Breaking engagement

Another wedding of someone I know got cancelled. This is a second cousin, and she was supposed to get married one of these days. And the engagement was called off very recently. I have heard various stories about the reasons behind it, with the sum total of all stories sharing the blame between the bride, the groom, the bride’s family and the groom’s family. However, most of the stories sound speculative; rather, they look like cover ups, so I won’t go into them.

This was one of those typical NRI engagements. Boy comes home from US. Scrutinizes CVs on the way home from airport (ok nowadays this will be a long drive, but this is a slightly older story). A shortlist has been prepared by the time the boy reaches home. Dad sits by the phone and arranges interviews with each of the shortlists. From the boy’s perspective, it is more hectic than the placement process at IIMs. Sees a hundred girls in a couple of days. Vaguely remembers some of them and makes his choice.

Most girls who have lined up would be the types who are desperate for a foreign gandu (disclaimer: the a between g and n has to be pronounced short). Most offers get quickly accepted. And an engagement is hurriedly arranged for. Boy gets engaged and goes back. Girl gets ready to apply for a US visa. Girl’s parents make arrangements for wedding.

I had blogged about a similar topic before, and like I had said then, my take is that it’s a good thing that the engagement has been broken. A broken engagement is significantly better than a broken marriage. It is good that whoever were the parties who were responsible for the breakup, they had the foresight to realize things early enough and managed to prevent a mess. Yes, the boy and girl will have the stigma of broken engagements, but that’s again better than being divorced, right?

I think the blame should go to the generalized model in which arranged marriages take place. My personal contention is that arranged marriage is a great thing – it gives you the fallback option of finding a partner for you in case you aren’t able to find one for yourself in the normal course of things. It’s great that someone (usually parents) does the due diligence for you before you even meet the potential partners. It is great that there is a formal mechanism which gets you introduced to so many people of similar age from the opposite sex.

However, given some restriction that people from earlier generations have put, the full power of arranged marriages is not being unleashed. Ideally the role of the bankers and the brokers should end once the due diligence has been done and the two parties have met. Reality is far from the ideal situation. Time limits are imposed upon the length  of interactions. One doesn’t get the opportunity to collect complete information before making a decision. There are too many people lobbying for their favourite candidates. Multiple rounds of interviews are not permitted. Decisions, sometimes, have to be made “online”, in real time. And in certain cases, it is the bankers that make the final decisions, not the parties.

Ok I might be repeating myself but my rant is that arranged marriages are not being arranged the way they should be. This is producing wildly suboptimal results, and surveys won’t show the suboptimality of results. There will be too much selection bias since successful marriages are usually more visible than unsuccessful ones. And my intuition tells me that there are too few data points to get meaningful results for marriages that have been arranged the right way.

The right way? Yes. Bankers do the due diligence. Brokers and clearinghouses create liquidity in the market. Then they collect their fees and quietly exit, leaving the rest to the parties. Unfortunately apart from one friend (who is getting married next week) I don’t know anyone who insisted on this kind of a procedure. And this friend too was roundly bitched about in family circles for “spoiling girls’ lives by going around with them without hte promise of marriage”.

One last point. I must write about what Sunayana had pointed out in a comment on this blog last week. About how you are not supposed to be seen in public with an unrelated member of the opposite sex. For this can create problems in due diligence. I think if this one condition gets relaxed, arranged marriages will turn out to be much more successful. As will arranged engagements. So bankers, listen out. Remedy this before I hit the markets – which is in about two years’ time.

4 thoughts on “Breaking engagement”

  1. Also, the practice of celebrating engagements must be discontinued. If the engagement is tacit and not announced, there will be less public scrutiny and more broken engagements which is a good thing.

    1. Reddys have the engagement ceremony on the eve of the wedding. I think thatz an idea worth emulating.

      and from what i hear this whole engagement concept is western and not inherent here – maybe for the precise reasons you’ve mentioned

      and in the west even if engagement is public i suppoose it’s not that stigmatic to break it

  2. Not too sure about engagement being a western concept. Indians follow nischithaartha. And there are references to it in Indian mythology.

    Also, you’ve made a sweeping statement. The girl is not always desperate for an NRI boy. She is probably not even remotely interested in the gandu or the gaandu, depending on how she perceives him to be. She probably was dreaming of marrying Baazigar or a Mills and Boon hero in a romantic fairytale manner, and is finding it hard to digest this utter lack of quality control. It is the parents (from both sides) who are desperate. The system is such that the prerogative of bride shopping seemingly belongs to the gandu – that’s all. And I’m going to take the liberty of making a sweeping statement now – I think the number of nice men is far lesser than the number of nice women to choose from. If women were to be the shoppers, I’m pretty sure much fewer rishtas would have actually materialised into marriages he he he.

  3. I don’t like your template but your posts are quite good so I will check back! Not only that, it will actually talk you through everything – when you turn it on, when you turn it off – and it thanks you for it in a variety of – what is the word – sexy voices; and no matter what you do to it, it’ll respond like it’s talking to you.

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