The Case for Arranged Marriage

Monday, April 07, 2014 - 10:00 AM

From L to R: Maha Sarsour holding a photo of her wedding day; Maria Grillo and her husband of 48 years, Vincent; Tawhidul Islam holding up a photo of his bride-to-be. (Arun Venugopal)

Here's my arranged marriage story...

Years ago, I was told to scope out a prospective bride. Not for myself; I was actually the scout. One day, I got a call from my dad, saying that my cousin, who lives in India, had a prospective "alliance." She lived in New Jersey, and as the only member of my entire extended family within driving distance, I had to head out to her family’s house, to check her out.

So I left my place in Williamsburg one evening and made the trek. Her family warmly welcomed me into their home and we sat down to a nice dinner. About an hour into my visit, I realized the potential bride had barely said a thing. She seemed to sort of hover in the background, brooding.

Then dinner was over, and her dad wanted to get down to business. Clearly, however, he had to get something out of the way. He first said all the obvious things about his daughter -- how she was a nice person, a smart girl, a good cook.

“But she has one problem,” he said. “Her one toe is shorter than the rest.”

And then, in a lowered, somewhat desperate voice, he said, “Would you like to see?”

For a brief moment, I weighed this tantalizing offer. I knew I’d never again have a chance like this, to motion somewhat imperiously at the unwed girl, as if to say, “Take your shoe off. Let’s see the toe.”

Seriously, how short could it be? 

Naturally, I declined his offer, but I did go back and report everything I had seen — and not seen — to my family. But they’d already heard from her family: that she wasn’t really interested in the alliance. And as it turned out, my cousin wasn’t either. He would, in fact, turn down all potential alliances, before becoming self-realized and developing an international reputation as a Man of God.

Arranged marriage: listen in to see if you think there's a case to be made for it.  

Produced by:

Emily Botein


Karen Frillmann


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Comments [6]

Paul from New Jeresey

A few years ago, a co-worker went home to India for a vacation and, to my surprise, returned to NJ married. When he described his arranged marriage, I was a little shocked. But as I thought about it more, I realized the shock was simply because the concept was so foreign to my own cultural beliefs. And where did those beliefs come from? Mostly from Hollywood. My culture believes in "love at first sight", a magical chance encounter, finding your one true love. Is that a better way to find a mate than having your family arrange it? Well, as Arun's piece tells us - sometimes yes, sometimes no. The key to happy marriage is for partners to share goals, and to let compassion outweigh selfishness. Love is so much more than sexual attraction. Learning how to make your partner, your children, and your neighbors happy is so much more important than finding someone who makes you happy. Our young people need better models of love than what we see on TV and in movies. Hey - I guess that's why we have parents!

Apr. 10 2014 06:59 AM

I thought Arun's segment was very well put together. Congratulations on such an amazing piece. There are success stories and absolute disasters as a result of arranged marriages as there are success stories and absolute disasters as a result of love marriages (people meeting and choosing their spouses on their own), so I feel different things work for different people. I must add to this subject as I feel that Arun may not have had enough time or resources to explore/ explain this subject in its entirety. Although the traditional, scary, old fashioned, not so attractive to the western world type of arranged marriage exists- not meeting someone till the day of the wedding or talking for only a few minutes or hours before the day of marriage; arranged marriage has EVOLVED. I feel like the western version of marriage and relationships are converging with the modern day arranged marriages. There are a plethora of marriage websites that function exactly the same way dating websites do. People create their profiles with their professional and personal qualifications and their expectations from a potential spouse/partner: this exact same thing is done on western dating websites. When a member of one of these website browse through their potential partners they see profiles of people who match their profiles: this exact same thing is done on western dating websites. When the two members pay for a membership they can contact this potential match for a meeting and date: exactly the way western dating sites do or (and this is the only old fashion part of this)they can continue to pursue this relationship through traditional methods: parents contact each other and communicate and do their due diligence to see if there are any red flags like difference in values, bad habits like smoking etc, family members with any problems that are not normal or that are not considered "Kosher" such as mental illness, homosexuality or interracial marriages (that's how the world works doesn't mean I agree with it), basically they make sure the families (the bride and the groom) are a good match and then the wedding is set. The biggest evolution is that these sites have become dating website for people with similar cultural backgrounds. This is the reality of arranged marriages today. People in the western world call it online dating when certain ethnic cultures have been doing this for decades by searching for spouses through newspaper ads and prior to that marriage brokers who have bringing spouses together for centuries. I hope people will set their ignorance aside and accept this as a way to find a soul mate.

Apr. 09 2014 11:38 PM

Why do insecure ABCD's (American-born confused Deis) like Arun keep shoving arranged marriage down our faces. Look, dude, alot of those marraiges are not as happy as you think they are. Try going outside of Delhi and Bombay and see how some woman living on less than $1 day likes being forced to marry dome fat, disgusting creep. There's a reason all the smart Indians move to the U.S. It's to get away from medieval crap like arranged marriages.

Apr. 09 2014 10:47 PM
ansar from nj

Long live (my) arranged marriage!!! 8 years and on....

Thanks to my love for my parents and my family who would never think to make a bad decision esp. for a such an important decision as marriage.

Thank you Dear Parents!

Apr. 09 2014 12:34 PM
Kirit Dixit from Ridgewood, NJ

I am from India and have been in this country for almost 44 years now.I have played the role of a mediator for my family members in India and my brother played a similar role in my own marriage when he suggested a girl and asked me to write to her.I knew her but never thought of her as potential life partner. We corresponded, fell in love; I proposed and we got masrried with family blessings and now will celebrate our 40th Anniversary this year.Our daughter and son both chose their own partners here.

Apr. 09 2014 12:01 PM
Bettina from Manhattan

When I was 18 I married the first man I dated seriously, as therapy later revealed, to escape my perceived unhappy parental home. 3 1/2 years later we divorced. Shortly thereafter I met a man at school, we started dating, and he wanted to marry; I left the country to travel. While in Israel I met an enchanter and after 7 months living together we married. We had a son, and I settled in to life in Israel. When, after 6 years, he turned out to be less than I bargained for, we divorced and I returned to NYC I was 30 years old, vibrant and attractive. I joined activity and political groups, attended human relations, therapy and self help groups, pay parties, dances, went away for singles weekends, posted to newspapers and answered postings in singles columns and left no stone unturned in my efforts to find a companion. I dated extensively, sometimes multiply, had long term relationships but when it came down to marriage, four such proposals, I ditched. Now in my 70's I am only interested in finding a social dance partner and possible travel companion and find it really hard to meet able bodied and minded, financially secure men who want to remain in NYC. Would I have thought my chances would have been better had I allowed my family to make marriage arrangements? NO WAY. As much of a disappointment my own forays into marriage and relationships has been I can't possibly imagine any success coming from the parameters by which my family would have judged a suitable companion. I don't believe in astrology, but maybe that's worth exploring. PS - feel free to give my email address to any man who contacts you requesting same.

Apr. 09 2014 09:14 AM

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