For many single people, living in London particularly, finding love doesn’t seem to come easily. I’ve noticed that a lot of people in their twenties living in London are focussing on careers or just busy enjoying themselves which can mean that, even unintentionally, relationships just aren’t a priority. Living in a competitive society makes us compare ourselves to others and judgemental of people’s achievements or lack of. I have been guilty of this myself in the past and no matter how hard I try to be more open-minded, I am probably a bit conditioned to think this way. I believe that ambition to achieve career goals or financial stability is important for our own psychological development (and our bank balance) but also I am attracted to people who are that way. I wonder if the expectations we set for our potential partners makes us lose sight of what might really make us happy with someone – like just love and having a family. All of a sudden, you reach an age where you might like to be in a relationship but now you have been exposed to so many possibilities, your unrealistic expectations will mean that no one will ever be right.
I think we, along with all our dating apps, as well as our exposure to so much in the media through the internet have massively over complicated our thoughts and even our lives.
In India traditionally, life is about family and living as a close unit. Working for your family, providing security, safety and future are the priorities. It has been beautiful to see such genuine closeness of families and the contribution to family life on a daily basis. It’s a bit of a contrast to some of us back home in the U.K. Yes most of us do care about our families, but we tend to think about ourselves above everyone else. As a young woman in India, you will be found a suitable partner through your family and live happily ever after. As a slightly older, but still young man you will be found a wife and also live happily ever after. And that’s supposed to be kind of it! Sort of. At least from that point you will probably have some children and live your life as a family together.
In modern India, the culture is changing. For somewhere like Kerala (or major cities) where education is advanced and a lot of families are middle class, many young people want to pursue more freedom in their lives, travel and find their own partner through a “love marriage,” which is not arranged. The family I stayed with in Kochi are an example of this. Boss of the house, Linda, lives with her husband and 2 children. Linda tells me her son, aged 17 is hoping for a love marriage, much to her dissatisfaction. Linda believes that by ensuring the matching of two people of the same level of education and class are what make arranged marriages so successful. It’s hard to say what defines a ‘successful’ marriage in India but statistically the divorce rate, although gradually rising, is still very low. Linda and her husband’s marriage was of course arranged and there is no denying that they are very happy together.
Sometimes I think maybe a consenting arranged marriage would have been great for me. Do these modern young Indians really know what they are letting themselves in for?! I’ve spent a good 10 years of my life expecting to end up in a decent long term love relationship, let alone marriage and I know I’m not the only one!
I’ve had 4-ish boyfriends in total, who mostly didn’t deserve that title but who are still of some significance and more than a few attempts on top of that. Still unmarried, I prepared to wear a fake wedding ring in India to deter any unwanted attention, I decided this wasn’t necessary but people asked me often out of curiosity. I told the truth which was usually questioned with, “How old are you?” and then guaranteed shock when I told them I’m 32 and not only because I’m so desperately youthful looking. I think I shocked one guy even more when he asked if I have even had a boyfriend to which I replied “Yea, loads!”
It made me feel a little like I often had to justify myself and our culture. I would tell them we all get married later in England. Which is partly true. The truth is I’m happy with my life and I wouldn’t change it. Yes having someone to share things with would be more than great but having the freedom to do what you want and be who you want is everything. I know I make my life complicated at times (all the time) by being ‘unsettled,’ but my parents always allowed me to make my own decisions and that meant dealing with the consequences too, whatever they may be, for me to grow and learn from. Sometimes I’m sure they wished they had made some for me and maybe they would have benefited me in some way but ultimately I wouldn’t be me without all my experiences in life. Experiences from relationships, travel (so much more to do!), countless jobs, moving around, friendships, being reckless, being scared, sometimes fearless, being bold and doing things my way.
Whether young Indians are happy with arranged marriage or not, there are some who do not have a choice. Some women do not have the psychological and financial independence that we have and should be grateful for. Although modern India seems to be slowly developing in some areas, it’s a huge and complicated country with a long history that will take time, if ever, to change so drastically. We are very, very privileged to be able to live the way we do.
Unlike in a traditional Indian family, I might not have been part of an every day unit with my family for a long time but I still owe everything to my parents who gave me the freedom to be the person I am today and I hopefully my path will continue to lead me to happiness, married or unmarried.
Peace and love,