

Gradually, the boy’s side wanted a “working girl”, perhaps aware of increasing expenses, needs and inadequate salary of the boy.


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Then to make the whole concept a bit more politically correct, the parents decided that the boy and girl should ‘meet’ before the betrothal.  Soon they could ‘date’ after the betrothal.

Soon the girls began to put their foot down (about time too). They said that would continue to work after marriage and some said they would continue to support their parents.

On another front, certain  sections of the society stopping taking/giving dowry. Gradually the boys side also started sharing a large chunk of associated expenses. Speaking of which, weddings choreographed by planners and exotic honeymoons took a toll on the purse.

While all this happened, the girl  became increasingly picky about who they should marry. While this is a welcome change, some of the demands are so specific that marrying by arrangement has become an impossible challenge.

Here is an incomplete list of demands made by the girl’s side.

  1. The boy should not have any liabilities (before marriage that is)
  2. The boy (less than 30) should be earning 1-2 Lakh per month (not sure if that is gross or net)
  3. The boy and girl should live separately after marriage, preferably abroad.
  4. The boy’s job should have the potential to take him abroad.

Correct me if I am wrong, but the demands from the boy’s side have not changed much over the years.  They want a ‘good looking, obedient (read subservient) girl’, capable of taking care of the in-laws, bear children, do all household work etc. etc.

Girls of today are having none of that nonsense. They want to marry a ‘well-settled boy’, and get the hell out of their in-laws house asap. Nothing wrong with at all, but anyone who has used a stock screener would tell you that if the set criterion is too narrow, the result would be blank.

The basic problem is this. Parents in India, especially those from the boys side,  have trouble letting go. The whole idea of an arranged marriage stems from control. The boys side ensure that they get themselves  a ‘good’ bride, who along with the boy would take care of them later in life.

By demanding that they want to live separately after marriage, girls have rocked the foundations of arranged marriage, which is, in my opinion, a most welcome change.

While I believe independence after marriage (of both the couple and the in-laws) is a good thing, from the point of view of parents (both sides), this type of union is becoming harder and harder to finalize.

I think it is about time that parents (at least from a small section of society) told their children (girl or boy), ‘if you want a partner, go and seek it yourself. I will not help fix your marriage.’ This  of course, requires a huge change in our mindset and the way in which we bring up children. The freedom we give them from a young age. The way we talk about relationships, the other sex and about sex itself.

As in investing, we cannot eat our cake and have it too. There is a limit to which traditions can accommodate individuality. Both the parent and child ought to recognise this.

What do you think?

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Pattabiraman editor freefincalDr. M. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He has over ten years of experience publishing news analysis, research and financial product development. Connect with him via Twitter, Linkedin, or YouTube. Pattabiraman has co-authored three print books: (1) You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) for DIY investors. (2) Gamechanger for young earners. (3) Chinchu Gets a Superpower! for kids. He has also written seven other free e-books on various money management topics. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India,” an organisation promoting unbiased, commission-free investment advice.
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