And matches are made in heaven

This discourse is not to justify the notion of arranged marriages. I have gone from being flabbergastingly against the concept to feeling more ambivalent about it in recent times. So, I want to examine the rubik’s cube of this centuries old concept that still exists in India to see what the society, parents and families were thinking about.

1) The dating scene

To know why and how arranged marriages came about, one must understand India and its landscape culturally a little more than from the heights of the Taj Mahal.

Until recent years, kids in India did not date. It was frowned upon, the girl was especially seen as a sleaze and the very act of dating and spending time together was seen as something wrong. 

I was travelling in Europe 15 years ago when I told an American woman that there were no malls where we lived, she said ‘Really? Where do kids hang out?’ I could argue that malls are not the only place that kids should hang out, but there were also no parks to boot or another place where kids could actually just hang.

Cell phones were not common until about 10 years ago, not every kid had their own and texting was not second nature to kids.

So, hindered by such factors, I don’t know..how else would you meet someone!

2) Marriageable age

The society in India has this theory and expectation – that everything should be done by a certain age in your life.

Which translates for men to find a job and with some leeway get married. For the ladies, you need to be ‘settled down’ and on your way to making babies. I would say, at about the age of 23 is when parents start going into panic mode for their little girl to tie the knot. And god forbid, if you haven’t had kids by the ripe old age of 30. Then, you have problems. It’s just assumed.

Practically in a way, there is some sense to it. A woman’s biological clock is ticking and the more they delay the process of conceiving a child, the more issues they and the baby could experience as time goes on.

On the other hand, one is not mature to even know themselves at 23. You may not know what you want from life, much less what you want from a life partner. And settling for someone because the clock’s ticking is not what is going to keep a marriage afloat for the next 50 odd years.

If you have met someone early on in life, then it’s great that you are able to travel together and spend some quality time together before kids arrive on the scene. But again, you just can’t do it because the time is right with a person who’s not right for you.

3) Social strata

Apart from the class system there are also different social strata that are based on your lineage and how much money your father makes. Arranged marriage is society’s way of ensuring that the daughter will we ‘well looked after’ and her way of life will closely mirror her life before she got married. That all her financial needs will be met and money will not be a glaring issue in their marriage.

On the son’s side, it hopes to ensure that their wife was brought up in similar social circles and has the same mannerisms as are expected of women in his family.

Of course, the husband or family having money does not ensure that she will have the financial freedom to spend it and that will not have to justify each purchase. But, one hopes that with enough money in the family, this will not happen.

4) Culture

Being as culturally diverse as India is, every state speaks a different language, eats different food and sometimes even prays to a different god.

Arranged marriage is their way of ensuring that along with adjusting to a new home and family, the woman will additionally not have to go through the effort of learning and changing the very basic that makes up the fabric of her system.

In modern times where joint families are not as commonplace, two people from diverse backgrounds can come together and make it work if they both make their way toward each other and not cling to all they have known their entire lives up until now and try to create an amalgamated family and future together.

5) Looks

This one has a few facets.

With not much else to go by, the first impressions are definitely based on looks. Many a photo is passed upon because the girl or guy doesn’t meet the criteria of good looks. Some factors here are just impressed upon people’s minds, the girl has to be ‘fair’, short enough to be shorter than the guy but tall enough to be about 2-3 inches within his height, thin and just generally beautiful. No matter that she is never going to see the face of a runway and strut her stuff down it, but she will most definitely be showed off to friends, family and foes – that you can be assured of.

The guy’s looks are sometimes compromised upon if he has a lot of money. Sometimes, parents actually recognize that their prince or princess is not all that and go for someone with similar looks too.

If a girl is beautiful, a guy will compromise on money/education or the other umpteen factors to bring her home.

You only have to read one of the many matrimonial advertisements in newspapers or online today to get a laugh out of people’s requirements of looks!

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Arranged marriage thought about the fundamentals of marriage and tried to take care of those. But, that’s all these are – fundamentals. And this is where the system can be seen as flawed, especially given today’s lifestyle and generation.

It may be seen as a way for protective parents to ensure that their child has a great married life ahead but when based on a mere set of shallow factors, it is really not perpetrating the elements that a marriage is made up of in reality.

Arranged marriage can be a way to introduce two young people if they so wish, but parents and families need to realize that the pressure that ensues thereafter to sign the dotted line is not going to do anyone any good in the long run.

There are strong undercurrents in each marriage that cannot be signed through a pre-nup, that have to be lived through and worked upon to make things work. And that is something no one can do other than the two people that make up the marriage.

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Hogmanay and other things..!

fireworks

I wished a colleague a Happy New Year the other day and he threw a ‘Hogmanay” back at me.

I thought most people in the west did your basic ‘Happy New Year’, granted everyone celebrates their own way..from partying till the wee hours of the morning, to watching fireworks or watching the ball drop and calling it a night, and some calling it a night way before midnight —  hey I’m not judging.

But, this piqued my interest. Do people in other countries call it different things, what does Hogmanaying involve and are there peculiar things other people do to ring in the New Year?

So, I went sniffing..

As one would expect, countries in the same geographical area or with similar languages/cultures share some traditions..

In Asia —

The Indian New Year is hearkened by Diwali – the festival of lights around October or November.

The Japanese New Year is called Oshogatsu.

In Vietnam Nguyen Dan is the name for the New Year and Tet is the first morning of the year.

In the Phillipines everything in circles symbolizes wealth in the form of roundness of coins. This is represented in clothes and food.

In Bhutan it’s called Losar, comes around in February or March and the celebrations last for 2 weeks! Alcohol is an important part of the celebrations and the highlight of  is archery competitions held throughout the country.

Bangladeshis call it Pehla Baisakh or bangabda. A new book of accounts is opened on this day.

Nowruz is start of the new year in Afghanishtan and comes around in spring. Festivities go for two weeks and involve traditional music and dance and Afghan feasts.

The Sri Lankan new year falls on the 13th or 14th of April and is known as Aluth Avurudhu and is recognized as the end of spring. Houses are also cleaned and whitewashed or painted to herald the new year.

Happy New Year in Chinese is Gung Hay Fat Choy and falls on a different day each year. China celebrates this for a whole month as the Spring Festival.

Europeans do it their style –

Hogmanay firstly is what Scots call the last day of the year and it is a signal to start partying for a day or two (it could end on Jan 2 which is also a bank holiday!)

Say Sylverterabend if you are in Austria.

In Belgium it is Sint Sylvester Vooranvond  – a variation of the Austrian version, hailing St. Sylvester. New Year’s day is Nieuwjaarrsdag.

Poland also goes for a St. Sylvester’s Eve.

Serbia and Switzerland like to celebrate twice – on 31st December and 13th January – also known as Sylvester’s Day by the Swiss.

Many countries in Europe believe that making a big noise frightens bad spirits away and clears the way for the new year.

In this spirit, the Irish bang bread on the walls and doors of their house. The Danes take it a step further and break plates against their friends and neighbors’ front doors. Jumping off furniture in Denmark is also meant to bring one luck in the new year.

Ukraine joins Switzerland in celebrating New Years twice, calling 13 January their ‘Old New Year’. On 31st December they toast twice as well, Moscow time at 23 hours and then at the stroke of midnight.

In France, it is Jour des Etrennes – which translates to the Day of New Year’s presents.

The Czechs have an interesting tradition that after the first midnight kiss with your special someone, one can kiss anyone else they like and your spouse or partner should not be jealous!

In Finland, a unique custom is to throw molten tin into water and the figure out from the shape that forms what the future has in store for you.

Germany and Slovakia do something similar where they drop molten lead  or tin in water and the solidified shape predicts the happenings of the new year for them. Most shapes have pre-defined meanings for e.g. a ball means good luck. Germans call it the Neujahr.

In Spain and Portugal people eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, one promising good luck for each month. Wearing blue slippers or underwear also symbolizes good luck in the coming year 😉

Norway does a Nyttarsbukk where children go from house to house singing songs and people give them candy, much like Halloween in the US.

Malta apparently is the place to be if you’re looking for a party destination for NYE.

Russians have a tree for New Year’s called Novogodnaya Yolka and a version of Santa Claus called Father Frost with his granddaughter Snegurochka the snow girl. The tradition of Christmas presents occurs at this time there.

In Estonia, in older times people believed that eating 7 times on New Year’s day would mean that you have ample food in the coming year.

Australia:

Australia is famous for the fireworks over the Sydney Harbor Bridge which can be seen from around a 16km radius of the city center. People sometimes camp out for a day or two to be able to get a good view on the night.

Central and South America:

The color of one’s underwear is of special significance in Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Bolivia, Venezuela and Columbia. Yellow is believed to bring good luck and red will bring you love!

If you really want to travel in the new year, carrying a suitcase around the block at midnight may help!

In Panama, effigies of well known people are burnt signifying doing away with the year gone by.