While the world zips through a high-tech future where robotics and automation are fast replacing human touch, some traditions such as arranged marriages continue to flourish in the sub-continent. According to wedding industry experts, arranged matches account for the majority of Indian marriages till today. However bringing a modern spin to this traditional set-up are a host of new-age websites that claim to cut off the clichés by introducing relaxed ideologies and interactive interfaces to the idea of arranged matchmaking. Akhilesh Sharma, co- founder ibluebottle, a wedding website catering to Indian professionals says, “We discourage caste based selections. The idea is to make arranged marriage work for the youth by sieving the quality of matches.” A host of other websites organise group activities for singles, thereby giving love a chance to flourish.
According to a report titled Online Matrimony Market in India, 2012, developed by Netscribes India Pvt Ltd, the Indian marriage market is evaluated at above 248 billion, out of which the online matrimony market has reached about 4 billion in 2011 and is set to grow at 27% per year. The report further says: “The wedding market in India is getting aggregated into the online space at a considerable rate, thereby opening floodgates of opportunities for the online matrimonial market.” Though the introduction of online component of matchmaking about a decade back did boost arranged matches, a growing urban population is showing a jaded fatigue towards the stiff rules of matchmaking and is looking at arranged set- ups that they can relate better to.
Social commentator Santosh Desai says, “There’s clearly an evolution taking place, but since an arranged marriage set-up is so rooted in our tradition instead of jumping from one polar opposite to another there’s a gradual morphing of fundamental features with contemporary ideas.” Feminist writer Urvashi Butalia agrees, “The new-age websites are like first hesitant steps towards modernity, but the traditional mould may be the same.” Sujata Sriram, chairperson, Centre for Human Ecology, Tata Institute of Social Sciences says, “The idea of having family’s support in finding a match works wonderfully in the Indian context. It’s great that now a greater choice is available to the boy and girl in terms of opening a scope for dialogue.”
A recent survey called The Taj Wedding Barometer, carried out by Ipsos across India on 1000 respondents, confirms the view that tradition and modernity go hand in hand in India. Out of the surveyed 82% of north Indians preferred an arranged marriage as compared to the national average of 74%. Irrespective of gender, region and social standing three quarter respondents trusted their family to manage the wedding. Psychiatrist Sameer Malhotra, head, Department of Mental Health, Max Hospitals says, “Arranged marriage will continue to exist here because as opposed to the Western model which talks more about individuals, we are a family unit. Even our wedding rituals such as milni, roka etc speak about family exchanges.”
Another aspect that is bringing in more independence to arranged marriages is that the youth is considering taking out the banality of traditional practices. Wedding planner, Gurleen M Puri, says, “The new hybrid kind of combination is working for everyone. Earlier there was an uncertainty about authenticity of the matches pushed by a broker, today the generation gap between the parents and children is blurring and they don’t shy away from discussing details with each other.” She adds, “There is also a new personalised approach to marriage and is reflected holistically. Today people don’t want a Rajasthani or a Turkish décor, instead they look at factors like brides’ favourite flowers or frangrance to be used in décor.”
Santosh Desai says, “What makes an arrange marriage work is the lack of rigidity it has provided over the years.” Sociologist Sujata Sriram encourages the autonomy given to the prospective groom and bride in the new age websites but is not impressed with all the parameters. She says, “The personality/chemistry assessment is a hogwash. A surveyed compatibility may not necessarily translate into the same.”
However power coach and behaviour specialist Gaurav Sareen says, “any marriage works on compatibility. The new websites are a starting point to something very traditional, so while a horoscope may give a macro level information for some, its essential to let the two people assess each other, in confidence with their families.”
Experts also think that the new marriage ideas may sound ideal but it will be long before we come out of our traditional mindsets totally. Sriram says, “During my research on the marital aspirations in India, I was shocked to find how for a large majority a vegetarian spouse was a prime criterion. It shows that the deep connection to cultures and practices continues to mould our judgment.”