Remember the movie, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button? Brad Pitt starts off as an old man and then progressively becomes younger. Well, successful arranged marriage unfold in a similar pattern. Two strangers get married based on initial impressions and cold, calculating facts listed by their families but magically, they fall in love gradually and over a long period of time.
There are things you tell yourself when you realize your parents are not in love. Love probably isn’t necessary past a certain age. Maybe the way your mother and father go about their daily routines like professional ice-skaters—a careful distance always held between them—is what real love looks like. Whose parents are really in love, anyway?
Growing up in New Mexico in the 1980s, I took it for granted that my parents’ marriage, which was arranged by their families in India in 1968, would last forever. True, it lacked the palpable electricity I saw between some American couples, but so what? Who said all that hugging and kissing was a good thing? Too many of my friends’ once-affectionate parents were splitting up. My parents, in contrast, were remarkably solid, a well-thought-through match of religion, goals, and socioeconomic standing, clearly in it for the long haul.
“The problem with the Americans is that they get so wrapped up in this who-I-chose business,” my father, a surgeon and regular confidant of the OR nurses, told me when I was thirteen. “They will say, ‘He has changed’ or ‘She isn’t who I married.’ Indians never say that. We have no idea who we married!”
His logic was simple: When you don’t have passionate feelings to glaze over your partner’s flaws in early marriage, you are less likely to be undone by inevitable disappointments later on. True, I’d never seen my parents look dreamily at each other, but I’d also never heard them threaten divorce.
The night before I went back to New York, I came home to a sight so disquieting that I stood outside in the dark for a full five minutes, just watching. It was late. The television was on in our living room. In front of it, my father sat on the couch, my mother cradled in his arms. She was fast asleep, her cheek pressed to his chest.
I went inside. Though I hardly made a sound, my mother woke up. She blinked quietly, then sprang up with the realization that I was there. “I was asleep!” she said, as if I’d accused her of something. Then she got up and took herself to bed, disappearing down the hallway. My father gave me a funny grin and followed her.
Why this kolaveri?
Flying back to New York, I could not stop thinking one thing: Why now? Why this sudden attraction to someone who had been there the whole time?
If on the surface they had been well matched, temperamentally they couldn’t have been more different. My father was mercurial, charming, intuitive, a man who liked to say “I am not sentimental” and then cry during commercials. He moved through the world with open arms, and for good reason: He demanded love and gave it easily.
Not true of my mother. I don’t mean to make her sound cold or cruel. She’s the opposite: bright, engaging, and quick to laugh, a connoisseur of politics and gossip. But she doesn’t tolerate emotional scenes easily. When I was young, her deep reserve left me frustrated, and, as I grew older, occasionally furious. Later, once I realized she couldn’t help it, it just made me sad. I worried for her and for my father, who sometimes seemed to want more of a connection than she could offer.
Somehow he had made it inside, past my mother’s carefully erected boundaries, past the cool remove, and in response, my mother loved him for it. And now, because of that, I knew what real love looked like.
Very often, we find the debate between love marriage and arranged marriage is based on personal experiences. It is easy to dismiss such arguments as they may not be representative of the entire population. This article is remarkable in actually highlighting the strengths of an arranged marriage that is completely aligned with scientific study results on this topic!