How I found true love in an arranged marriage

Published: July 12, 2015
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He courted me for three months before we got married, in a dowry-free marriage. PHOTO: EXPRESS TRIBUNE MAGAZINE

Last week, we celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary. Ours was an arranged marriage, and I had not even seen his picture before saying yes to him. Sounds so backwards, right?

I didn’t see his picture because I didn’t care to see, as I was already besotted by him when I began to talk to him on the phone and chatting with him over emails.

It was the beginning of 2009. I was on holiday with my friend in Manipur without informing my parents. I called my sister at the hour of departure and told her I was leaving for a four-day holiday in Manipur with my friend. Before she could say anything, I switched off my phone and sat on the ATR that took off from Kolkata.

Within this short trip, I intended to leave behind the emotional bruises of a failed relationship and also to get some relief from the mounting pressure of arranged marriage that had been dangling over my head.

For the past five years, my papa brought proposals to me for marriage, and I somehow couldn’t seem to settle down with any of them. I would talk to them, once or multiple times, depending on my interest, but none of them fit well in my vision of a life partner.

It was difficult to explain this concept of my kind of life partner to my increasingly restless parents, but I was determined to not give in to their irrational demands. I knew I would rather stay single and stay abroad than marry someone against my wishes. Coming to Manipur was an impulsive decision to gain some sanity.

I didn’t know the devil of arranged marriage would follow me up there, where the phone caught signal once every 10 minutes. But you see, parents find a way to get to you.

I was trying to call my bestie from Manipur, and was haggling with the intermittent network, when I saw my phone beeping, Papa calling. It sent chills down my spine, but as a matter of family rules, I answered the call. What I heard from the other end was more than enough to spoil my vacation.

Papa had given my number to a prospective match who might call me anytime. I was now on an alert, and since I couldn’t hate Papa, I hated this prospect who could call me. Couldn’t he give a set date and time?

Thankfully, the phone call never came, but a month later, an email arrived on Valentine’s Day.

The sender had politely asked me to be his friend, and while he told me about himself in concise 10 sentences. He asked me if I wanted to change him.

As a thoughtful reply, I wrote to him in detail that I was a spontaneous and happy-go-lucky girl who was seeking love, chemistry, mutual understanding and a spark. This probably didn’t answer his questions, so he called me the next day.

“I sent you an email but you didn’t reply,” he questioned.

“I did. I sent a long reply,” I retorted.

“You sent an email but it was not the reply to my questions. They remained unanswered,” he argued.

I didn’t know what to say, except that I thought he was an extremely arrogant man, highly egoistic and displaying great superiority complex of his job.

I didn’t want to carry on with the conversation, but I did because I knew I would have to answer Papa after the call.

We talked, and he spoke about his life, his personality and he confessed this was the first call he ever made to a girl. At the end of that hour-long conversation, he admitted that he had never spoken to any woman for that long.

“What? Not even to your mum?” I asked.

“Sadly, no. I lost her when I was 14, which was five years after my father’s death.”

I was quiet, speechless and spellbound. This explains his maturity. He didn’t carry a phone, which is why he couldn’t give a set date and time to call.

This explained why he asked me if I wanted to bring about any change in him. He wanted to be accepted the way he is, and he brutally presents himself in his purest form to people.

“I do not have any bank balance or property but I have immense love to give. I have always held onto this love and I now want to love someone to the best of my capacity,” he said in one of the following conversations.

Is he a part of me? How else could he know that I was seeking somebody who could love me to the best of his abilities? How could he learn that I didn’t need money or wealth or property, but a sound character and true, pure love?

One phone call led to another and one email gave way to a chain of emails. We shared views, opinions and feelings.

He talked about his struggling childhood, while I talked about my insecurities and inferiorities.

We discussed the hypocrisies of society and we planned for a happier future.

But I had not seen his picture while he had seen plenty of mine. My social networks were rife with images of my vacations, friends and family, and he was completely absent from Google.

One day Papa asked me,

“How is it going with him? Did he say he is ready to marry you?”

“No. He hinted at it but he hasn’t said it explicitly,” I replied.

That night he specifically mentioned marrying me, and I asked him to talk to Papa. He called Papa and only said,

“Thank you, uncle.”

Papa was a little confused and asked,

“Thank you for what?”

“Thank you for sending Surabhi in my life. I want to marry her.”

Next day, we were off to his training centre in Mussoorie to carry out a small, formal family tradition of roka.

My heart thumped heavily on those curvy, snaky uphill roads. What if I don’t like him physically? What if he had chubby cheeks? What if he was too fair? My mind was bombarding my heart with questions, and my heart replied to each question with a quick heartbeat.

I knew he had worked in the Indian Air Force for 10 years, so I was assured he possessed a well rugged body, but body wasn’t enough. I had to like his face. I wanted to see kindness in his eyes and an innocent, compassionate face.

Finally, the moment arrived. He was waiting outside his training centre to receive us. From the rear window of the car, I glanced at him. Standing around five feet and eight inches tall, he looked decent and handsome. A sharp nose, petite eyes and a broad jaw primarily defined his facial features. Behind those glasses, I could see purity in his eyes.

His well combed, oily hair was a bit of a turn off, and so was his old patterned shirt, but I chose to dive deeper into his disposition that was charming on the phone and now charismatic in person.

We met, shook hands and he gifted me a rose bud.

“My eternal love is yours now,” he said.

Now that we are happily and crazily married (we fight 10 times a week), I can see how an arranged marriage system came to my rescue when I was failing at taking charge of my life.

After brief stints of attempting to find love, I gave up. I realised that maybe I was not destined to get married and that my kind of love does not exist in the world. My kind of love is slightly possessive, but overtly giving. It comprises more of shared laughs and dreams and less of gifts and services.

My love is about me and my happiness, and my lover should be okay with it. But this is where I faltered. How can a person love you without demanding a bit of happiness for himself?

In my kind of love, I don’t give happiness to him. He must derive it from mine, and how and where would I find such a person? Who would love me the way I want to be loved? Who would take the risk and eventually have a core belief that once he loves me, I will ultimately give all of myself to him?

Had I met him on any random occasion, I am sure I wouldn’t have continued talking to him after five minutes.

It was the pressure (and the liberty) of an arranged marriage system to talk to him that helped me in knowing him further beyond those superficial, materialistic aspects. I am thankful for the fact that Papa insisted I talk to him. It is an added advantage that Papa had done all the background checks by himself, and that there were no chances of being cheated.

The best part is that Papa admired him instantly when he met him for the first time. Papa was so sure of his choice that he knew this guy would sweep me off my feet – he was so right.

He courted me for three months before we got married, in a dowry-free marriage. I did not think twice about not utilising my Bradford MBA and I quit my business analyst job with a MNC to settle down with him in the pristine and remote islands of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Soon, I picked up blogging, but more on that later.

As of now, I’m going to go celebrate my anniversary.

This piece originally appeared here.

Surabhi Surendra

Surabhi Surendra

Surabhi Surendra is MBA from Bradford University, UK. She quit her job with MNC to settle down with her family in the remote islands of Andamans. She now chronicles her journey of life on her blog Womanatics (www.womanatics.com/). She tweets as @womanatics.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Rana Eddy

    What is the point of this article by an Indian being given space on a Pakistani site . She can write all that on ToI . Save this space for Pakistan’s non-Muslim journalists & let them speak , rather than silencing them by pushing their issues under the carpet.Recommend

  • Saj

    Glad that you found happiness in your life. Though…
    “One phone call led to another and one email gave way to a chain of emails. We shared views, opinions and feelings.”
    .. is not entirely an arranged marriage, I can feel the love emanating from between the lines.

    I’ve felt that there is no Black and White in Arranged vs Love marriages. My own union with my better half was lovingly arranged. Now nearly five years down the road we still derive strength and happiness from our initial interactions which would not have been possible in an entirely arranged marriage.Recommend

  • Ali S

    9My only advice would be if you’re getting an arranged marriage don’t have kids for at least the first two years you live together – there is no regret-free way out of a marriage once kids are involved.Recommend

  • Bilal Sultan

    I am so glad that you are happy in your marriage. But if these “door mat” kinda husbands is what pleases women, i dont ever wanna marry ! :DRecommend

  • anon0912

    I am happy for you but stop encouraging some outdated system for people to get hitched because others reading might not be so lucky.They may end up with someone who they have nothing in common with or worse.There are a couple of things very wrong here but ill let you have your cute how we met story.Recommend

  • Commemtator

    I wouldn’t call it a fully arranged marriage, the boy and girl mingled freely while talking to each other. Love was definitely there from both sides before entering the matrimonial contract.

    Surabhi Surendra Best Wishes for a happy married life!Recommend

  • fze

    I have no problem with ‘love marriage’ but personally I’m a hard core believer in ‘arranged marriage.’ I have a theory ‘ don’t marry the person you love so that you can always remember him in kind words.’ Yes, I’ve see many love marriages ending up in drain, therefore I never believed in one. I had an arranged marriage and after wonderful 21 blessed years with 2 grown up kids, I still say ‘let me carve a world which is for him.’ Yes, it is all about giving and expecting very little in return.Recommend

  • Anon

    I always find the way Indians approach and talk about their romantic relationships very corn. Anyone else agrees?Recommend

  • Maleeha

    This makes me go masha’Allah :D

    Ps. Just ended up stalking you on fb lolRecommend

  • Sara

    Generally ordinary looking people end up arranged marriages..good looking have plenty of choices.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Not true mate, what is good looking for you might not be the same for me.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Good that you are a lady :)Recommend

  • Surabhi Surendra

    Hi Maleeha.. this is the kind of stalking I would love.. :DRecommend

  • Surabhi Surendra

    Dear Anon0912, My point here is not to boast my luck but to tell how carefully one should choose one’s life partner. It is not that people do not end up with bad partners even if they have a love marriage. Point is – focus on inner qualities.Recommend

  • Surabhi Surendra

    I don’t agree with this. But to each his own.Recommend

  • Surabhi Surendra

    Thank you soo much. :)Recommend

  • Surabhi Surendra

    Agreed. And glad you have found your soul mate.Recommend

  • Banana

    Didn’t you read the last line? She wrote this for “Elitedaily”. Tribune just borrowed this piece from that site.Recommend

  • Banana

    And love-based marriages end up being all fairy-tale like? It is more likely that you select the wrong person when you are blinded by passion than when you make a rational, clear-headed choice of your spouse with your future in mind. It’s not as if arranged-marriages are forced marriages. There’s a difference.Recommend

  • Rana Eddy

    My criticism was not directed towards her , but the Tribune.Recommend

  • Maya Khandelwal

    Beautifully expressed dear Surabhi! All happens as written across the skies… Recommend

  • http://thoughtsandotherthing.blogspot.fr/2015/09/vegetarianism-ritual-killings-et-al.html Supriya Arcot

    AwwwwwRecommend

  • Bilal

    The issues of arranged marriages are very relevant to Pakistan as well, not just India.Recommend

  • Sara

    You couldn’t understand. I said that a good looking person has more choices compared to an ordinary looking person.Recommend

  • Ibn-Arastoo Ibn-aflatoon Ibn-B

    Please kind lady with all due respect please stay away and keep your Indians away please. We dont want this vice in the guise of virtue :our innocent open minded liberals may not understand and view this for what it is and we dont want argue with you and what your people do . Our may not get that arranged marriage , the 10 times per week fighting and the ‘pressure’ of arranged marriage is as third world as India and Andaman. We want better things for our Pakistani and Muslim peoples. Oh God save all people and save Pakistan from all that is wrong.Recommend

  • Nabeel Ahmad

    I disagree #sara. Common Looking people are best in the world. That is why God makes so many of them.It is the matter of choice if you find compatible life partner.Recommend

  • Sara

    Good looking people are like “Limited Editions” that is why God make them less.Recommend

  • Surabhi Surendra
  • Surabhi Surendra

    Yeah, I would join you in your prayers too. ‘Oh God save all people and save Pakistan from all that is wrong’.Recommend

  • Surabhi Surendra

    Thank you Bilal and Banana. :)Recommend

  • Surabhi Surendra

    It is not about the choices a person has. It is about the choice that a person makes. Hope this clarifies. :)Recommend

  • Surabhi Surendra

    True! Yours is such an inspiring story! God bless you.Recommend

  • Surabhi Surendra

    Hi Maya, you have always been super kind to me. Thank you! :)Recommend

  • Prashant

    Well, I did not try proving you wrong, I will stick to what I said and yes I did understand what you meant. It sounds rude for me to think someone is not beautiful. You are beautiful to me just like your name is though I have never seen you. Cheers.Recommend

  • Sara

    A person has more freedom to “make a choice” when he is good looking unlike ordinary person.Recommend

  • Royal

    You are right God makes many recruits (ordinary soldiers) but He makes only one commander ( a chosen one).Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Muslims, Christians and Jews have this wrong notion that they are the luckiest chosen ones. No wonder they are destroying the world with their choices.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    It’s very hard to maintain limited editions, since it is very hard to get parts.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    If it is short for Saraswati then it is beautiful inside and outside. Otherwise it is merely superficial depthless beauty.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Love as we understand is more “ve” or vibes. When we are so much pampered through our senses that we think we need louder and louder vibes to seep something deep and get to the core. Love = low vibes, or Laya of vibes, Shunyata, Egolessness, Dissolution (Laya) of mind. Then there is no “other.” This state we are craving and Yogis & Dhyanis are in it and so …Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    why have one eye on exit door when the movie has just started…. Recommend

  • Asif K. Sharif

    He’s cheating on you. How is it that you are so blind to the many clues scattered in the article?Recommend

  • Pakistani ibn Pakistani

    What are you trying to say?Recommend

  • Me

    It is very sentimental issue dudeRecommend

  • Akbar

    * Goosebumps *
    So much relatable. I am gonna marry similarly, and we just whatsapp important stuff to clear our doubts. Wish you best in ur remote place!Recommend