In the majority of Western society the latter phrase is archaic. Quite simply, arranged marriages have died a natural death - the idea of the families deciding the fate of a young couple was one of the casualties of 20th century culture.
Yet in India, a society as diverse and interesting as the entire Western civilization, arranged marriages still have their place. This is to be seen not only in the primitive backwaters of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar but in the metropoli - places like Delhi, Bangalore and our own Bombay.
South Bombay and Bandra are two of the most westernised localities in the world. Take a jog in Jogger's Park or watch a film in Sterling and you'll understand what I mean. The clothes, the accent , the choice of words, the outlook, the atmosphere - it's all western. Yet the prevalence of this one idea - that of the arranged marriage - is a solid reminder of the fact that you are very much in India. The richest and best exposed part of our society largely still chooses to treat marriage as a journey for two families - it is to be expected that the rest of society finds no cause to change either.
There is a slight difference in the way it is executed now. The marriage itself is not arranged; rather, a meeting between couples is arranged and the two young people are given some time to get to know each other. The families already approve, so it is like a family sanctioned courtship. If the couple decides that they are meant for each other, the next step is taken and they get engaged. If they decide that they are not, they meet some opposition from their respective families for making up the mind too hastily, and are asked(forced) to give it another try. If they are still adamant, the courtship will cease and the next family on the applicants' list will come up for interview. All quite businesslike and smooth.
While I don't have too many issues with this modus operandi and I admit that love can be found in such a situation, I must state that it puts a lot of pressure on the two individuals involved. For them, it is quite suffocating ; some of them could end up getting pushed into a marriage they don't really want simply because they are tired of the whole process. This approach also views marriage as an event - one that needs to be got out of the way at a particular time in life. If one were to draw an analogy, it would be
BRUSHING TEETH : DAY just like GETTING MARRIED: LIFETIME
And I have an issue with this outlook as well. Human beings are complex creatures - indeed some may be ready for marriage at 20 while others may not be till 40. Our characters and personalities are vastly different and depending on what else we do with our life, marriage may or may not be welcome. In this sense, a more realistic analogy for a day is having a shower: an activity that varies depending on when we exercise or when and where we travel, unlike our first brush of the teeth which is almost always around breakfast time. Which is why a good social life and healthy interaction with the opposite sex is all parents should desire for their grown up children. The 'm' word should not even enter into the picture.
So, to answer the very Indian question posted by the title of the blog: Love marriage or arranged marriage = Love marriage.
Despite this, I'm not a fellow to deprive a family of indulging their love for arranging. My family is welcome to arrange my wedding reception.
[Images courtesy British FCO home and The World As I See]