Desi Aunties Approve Of Romance On Kundali Bhagya, But Beti Isn’t Allowed To Date

daughters' love marriage
Nothing describes elation better than when a desi daily soap addict gushes at their favourite television couple coming together in love on screen. The skies cleared out, birds came out to sing and the world got brighter for Indian moms when Anupamaa finally found a man who valued and cherished her like she deserved to be. (Woe be to Vanraj, the manipulative git.)

Not just Anupamaa or long-running shows like Yeh Hai Chahatein and Kundali Bhagya, the heart of Indian women glued to television shows and invested in romance seems to be in the right place. So then why does hypocrisy rear its ugly head when their own daughters tell them they want to independently look for love?

Arranged marriages are still the law of the jungle in our society, despite the older generations grumbling otherwise about love marriages becoming mainstream today. Change has been little and snail-paced. According to data quoted by the BBC from a 2018 survey, only three percent of Indians had had a love marriage.

Even 90 percent of respondents in their 20s said they had been arranged into marriage. So one can surmise that love marriages are, by and large, still taboo in India.

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But this reality is strange, given the circumstances of our content consumption habits.

How are aunties perfectly okay, even encouraging, of relationships blossoming left and right on screen but have a mini heart attack when their daughters or other young women around them broach the subject of love? Why is love before or without marriage enveloped in stigma for majority of our society?

We carry this eccentricity over into other beliefs as well. As per convention, an ideal woman is expected to marry at an ideal age and produce an ideal number of children. Families feel no qualms in openly enquiring couples about when they are giving them the privilege of becoming grandparents. Heck, India has one of the largest populations in the world.

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Daughters’ love marriage: Why do we refuse to let the stigma around it break?

Marriage is a sacred institution in our country that prides itself on its foundational traditions, no matter how outdated they may be. So high-strung we have been about perfecting the art of marriage that we normalised literally orchestrating a relationship that should ideally develop organically. We reverse engineer the process of love.

Families find matches within a caste, religion, community, financial bracket for their daughters who will then adjust and learn to fall in love with the man. Throw her in the deep end and she will splash around to stay afloat. The couple will have to figure out compatibility anyhow, else how will India maintain its envious divorce rate status at the bottom of the global chart with a mere one percent?

Women out finding love for themselves, without family, are either stereotyped as ‘fast’ or patronisingly told they are not sensible enough to get good partners on their own. ‘Humne duniya zyada dekhi hai, we know better,’ they are told by elders. Those same elders watch on heart-eyed as a young female character on screen bumps into a strange man in a hallway and, as he bends to help her pick up her books, they fall in love.

Independence and liberation, it seems, are ideas we are comfortable with only as long as they are safely restricted behind screens. It will probably take Anupama personally knocking on aunties’ doors for them to realise empowerment is no good just as a mythical concept.

Views expressed are the author’s own. 

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