This article belongs to Sweet Grace column.

Some three or four hundred years back, a marriage in India was solemnized at a very early age. Possibly the girl was five and the boy seven or eight.  The concerned mothers told their offspring at an age of understanding as to who she/had been married to.


When education started taking root in the last 100 odd years, several traditional practices started changing. The child marriage was abandoned yielding place to adult marriage finalised by the respective parents.  College education made girls stand up and ask the parents, "Who are you to decide who I should marry?  I will choose my spouse all by myself."  Though stunned, the parents gave in or rather had to give in.


But Alas!  Several "love marriages" failed and failed miserably, too.   "Divorce" which was an unheard of word some 60 - 80 years back, became a stick to beat the other with.  Some frustrated and headstrong young women opted for it but only to regret later because no eligible Indian bachelor came forward to marry a divorcee; some however, succeeded in the second attempt but only to another male divorcee.  Thus, thousands of young women waste their youthful years and die as lonely souls . . . .


Lessons are learned through experience. These days more than 70% of the young maidens, college educated included, prefer 'arranged marriages' as opposed to 'love marriages'.


'Arranged marriage' might sound strange to many of you.  May I explain? The parents go round looking for a suitable bride or groom for their grown up son/daughter - some through advertisements, some through word of mouth and some through 'marriage brokers' who maintain a list of marriageable adults along with their bio data in their area of orbit.  Every aspect of the boy or girl is evaluated and scrutinized to the minutest details by the respective parents for compatibility and once they are satisfied, they attempt a physical meeting with the other party.  This is called, 'the bride seeing function'.  In this ceremony, the prospective groom goes to the bride's house to 'see' her for the first time.  The 'seeing thing' is just a momentary face-to-face silent contact but at very close quarters just for a few seconds and in the presence of the elders of both sides.  The candidates are expected to convey their verdict immediately then and there.

If each has approved of the other for marriage, there will be jubilation on every face; the mother and younger sister of the bride would kiss her and gyrate at the windfall.  Then, negotiations would start between the parents about the gifts expected and that would be awarded and allied details and the date of marriage in majority cases would also get fixed immediately . . .


In case the groom didn't like the girl, he wouldn't give his decision straightway but say that he/his parents would convey it as fast as possible.  The promised telephone call or telegram would never materialize. This is a diplomatic way of pronouncing a negative answer.


Here is another exclusive Indian practice observed in the Hindu families in particular. No marriage plan could be commenced or finalized unless their respective 'horoscopes' match.  Incidentally, a horoscope is prepared for every child at birth. There are horoscope readers (and manipulators as well!)  A Boy may have fallen for a Girl and vice versa but the Stars and Planets in space have the final say in the matter of their union.


Even after the respective horoscopes are found to be matching perfectly, there have been several failures or premature death of one spouse.  The horoscope pundit would take no responsibility for such endings. But then there it is.


A large percentage of modern Indian girls crave for a life partner even those with huge income; for them their own security lies in a husband; contentment comes out of marriage.  Very few girls, say less than 10%, want to remain single in India.


Many maidens believe in the axiom that marriages are made in Heaven and accordingly stick to their husband for ever. The word 'divorce' is not found in their dictionary.


Once an elderly lady in the process of blessing the bride said, "Live happily for sixty years. "  "Only SIXTY' the young bride shot back. She was then 22.


There is another wish of every married woman. They want to die as 'sumangalis,'

in other words, as a woman with a living husband. She wouldn't want to die as a 'widow'.  A man's thinking won't be on these lines at all.  His concern would be always to 'provide' for her so that she isn't dependent on anyone after his own death.


A married woman enjoys a special status in the Indian society.  If she appears in public ever, unaccompanied by her husband for some reason, she would display her marriage insignia (a specially designed gold chain with a locket hanging at the end and or a prominent vermillion mark on her forehead) and walk about with her chin up. By this, she tells the world, "Beware, I have a Prince charming in shining armor to protect me. So, keep away." And every male would honor this sentiment and show her tremendous respect.


As regards a divorcee, (oh yes, you could recognize her all right in a crowd!) she would be viewed as one deserving ridicule  of a high order and looked upon as a prey for gallivanting young men.