Love & Indian Society

Love has been a four lettered word in conservative Indian households for more reasons than just the actual letter count. But that was 30 years back. Things have been changing rapidly with the onset of globalization. But India is a complex multi layered society with the changes penetrating at varied extent at different strata levels in an already highly heterogeneous society. This land has a unique heritage of Kamastutra, Buddha’s ideals of celibacy and monasticism, Islamic ideals of protecting the women’s modesty and the Victorian hypocrisy. So it would really not be fair to present a single unified view point as Indian society’s attitude towards love. Nor would the limited space afforded by a blog offer sufficient space to do full justice to the various facets. So what I would attempt is to present how a typical conformist individual from a conservative middle class family would find love. I have tried to use the medium of English nursery rhymes to portray the same to keep the narrative a bit lively.

Let us start where it all begins: when the parents feel their children have reached marriageable age.

Little Jack Horner
Sat in the corner,
Eating a Christmas pie;
He put in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said 'What a good boy am I”

At this stage, the boy and girls are rather naïve and obedient. Or at least the parents expect them to be so. At this point, the process begins. The parents approach a matchmaker.

Match maker, Match Maker, where have you been?
I've been down to Chennai to visit the girls’ dad keen.
Match maker, Match Maker, what did you there?
I frightened a little girl, under her chair

Once the match maker finds a match, the parents of the boy and the girl interact.

Bah, Bah a black Sheep,
Have you any Wool?
Yes merry have I,
Three Bags full,
One for my master,
One for my Dame,
One for the little Boy
That lives down the lane

The black sheep (the girl’s dad) promises goodies for the master (the boy’s dad), the dame (the boy’s mom) and the little boy who lives down the lane. (The bridegroom) Next it is time to introduce another key actor in the process: the astrologer.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high, 
Like a diamond in the sky

The astrologer consults the stars and decides if the stars want the marriage to take place or not and on what date and time. With this done, we move to the next phase: the girl and the boy begin to interact over the phone. The girl is very curious about her future husband.

Johnny Johnny
Yes papa 
No papa. 
No papa
Ha ha ha

I would like to mention here that in some of the south Indian states, young women are addressed as papa. Once this phase gets over, we approach the actual day of the marriage.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again

On the day of the wedding the bridegroom would be placed on the marriage altar in front of the fire place like Humpty Dumpty. And who said one can only fall in love? One can fall in marriage as well. Once he is into it, his whole life changes and no one can put him together again. With the marriage done, the girls’ parents sadly bid farewell to their daughter.

Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep,
And can't tell where to find them;
Leave them alone, And they'll come home,
Wagging their tails behind them

The girls’ parents are left feeling like Little Bo-Peep having lost their daughter as the daughter heads for the honeymoon with her husband.

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.

With the budgetary constraints of a middle class family, the honeymoon can be a bit too adventurous at times and the newly married Jack and Jill may have to overcome quite some obstacles. And then tiding through various obstacles they manage to sail through one full year.

Mary had a little lamb,
little lamb, little lamb,
Mary had a little lamb,
whose fleece was white as snow.

The stork comes and delivers the little lamb to the family as love finally begins to blossom between the couple.

With such a long and elaborate pre love process, no wonder from here on love has only one direction to go: up. That is why here marriages still last a life time unlike the west, where people change spouses like shoes. With all its weaknesses and flaws, one must admit the Indian arranged marriage system has been somehow working and millions of people still find love through this system: a love that lasts a lifetime.

Related Post: Great Indian Bride Hunt


Hitesh Rawat said...

good to see many still believe in the institution of marriage.......

this post was different....something new.........describing a while process that too..with nursery must have excelled in your nursery or you have a kid who is in nursery......

whatever it is........i love it anyways

Niveditha said...

A very refreshing take with all the poems I must say! :D

The Fool said...

Thanks Niveditha. Yours seems to have come out really well too seeing from the comments. Glad you stood your ground amidst my critical feedback.

The Fool said...

Thanks Hitesh. I am glad you liked it. I remembered hazily. Searched them out on the net.

Always there are 2 sides of the coin. I have interacted closely with Europeans and Japanese and I realized grass is not greener on the other side either.

Sree said...

An awesome analytic cum conclusive post that Karthik!! :)
Arranged marriage...yes, it does last...even in the west! :)

Gyanban said...

You know the underlying philosophy has come out really well.The irony of it all has been nicely captured.

as the cliché goes - love is blind and marriage an eyeopener. !

Quite enjoyed reading your take on love.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Gyanban. I am glad the you enjoyed reading.

The Fool said...

Thanks Shree. I don't know if there is an institution of arranged marriage at all in the West. In Europe even the institution of marriage itself is eroding.

Lazy Pineapple said...

really funny and unique way of presenting love in the Indian society. There are no options left at the end of this whole affair than to love your spouse :)

The Fool said...

Thanks Lazy Pineapple. guess all is well that ends well. as long as one finds love by whatever means.

Pushpee said...

hats off to u...creating a good post at a spur of the moment...Nice!!!

The Fool said...

Thanks, pushpee.

Rumya said...

Could quite identify with this post since I come from the south and many marriages amongst people I know have taken place this way. Hahaha!! Loved the use of Nursery Rhymes to take explain Love in the Indian Society!!

My Favorites were: Twinkle Twinkle and Johnny Johnny!! :)

Have you heard this one??

Jack and Jill went up the Hill,
To fetch a pail of water,
What they did there, no one know,
But they came down with a daughter!!

LOL!! :D

pal said...

Very interesting presentation :-) Though I don't agree that marriages in India last longer than those abroad. That is simply because women abroad are financially and emotionally more independent than women in India. And they KNOW that marriage is not everything. Indian women on the other hand, believe they have no choice, and certainly no world beyond their 'pati-dev' therefore they just put up with everything.

Again, we are confusing marriage with love. Just because a couple is married need not mean they are in love. They just agree to tolerate one another ;-) in easy companionship. OR for the sake of their children!!! neither of these means they are in love :-) with each other.

Hmmm... yours is a thought provoking post :-)

Neha said...

now this is interesting..but things are changing in India too.. here too, as Pal said; women are becoming more and more independent. as a lawyer, I see so many divorce cases happening these days..

but I loved your presentation..good luck for the contest :)

PNA said...

marriage being an eyeopener, and a love opener :P
Arranged marriages work here as neither party involved carry tales:) It breaks now more often as more women have started to feel enlightened somehow... the societal constraints!!

Loved ur POV and irony:)

Arif said...

The Poetic Flow concept is truly remarkable! Through them you superbly justify the cases of arranged marriages working well in India! And all this in at the crucial hour for our tribe - really, it's Fantabulous! Great work K! :)

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Arif.

The Fool said...

Appreciate your views, pal. Of course every coin has 2 sides. Of course domestic violence (emotional and physical) are a different case. Let us just consider the normal scenario. One can not generalize that arranged marriages are without love. Most of what I has seen in my family circles did seem to have love - maybe not public display of affection and lot of intense sexual gratification (this obviously I don't know as I don't peer into bed rooms. But let us assume the worst case that it is not there ) but genuine sharing and caring and sacrifice for each other.

The Fool said...

Thanks for your comments, Rumya. Glad you liked it. And nice version of Jack and Jill.

The Fool said...

Yeah. Change is inevitable. But our rate of change is much slower compared to even China and Mexico. I had Chinese and Mexican friends looking at me curiously when I was describing our Indian arranged marriage systems.

The Fool said...

Thanks PNA. Guess next generation will be like the West. Thankfully I would be a grandpa by then and would not need to go and hang around in pubs to find a wife.

Bikram said...

I loved the Poems and thw way you have used them WOWO ... a round of claps please everyone reading

Excellent loved it

The Fool said...

Thanks for your highly appreciative comments, Bikram.

dvirada said...

Its truly laudable how you have enriched the post with your poetic prowess. The flow is really nice and perfectly balances the subtle humor and the profound message behind the post.

BTW waiting to read your post on 'Love Marriages in India';-). I bet it would be the most interesting one to read. I will wait with eager feet for the day you would post it;)

Sushobhan said...

A very different presentation and I enjoyed reading it.. :)

The humour has beautifully captured through those wonderful poems.:)

The Fool said...

Thanks Sushobhan. Btw, aren't you participating in BPL?

The Fool said...

Thanks dvirada. I was also writing a love story. You can see it in the archives. Wanted to write a long one but lost steam in between and stopped after 2 posts.
By the way, waiting with eager feet does not seem to bode too well. Sounds as if your planning to kick me if you don't like my post.

Avada Kedavra said...

No papa.
No papa
Ha ha ha

LOL.. just loved the rhymes :)) they really made the post very interesting.. And yeah agree totally with the last para.. arranged marriages do work all the time, sometimes they are better than love marriages. Even I feel so. Great post :)

The Fool said...

Thanks Avada. Glad you liked it. Also good to see there are also people who agree with my views on arranged marriage.

Niveditha said...

Hey! Your critical feedback helped me get better!
So thanks! :)
That's what team work is all about, isn't it!

Mahesh Kalaal said...

I could have discarded it as just another post with some interesting naughty poems...
What made the post outstanding in my view is the introduction para where you have summed up the comprehensive and realistic indian strata in simple, crisp and convincing words....
I rate first para as the show topper

The Fool said...

Thanks Mahesh. Based on your blog-a-ton comments and votes, I have found you tend to have a greater liking for serious analysis. I am surprised how you voted from my time travel post.

I used to like writing serious analysis bringing in lot of facts and structuring the arguments. But of late I have got bored of that and begun to feel readers don't enjoy. So nowadays I have begun to focus on creative expression such as stories, poetry and humor with purpose to entertain 80% and educate/inform/express views - 20%/

dvirada said...

LOL! You can be sure I wont do it. Considering in what light I hold you, you may even expect something totally contradictory to your statement happening;)

Which post of yours is about Love Story? I seemed to have missed it.

phoenixritu said...

Interesting blend of nursery rhymes and "shop for a match" scenario which is so common. You are very innovative

The Fool said...

Thanks phoenixritu.

Deeps said...

Rollicking post,The Fool! Rolling on floor laughing!

After reading this post of yours I'm gladder that I had an arranged marriage ;)

Congratulations to you and your team on the well-deserved win!

Good luck for the upcoming rounds :)

The Fool said...

Thanks Deeps. Glad you liked it, Best of luck to you too.

Kartik Krishnamoorthy said...

Just happened to stumble across this post now. Hilarious!! Love life in India is a "rhyme" after all... :D

The Fool said...

Thanks Kartik

Shesha Chaturvedi said...

Woah! Creative genius you are!!! Very well put on thoughts. Loved the post! All the verrry best to you :)

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot Shesha. But this is again not the entry for the Indi contest. This is again a old post from 2 years back. I have 4 more posts that are entry for the contest.

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