Weddings here in India are huge! The festivities can go on for months, with an engagement ceremony, ring ceremony, henna ceremony, and other celebrations, even before the big day. The actual wedding can go on for days or a week, and it is a major event for all extended family.
It’s amazing how these people can take an empty dusty lot and over days turn it into a beautiful wedding venue. I’ve been watching such activities from the balcony of my apartment for the last couple of weeks. Decorations and other supplies for the event arrive on motorcycle, trucks, bicycles, donkeys, and of course even carried in on the heads of women in their traditional Indian manner. I hope some day I get to attend one of these spectacular events before I return to America for good.
About 90% of marriages in India are still arranged marriages, versus “love marriages”. Interestingly enough, they also have a much higher success rate. However, it isn’t all sunshine and roses. I was chatting with a man yesterday that told me he is getting married in 4 months so he had just broke up with his longtime girlfriend. I asked him how he felt about it and he said it had to be done, that his family had chosen his new wife and they knew what was best for him. I told him I can’t imagine turning my back on true love just to appease my family. He explained that the family unit in India is much stronger than in the USA. They live together in multi generational housing, sometimes for decades. It’s a tough country, and their family unit is the only thing they can count on to bring them through tough times.
The pressure one must feel in these situations is immense. The bride generally moves in with the grooms family. Many times they have to relocate and leave their family and loved ones behind in their village of birth. There is enormous pressure for a woman to be a virgin on her wedding night, and sometimes if they don’t bleed their is an unfortunate “bridal accident” where the young bride is hurt, or worse, killed. These “bridal accidents” are seldom prosecuted.
Still, many newly wed couples manage to fall in love over time and experience great happiness, but some don’t. Infidelity is rampant as divorce is highly frowned apart and almost non existent. I’m told that divorce is typically biased towards the men and it is hard for women to gain custody or any type of spousal support. Judges are often bribed by the male household as corruption in India is common.
The cultural differences surrounding marriage and weddings here is hard for me to grasp. On one hand I am touched by their loyalty and devotion to family, but the romantic part of me is saddened that true love rarely prevails. I also hope for the laws to one day provide much needed equality and safety to all women.