What Hitched is about:
If you’re South Asian and unmarried, you’ve probably been asked by relatives at every family function, from naming ceremony to funeral, when they will get to eat at your wedding.
Marriage is one of the most crucial aspects of a woman’s life, especially if she is from South Asia—whether she chooses to have an arranged marriage, wait for ‘Mr Right’ to drive up in an Audi, or do without marriage—and a good part of our twenties and thirties are spent thinking about it.
Will we meet the right person? Can’t the right person be found outside an arranged set-up? If we decide to take the arranged route, are we settling? How do we know someone is right for us? What criteria should we look at? Can marriage with someone of our ethnicity, who has been raised in the West, work? When do we have children? What if we can’t have children? Will we regret marrying the people we did? What compromises do studying and working after marriage involve?
Is having an arranged marriage an admission of defeat, a confession that we simply couldn’t find love? How do you know whether there will be chemistry? How do you sleep with a stranger for the rest of your life? What happens when the marriage doesn’t work? What role does society play, in terms of keeping people together (sometimes against their will) and keeping them apart (almost always against their will)? Once we’re married, does it really make a difference whether it was love or arranged, or do we deal with the same problems and enjoy the same harmony either way?
How Hitched is structured:
Based largely on interviews with women who have had arranged marriages, and their families, Hitched looks at the stories of a cross-section of modern, educated women – women who married young, married late, married after dating other men, never dated – women from across India and belonging to various castes and religions. They address concerns that are common to women in most countries of the subcontinent.
Part of the book is dedicated to the stories of women who have had various kinds of arranged marriages – happy, abusive; arranged by family, by themselves with friends with whom they thought a re-calibrated relationship could work, through online marriage portals; marriages they fought for, marriages they fought against – and part of the book comprises sections that deal with crucial questions such as finances, personal space, change of surname, children, dowry, and adjustments one must make while moving cities or moving countries. One chapter is dedicated to what men want – the answers married men gave me were a rude wake-up call to the realities of marriage, while the fancies of the bachelors I spoke to were rather more amusing.
Everything in an arranged marriage is a shade different from a love marriage. A bride is sometimes seen as conniving, for having got her husband besotted with her. When a couple lives in another town, or abroad, the wife is expected to stay with her in-laws rather than her parents when they visit. Protocol is important. All the people I have spoken to have had challenges to mount, and many had to figure it out for themselves, chiefly because they didn’t know people who had shared the experience. There is a lot of pressure on the man too, especially when it comes to mediating conflicts between his wife and his family. Parents and in-laws have to deal with certain issues as well. Hitched is a compilation of all these stories and an attempt to make sense of arranged marriage for the modern woman.
What Hitched is not:
This book isn’t intended as a guide for women looking to have arranged marriages. Nor is the audience restricted to people considering an arranged marriage. The women – and men – who have shared their stories and advice are at various stages of that journey. Some are searching for spouses, some have married recently, some have studied after marriage and babies, some have gone to work for the first time after their children began to go to full-day school, some have stuck it out in unhappy marriages, and some have walked out of wedlock.
This book isn’t all about happy marriages. There are women who have suffered mental and emotional abuse. There are women who have had to deal with the personal distress and social stigma of not being able to have children. The stories of how they cope with this may help readers who are going through the same.