One Perfect Rose
A single flow’r he sent me, since we met.
All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet –
One perfect rose.
I knew the language of the floweret;
‘My fragile leaves,’ it said, ‘his heart enclose.’
Love long has taken for his amulet
One perfect rose.
Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get
One perfect rose.
– Dorothy Parker
Recently on my twitter timeline I saw a conversation about arranged marriage and the problems associated with it. There were some valid points made. In recent times I have seen youngsters going through a lot of turmoil when it came to getting married. I have a few friends who haven’t got married though they are in their 40s now. These were not people who were against marriage or wanted to stay single. They wanted to get married and actively sought their life partners. A combination of circumstances conspired against them. Though they possess all the qualities that many middle class parents look for : well settled, good job, great salary, no ‘bad habits’ etc, they were not able to find the right person with whom they can spend the rest of their lives. A friend confessed to me, “When I initially started seeing girls (‘seeing’ as in arranged marriage) I wanted the very best. No one seemed to meet my criteria. Slowly time passed and now I am unable to decide. Initially my family also had many constraints: caste, sub caste etc. They relaxed it slowly and now they tell me, “If you like someone, tell us. We are ready to get you married to her”. That is the current state of affairs.”
In the urban centers and in higher middle class households, love is no longer a bad word. I know I cannot generalize this and that there exceptions but by and large a large number of parents do accept the possibility of their children falling in love and they are prepared for such an eventuality. They also try to prepare their children by telling them to what extent the boundary can be stretched. So the kids also have an idea of how tolerant the parents would be in this regard. When these boundaries are broken, there is the inevitable clash and struggle and many broken hearts.
While tolerance to love marriages may have increased, falling in love is not easy. The number of girls working has increased tremendously. The male-female interaction which was difficult in an earlier era – when girls hid behind doors – is a natural affair nowadays. Yet, not everyone finds love even if they interact with the opposite gender on a regular basis. As those who have fallen in love would tell, it just happens and there are no specific reasons for love blossoming between two individuals. In the West the search for a partner is seen as something natural and the whole eco system is setup in such a way that finding someone whom you can fall in love is easy. Whereas while we may ‘tolerate’ or maybe even ‘encourage’ love marriages we still see someone trying to search for a partner without the intention of getting married, as something close to a crime. Therefore the youngsters have only two choices: either fall in love with someone within your circle or get into an arranged marriage.
The major change in arranged marriages is that the girls now have a great say in selecting or rejecting a boy. This was ‘Boys Only’ territory sometime back. The girl’s family just had to wait for the selection/rejection from the boy’s family. Nowadays the tables are turned and the girls are sure about what they want. So we hear a lot of cases where the girl is not impressed with the guy. I for one am happy with this development. (I have personally seen two girls reject boys in my childhood days. Both the girls were told that the boy ‘selected’ by the family was a nice boy and they were emotionally coerced into marrying the ‘selected’ boy even though the girls were not convinced. I must also mention this happened a couple decades back and both of these girls have been leading a very happy life but that is beside the point.)
The selection of boy or girl in an arranged marriage took place based on certain norms: social standing, education qualification, employment status and family background. If the boy was currently in US and had the chance of settling down there, he was awarded more points and when he came to ‘see’ the girl he was given some extra freedom like taking the girl to the hotel and talking with her for a long time before deciding. Norms are still the same by and large but there has been relaxation in the norms: now the boy and girl did not have to meet in the girl’s house. They could meet in a hotel. They could discuss with each other for a longer time and with the advent of mobiles and internet, could talk for hours together or chat with each other on a daily basis before deciding if this was the right person to spend the rest of life with. So arranged marriages have now become quite different. Rather than going through just one phase: that of boy seeing girl and the decision, it has now become a multi phases affair: first the selection of boy or girl, (either through known circles or matrimonial sires), then the phase of discussion between the boy and girl begins and no one can predict the outcome.
This is definitely moving in the right direction though some people attribute the independence given to the girls for the growing rate of divorce. I have heard this often enough whenever a case of divorce is discussed. Elders are fond of saying that the tolerance level of girls has come down and that is what is leading to more divorces. They feel that girls have become too materialistic and they are after position and money rather than after love. What is conveniently forgotten is that in most arranged marriages love was never a criterion and that the same materialistic goals they deride now is what drives them when they try to arrange a marriage for their kids. It is just that youngsters are now quite vocal about their material requirement. I personally know of lot of people who selected their spouse based on parameters that were more than just love and it involved lot of practical things. In the era where girls earn a lot and know the power of money, it is almost impossible for the girl not to think of material things. For a successful marriage, along with love and understanding, money and social standing also pay an important role.
Dorothy Parker’s extremely humorous poem talks to the material aspects of life which women desire in no uncertain terms. Many of the modern women will nod their heads in assent and quite a few from the earlier generation would agree with Dorothy Parker wholeheartedly. For inspite of our spiritual base, most of our families are driven by materialistic concerns and accepting this truth will make us understand ourselves and our children better.