A British reality TV show which arranges marriages
It was amusing to read of a reality television show called Arrange Me a Marriage, a new show on British television. The presenter of the show (Aneela Rahman) is attempting to match couples – sub-continent style! Similar backgrounds, income, education levels and all the rest of the baggage that we in India are all too familiar with.
I am not at all surprised that the British are aghast. The show seems to be re-enforcing all the stereotypes about arranged marriages. That arranged marriages are not based on chemistry, or love and that partners are selected on the basis of race, caste or that your ‘mom’ arranges it all for you.
Here’s what one reviewer (Gerard O’Donovan) says:
After all, this is the show that insists that you shouldn’t select your spouse for yourself. That your soulmate must be the choice of family and friends…of course, apart from public humiliation, there was nothing really at stake here…
Another (Nirpal Dhaliwal) says
The pilot show in March showed the presenter, Aneela Rahman, castigating a 39-year-old (woman) for dating men she fancied who showed her a good time rather than blokes with money…”Arranged marriage to me is all about class,” Aneela proudly stated. I wonder if she’ll also apply the Asian “no blacks, infidels and untouchables” rule to her arranged marriages along with the “no deadbeats” one. Money is a prime consideration for a lot of Asian parents arranging their children’s marriages, because their children are their pension plans. They don’t care if their kids never have sex again so long as they can retire early and put their feet up watching Bollywood cable channels, knowing their offspring are all working their butts off as one half of a high-earning power couple.
This was said by someone I presume to be of Indian origin. And I also presume that many British people of Indian origin would think this way. Well, if one grows up in a society where one is free to mix and find one’s own partner and also remain unmarried until then (without society pointing fingers at you)…I guess you’d hate the arranged marriage system and see nothing good in it. In fact I wonder why anyone from such a different culture would even want to participate in such a show to arrange herself a partner. Makes one sort of suspect whether it’s all a set-up. And in any case one cannot discount the fame and name that the participants will garner…
Arranged marriages have been demonized
Having said that, I cannot help feeling that arranged marriage have been demonised in the west. The first reviewer I quoted – Gerard O’Donovan – goes on to say (as a reaction to the participant in the show admitting to liking someone as a result of personal chemistry:
As for Rahman (the presenter), well, she seems the sort who shakes a stick at a forest during a storm and claims credit if lightning strikes. For her all this was proof positive that her method works.
But ‘chemistry’ happens all the time in arranged marriages in India, and it’s quite amusing to read that if there is ‘chemistry’ it means that the arranged marriage system is not working! Love/chemistry/passion and arranged matches are not as disconnected as westerners like to believe. In my post on how it is possible to find love in an arranged marriage I have written about how arranged marriages in urban and modern India are neither forced nor loveless.
The perception in the west seems to be that arranged matches are all about money and caste/class. Well, surely this happens in ‘love’ matches too? There is the phenomena of gold-diggers in love matches and frankly I feel the chances of a rich man marrying a gold-digger are fewer in an arranged match as both are likely to come from the same social class.
No, I am not advocating arranged matches but at the same time I don’t think anything is wrong with an arranged match as long as it’s not forced. And today in modern India arranged marriages are not forced. In fact even when arranged marriages which happen the old-fashioned way (where brides and grooms do not know each other), the ‘victims’ are happy with the arrangement and most do find love. However today in urban India this is changing and couples tend to meet a few times before they decide to take it further, and ‘chemistry’ is certainly a big part of the decision. Also there are umpteen instances of engagements breaking (almost every family will have some such incidents to relate) and it can happen when an engaged couple cannot get along or there is a falling out amongst the families. This doesn’t mean the arranged marriage system has failed…it shows how flexible it is.
Are arranged matches in Britain are forced?
The aversion of westerners to arranged marriages could be because arranged marriages within the Indian (or Pakistani) diaspora are forced. I don’t know, I am just guessing. In fact it seems logical to assume that a person born and brought up in Britain would revolt against an arranged marriage.
But this is not how arranged marriages happen here. Most people are not forced, they welcome the idea…either because they know they cannot do it on their own, and/or because of the faith they have in their elders, and/or because they are confident of finding love and happiness even if they are introduced to a future partner by family.
Are such TV shows a good commerical bet?
‘Arrange Me a Marriage’ managed to get about 1.8 million viewers on the night of 22nd November, and an 8 percent audience share between 8-9 p.m. That doesn’t sound like a lot…but it’s quite impossible to guess how audiences will react. Could they be glued to the television show out of sheer curiosity?
In India such shows have not done well at all. There was this show called Kahin naa Kahin koi hai (There’s someone for you somewhere) on Sony TV which flopped even though it was hosted by a very popular star at the time – Madhuri Dixit. Another similar show Swayamvar by Doordarshan also didn’t make as much of a splash as it expected to, and today Indian TV has no such show running. It is likely that these shows failed here because Indian TV viewers found them fake, being all too familiar with how the arranged marriage system works. It’s not easy to find a match and at times can take months and even years.
(All photos have been linked to the originals)
Related Reading: Arranging love
Divorce rates of the world
Causes of the increasing divorce rate in India
Dating and pre-marital sex happens in secret
For Indian teens marraige and dating often go together
Internet marraige bureaus thriving in India