Sam George is the executive director of Parivar International, a non-profit initiative to address the needs of youth and families of Asian Indian origin in North America. Sam is the author of the book “Understanding the Coconut Generation” (www.CoconutGeneration.com). He can be reached at email@example.com
By Sam George
In the last few weeks, we had been looking at the pros and cons of arranged and love marriages. Neither can be said to be without any problems and the mate selection process cannot guarantee happiness or longevity in a relationship. Today we turn to the question, “What do people look for in a life mate, whether it be arranged or love marriages?”
For a young person, who grew up in the West, it might be a scary idea for someone else to choose your life mate. They ask, “how can I live the rest of my life with someone of your choice?” “What if I do not like the person or we are not compatible?” They take it upon themselves to scrutinize and filter potential mates through their own expectations, temperament, attitude, chemistry and tastes.
On the other hand, when marriage is such a crucial decision in the life of a young person and divorce is not an option in traditional cultures, how can a young person make such an important decision on his/her own? It is an accepted fact in many cultures that a person’s family will play a role in picking the marriage partner. They see parents as allies who are interested in their well being and happy to lend a helping hand in screening through the candidates.
Potential bridegrooms come under close scrutiny in several areas of life. Do they have enough means to support the bride? Do they appear to be men, who will make good husbands and fathers? Often, the bride will live with her in-laws after marriage in joint families and so the groom’s family is also brought under close scrutiny. Do the women of the household seem well cared for and have a good reputation? Do they have a big enough house for another person and grandchildren?
The boy’s parents also scrutinize potential brides. Since it is commonly believed that brides are the embodiment of that family’s honor and pride, the girl must be from a good family and have good manners. She should be respectable and have no taint on her name. Does she have the makings of a good wife and mother? Does she want to work after marriage or stay at home? Her appearance, skin complexion, education, wealth and even family are scrutinized for any blemishes.
Often, this turns into an interview process where photos are provided of the boy/girl in question along with bio-data about his/her life and family. Both sides might even involve close relatives and friends to further scrutinize the candidates for their standing in the society or for any impediments for the marriage. If that meets with approval, arrangements will be made for the parents to meet the boy/girl and their family.
In some traditional settings, parents of the bride and groom look for caste, birth stars and horoscope. They consult with elders in the community, religious leaders and even astrologers and psychics to see if there are any problems with the potential alliance. How much of dowry the girl will give is also an important criterion in many marriages. For any or no reason alliances could be abruptly discontinued from either side.