This a re-post of the original article posted on May 13, 2012
in The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker.
Sharing an email from a father of an Indian daughter.
Dear Indian Homemaker,
After stumbling upon your blog accidentally, I read with interest your post created on May 10, countering the so-called advantages of arranged marriage.
Although I have been happily married for nearly thirty years now, I have seen my own daughter suffer terribly in the arranged marriage system. While some might say that it is our culture, and love marriages are a Western import, I want to place on record my own story as a warning to anyone who might be considering the idea of simply going along with what everyone is saying, and isn’t following his or her own heart just because he doesn’t want ill to be spoken of his family in society. It is painful for me to write this, but I thought that I must use the internet forum to let people know how the system works.
I am retired with two daughters and a son.
It is my older daughter who has gone through hell on account of this horrible system of in-laws and dowry, and it is her that I want to write about.
About three years ago, my daughter graduated with her masters degree. She has always been extremely hard-working and being from a top college, she secured a well-paying job. Like any father, I was very proud of her and was happy that she was on-track to do very well in life without any help from me at all. The only thing left was to find a good groom for her, we thought, and after that she would be completely settled.
As my daughter had not selected any boy herself, the search began. We went all out. We published ads in papers, asked family friends, looked on matrimonial websites. Eventually, we found a boy, in the same city where my daughter worked a that time. He was from a good, well-settled family which owned a chain of businesses. He was well-spoken, confident and seemed quite modern in his ideas. We were forthright about my daughter being career-oriented and told the boy’s family categorically that she would not leave her job after marriage. We were assured that it was not a problem as the other daughter-in-law was also working and most of the housework was done by maids in any case.
My daughter, docile as always, simply went along and said okay to the proposal after only a few visits.
Within one month, the marriage was finalized and the ceremony was held in 2010.
At this point, we made the mistake of paying out a hefty dowry. It sounds very naive now, but I am being candid with you; I thought this might making things a little easier for our daughter . How could I have known what monstrous characters these people were hiding behind their smiles and laughter?
From the moment my daughter entered the house, these people began plotting to get more. At first, they were nice and gentle, but soon they began to show their true colours. It started with small hints, then moved on to broad hints, taunts, fights and finally, physical assaults.
I had no idea all this was going on. My daughter never told me; I used to call up every week and she told me that all was fine. Then one day, she said that she did not want me to call her anymore. She gave absolutely no reason for this request. It was completely out of character, and I was a little hurt, but reluctantly agreed. In Jun 2011, on her wedding anniversary, to my utter shock, the ceremony was held without us even being invited! By then, I had come to the conclusion that something was definitely very wrong.
I made a surprise visit to my son-in-law’s place. I told their family that I was there on business and had decided to pay them a visit. What I saw at their place made my blood boil over. My confident, beautiful daughter was treated like she was little more than a servant. When I entered, she was rudely told to get some tea, and the same people who had been so bubbly and smiley treated me as if I was a social inferior. I called out to my daughter, refused the tea, and simply stated that I was taking her out to lunch. They tried to protest, but I ignored them. It was only in the car that the whole story came out.
I have already told you the broad incidents, I won’t bore you with gory details. This fiend who called himself a husband not only hit my daughter, but he actually forced himself on her sexually. Imagine! My daughter, who I have NEVER hit till date. My daughter, who I brought up as the apple of my eye. How could this man have the gall to lay his dirty hands on her? How dare this rapist, this creature of filth, force her to bow to his perverted whims and fancies? The poor girl was so traumatized that she could not even cry! It was like talking to a shell, a dry husk of a person. It broke my heart to hear her speak like that.
I took her back to her marital home, told her to pack all essential documents and objects in a bag and come back with me immediately. The boy’s family created a scene of course, but at this time, I was so angry that I did not even look at them, let alone respond to their nonsense.
To cut a long story short, I got my daughter home and helped her file divorce papers and supplementary charges against the boy’s family. Although this terrible chapter is over, I am committed to personally ensuring that this man goes to jail, and isn’t just let off with a fine. I will make sure that he faces the consequences of his sins.
The points raised by the newspaper article (discussed in that post) seem so very shallow to me! It was written by someone who has no idea of ground reality and is floating in the dreams of a yesterday that does not exist.
Let me consider each point:
1. in a negotiated marriage, family support is a given.
What decent parent would not support their own child? And if this parent does not want to support a daughter who had a love marriage, would he support her if her arranged marriage ran into trouble? What is the guarantee?
2. If the marriage demands the girl to stay with her in-laws, it is more likely that they will make her feel comfortable as they have already ‘approved’ of her.
As you can judge from my story, the ‘approval’ is only skin-deep. There is no guarantee that these in-laws will ‘approve’ afterwards too. And because enough time is not usually provided, who knows what the in-laws are actually like? Serial killers can also seem very pleasant under normal circumstances, but they will show their true colours only after a certain time.
3. The process … involves understanding each other’s cultural interests apart from individual views and opinions about life in general.
Complete rubbish. The process only involves ticking off certain features, as if one was buying a car. This is not a feature of arranged marriage at all.
4. Unlike a love marriage where financial security of the groom is not always a priority, in an arranged marriage, it is imperative that the bride’s family ensure that their would-be son-in-law is career-oriented and has a steady flow of income.
If financial security is not a priority for the couple, then how is it important in any case? If it is a priority, then the couple will ensure it.
5. Each day is a surprise wherein the couple learn about the nitty gritty of the relationship and also take an effort to nurture it.
But are all surprises pleasant? Some things should not be a surprise. There are things that one must know well about one’s husband beforehand.
6. Once the alliance is arranged, the boy and girl are officially allowed to meet and know more about each other
I do not understand what this means. Are the girl and boy not allowed to meet otherwise? If not, then how will they get married in any case?
7. Ever heard of Swayamvar, an ancient Indian practice of choosing a husband from among a list of suitors?
Do all ‘Swayamvars’ turn out blissfully?
8. Since both the parties are way too involved in finding the right match and also the actual activity of marriage, it takes the load off the bride-to-be and gives her time to get comfortable in her new surroundings.
I can only laugh at this, seeing how things have gone with my own daughter.
I hope I’ve not made this overly long. I really wanted to share it, and I hope your find it useful.
Re-posted from The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker