Looking at marriage as one of the themes highlighted in One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni, one can compare and differentiate the pattern of marriage between the Arabian and the Indian cultures. The marriages between the two cultures have some significant differences. India believes in arranged marriages while the Gulf countries believe in love marriages. Arranged marriages are practiced mainly in India while Iran is a major Arabian Gulf country that practices love marriages. The two sides present varied advantages and disadvantages of their systems of arranging marriages in their respective countries and cultures. Arranging marriages in India and the Arabian Gulf countries highlights some distinct differences between the two regions in terms of culture, lifestyle, and system of marriage.
In India, most people follow the arranged system of marriage, and it is considered as the most significant form of marriage by most people. The system has its advantages and disadvantages, but the disadvantages are overlooked by most people. Indians give much significance to family relationships, and the arranged system of marriage preserves family ties. The children in Indian families’ obey their parents. It is the duty of parents to take care of their children. The parents duty to care for their children goes to the length of looking for marriage partners for their children; parents have to find appropriate spouses for their children from suitable families to protect their families. This is done by taking into account the previous ties a family has with the other family (Pooja). The reason of this is to protect the wealth, culture, and traditions of the family. This explains why most Indian families prefer to marry a man\ woman from the same social class. In the most Indian families, children are not given the freedom to choose their spouse or to marry outside their own caste, religion, economic class, or social status. Children are encouraged and forced to marry from given families to preserve the dignity of their families at times. Arranged marriages have one significant advantage; the couple is protected from problems that arise from disparity in class, caste, and religion (Pooja). Marriage between families strengthens the pre-existing mutual relationships.
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In Indian arranged marriages children are only allowed to marry people of the same religion and color, mixed marriages are discouraged. In One Amazing Thing by Divakaruni, Cameron’s skin color makes him feared and Tariq is perceived as a terrorist, because of his beard. These perceptions are highly conceived in India. The skin color is the significant aspect in choosing a spouse in the Indian arranged marriages. Children are discouraged from marrying people from other cultures and color. Furthermore, Muslims are Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims are discouraged from marrying people from other religions; one is expected to marry a person of the same religion. These conditions shape relations since people are wary of the people they associate with and marry.
The system of arranged marriage in India has some demerits. In India, marriage is treated as a custom; this is the source of arranged marriages (Pooja). The bride and groom are given off in marriage and they do not have consent on who to marry; the consent was given by the parents. This prevents marriage between different families, social class, race, and caste. The result is the promotion and development of classism and racism. Parents go to the extent of threatening their children with dire consequences if they marry outside their religion, class, caste, and race. Parents want to protect their wealth and class, and this explains the dominance of arranged marriages between the higher class and caste families. These are the families that are mainly concerned with preserving their wealth and class status. The persistence of arranged marriages only aggravates a bad situation; the disparity between the poor and the rich gets worse. The religious and cultural intolerance is aggravated since people from different economic class, religion, and race are not allowed to intermarry.
Conventionally, an ideal marriage in the Arabian Gulf countries was tribal; related families were encouraged to marry. This was to enhance the power of their tribes; marriage between different tribes was to strengthen ties between the tribes. The traditional Arabian Gulf marriage was an arranged marriage that was similar to the Indian marriage in some aspects. Close family members were allowed to marry. This practice has been ongoing for thousands of years. Like in India, the aim of marriage between close relatives was to maintain family wealth and to cement pre-existing family ties. Furthermore, marriages in both India and the Gulf region fulfilled one practical necessity; different genders were often separated, and marriage was a way of uniting them. The family and society played a critical role in marriage in both India and the Gulf region; the family placed direct influence on who to marry while the society placed invincible constraints, which were not expressly stated, but one had to adhere to lest one was perceived as an outcast.
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The popularity of arranged marriages in the Gulf region is on the decline mainly, because of family dynamics and external interference; “but love slips in like a chisel-and suddenly it is an axe, breaking us into pieces from the inside” (Divakaruni 90). This proves that even arranged marriages are not permanent. Despite the declining popularity of arranged marriages, a significant number of people still practice the marriage. It is estimated that at least half of the marriages in the Gulf Arab are between cousins (Reuters). The marriages may not be arranged, but voluntary. The modern marriages are based on love between two people. The marriages are based on prior acquaintances between the two concerned parties; approval and family blessings are sought after a couple decides to get married (El-Haddad 8). In the Gulf countries, eligible marriage persons are allowed to choose their marriage partners. The legal marriage age is eighteen years, and one has the freedom to get married to anyone they wish as long as they are both of legal age; no one, not even parents have the power to determine who their children will marry. So, marriage is based on romantic love. The freedom to choose a marriage partner contradicts the arranged marriage in India where one is denied the freedom to choose a marriage partner. Unlike in India, there is an increasing trend in the Gulf countries to marry across religions, social class, and race (El-Haddad 8).
In conclusion, arranging a marriage in India and the Gulf region proves that some similarities and distinctions exist in the two marriages. Conventionally, the two regions practiced arranged marriages with the main goals being to preserve family ties and wealth. India has continued to practice arranged marriages with the practice still being popular among both the young and the old. Arranged marriage is the most common in India unlike in the Gulf countries where the practice is losing popularity. The arranged marriage in the Gulf region is based on some romance since the close family members are engaged prior to seeking the parents’ approval and blessings. The trend in the Gulf countries is the marriage based on the romantic union between the marriage partners. This is the new trend that is fast gaining popularity. Unlike India, where marriage is strictly between members of the same social class, caste, and religion, marriage is open in the Gulf region; there is an increasing trend to marry across religions, social class, and tribe.