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Published: Verve Magazine, September 2014, Anti-View

Does love play an important role in Indian marriages today? A country that survives on celluloid rom-coms may be choosing practicality in real life


We grew up watching those regressive movies where everyone was always against love – marriage had to be a meeting of two families, economic status, caste, creed, sect, religion, language and mithai. Mishti doi couldn’t find place on the same platter as sevaiyaan for goodness’ sake! And then our Bollywood kings and queens would come swooping in with goose-bumpy tales of love, of love that conquers all.

We would sigh with pleasure when our heroes circumvented all odds and came together in holy matrimony. After taking the sacred pheras, no evil could befall them, and they would remain cocooned in the power of love.

Of course movies like Akele Hum, Akele Tum (1995), Chalte Chalte (2003) and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006) attempted to showcase the reality of marriage – that after the rose-tinted glasses are replaced with the horn-rimmed ones, it’s never quite happily ever after.

People can’t change and while their circumstances may, can love overcome it all? When director Imtiaz Ali and I sat together to concoct a love story by meshing Jab We Met and Love Aaj Kal together for Verve, he pointed out that there is a reason that love stories end when they do. No one needs to face the reality of actually making a life together afterwards – people need to walk away with hope.

In urban India, the youth is no longer enamoured by love. Where earlier parents chose the partners for their children and the latter rebelliously yearned to be with who they wanted to be, today, the youth decides upon marriage via a purely clinical checklist. If the top criteria are met, it shall make a successful partnership. So in a way, it has come a full circle, where choices are made based on practical external factors rather than mushy feelings and red hot desire – the only difference is that the youth is willing to make those decisions if the parents won’t. After all, people are getting more practical by the day – can one survive life on love alone; doesn’t a country club membership and a neat set of wheels make life a smooth ride?

What has changed? Love isn’t a benchmark any more. You are lucky if the one you love also meets the points on the general marriage checklist; but it seems that people are more and more willing to go for things most important to them – economic comfort, a nuclear set-up, an easy-going partner and similar ideologies on travel (including the pursuit of a deep-sea diving certification). And it’s not settling for someone, it’s a well-considered arrangement that is legally bound to end happily ever after. Who shall dare to ask for more?