The wedding took place and it was lavish, costing her parents over £90,000
Arranged marriage and divorce are two aspects of Desi society that are going through a change in a major way.
Arranged marriage is still a way for many to marry, but how arranged marriages are being conducted now is very different from the days when you just saw a photo or didn’t even see your spouse. Today, you get to meet and even court a potential partner.
Divorce is no longer seen as an outright taboo with rates rising exponentially in India and across the world in countries like the UK. Albeit being difficult to accept by older generations, it is a choice more and more women and men are making in order to renew their lives.
The internet has changed the notion of arranged marriage and divorce in many ways.
For arranged marriage, websites and apps are available for you to find prospective rishtas very quickly. After the initial family meetings, whether you are in the same country or not; you can video chat, exchange photos and talk more freely.
For divorce, social media and use of apps have caught out many Desi men and women having affairs, smartphones have made it easier to find new people and keep in touch with ex-lovers. Additionally, online divorce support and networks provide valuable information at a swipe of a screen, even offering ‘quickie divorces’.
In 2014, over 62% of marriages in India were arranged. A major attraction of arranged marriage is that you will not have to worry about finding a marriage partner because of the support to help you find one from family, friends and relatives. However, there are increasing stories of arranged marriages ending up in divorce.
This does not reflect the fact that arranged marriage cannot work because many do but more to the point that the two people ending the marriage in divorce have their reasons.
There are even statistics that love marriages in India fail more than arranged marriages due to less family involvement. But arranged marriages in the digital age do have other challenges which are affecting their survival.
We look at a selection of stories of arranged marriage and divorce which provide an insight into the why these marriages failed and didn’t last.
Sunita and Aamir
Sunita was born and brought up in Agra. She even got her BSc degree qualification in Biometrics in the city of the ‘Taj Mahal’. She had no time for love and was ready to have an arranged marriage organised by her parents and family.
After seeing a few suitors with rejects from her and them, she to a match called Aamir from Bangalore who was a software engineer and working for a major IT firm.
He had a busy work schedule so they met on Skype for the first time and got on very well. She agreed and so did he.
Their engagement was arranged for a month later which was the first time they met. She was very attracted to him as soon as she met him and he liked her immensely.
The wedding date was set and they kept in touch and she adored the communication with him and fell for him.
During conversations, she learnt about a severe alcohol problem Aamir had. But he promised to quit after their marriage. She believed him.
Sunita’s parents had spent a lot on the marriage and she did not say anything. They got married and on their wedding night on a nicely decorated bed, he was withdrawn and drunk.
She asked him what was wrong. He started to cry loudly and said he was badly in debt due to drinking. She assured they could work it out together.
They went to Bangalore where he lived. They never had sex despite her trying to get close to him and the new marriage was taken up with his problems.
Sunita discovered he had been betting huge sums of money after getting drunk. He had lost over Rs. 50 lakh. Aamir then told her he was going to bet her away as a virgin wife to get some of his money back. This completely shocked and astounded her that he could think of such a thing.
Sunita, the person she was, tried to stay in the marriage and help him.
One month later she could no longer keep it from her parents. She called them and told them everything. They told her to leave him and go to an uncle’s home in the next town. That night, while he was sleeping, she left.
Sunita, devastated, then contacted the police about his plan and filed for divorce.
Sunita and Aamir’s story of arranged marriage and divorce shows Sunita knew nothing about the educated man Aamir she married, who kept everything from her until they got married.
Ranjeet and Meena
Ranjeet was a friend of Meena’s brother, Sukh, at a university in London.
One weekend, Meena visited Sukh, and Ranjeet met her, he took an instant liking to her. She was studying in Scotland. This was the first time she came down.
Ranjeet and Meena exchanged numbers and began to communicate. They kept it a secret from Sukh because she was scared of him and her own family reacting to her talking to Ranjeet.
About three months later, Meena and Ranjeet wanted to make their relationship known. She wanted Ranjeet him to talk to Sukh.
When he did, Sukh was not pleased but understood. However, he told Ranjeet that if he wanted to carry on the relationship he would prefer they did not meet and to marry after university. Ranjeet respected her brother’s request.
With Sukh on their side, Meena knew he could assure her parents about her potential marriage to Ranjeet. But they still needed someone to ‘arrange the marriage’ so they told a close uncle to help. He was happy to oblige.
The families met in a formally arranged marriage set-up twice. Meena felt Ranjeet’s mother did not seem impressed by her but was adamant to marry him. The rest of the family and Meena’s family were very happy for the marriage to go ahead.
The wedding took place and it was lavish, costing her parents over £90,000. Meena and Ranjeet went on their honeymoon and they were both very happy. Then, Meena went to live with Ranjeet’s family. Her in-laws.
Ranjeet was working now and Meena was still looking for work after qualifying. Therefore, she was at home.
Meena suddenly fell pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl. Ranjeet was happy but the family were not because it was a girl.
Everything was fine for about a year but then Ranjeet’s mother started to complain that Meena did not do enough housework or cook properly (despite mothering her newborn daughter). Meena tried her best but it was never good enough.
This got worse. Ranjeet began to slowly take his mother’s side and the whole family started to make her life difficult.
Meena could not bring herself to tell her family because she wanted to marry Ranjeet. So, she suffered immensely. Ranjeet was always busy working and did not have much time for her. He did not believe his mother was abusive to her.
One day, Meena cracked and lashed out at Ranjeet’s mother. Ending up in a huge row and physical fight. When Ranjeet arrived home, he rang Sukh and told him Meena had hit his mother and had been abusive.
Sukh visited. Meena took the blame and apologised to Ranjeet’s mother and everyone. But Sukh realised something was wrong. He had never seen his sister behave this way. She used to be so headstrong.
Meena kept on trying to please her in-laws and Ranjeet. She felt used for sex by him and domestic work by his mother. Her days became so miserable she decided one day to overdose on pills as a cry for help.
She was taken to hospital in an emergency after Ranjeet found her knocked-out on the bed. Meena confided in an Asian doctor and told her. They kept her in hospital on watch. The doctor called Sukh and told him.
Sukh came with his family. After a row in the hospital with Ranjeet, Sukh told him his sister will never return to him.
A week later Meena and the baby girl returned to the home of her parents. She filed for divorce with accusations of domestic abuse against Ranjeet’s mother which resulted in her being a police suspect.
Divorce is not an easy time for anyone going through it, especially if children are involved. Meena got full custody of her daughter and went on to slowly rebuild her life after years of therapy and medication.
Ranjeet and Meena’s story of arranged marriage and divorce shows that despite getting to know someone prior to getting married, it does not mean other people, especially, mother-in-laws will be easy to please in the marriage, even if you are a mother of a child.
Amina and Shahid
Shahid, 27, a pharmacist, always wanted to marry a woman from Pakistan. He felt he wanted someone who was more cultured than he was being born in the UK.
He visited his uncle in Lahore and saw a few women for rishtas but no one took his interest.
At a mall, Shahid met a family who knew his uncle and a young attractive woman with them caught his eye. He found out she was not married and had just finished her studies.
His uncle did not feel she was suitable but did his utmost best to arrange the marriage.
Shahid went to meet the family formally and to see her for marriage. Her name was Amina.
They chatted for some time and got on. Both were happy to proceed and the marriage was confirmed. Amina was overjoyed to be going to the UK.
A month later, Shahid and Amina had a large and expensive traditional Pakistani wedding with lots of guests.
Shahid came back to the UK and got the paperwork done to bring her over.
Amina arrived and began to live with Shahid’s family. Amina was treated extremely well and was welcomed into the family open-armed. Being a modern family, there were no pressures on her.
Shahid wanted to start a family but Amina said she was not ready. So, he respected her wishes.
After about 11 months, Shahid noticed that Amina was online frequently and used social media a lot, especially, while he was at work.
He trusted her explicitly and never asked to see her phone or messages. But one day he came home early from work. No one was in apart from Amina who was laughing and talking upstairs. The conversation sounded very intimate.
He went upstairs slowly and found Amina video chatting to a man on her smartphone. When she saw Shahid she immediately stopped the call.
Shahid confronted Amina. He said he wanted to see her phone. She dismissed his request and said how dare he even think ill of her in this way and she was just talking to an old study friend in Pakistan. For now, Shahid, let it be.
After a few days, he decided to come home early again with Amina knowing. Again, he found her upstairs on the phone. This time he barged in and grabbed the phone from her. She tried to stop him but could not.
Shahid was then shocked by what he saw. Very intimate Whatsapp conversations, social media messages. Photos of this man and even photos of Amina he had never seen. She had been in regular touch with an ex-lover back home.
Devasted by the discovery he could not recover. Shahid then filed for divorce from Amina and never wanted to see her again. She was taken to a relative’s house.
Shahid decided he would not marry so quickly and find someone one day who doesn’t want to use him as a passport in the future.
Shahid and Amina’s story of arranged marriage and divorce shows how a couple have different values when it comes to an arranged marriage and their reasons behind the marriage not being the same.
Stories related to women having arranged marriages from abroad are increasing where they have a ‘game plan’ to divorce after a period of time, which gives them a status to stay in the foreign country they are living in. Many are known to have lovers abroad who will join them eventually.
Arranged marriage and divorce are something that cannot be ignored because the digital age and personal independence have introduced many new challenges that once were not seen by traditional couples from the past.
How much divorce increases in arranged marriage remains to be seen. While divorce is not a happy option, it is definitely giving a new life to those who have been caught up in such marriages that have been impossible to continue.