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Sarena Nanda, USA
  • This essay is written by Serena Nanda. She is a professor of Anthropology (The social science that studies the origins and social relationships of human beings) in a college in New York. In this essay, Nanda describes the beliefs of the Indian natives on how marriage should be.
  •  Nanda studied about Indian marriages and how the parents are the ones to choose the bride or bridegroom. At first Nanda was against this but after researching and interviewing different people and friends she had doubts. Nanda found out many interesting point that made sense to her of why arranging a marriage was not as bad as she thought.
  • In India, almost all marriages are arranged. They base their marriage on commitment, not on feelings. As their marriage progresses, the feelings develop. 
  • Arranged marriages in Indian society have been the norm for many centuries. Serena asked a young college graduate who was in the process of having her marriage arranged a few questions. One of the questions she asked was “How can you think of spending your life with someone you don’t know personally and don’t love?” She responded with “If he is a good man, why should I not like him? With you people you know the boy so well before you marry, where will be the fun to get married? There will be no mystery and no romance.” 
Serena Nanda tells us how marriage is arranged in India. She went there on a trip and found that basically their parents set up all the couples. She said that the parents can’t force their children to marry anyone that they don’t want to so they have usually one meeting before and if neither of them object then they will get married if the parents think that the other person is good enough for their child. Nanda said at first she would totally object to this and rebelled. “Had anyone tried to arrange my marriage, I would have been defiant and rebellious.” 

Arranged marriage is very much popular in India. Even educated and prestigious families choose the process to marry their children. The writer found it very surprising that the bride and the groom hardly get any chance to have a conversation before they get married. Because she thinks that romantic love experience is important before getting married. In India, the parents seek the suitable candidate for their son or daughter. A lot of things are put into consideration such as the person’s appearance, level of education, personality, family background, cultural background, caste, position in the social class, etc. The candidates may get chance to meet each other only if the parents find it suitable. There is no objection from the parents if any candidate finds it objectionable. The process may take a long time.  Marriage is as much a concern of the families as it is of the individuals. In many cases, the bride and groom do not meet each other before marriage. If they meet, they meet for a short conversation. Parents do not compel their children to marry a person whom they selected. If their children don't like, they search another one.

The writer is an American. So, she found the system difficult to believe. She thought the cultural of arranged marriage oppressive. She was very much curious to know how young Indian would take it. Serena asked an Indian girl Sita, who was a college girl graduate and whose parents were trying to find suitable boy for her, how she can silently accept the boy who is completely unknown to her. Sita replied that her parents would never ask her to marry a boy with whom she wouldn't be happy. They can take many things into consideration and would find a right match. She told her that Americans know about their partner so well before marriage. So there would not be mystery and romance after marriage. So, she continued that American girls were spending all their time worrying about if they would meet a man and get married but Indian girls would have a chance to enjoy their life and let their parents do that work of worrying for them.

Serena returned to India again six years later. She found many positive aspects of arranged marriages. In America, marriages are soon broken in divorce but the marriages lasted lifetime in India. It was surprising to her. She had arranged many marriages in America, so she thought she would try one in India. One of her friends in India had a son. Though the family had a prestigious background, her son was in a military force. Many families in India would not risk their daughter’s life by giving her hand to a person who is in such a risky job. But then, the boy had left his job and had joined his father’s business. The writer was sure that he would easily get a partner for him. Her friend asked Serena to consider the height and the color of her son.  She was so selective that did not arrange the marriage for her son if she found a small weakness in the girl or in her family. Serena proposed a girl who had four sisters. But the boy’s family refused it saying that they couldn't have grand marriage. Serena tried to find a reasonable candidate for him. She learned many things during the process. She proposed another girl but again the family found her too educated and so not suitable for their son. Next they rejected a family simply because the girl was fat and wearing glasses. And even a girl was rejected because she was traveling alone in the city. They thought she was independent. Independent girl was not accepted by her family.

Two years later she again returned to India. Her friend was still searching a girl for her son. At that time, the boy was close to 30, and her friend was little worried. The writer met family with marriageable daughter. The girl studied fashion design in the college. She was pretty. Her parents had not allowed her to go out of the city to find out her career. So, she was running a small dressmaking boutique. After a year, the boy was going to marry with a girl. Serena realized why arranged marriages lasted so long in India.

Extensive Reading:

The essayist Serena Nanda has beautifully described the assumptions of western and eastern culture regarding marriage in this essay. The essayist had been temporarily in India. She was grown up in US. So, she strongly believed in western culture. She was quite surprised when she came to know that marriage in India is a matter of family rather than Individual. She writes that there are two ways of marriage system in India. One is the marriage which is arranged by the parents and the another is one in which parents do not have any role but the boys and girls themselves select their life partner which is called 'love match' She was shocked when she came to know that parents and other relatives take the responsibility of arranging marriage in India. Then she ponders on this issue. At first she does not like this idea because she believed that Western marriage system is better because it has following merits: It provides the freedom to select their spouse, has sufficient romance, boy and the girl can know each other. They can make a plan of their life before marriage.

She does not prefer Indian marriage system: She simply believes that it is ridiculous because Indian marriage system ceases the personal freedom and is devoid of romance in her definitions. It is through the communication with an Indian girl, Sita, she slowly realizes that how content the Indian boys and girls were to give the responsibilities of selecting their life partners form their matured parents and enjoy the freedom. It is her friend who makes the essayist knows some beliefs associated with Indian marriage system because her friend was also in search of a bride to her son. According to it, a girl who is more educated, goes out of the home without any guardian is not preferred. Similarly, she should be religious, soft spoken and modest. She should neither gossip and nor should she quarrel. These are the most two important qualities desired from a good girl. Similarly, the essayist also knows that a good Indian boy should not be short and dark. In addition to these negative aspects of a boy, the writer also knows that Indian people would not like to give her daughter's hand to the person who is an army or police. All these details have both positive and negative impact upon the writer. It causes humor in the writer and she also begins to appreciate such intense awareness given by the Indians on the serious issue like marriage at the same time. The writer goes to US and finds that her many friends who had of course married in the west style had divorced. Quite contrarily, she finds that all the couples in India were living very happily. This perception of two realities on the two marriage system of the east and west germinates a kind of faith on the Indian marriage system. Then, the writer herself gets engaged in the search of her friend's son's bride. Finally, she is successful. Hence, the essay is the reflection of a westerner's assimilation of the eastern culture after the understanding its deep riches.


  1. Very informative, thanks for posting such informative content. Expecting more from you.
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