Nivindya Sharma, a design manager from London writes, "I warm my hands on the coffee cup and peer at the man sat across from me as he attempts to say all the right things - to impress me, seduce me and render me helpless to his charms.
I study his eyes and wonder if they are the proverbial windows to the soul. I attempt imagining a future where his hands and face are a part of my every morning...and I wonder for the hundredth time why I am here.
I am on yet another ‘date’ arranged by my parents. A word of explanation – I am an Indian woman living in London, ‘of marriageable age’ and have recently discovered that my parents would like me to "get married please"!
I was initially appalled at the idea of an arranged match. In my world, I would meet the perfect man (on the bus, at a party, in a coffee shop), date him, fall in love (while he said all the right things, cared for my broken toe, etc) and one day he would pop the question, I’d accept and we’d live happily ever after - the standard Hollywood manufactured dream.
Sadly, it was not to be. So after much clashing of wills, tears and recriminations, I exhaustedly gave in just so my parents would shut up. My sneaky plan was that I would go through the routine, be completely indifferent and declare every guy my parents introduced me to to be entirely incompatible. Sooner or later they would give up and I would be free!
My non-Indian friends were aghast and questioned why I was doing it. For a long while, I had no answer – I hated the ‘Indian’ in me that wouldn’t let me break away completely from my parents, that cringed from hurting them in any way, detested the part of me that believed they had my best interests at heart.
"I realised with some horror that I liked the unpretentiousness of these ‘arranged introductions’."
But a strange thing happened. Having been on both sides of the dating fence – I realised with some horror that I liked the unpretentiousness of these ‘arranged introductions’. There is no tiptoeing around, no playing hard to get. The goal is clear, the rules are set and there is a certain comfort to be derived from the fact that you know exactly what the person across the table from you is looking for.
The Indian ‘arranged marriage’ has morphed along the changing values of Indian society. While there is a large percentage of Indians who accept the traditional arranged route without question, it is the young urban middle class who increasingly struggle with the dichotomy of a conventional arranged marriage and a liberal upbringing. For us it has evolved into ‘arranged introductions’ after which we are left to do as we please, the only caveat being the ticking time bomb of parental expectations.
My non-Indian friends often see it as a sign of repression and it is hard to explain to them that actually I am free to choose whomever I want. My parents have never pre-determined my future for me and while they are clearly gagging to pass on phone numbers of eligible (parent certified, nice Indian) bachelors to me, they want me to enjoy the experience, fall in love and then get married. Parents have different criteria when they look for a suitable boy - they look for stability, ambition and a well-rounded personality, whereas I look for attractiveness, passion for life and a sense of humour. The double filtering process ensures that I thankfully never really meet jerks.
While it is by no means a perfect process and definitely not for everyone, it works for me. I’ve met more interesting men this way than I managed to on my own. And that in itself is a success!
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Main picture credit: Rex Features