When arranged marriage is devoid of free choice on the bride’s part, does it then become an oppressive dynamic?
I don’t think so. Arranged marriages today work almost like blind dating. You also have family friends bringing couples together or people meeting via websites. Nowadays, meetings usually take place outside; the ‘chai-trade’ thing doesn’t happen anymore. So I don’t think it’s devoid of free choice on either the bride or the groom’s side.
Do you think dating websites and similar avenues have allowed the modern woman a higher level of freedom?
The Internet phenomenon has been both positive and negative. Many people view the huge volume of responses on websites as a positive effect of the growth of the Internet. I think the anonymity has helped because with traditional media, people know who you are, which becomes embarrassing when your matrimonial ad appears in the newspaper. The flip side of anonymity is that you don’t really know how serious people actually are about marriage.
Why do you think arranged marriages are so ubiquitous in modern, educated India?
There are several factors; one of them being the lack of time to meet people. People are working so much that they no longer have as much time to meet people, or they may go a while without a promising relationship. Women are also educated to higher levels today, so they spend a lot of time studying and then working, and they panic about their ‘biological clock’ once they reach 30. People have found reason in the modern arranged marriage; if we look at the West, dating websites are moving more in the direction of arranged marriages.
How hard was it for you to write this book without taking a stand for or against?
It wasn’t hard, simply because there were some happy stories and some terrible ones. It wasn’t very hard for me to be neutral because I was also figuring out whether arranged marriages made sense or not. A lot of my friends have had them and everyone goes in expecting compromises, but there are compromises in love marriages as well. I think it depends on the kind of person you are.
What do you see as the impact of this book?
I want people to see themselves in the book, to relate to the stories. Maybe it will help those already struggling with being in an arranged marriage or those deliberating on whether to take that step.