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