Match made in reality
Netflix's Indian Matchmaking has sparked much debate online. But how do people navigate arranged marriage and its accompanying pressures? Experts put things into perspective
Ever since the documentary television series Indian Matchmaking hit digital screens on July 16, the show's protagonist, Mumbai-based Sima Taparia, went from matchmaker to Internet sensation. While there was that, opinions on the show greatly differed — it was perceived either as holding up a mirror to society and projecting what's wrong with it or completely ignoring the realities of the arranged marriage system in the country where casteism, colourism and sexism are predominant.
But no matter the number of arguments against it, the age-old practice shows no sign of fading out. How then, does one navigate it? Experts say, the key is not adjustment but assertiveness.
Choice for life
Considering that parents and other elderly family members are often the first to pop the arranged marriage question, it is important to assess your own relationship with them before you answer. Shruti Reddy [name changed on request], a city-based lawyer, was proposed the idea by her parents last year. The 25-year-old was asked if she was seeing someone and if not, they would search for a match, keeping her preferences in mind. She decided to go ahead with their suggestion having trusted her parents. "I was dead sure that even if I declined this route, they wouldn't force me," she says.
Reddy, who is due to get married in November this year, says that a healthy bond with the parents helps put your point of view forward. And even if you're about to disagree, doing it respectfully is important. Ankur Gupta, a 36-year-old advertising professional from Mumbai, was about 26 or 27 when his parents thought it was their obligation to get him married. "I was not comfortable with the idea [of being part of an orchestrated meeting] and thought it was too little time to get to know anyone. My entire conversation with them was about the fact that I needed time to explore this space myself. And kudos to them for being extremely supportive," he shares.
Encounter with empathy
Gupta adds that he had to also understand the place they were coming from because his parents had an arranged marriage, too. "For parents, marriage is between two families not two people. So, one needs to be empathetic even though there's an instinctive rebellion that surges; you want to say, 'It's my life and I need to choose.' But parents feel as obligated as you to be involved in the relationship. That said, you need to be persistent about what you feel and address all concerns that your parents raise," he shares.
Ameeta Sanghavi Shah, transpersonal psychotherapist and mind life coach adds that the ideal approach is to validate parents' statements ie don't agree or disagree, but acknowledge it. "There is a generational gap. There will always be pressure in the background with people asking you, 'So, what have you decided?' The young person has to be patient," she says, adding that matchmaking is also a risky burden for parents to take since relationships today are more complex.
Ameeta Sanghavi Shah
Evaluate your readiness
Swapnil Pange, a Thane-based psychologist and practising psychotherapist who has been working with marital cases for the past decade, emphasises that if one has to proceed with marriage, irrespective of an arranged one, then a pre-marital counselling session will greatly help to evaluate if you are ready or not. Psychological assessments are done for different dimensions including introversion and extroversion.
"I had a client in his 30s who was the only child, and didn't wish to marry. But his parents were forcing him and so, he brought them for a session. Here, we found out that he had a schizoid personality ie an extreme level of introversion; he was happy being in his own company, which is absolutely okay. The parents asked, 'Can't you make him bold?' So, I had to explain to them that this is a biological trait, and cannot be forced," Pange reveals.
Matchmaker Sima Taparia guides clients from India and the US. Pic/netflix/facebook
"Matches are made in heaven and God has given me the job of making them successful on earth," Taparia announces on the show. But for Leena Paranjpe, a 'millennial' marriage coach, "Sima can only make a wedding successful, not a marriage. And the two are vastly different concepts." She urges individuals to ask three questions before heading into an arranged marriage, especially if they have not been in a serious relationship before: 1) Am I a good decision maker for my life? 2) What do I wish to achieve through marriage? 3) Am I courageous enough to accept the differences of my partner?
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