Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 3, Issue 18, Tuesday December 6, 2005



Special feature

Arranged Marriage…An Anachronism?

PICTURE this: you're watching a documentary on Discovery Channel…your ma's sitting beside you…a lion strolls by on the TV screen, then perhaps a lioness. She promptly turns to you and demands, 'Son, when are you getting married? You have a girl in mind? I know this wonderful family…blah, blah”. Sounds ludicrous? It shouldn't, as that's how single minded most parents can be about their 20-something kids' marital status. Let's ponder on it, shall we?

Westerners tout love marriage, deriding arranged marriages as backward, uncivilized and primitive. When debating the success of arranged versus love marriages, proponents of arranged marriage claim that it's more successful, but their definition of success usually focuses on divorce rates. But are divorce rates really a measure of successful marriage?

Think about it; divorce reflects poorly on a typical Bangali family, so some proportion of arranged marriages endure not because they are successful, but because leaving them would bring such shame. Hence, people marry as strangers and stay strangers all their lives- a prospect I can't bear thinking of for myself.

Most of my friends state that they'd only need 6 to 7 months max to get to know someone before they get married. Plus, I've seen a lot of love marriages end in bitter divorces.

I know the harshest arranged marriages are those almost forced upon the bride or groom. Parents are so confident of their child agreeing to whomever they arrange their marriage with, they don't bother asking for their opinion before finalizing everything. The guy/girl is then left with little choice but to agree.

Then there's emotional pressure/blackmail, parents beseeching their children to agree to a proposal before they die, etc. etc. These days however, most marriages, across all cultures, are what's called the 'semi-arranged marriage'. Your parents, friends, etc., set up an introduction with someone they consider to be eligible.

Here, parents put the word out in the community grapevine: Dad's aunt knows a nice family in Atlanta whose nephew is an electrical engineer. Mom's university classmate has a cousin whose daughter's working in a renowned MNC. Parents run matrimonial classifieds (in India this has progressed on to a dizzying array of Web sites like say, indiamatrimony.com) and hundreds of biodatas are duly scrutinized.

Marriages are considered a union of two families, not merely two individuals, so bloodlines and reputations matter. Beauty, ethnicity, religion, education, social/financial status and even horoscopes are contemplated! There are times when a guy's mom would reject girls because of the smallest 'defects'; over-qualified as a career woman, under-qualified when it comes to looks. Or because of the girl being a bit older than the guy (even by a few months).

After the initial 'screening' comes your role, the biggest hitch in the whole process. Most families want a wedding, and they want it pronto but disapprove of or forbid dating. You're not allowed to take the time it takes to get to know someone. You have to decide on a deadline kind of like closing a business deal….ugh!

One of my friend's relatives think that after he's spent three or four evenings with a girl, he ought to know she's his future bride or she's history. But that's so absurd!

Plus, since one-on-one meeting is still taboo here, most couples get together along with their parents or, in more liberal families, with a chaperone. Now, you try meeting your future wife or husband for those few times before your wedding decision, in front of your parents and striking up a conversation with her. One of my colleagues related how once, when she went to meet the prospective groom, the whole motley crew from his side, not just his parents, was there - that too in a shopping complex of all places!

It's great when you see more and more parents now accepting love marriages, indicating a widening open-minded society and the increasing trust parents have in their children's maturity and life choices. So when it comes to arranged marriages, is it asking too much, for parents to extend that much trust to allow their kids to meet alone over something as harmless as a cup of coffee? And in this era of cell phones, e-mails and msn/yahoo messenger, can't the guy and girl in question be given the time needed to know each other well enough to decide on, what is after all, their future? I think it's a great way of reaching a middle ground between 'traditional values' and a 'modern outlook'. Wouldn't you agree?

By Simin Saifuddin

Dearest diary,
It is so great to actually feel the winter coming. Though, my Canadian counterparts will not agree with my above statements (then again, who can blame them?), but for us Bangalees, winter means, fun. The wedding festivities, relief from the scorching heat of summer, airing of our shawls, making and eating pithas, picnics, garden parties, Sylhet trips, and Bar-B-Q's. It is like basically trying to cram as many fun activities as one can in these 2-3 months of winter bliss. And me, the polar bear that I am, with the extra layer of fat and all, enjoy winter like nobody's business.

And diary, though I sound self-absorbed and self-centered, believe me diary, I do also realize that how winter is not fun for certain portions of our society. And I am proud to say that my friends, family and I are also part of serving the underprivileged. We do not only party we also, part. So diary, lets not get judgmental.

Anyway, diary, you know what I wish? I wish God had made me like those grizzly bears, who hibernate during winter and come out during summer. In my case, I would come out in winter and hibernate during summer.

And what about those migratory birds? I should follow their pattern too. I should mosey over to some cooler pastures during summer and come back to Dhaka during winter. I tell you it would really transmogrify my life. Though I can jus visualize my better half scoff at my brilliant idea and label it as absolute, hokum.

Okay, now lets talk about make up. You know how we poor women have to put on rather paint on a face. During winter, the face stays put, but during summer it is a case of melting mummies.

And sorry diary to include you in the grossiest of the lot, the love affair of the Bangalees with polyester, which brings out the scariest scenario. Stuck in a lift with polyester lovers! Death by asphyxiation is better than inhaling B.O. Ugh!!! I once had to literally hold my breath and ask one of my colleagues to wear cotton clothes while we were working together. My other colleagues died of shame and embarrassment while I went ahead and saved everybody's life. Me, the ever-sacrificial one. All in the name of humanity.

So diary, bye-bye to rainy days, stuffy classrooms, limp hair, heat and B.O…for two months at least, and hello to, shawls, monkey caps (special tribute to night watchmen in this case), dusty roads, mocha colored leaves, Kanjeevarans, weddings and kachhi biriyanis.

So have a good day the Sam Q. Way.

Olive oil roast chicken
4 tbsp olive oil
1 farm chicken
350g baby new potatoes scrubbed and parboiled
Freshly ground black pepper
Few fresh bay leaves
Rub oil all over chicken, season and place in a roasting tray. Surround with potatoes and drizzle with extra oil. Season and add bay leaves. Cook in a preheated oven at gas 6, 400 degrees F or, 200 degrees C for 30 minutes, or until chicken juices run clear when the thickest part of the thighs are pierced with a skewer. Transfer chicken to a warm platter and arrange potatoes.

Shredded chicken with sesame seeds
225g boneless chicken breasts, shredded
1 egg white
½ tsp salt
2 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
For the sauce:
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp vinegar
½ tsp oil
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp pepper powder
2 tsp finely chopped spring onion
½ tsp chili sauce
Combine the shredded chicken with egg white, salt and cornflour into small bowl and refrigerate for 10 mins.
Heat the oil in a frying pan or a wok until moderately hot. Add chicken mixture and keep stirring to keep it form sticking. Cook for about two to three minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Drain of the oil. Clean the pan or wok and reheat about one tbsp of the drained oil. Add the sesame seeds and stir-fry for a minute, till light brown. Then add all the sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Return the cooked chicken to the pan and sauté the mixture for two minutes, till the chicken is well coated with the sauce and sesame seeds. Serve hot!


My Bangladesh
I cry for you

TODAY my country faces one of the worst crises imaginable when suicide bombers are running around blowing themselves up along with many innocent people and creating a sense of insecurity amongst the general masses. The cancer has grown and spread so badly it has reached beyond control. It is a shame to all of us that a nation, which has been established with so much bloodshed and a heroic liberation war, stands at the end of its tether. As we prepare to celebrate our 35th. Victory Anniversary we are shrouded by a dark cloud of uncertainty that lies ahead as we are held hostage, in the name of religion, by a few self proclaimed fanatics.

No one can understand the demented, sick and cruel mind that works behind such killings committed in the name of senseless causes. In this World we have many who have the ability to motivate and mold innocent minds to believe in such ruthless acts to meet an end. Unfortunately to them 'end justify the means' philosophy works. In countries like ours where poverty is rampant and millions of youth are jobless and frustrated they are targeted to become the cannon fodders by such demons. In the absence of any alternative avenue to vend their frustrations the poor youth are finding the destructive philosophy of few 'fanatics' attractive. The youth are very vulnerable. It is the youth who become great force for changes, it is the youth who become self-destructive by becoming drug addicts and now we have a new phenomenal - they are becoming 'suicide bombers'. This is the pit and to save ourselves we all must start thinking of where we are going to and where we all want to end up to. The time has come to make a choice for all of us to decide 'if we love our country what can I do to make things better not just for myself but others also'. It is time to become less greedy and more generous. It is time to stop sucking and bleeding the 'motherland' rather work toward building a better 'tomorrow' for all. Otherwise soon your or my limbs may be hanging from a tree because we have been at a wrong place at a wrong time when a 'suicide bomber' blew him up.

A German Protestant minister Martin Niemoller who was a leader of the church's opposition to Hitler wrote something, which I think, is quite appropriate for us now. He was interned in Nazi concentration camps from 1938-45. During the Hitler's reign of terror he wrote and I quote ' First they came for the Socialists, and I didn't speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came out for the unionist, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came out for me, and there was no one to speak for me'.

By Akku Chowdhury


home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2003 The Daily Star