Wednesday, 15 July 2020

“Caste No Bar”? You’ve Got To Be Joking

Updated: July 24, 2010 1:42 pm

How much does caste matter to young urban Indians, as reflected in the preferences they post on the hugely popular matrimonial websites? For almost everybody who hopes to find a life partner via the web matrimonial route, revealing one’s jati identity is a prerequisite for getting enquiries.

Recently, over several days and nights, I spent hours going through hundreds of profiles of women posted on some of India’s largest matrimonial portals.

            I wasn’t looking for a partner for myself, or anyone I know. I was trying to find an answer to a question that raises its head every now and then, as now, when people are debating the merits of enumerating OBCs through Census 2011:

            How much does caste matter today, especially among young urban Indians?

            Profiles posted on matrimonial portals can provide an answer. Unlike matrimonial columns in newspapers, matrimonial portals offer free access, to advertisers and readers. Anyone can post a profile for self, sibling or friend, and practically say anything in the space given for describing the profiled person, and the kind of person she wants to get married to. And you can do it free, from any internet-connected computer.

            How many profiles of women posted in matrimonial portals strictly specify caste specifications is a good indication of how tough the caste barrier continues to be, or whether it is disintegrating rapidly. Analysis of profiles can tell us how caste gets play across different social groups.

Riders

But some riders are needed; such a study has inherent limitations.

Firstly, the world of matrimonials ads does not obviously include people who want to get married by falling in love, and people who find partners through traditional routes like marriage brokers and relatives.

            Secondly, the content of matrimonial ads is evidence of preference, not action. It tells us about choices people want to make, not what they eventually choose.

Additionally, the web-matrimonial space is limited to:

            people who have access to internet

            people who know English, the language most commonly used in web matrimonials.

A combination of the above two limitations strongly suggests a third limitation: People who post on matrimonial portals are largely from the big cities, where internet-access is easily available, and where there is a sizeable population of English-speaking young people.

            Notwithstanding these limitations, in absolute terms, the world of web matrimonials is quite large. And as disaggregated analysis of my basic sample showed, the world is not limited to big metros, or people who speak the Queen’s English. It includes people from cities like Jammu, Jaipur, Lucknow, Raipur, Ernakulam and Coimbatore, as well as smaller towns like Valsad, Jhansi, Samastipur and Bardhaman.

Basic sample

My basic sample comprised profiles (ads) of women posted on two popular matrimonial portals, Bharat Matrimony and Jeevan Saathi, which I will henceforth call Portal A and Portal B.

            The choice was not arbitrary. Both portals have a large number of profiles, are very user-friendly, and both provide data in a manner well suited for analysis by age, religion, gender, caste, income, education and several other parameters.

            On January 25, 2010, the two portals together had around 22.15 lakh profiles. Portal A had over twice the number of profiles (16.3 lakhs) as Portal B.

            The numbers keep increasing or decreasing every hour, so I will henceforth refer to percentages derived from absolute numbers at the time a particular calculation was done. The assumption is that though numbers may change, the percentages largely remain constant, as underlying trends do not change over weeks or months.

Some of the basic trends are as follows:

            Over 90 per cent of the profiles posted are of men and women living in India.

            Around 80 per cent of the profiles are of Hindu men or women.

            Over 90 per cent of the profiles are of people who have never married before.

            Over 95 per cent of the profiles are of people between the ages of 18 and 40.

Hence, at the gross level, the basic sample adequately represents the universe of people in India wanting to get married through matrimonial ads.

            However, when one looks only at profiles of women, there is an important deviation: The number of profiles of women is only around a third of profiles of men.

            This could be because of the nature of the medium and traditional gender mores. A profile of a woman posted in a portal is a public way of seeking a life partner. The woman’s name need not be disclosed, but profiles without names are not common. In fact, around half the profiles of women are with photos. A matrimonial portal does not offer the privacy of a newspaper ad, in which identity is completely covered as a matter of routine.

            Another reason for fewer profiles of women could simply be that more men than women have access to the internet.

            However, among profiles of women, there is a significant deviation from traditional mores. Around 40 per cent of these are posted by the women themselves not by their parents, siblings or friends. This is much less than the percentage of self-posted profiles of men (75 per cent), but it is still a sizeable proportion.

            Such ‘forward-thinking’ behaviour could be co-related to education and independent source of income. In Portal A and B, among all profiles of women under-40 and residing in India, only around 10 per cent are not graduates and less than 30 per cent are not working.

            Expectedly, there are variations by religion and caste. In Portal B, among profiles of Muslim women below the age of 40, around 40 per cent report no income, and the proportion of non-graduates is also higher than the average, at 14 per cent. On the other hand, in Portal A, among profiles of Brahmin Iyer women, only 2 per cent are non-graduates.

            Nevertheless, the basic sample is largely composed of women who are young, educated, earning. One would expect a large number of them to say “caste no bar”, when they search for a marriage partner. Do they?

            The answer is quite complex.

“Caste no bar”

Portal A gives advertisers the option to specify “caste no bar”, and it also displays the term as a search category in the profiles categorised according to religious groups.

            Among around 3 lakh profiles for Hindu never-married women under-40, “caste no bar” appears in around 20 per cent cases. Among around 8.6 lakh profiles for men meeting the same criteria, the percentage is higher, at around 27 per cent.

            This is a high proportion if one looks at prevalence of inter-caste marriages. Data on this is available in Portal A itself. It gives advertisers the option to specify their caste, among a large number of choices. Advertisers have the option of not specifying caste, or specifying ‘inter-caste’ (marriage of parents). Among profiles of Hindu women, less than 0.5 per cent of advertisers report belonging to that category.

            Thus, it seems, Indian society is vastly different today than it was 20-30 years ago, when the parents of these women got married.

            However, a close look at profiles under the “caste no bar” category quickly dispels this notion.

            It is evident that when they state “caste no bar” most advertisers do not mean exactly that.

            Consider the profile of a 27-year-old woman from the Nair caste, posted by her parents, and specifying ‘caste no bar’. In the space given for specifying the preferred socio-religious background of the partner, the parents have listed a number of subcastes.

            Another example: In a profile of a 27-year-old woman software engineer from Pune, posted by herself, her socio-religious background is described by the terms ‘Hindu’ and ’96K Maratha’, which means ‘Shyanav (96) Kuli Maratha’, name of the highest-ranked among

Maratha subcastes. In the same field, the woman has added: caste no bar.

            However, on scrolling down to the section for specifying the socio-religious background of the desired partner, the woman plainly states she wants to get married only to another 96K Maratha, or Brahmin of Konkanastha Chitpavan or Deshashta subcastes.

            So what do these people mean when they say “caste no bar”?

            Simply this: They are okay about marrying outside their caste or subcaste, within specified subcastes. In that sense, ‘caste’ is no ‘bar’. In many cases, “caste no bar” actually means ‘gotra no bar’.

            Going through 100 randomly picked out profiles under the “caste no bar” category, I found that no castes or subcastes are specified under partner preferences in only 20 per cent of the profiles. Even among these, there could be instances of oversight, as some advertisers have entirely bypassed the section for setting partner preferences. In only a handful of profiles does one find an explicit “caste no bar” statement like (caste) “does not matter”. Hence, it can be reasonably assumed that no more than 15 per cent of the advertisers who say “caste no bar” actually mean that. Calculate this as a percentage of all profiles of Hindu women, and the figure of people who really mean “caste no bar” is only 3 per cent.

            Thus, no major social change has taken place within the world of web matrimonials (a world that excludes love marriages). What has probably changed in this world is willingness to marry outside a specific subcaste or gotra. That is all that is generally meant by “caste no bar”. Advertisers who use the term in that narrow sense cannot be blamed for causing confusion; the confusion arises because of loose and incorrect use of the word ‘caste’ in the matrimonial portals.

Terminology problem

As several social scientists have stressed, on the ground, there is generally no such thing as caste in India. What exists, and becomes particularly visible during marriage negotiations, is jaat or jati, which is loosely translated in English as ‘subcaste’, and will henceforward be used without italics.

            ‘Caste’ can be said to be a higher order of classification, akin to ‘genus’ in biology. Every organism belongs to a genus but cannot be meaningfully identified by genus alone; one has to name its species, or jati. Likewise, in Hindu society, a person necessarily belongs to a jati, which is always linked to a caste category.

            The analogy is far from perfect. At times, ‘caste’ acquires real shape and size, as when Mayawati reportedly ‘swung’ the ‘Brahmin vote’ in the last UP elections. Also, jati is not the last level of classification. There are jatis within jatis, and within some of those sub-jatis there are sub-sub-jatis…

            Further, jatis are not always clearly defined or categorised. Some jatis are attached to a particular caste category in one region, and to a lower or higher caste category in another region. Sometimes, the jati-name used depends on the user: A person of a jati linked to a high-ranked caste may identify a person belonging to a scheduled caste (SC) by her jati, such as ‘Mahar’, but the latter may identify herself as an ‘SC’, a group of jatis.

            Even so, jati, more than ‘caste’, is a concrete sociological unit, a unit “of thousands or sometimes millions of people with whom one may identify for such purposes as marriage” (Susan Bayly, Caste, Society and Politics in India, Cambridge).

            However, matrimonial portals use ‘caste’ as a synonym for ‘jati’, and sometimes even for what many would say is a ‘sect’. For example, in the ‘caste’ listing under the religious group ‘Muslim’, Portal A lists Bohra, which many would say is a sect, as also Qureishi, which is a jati.

            One way out of all this confusion is to use terms like ‘community’ or ‘group’, but these do not connote the hierarchy that defines relations between the groupsa hierarchy based not on economic status or numerical strength, but ancient notions of pollution and purity.

            The term ‘jati’, found in all major Indian languages, is used daily with that connotation, which is often also spelt out (‘neech jati’). And though the argument for jati hierarchy may be found only in Hinduism, jati is not

unique to Hindus. As noted in several studies and evinced in profiles posted on matrimonial portals, jatis exist in other major Indian religious groups also. With this clarity, let us see how jatis get play in the web matrimonial space.

Jatis in the web matrimonial space

All Indian matrimonial portals give much importance to jati, in the way they allow advertisers to describe themselves and specify partners, and in the way descriptions are categorised and displayed.

            But not all jatis are represented, and some jatis are represented much more than others.

            Under its ‘People of India’ project, launched in 1985, the Anthropological Survey of India (ASI) identified 4,635 ‘communities’ across India. Of these over 3,000 are Hindu jatis.

            But going by the listing in Portal A and Portal B, and in Shaadi.com, which claims to be [the] “world’s largest matrimonial service”, there are only around 380 jatis in the web matrimonial space. Of these around 350 are Hindu jatis, and as many as 50 are Brahmin jatis.

            Listing of jatis in the portals shows that they follow a system of jati-grouping. Hence you can search under a broad category called ‘all Brahmin’ (jatis). Grouping is also done at a lower level: You can search among ‘all Patel’ or ‘all Nair’ jatis.

            The grouping is based on number of profiles per jati. Brahmin jatis with very few profiles get lumped in a category like ‘Brahmin-Others’. Grouping also appears to be demand-driven, and demand varies by portal. For example, Portal A has greater demand than Portal B among South Indians, 45 per cent of all persons whose profiles have been posted in Portal A specify a south Indian language as their mother tongue, as against 16 per cent in Portal B.

            Perhaps for this reason, Portal A does not list ‘all Brahmin’ jatis as a search category, whereas Portal B does in the matrimonial arena, ‘any Brahmin’ does not make much sense in south India, not at any rate as much sense as it makes in the north.

            Looking at jati-wise distribution of profiles, one sees that hardly any jati accounts for more than 5 per cent of all profiles and most account for less than 1 per cent. However, when one looks at jati-groups, the picture changes. Also, numbers per jati are not directly related to numerical strength of the jati. Some jatis enjoy a disproportionate share. It is a reflection of their clout or standing in the world defined by the web matrimonial spacea world largely limited to educated people in urban India.

            In Portal A, which has a south-tilt, jatis and jati groups with relatively high numbers include Kayastha, SC, Nair, Ezahava, Iyer, Maratha, Rajput, Vishwakarma, Agarwal, Yadav, Arya Vysya, Naidu, Arora, Reddy, Nadar, Saraswat, Vana Kula Kshatriyar, Lingayat, Vaishnav, Bania, Pillai, Chettiar, Christian-Roman Catholic, Christian-Born Again, Christian-Church of South India, Kamma, Mudaliyar and Muslim-Sheikh.

            There are no surprises there, except perhaps the presence of SC. It should be viewed against the long history of reservation in south India. And qualifications are necessary.

            Profiles of women who chose the ‘SC’ jati-group to define their social identity account for only 2.5 per cent of all profiles of women under-40 in Portal A; in the north-tilted Portal B, the share is less than 1.5 per cent. In contrast, while Brahmins account for only 3-5 per cent of India’s population, in both portals, the share of profiles of women from the Brahmin jati-group is around 15 per cent.

Jati as marriage-choice determinant

How much does identification of the self and desired partner by jati matter in the web matrimonial arena? And how does it get play across jatis and jati-groups?

            As explained earlier, use of the term “caste no bar” is not a good indicator of indifference or opposition to jati considerations. A better indicator is the number of persons who choose not to specify jati in their profiles some portals give you that option. The number of people who exercise that option is insignificant, across religious groups. In Portal A, among profiles for never-married Hindu, Muslim and Christian women below 40, caste/jati is not specified in 0.36 per cent, four per cent and 1.5 per cent of profiles respectively.

            Clearly, for almost everybody who hopes to find a life partner via the web matrimonial ad route, revealing one’s jati identity is a prerequisite for getting enquiries. However, importance of jati as a criterion for selecting a life partner varies across groups.

            We have already seen how jati, a more meaningful and useful term than ‘caste’, is a primary way of identifying oneself in the world of web matrimonials, a world largely composed of educated, urban Indians below the age of 40.

            Now, we will see variations across social groups in importance accorded to jati, while selecting marriage partners for women. (The term ‘social group’ is used here to mean jati or jati-groups).

Variations in importance accorded to jati

The variations are studied across six groups, which cover a broad spectrum of advertisers in the web matrimonial space: Iyer, Yadav, Agarwal, Kayastha, SC and Muslim.

            From each group, I randomly picked out 50 recently posted profiles of never married women below 40. In each case, I picked out 25 profiles from the south-tilted Portal A and an equal number from the north-tilted Portal B. All profiles were collected over different days in the first week of February 2010.

            To get some idea of the profile of the profiled women, I looked at their location in terms of broad geographical region (North, South, East, West), as also whether it was not one of the top eight metros of the country: Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune.

            I also noted whether the profiled woman has a reasonably good source of income, above Rs 2 lakh per annum, and whether she has posted the profile herself.

            Apart from counting occurrence of strict religious and jati specifications for prospective partners, I also looked at other commonly stated requirements for screening, such as ‘horoscope wanted’ and Manglik not wanted.

            In some profiles, nothing is said about the personality of the woman who wants to get married, and/or nothing is said about personality traits desired in the partner. It seems, for these advertisers, religion and jati matters most; everything else comes at the second level of selection, if at all. I noted the occurrence of such virtually ‘blank’ profiles.

            Against some parameters, data was not clearly specified in many profiles, or was confusing. For example, in some cases, the profile said the woman was not working, but a figure was put in the field for income. I put tallies of these instances in parenthesis, with a ‘?’ mark, as shown in Table 1.

            The selected jatis/jati-clusters are not representative of the entire universe of people seeking partners through web matrimonials. Nevertheless, some aggregate data is significant:

            In all social groups except Iyers, over 40 per cent of the profiled women are not from one of the top eight metros.

            Across all social groups, almost all the women do not want to, or will not be allowed to, marry outside their religion.

            Across all social groups, the majority of the women, or their families and friends who posted the profiles, want the women to be recognised not only by her jati, but also by some personality traits.

            Across social groups, 30-60 per cent of women, or their families and friends do not want to specify, upfront, traits desired in a partner.

            Looking at individual columns, one sees much variation in jati as a primary criterion for selecting a marriage partner. For most Iyers, jati matters, as also for a high proportion of Yadavs and Muslims. It doesn’t matter for a significant proportion of Agarwals and Kayasthas. In the SC group, more than half the women are ready to marry without bothering about jati.

            Here, three points need to be reiterated. The data is about choices people want to make, not about what they eventually choose; one is assuming there is a strong correlation between the two.

            Secondly, the data is only a reflection of choices expressed in the web matrimonial spacein other spaces, such as rural India, the choices could be vastly different.

            Thirdly, the jati specification is not necessarily limited to the advertiser’s jati. As seen in examples in the first part of this study, the jati specification can include more than one jati.

            However, the range of jati preferences is never extensive. It is limited to a band in the caste hierarchy. As seen the example of a Maratha woman earlier, the band can be broad enough to include a jati from the nearest caste category. Or it can be very narrow. In a few of the profiles of Iyer women picked up for this sample, the advertiser has specified one jati other than Iyer: Iyengar, the other major Brahmin jati of Tamil Nadu.

            The data shows that rigidity about jati of partner is not necessarily diminished by living in a cosmopolitan metro, or having a substantial, independent source of income: the Iyer group has the highest proportion of women living in a metro (72 per cent) and earning income above Rs 2 lakh per annum (56 per cent).

            Among Hindus, importance accorded to horoscope and Manglik appears to be closely related to importance accorded to jati. The two groups with the highest proportion of advertisers specifying jati of partner (Iyer, Yadav) also have the highest proportion of advertisers asking for a horoscope and telling Manglik-afflicted persons to keep away. Horoscope and Manglik does not appear to matter at all to Muslims.

            An intriguing data, not germane to this study, is that the highest proportion of ‘profile posted by self’ is in the SC group. An indicator of empowerment? Or simply that in this group, the proportion of net-savvy parents is low, hence the women have to perforce post profiles themselves?

            The data clearly shows that jati is not the only thing that counts, even at the first level of selection. Across all groups, advertisers want applicants to look at some personality characteristics of the profiled women, and in the Iyer, Kayastha and Muslim groups, over half the advertisers have specified traits desired in the partner.

            Which are these traits and is there a group-wise variation in this area too?

Description of profiled person and partner

Popular matrimonial portals such as Portal A and Portal B give advertisers sufficient space to give descriptions of the profiled person, and the desired partner, in two ways.

            Firstly, there are a number of selection menus, which makes it easy to specify details such as profiled person’s income and education level, and income and education level desired in the partner.

            In Portal A, you can go further and specify whether you drink or smoke, and whether you would like to have a partner who does the same. For profiles of Muslim women, Portal B has fields to specify whether the woman knows Urdu, and her commitment to observing namaz, zakat, fasting, reading Quran and wearing hijab after marriage.

            Secondly, there is quite a lot of space given to describe the profiled person, and the desired person, in your own words.

            I read each of the 300 profiles of the disaggregated sample to see how the space is used.

            One thing that stands out clearly is that English is a barrier. Many advertisers are plainly not proficient in the language. Spelling and grammatical mistakes, and incomplete or unclear sentences are common. The language barrier could also be the reason many advertisers do not write anything at all.

            There are a few advertisers who use the Queen’s English, but they seem to be writing an essay for an exam. Sample this: “The golden rule of married life is “Bear and forbear”. One must give and take, refrain and restrain, endure and be patient. One may not be blind to another’s failings, but they may at least be borne with good-natured forbearance…”

            Very few advertisers sound frank and open. Such passages are rare: “I’m a complete romantic and I would love to give midnight presents and secret messages to my partner and others in his family as well. If you are a person who is full of surprizes [sic] then I would be most appreciative of them.”

            Most descriptions hover around educational qualifications and family background, in terms of education of members and who is working where. A typical example: “My father is a senior official in the state government of …. My mother is a very caring housewife. My elder sister has an MBA degree and is married to an IT professional. She lives in USA. One of my uncles is an advocate of repute… My other uncle is a Physics PhD whose wife is an IT professional and they are currently settled in…”

            Even when they do get around to saying something about themselves, in terms other than ‘family background’, most advertisers seem to be following a set formula. Some adjectives and phrases occur repeatedly, across profiles, across social groups: simple, down-to-earth, strong family values, family-oriented, fun-loving, sense of humour, God-fearing, religious, ambitious, career-oriented, affectionate, caring, traditional yet modern, soft-spoken, sweet…

            However, even within this small repertoire, there is significant variation. Table 2 lists occurrence of repeatedly used adjectives and phrases, by social group, among 262 of the 300 profiles considered for sample analysis, which had some description of the profiled woman in the advertiser’s own words.

            The data shows that a high proportion of SC and Muslim women are described by the terms ‘simple’ and ‘down-to-earth’. Terms like ‘fun-loving’ are rarely used in the Muslim group and no other group uses ‘God-fearing’ or ‘religious’ as frequently. ‘Ambitious’ has low usage in the Yadav group.

            ‘Clean’ is used almost exclusively by the Iyer group, and to some extent, the Muslim group. ‘Clean’ here means “does not have ‘dirty habits’ like drinking and smoking,” a Muslim journalist-friend explained.

            Some other descriptive terms are also used only by some groups. For instance, ‘trained in Bharatnatyam’ or ‘trained in classical music’ appeared only in profiles of Iyer women, and to some extent, in profiles of Kayastha women.

            Some other terms were also used to describe profiled women, but their occurrence was occasional, or idiosyncratic. Among such phrases I noted were: “don’t like yelling”, “become aggressive often” and “wandering soul”. One woman gave a clear warning to her prospective partner: “I hate getting up early in the morning”.

            As already mentioned, and evident from Table 1, only half the profiles in the sample mention characteristics desired in the partner.

            There is a strong preference for men who are educated and ‘well-settled’. This is evident in selection of options for specifying desired educational qualifications and income levels. It is also stated, in so many words, in 45 per cent of the profiles with description of the desired partner (Table 3), with highest frequency of such statements in the Iyer group.

            Usage of ‘God-fearing’/’religious’ by the Muslim group and ‘clean’ by the Tamil and Muslim groups echoes the usage of these terms in relation to profiled women (Table 2).

            Two adjectives that find significant occurrence in the description of desired partner, and not in the description of profiled woman, are ‘broad-minded’ and ‘liberal’, in the Iyer and Kayastha group. As in the case of ‘clean’, these adjectives are not used in the way they are commonly understood. An Iyer friend of mine, a banking professional who has a married daughter, explained: “Broad-minded, liberal means not overdoing religious practices, not asking the bride to follow all the traditional do’s and don’ts especially in relation to sister-in-law and mother-in-law not following age-old customs or habits which prevail in some religious families, not having traditional superstitious beliefs…”

            Occasional or idiosyncratic phrases to describe the desired partner included: “should have vision of life”, “not overweight”, “focussed”, “should believe in giving each other space”, “not a complicated personality”, and “MCA [Master of Computer Applications] please excuse”!

Summing up

An apt way to sum up this report is to refer to a 1969 study, ‘The relevance of matrimonial advertisements for the study of mate selection in India’, by a Dutch social scientist, C Vreede-De Stuers (Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land-en Volkenkunde, Leiden).

            From content analysis of the matrimonial advertisements in English-language newspapers, Vreede-De Stuers observed that the “advertisers do not represent a progressive category of ‘modernists’ who, in bypassing the traditional go-between, ignore the standards set by their society…The majority of the advertisers conform completely to the prevailing value system of their status group…” (emphasis added).

            What was said in 1969 in the context of matrimonial ads in newspapers can be repeated in 2010, in the context of profiles in matrimonial portals. Notwithstanding the advanced nature of the medium, and the education and income levels of profiled persons, the overwhelming majority of people who use web portals to find partners “conform completely” to a value system that has not changed substantially since 1969. Among these people, the caste barrier continues to be tough, and shows no signs of disintegrating rapidly.

            But caste is a complex phenomenon and any generalisation has to be qualified.

            The fact, that caste remains a tough barrier in the matrimonial sphere, does not necessarily mean it is not weakening in all other areas of life. Even in the matrimonial sphere, our small study indicates, it does not have a strong hold in certain groups, like SCs and Kayasthas.

            Moreover, caste has been highly adaptive. One indicator of adaptation, seen in this study and requiring further investigation, is the number of people who are prepared to marry outside their jati, and their caste too, within a hierarchical band.

            Finally, one must emphasise that marrying within one’s jati, or within a narrow range of jatis, does not necessarily mean one is “casteist”.

            In India, there are sound, practical reasons for searching for a life partner within your jati. Some of those reasons were explained to C Vreede-De Stuers by girl students of Rajasthan University, he interviewed in 1964. One of them said:

            I don’t say that intercaste marriage is a bad thing to do, but I don’t believe that it will be successful. Adjustment is difficult. The girl has to learn new habits and the contacts with the older members of the in-laws’ family will become difficult.

            Another girl said: “Till we marry we are entirely dependent on our parents. So let them arrange our marriages. They have experience. If I had to make my own choice, I would fear an uncertain future.”

            A third elaborated: “If something goes wrong in an arranged marriage, the family is responsible for it. But in case the girl has made her own choice, her family is no longer responsible for what happens.”

            Another root problem, C Vreede-De Stuers noted, was the limited scope for choosing a life partner on your own. He quoted an explanation by KT Merchant (‘Changing Views on Marriage and Family’ in Hindu Youth, Madras): “Real self-choice is not possible without a wide field of choice and personal contact, and these are dependent upon the freedom of free social intercourse between men and women.”

            There is yet another basic reason: differences in values and lifestyles, across social groups. These are reflected in Tables 2 and 3, and elaborated by an old college-friend, from a liberal family of CKP (Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu) jati, when she told me why and how she had an arranged marriage, with a person from her own jati: “See, I hoped to fall in love while in college. But that didn’t happen. Then, where do I go looking for a guy? Asking my parents to look was the best option…My father went and put a notice in our CKP mandal. At the same time, [her husband] came to know about me and started finding links to people who knew us. Ek common banda mila aur udhar se baat aage badhi. You can say, because of same jaat, it was easy to make preliminary enquiries, etc. And boss, there was no way I would have married a Tam Bram or a Jain. We CKP people like to drink, eat fish, mutton…I would have died if I had married a vegetarian!”

Infochange

By Ashok Gopal

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