Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why do Indian arranged marriages work?

[caption id="attachment_607" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Why Do Indian Arranged Marriages work?[/caption]

(continued from previous blog "why do Indians go for arranged marriage")
Needless to say, bio-digital break did not help me to find suitable answers to a profound question "why do Indian arranged marriages work".

When I see around, there are many arranged marriages which almost never break. They may not necessarily be "then they lived happily ever after" kind of marriages. There would be fights, misunderstandings, deceptions but the marriages survive more often than not.  They are not ideal marriages, they are no role models but still they survive.  The divorce rates from such a counter intuitive match making process are  much lower (~10%) as compared to rest of the world where matchmaking is quite prolonged, there are almost infinite choices but more than 50% marriages end in divorce.

What is intriguing is why do such marriages work? Are people who get married this way actually "happily married"? Frankly, I did not have an answer till I stumbled upon a few TED talks.

As per Helen Fisher, as an animal a human being is not borne to love but borne to reproduce and propagate the species. No doubt love is a feeling or a drive that is unique to human being but that means to an end. To effectively achieve this, human brain evolved in a very unique way. There are 3 attraction centres in our brain, one for lust, second for romantic love and third for attachment.  Apparently, lust centre makes us want the partner, love centre helps us to zoom in on one preferred partner and attachment centre ensures we stick around long enough with our partner to raise the child. So lust and love are intermediate steps to achieve attachment which is an end goal for human being as a species.
Arranged marriages happen because - The  whole process is designed towards eliminating step 1 and 2 and directly jump on to step 3. The commitment to stay attached to the partner makes up for lack of lust or love.

But does this supposedly sub-optimal way of getting married actually make them happy? Isn't their happiness like sour grapes? Dan Gilbert's TED talk had the answer. As it turns out human brain has evolved to manufacture happiness in our brain. We keep chasing it outside but actually it is inside our brain. Experiments where  subjects are subjected to many choices and had freedom to change their mind at any point in time were a lot unhappier than those who had to make their mind once and were not allowed to change.Extremely counter intuitive, surprising finding from Harvard labs. This is exactly what happens in arranged marriage.

Decide based on what you know, make up your mind, never turn back and make it work. I am not sure if propagators of Indian arranged marriage knew it. Probably they did not. Perhaps, they stumbled upon a system that works. Not an ideal system, not everyone's cup of tea but it just works!!

"Why we love , why we cheat" Helen Fisher explains 3 pleasure centers in the brain. But she says arranged marriages will cease to exist, for the very same reason :)

"Why are we Happy?" Dan Gilbert explains people who have more freedom to make choices are less happier than those who have limited choice

Read extended short story version of Why Do Indians blogs with a few more interesting indian inscrutable ways in Why Do Indians..? - The Book

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why do Indians go for arranged marriages?

[caption id="attachment_599" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Arranged Marriage or Love Marriage?[/caption]

Somewhere in Paris or Tokyo, Seoul or London, after a couple of drinks when boundaries of inhibitions are lower and my hosts get friendlier with me, I prepare myself for the inevitable question.

"So was your marriage love marriage or arranged marriage?"
"Arranged marriage". They look happier.
"So did you actually meet the girl before getting married? Or did your parents do everything". I can't help but notice mild sarcasm with topping of curiosity in the voice.
I acknowledge this feelings with a smile, try not to be defensive when I answer, "well I dated my wife for about 6 months before We decided to get married"
Surprise factor in my answer kills the sarcasm, curiosity prevails.
"... thats pretty quick but not too bad. Did you have sex before marriage?" a wink of an eye, sarcasm returns with a challenge.
"... in our arranged marriage system when parents introduce you are not supposed to have sex before marriage"
"but why? Isn't that an important part of married life?" someone in the background can't hold himself when he says "perhaps the most important" The whole group bursts into laughter. Tension is relieved.
"It is important but that is not supposed to be a decision making criteria. Sexual needs and drive of both partners changes drastically with age. So that can't be basis of decision"
Unexpected assertive answer disturbs their thought process. There are light murmurs in the background. Some nod in agreement, some dismiss this off hand, others get challenged.
"what about romatic love. Isnt that supposed to be important for marriage." the tempers rise. "oh come on, how can you even think of getting married with someone you don't exactly love"
I have to take a step back. They are right this time. Romantic love is an essential ingredient in marriage but it may be completely missing in many arranged marriages. I search for answers. I take a sip.
"romantic love is required to get the couple together but that also can't be the sole reason to get married."
There is a silent outrage. People watch me in disbelief. "what is he made of? What is that supposed to mean?", they say to themselves. I don't hear the words only notice the question marks.
"in scientific terminology, romantic love is a necessary condition not a sufficient one. Romantic love is a passing feeling too. In fact romantic love with great sexual experience could be an intoxicating cocktail which would drive you to make wrong decisions. If either of them goes away, the marriage would fall flat on its face, right?" Now its my turn to challenge the mob. Most of them are in denial, some of them agree, others are thinking what to say next.
"if it is not sex, not romantic love then what is Indian arranged marriage based on?" some silent listener comes with a perfect question.
"commitment" comes my reply in a flash. "Indian arranged marriage system is based on commitment and shared responsibility. When I was dating my wife for  6 months before marriage, I was making up my mind whether I want to commit to this girl for rest of my life. Her looks may fed, her figure would change but would I like to be with her despite of that. I was not really worried if she would be great in bed, I was worried about would she be a great person who will walk with me in highs and lows in life."
Pin drop silence set in.
"any guesses on what is the divorce rate in India?" I go on a challenging spree.
"less than 50%?" "about 25%" "at least 20%"
"In recent census, less than 10% Indians described themselves as divorced or separated. The point is Indian arranged marriage may not be ideal system, it has its own flaws but it works"
I pick up my drink with a victorious smile and look around for remaining challengers.
"Buddy, this still does not sound like an ideal way ( to get married) but why does it work so well?" some unassuming guy comes up with a winner.
Now its my turn to think. I call for a bio-digital  break and ask them to order some more food as I keep thinking about "Why do Indian arranged marriages work?"

Read extended short story version of Why Do Indians blogs with a few more interesting indian inscrutable ways in Why Do Indians..? - The Book

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Why are Indians fanatic about cricket?

Cricket @ India

British empire left India in 1947 but their legacy still lingers. Two most prominent aspects of the legacy are proficiency of Indians in english and cricket. Both these things have helped Indians to amass tremendous wealth. British have left but Cricket still rules India.

Cricket is not even considered a game outside non-cricket playing nations. How can you have a game which goes on for 5 days  and yet can possibly end without any side winning the game? Who will like to watch such a game, they wonder.

But Indians definitely a deeper psychological connection with cricket.  Cricketers are best paid sportspersons and brand ambassadors in India. Their houses are considered tourist attraction. Cricket tournaments are like superbowl in US, happy hunting ground for advertisers. IPL tournament changes the entire entertainment landscape. Corporates throng cricket stadiums, movie theatres screen matches and actors, politicians and industrialist make a beeline to watch cricketers in action. Cricket has inspired several movie makers to make cricket-centric movies. They have not only made money but gone up to Oscar nominations riding on popularity of Cricket.

So why are Indians fanatic fans of cricket?

For starters, Each team member is assured a place in limelight irrespective of their credentials and skill levels. No. 11 batsman is not actually a batsman, he should not be given a chance to bat. But in cricket if you are in the team, you get to bat. No matter what, your moments in limelight are assured.

Secondly, Cricket is as much an individual's game as it is a team game. One exceptionally brilliant individual can defeat the entire opponent team.  Laxman is the nemesis of Australian team. In Sharjah, all 11 Indians tried hard but Javed Miandad snatched the victory from jaws of defeat. I can't recall any other team game that empowers the individual so much that he can defeat entire opposition team.

Cricket does not favor any particular particular physical trait. Internationally successful cricketers come in all shapes and sizes. Even players considered obese in any other form of the game have succeeded in cricket. Arjuna Rantunga - Srilankan captain lead the team from front to a world cup victory when he had a prominent oversized tummy.

Lastly Cricket offers something which no other game offers. Cricket offers the best chance for underdogs to win at individual level as well as team level. In no other game a physically handicapped person like Murali would have become a world record holder. In no other game 1983 Indian cricket team would have won a world cup by beating a world class west indies team.

 A common man in India is still not empowered. Daily life is nothing less than a struggle. Special world class traits  are rare, financial wherewithal is absent. Opportunities to perform are denied on the basis of caste, creed, class, religion, language, physical traits. Being in limelight is considered once in a lifetime opportunity.

No wonder the common man has developed a deep psychological connection with game that assures opportunity to perform, offers equal chance of success without any bias and assures moments in limelight no matter what.

They are fanatic because Cricket gives them things that their life can not.

Read extended short story version of Why Do Indians blogs with a few more interesting indian inscrutable ways in Why Do Indians..? - The Book