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Arranged Marriages in Indian Society
Throughout early ancient Indian history, the experienced and knowledgeable humans have believed in many societal relationships. The societies were based on how and what one’s opinions were, varying from personal matters to problems that concerned many families. Some of the rules of society included: women were REQUIRED to cover her head and face with a veil, women were NOT ALLOWED to step outside their house, women could NOT work and earn money, women were NOT ALLOWED to meet and talk to anyone that was not part of their family. Women. The society regulated many rules to limit the rights and wills of women, Why? Because they were women. In my opinion, the most wicked “rule” was the idea of arranged marriages.
Arranged marriages in India have evolved since the beginning of the India nobility. Parents used to believe that their sons would be the ones that would take care of them during their old ages. But the daughters, on the other hand, were seen as a burden, as one day, they were going to have to leave their home and get married. Back in the old days, these daughters did NOT go to school to get educated. They were REQUIRED to stay home and learn to do chores around the house such as cooking, cleaning the house, washing dishes, sewing, and other household chores. As soon as they reached of age to get married (marriageable age would range from 12 - 18), their parents would start looking for suitable guys and try to get their daughters married to them as soon as possible. After all, they were indeed a burden. Once the young girl got married, she would rarely ever get to see her “old” family as it is believed that the girl becomes a stranger to her parents. She is expected to start a new family with all that she should have learned from her “old” parents.
Arranged marriages still continue onto today’s Indian society. Whether the girl likes the boy or not, she is married off and is expected to spend the rest of her life with him. In some cases, the girl may not even get to see the boy’s face until after they got married. This is so because the girl is supposed to wear a veil all day on her wedding days, as she can only uncover her face after she is married. During these times, an Indian woman’s dreams and choices didn’t really matter.
Around 7 years ago, when I must’ve been 11 years old, such an arranged marriage would take place in front of my eyes.
It must’ve been a normal sunny day in India. The blooming flowers smelt fresh as if it had rained a couple hours ago. It was Sunday, which meant everyone was home. The aroma of delicious, mouth-watering food filled the house. I went to the kitchen to see that it wasn’t really my mother who was making the meal.
“This is Riya, your cousin sister!” said my mom, adding a smile on her face after she looked at my confused little face. “She’s staying with us for a couple of days!”
“Okay.”, I said as I walked away.
It must’ve been around 7:30 pm as the women of the house started serving dinner on the table. My mom called to everyone, “Dinner is set on the table!!” and we all made our way towards the dining room.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door.
“I’ll go get it”, I said as I made my way to the front door. Who knew, that opening this door was about to change someone’s life.
I opened the door. A man with a huge, dark beard stood in front of me. He must have been taller than 6 feet, as he had to duck his head to enter through the door.
“Who is it?” my dad yelled as he got up from his dining chair.
The man just barged in forcibly. I turned around to see that there might have been a gun-shaped object in the back pocket of his pants. I wasn’t sure if it really was a gun though.
“Where’s Riya!”, he exclaimed as he walked in aggressively. My dad, looking sort of shocked, walked towards the man and stuttered:
“Oh...umm well hello brother. How come you’re here today? That too in the evening? Is everything okay?”
My eyes were looking for Riya. She was also helping set up the table for dinner but wasn’t there anymore.
“Have any of y’all seen Riya? Or has she stopped by or anything?”, the man asked as he examined all of our faces, one by one.
“No, I don’t think so”, my dad answered hurriedly. “In fact, we haven’t seen her since she was 5!”
After a couple moments of silence, we heard a soft yet loud cough come from the kitchen. Both my parents exchanged looks and then the man asked, “Who’s cough was that?”
“Oh that must’ve been our maid”, my dad answered, adding a little fake laugh at the end.
“Oh okay, well I’m going to grab myself a glass of water from the kitchen”, the man said as he started pacing towards our kitchen. My mom and dad tried to stop him but it really was of no use. The man turned into the kitchen and his eyes locked upon Riya.
The second he saw her, he grabbed her by her hair and dragged her out of the house and into his car. Without a word said, he stepped on the gas and drove off, as if he was the only person in the world who was in a hurry.
We all went back into our house, all in thought as to what had just happened. I could tell that my parents felt helpless since there was nothing they could do while Riya was being dragged out of the house.
Next morning, we received a mail in our mailbox. It turns out, it was marriage invitation for Riya’s wedding.
“How can he do this to her! She is her own daughter! He can’t just get her married to any stranger!” yelled my dad. “This can’t be happening!” Later on that day, we drove to the man’s house (who turned out to be my uncle) to help out with the arrangements for the wedding. I walked up the stairs of their house, trying to find which room Riya must’ve been in. I looked through all the rooms and finally found the face that my eyes were looking for.
It was Riya. She was sitting on a chair in front of her mirror getting ready for her first ritual for the wedding. There must’ve been around 5 other people in that room, not including Riya and me. They were all helping dress Riya up, trying to make her look her best for the evening. One of them was fixing her hair and makeup, while the others helped out a traditional Indian saree on her. She looked beautiful but her face seemed odd. I assumed that she probably was crying all night, as her swollen eyes also looked sleep-deprived.
I asked, “Why do you look so depressed?”
And she answered, “How can I not be?” And she slowly started to tear up. “I’ve always done everything I’ve been told to do all my life. Whether it was something small, or as big as having to leave college! One day, my mom sent me to go get some vegetables to the market and so I went. But when I came back, I saw 3 unfamiliar people sitting on our couch in the living room. Among the three, the boy seemed like he was the son of the two parents. I greeted them as that’s what I was taught to do with any guests that came over. My mom sent me to the kitchen to fetch some tea, as the guests hadn’t been offered anything yet. I went to the kitchen and came back with 3 cups full of hot tea. ‘She’s beautiful.’ said the son, as he took a cup of tea from my serving plate. Everyone giggled. I went back into the kitchen and stayed there till the guests had left. Then I asked my mom who they were and she responded, “You’re getting married to that boy!” I was in shock. I didn’t know who he was nor did I know his name. A complete stranger, and I was getting married to him. My parents didn’t even bother asking what I liked.”
I stood there, not knowing what to say.
Around 30 minutes later, my uncle and aunt came upstairs to get Riya since the auspicious time was near for her to start performing the pre-wedding rituals.
Two days later. “Riya weds Arjun.”
The banner was put up high up on the wedding dais on the day of their wedding.