The serene Ghats of Rishikesh at the foothills of Shivalik, with a spiritual feel to it, seemed to have impressed Akshita* and she decided to get hitched with the flow of Ganges at the backdrop. She had decided the venue, not after talking to her family, but after talking to her fiancé who worked in a well-known firm in USA. She herself worked in one of the leading consumer-based companies in India, which was based at Bangalore. She wanted a simple, yet classy affair. The groom was a #Bengali while the bride belonged to Bihar.
One would be pardoned to think, that this alliance was the culmination of a romantic sojourn of the two souls but here comes the twist in the tale, if the most cliched expression could be used, not only in their story but in the entire script of the ‘marriage saga’ of Indian society.
In the above case, the bride and groom had found each other on a #marriageportal and decided that they were perfect for each other- the parameters being much more practical, like the academics, work, earnings and the scope of personal growth of each other through this alliance rather than the caste, state, family and community. The parents were duly informed about their choices. She further went ahead, choosing the wedding venue and deciding her trousseau . And yes, the boy and the girl, shared the burden of the expenditure- still not a norm.
Then there is Ojasvita*, this other 20 something young girl, from a small Indian town, who after completing her education from that ‘small town’ only, had moved to Pune for work with an IT firm. She moved in with her boyfriend, while her parents perhaps remained oblivious to this in her home town. She didn’t think much about it. She, like many others, belongs to a different, new generation where sex is just sex and not a moral yardstick of character. Eventually she did marry, but not with the guy she was in live-in relationship. They had realized that their temperaments didn’t match so they had amicably parted ways.
Avantika*, another girl I spoke to, works in USA with Microsoft after having completed her B.Tech from India. She is in a steady relationship and her parents are fine with that. However, they do remind her, in a subtle way, that it’s time to get ‘settled’, for she is now on the other side of the conventional marriageable age in India. But she has held her ground. She wants to have her ‘me time’ for a longer while and wants to be certain about her life.
Seemingly, these are not one-off examples. The middle class as we had known it doesn’t exist anymore and this paradigm shift is nowhere more apparent than this frantically changing marriage landscape. The community line is blurring even if the blurring of religious line may take some more time. The ethos that they held so close to their hearts, are giving ways to newer ideas. The ‘values’ too are changing. But when and how did the writing on the wall change so much?
Finacial empowerment of girls
This is the mother of all reasons. As more girls are now migrating to metros and overseas, armed with education and blue-collar jobs, they are becoming more assertive and financially empowered. They are sure of the decisions that they make and are also ready to take on the consequences of these choices. With financial independence, came the liberty- to lead the life they wanted. They are no longer dependent on their parents and taking cognizance of this fact, parents too are adopting much more lenient approach. While earlier it was more about community and family, now its more about the couple. Sitting firmly in their ‘boat of independence’, women today control their sail with much more confidence as compared to their earlier generations. The good part is, if they want a certain type of wedding, they are also shouldering the responsibility of arranging and financing such a wedding. More often than not, the boy too pitches in.
This is somewhat connected with the first reason. Now more and more Indian middle-class girls are working, interacting with different people, commuting frequently and finding their footing - all this while getting an exposure to various cultures, mind sets and social trends. They no longer want to settle for something they are not comfortable with. And definitely, they do not look at the marriage as a ticket to stability or secured future, for now, they earn all this themselves. What they are looking for , is the companionship. Boy or girl, this new generation is quite ok with staying single as well. For good or for bad, this whole affair is now acquiring a kind of transactional tint also, even though the change is completely organic.
While earlier also women loathed many traditions and customs, they feared speaking against them as the society was lopsided in favour of their male counterparts. Matrimonial often had advertisements with attributes such as ‘shy’, ‘homely’ in ‘Grooms wanted’ column. Now girls no longer aspire a partner who are looking for such traits to begin with. Even the boys don’t aspire for such girls. Their aspirations are much different than their predecessors.
Though there is much talk of Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas getting hitched despite their age gap and in India she has become the poster girl of changing times and bold choices( we have had Amrita Singh and some other starlets too making such choices, but the truth is, these starry tales remain in that realm only), in reality it’s the middle class which is bringing about these changes, making newer designs and motifs in the fabric of ‘big fat Indian wedding’ in their search of marital bliss, with bold steps!
*Names have been changed.