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We Need To Stop Treating Arranged Marriages Like Business Deals

We need to stop treating marriages like business deals where the groom gets dowry in exchange for his willingness to marry and the bride gets a husband in exchange for dowry.

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When I was thirteen years old, I spent my summer break at my cousin sister's place. She spilled steaming hot tea all over her thigh leaving a huge burn scar. The first thing my aunt said to her was "What would your future husband think about that scar? You should have been more careful." My cousin was just fourteen.

Growing up, we are made to believe that marriage is the most important thing in a woman's life and is going to be her biggest achievement. I thought it was hideous how we were made to believe this and pressurized to get married in fear of what society would think until I realized just how hideous the process of an arranged marriage itself is.

According to an IPSOS survey conducted in 2013, 74% of Indian marriages are arranged. Being the youngest sibling and cousin, I watched a lot of my older family members and relatives getting arranged marriages. Having spent most of my life in India, I have witnessed no other marriages than arranged marriages. It is funny to me how people have a checklist of superficial expectations like stereotypical beauty standards and unrealistic salary expectations. From publishing ads like "In search of a slim, tall, fair, very beautiful, homely girl who knows how to cook and sew" in the newspaper, the process of finding a groom or bride through an arranged marriage couldn't be more misogynistic and sexist.

Surrounded by all this, I penned down a poem in hope that we would stop treating marriages like business deals where the groom gets dowry in exchange for his willingness to marry and the bride gets a husband in exchange for dowry.

I

The glass bangles on her wrist jingled as she placed a plate of laddoos in front of the guests,

She wondered if this was the family that would finally pass her parents' tests.

"Oh! She is as fair as milk" the boy's mother exclaimed,

Her cheeks flushed to the color of scarlet under her dupatta as trained.

"He is too short" to her mother, he didn't appeal,

The deal wasn't sealed.

II

When no suitable match was found, the search was still profound.

"Hush," the girl's mother whispered "Don't tell them about the burn on the leg of the bride"

"What man will marry her once he finds?"

Another man arrived, tall, fair, and handsome- he was perfect,

Except that huge mole on his cheek which left him imperfect.

"The mole doesn't complement his face" to her aunt, he didn't appeal,

The deal wasn't sealed.

III

Still no luck in finding a groom,

Her father placed a matrimonial ad.

"Searching for a suitable groom, engineer or doctor, 25, fair, slim, vegetarian, no disabilities" the ad read,

The ad was published in multiple newspapers so that she could finally be wed.

Another boy arrived, but this time the tables turned,

"What? She can't cook?" the boy's mother was left concerned

"Oh, what a shame" to his parents' she didn't appeal,

The deal wasn't sealed.

IV

When everything had been tried, a Jyotish was consulted,

Vastu remedies for delay in marriage he suggested.

"Fast for sixteen consecutive days, the kitchen shouldn't be in the southwest."

Yet another boy arrived, tall, fair, slim, no moles- he seemed the best,

With everything from their checklist of expectations checked, everyone seemed to be impressed.

"But his earnings are so less," her father was left depressed.

To nobody he appealed,

The deal still wasn't sealed.

V

The number of grooms decreased as her age increased,

The girl walked in with a plate of laddoos, but this time from the southeast.

"Oh my god, the bride can't cook," the boy's mother noticed,

Thankfully the burn on her leg went unnoticed.

Double the dowry was demanded,

Her father's savings made sure the groom's family didn't leave empty-handed,

The girl's mother approved the boy, so did her mother's mother,

And her uncle, his wife, and their daughter

Even to the distant relatives, he appealed,

The deal was finally sealed.

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I'm Learning To Appreciate Low Key Dates As Much As Fancy Ones

My boyfriend once told me he considered Taco Bell drive thrus and funny Youtube video binges dates, and I didn't really appreciate that until recently.

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When I was little, I had really grand ideas of romance and friendship. Older kids went on big fancy dates, with cute dresses, flowers, and spontaneous situations. When I came to be that age though, the idea of fancy dates became kind of lost on me, but I still liked the idea of big fancy dates if the opportunity ever arose. I'm one of those people who loves to create grand expectations for themselves, builds situations and ideas up before they even happen.

However, as I've grown up, started earning my own income, and learned to appreciate the person more than the setting, I've learned to appreciate the cheap, low effort dates for what they are, time with a person you care about a lot, with the added bonus of more money staying in your pocket.

My boyfriend and I are long distance, so a lot of our dates are just eating dinner together over Facebook video call and attempting to synchronize funny Youtube videos we can laugh at together. We don't get a lot of opportunities to see each other in person during the school year, so we try to make the best out of what we have. As much as I love the fancy parts of dressing up and trying new foods that come with what I guess would be considered more traditional dates, I feel more comfortable and relaxed with our low effort, low budget video call dates. A lot of that has translated into us being more comfortable around one another, something that definitely adds to our dynamic when we are around each other.

When we are together, we like to plan these big fancy dates, but we don't always follow through. Sometimes, having no plan is more fun than sticking to one for the whole day, and figuring out fun stuff to do together. Overall, it just seems like spontaneity helps us try new things and avoid just doing the same old movie date we like to do whenever we see each other.

My boyfriend recently told me he considers anytime we've gone to Taco Bell together a date, and we go there together a lot. At first, I thought this was silly, but then I thought of the drives we go on after or the times we've just sat there, eating and talking without having to yell over a hundred other conversations. Nothing means more to me than honest and open communication and discussion, so it started to make sense to me that we would consider all these drive-thru runs dates. We always seem to come away from them knowing a little more about the other person. Even if the food isn't exactly Michelin star quality, the relationship definitely is.

As a romantic person, I love dates of all kinds, but in finally learning to embrace drive-thru dates, I've remembered what the whole point of a date is. A date isn't for the cute, aesthetic stories, or a reason to get dressed up (even though I really like that part).

The whole point of a date is to get to know the person better.

Even though I've been with my boyfriend for about a year and a half, there's still a lot about him I have yet to know, and I feel like there's no better setting for that then when we're at our most comfortable. And sitting on our beds two states away from each other on Facebook video chat, or stuffing our faces with cheap fast food in a parked car in front of my hometown's lake seem like pretty comfortable places if you ask me.

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