A happy arrangement?
Arranged marriages don’t always work out. But they can result in very successful unions, as those involved have no romantic illusions and are prepared to adapt to each other. Noor-Jehan Yoro Badat speaks to two women who now love the men chosen for them
Roshini Rampersadh, 54, of Newcastle has been married to Eddie for 36 years.
My mom arranged for Eddie to come and see me, as someone had approached her. This was something I was used to. When I’d go to weddings, people would ask to be introduced to me. Many boys would come to our home to see me.
Eddie came twice to our house, once with his friends and the second time with his parents. My mom then agreed to the marriage and a wedding date was set. I was shocked. I was only 16 at the time. We were engaged for a year. We hardly communicated. Eddie was a stranger to me.
My mom told me to leave school because I had to learn how to cook and be a homemaker. I was quite upset. I wanted to be a hairdresser. But in those days we didn’t question our parents.
My mom was so strict – she arranged the marriages of all five of us daughters.
Eddie and I must have seen each other about eight times before we got married. We’d just talk about general things, not about our future. No feelings had developed yet. I suppose he was like me, scared to make the commitment, but our parents wanted us to get married.
When I turned 18, we were married. Eddie was 28. On our wedding day, I was very nervous. We didn’t say a word to each other.
I lived with my in-laws for three months. They were lovely and very good to me.
Our first week together as a married couple felt like we were dating. We were shy, but we were getting to know each another.
As time passed, I learnt about him, his likes and dislikes. It took me about six months to know him. We became friends first. We would talk about building ourselves up and needing to save to buy a house. Over the years I have found that Eddie is the type of person that I would have chosen for myself. He doesn’t drink, and he’s caring and loving.
I realised, after my daughter was born, that I loved this man. I thanked my mom for finding him for me. I was very lucky, because in those days once you were married, that was it, even if it was a mistake. There was no such thing as getting a divorce and going home. You had to make it work. So I was determined to do just that.
I began to look at Eddie differently. Our love for each other grew. He was caring, sincere and was always there for me. I come first in his life, which is what I loved most. Everything was done with my approval.
Eddie is very loving towards our three daughters and grandkids. My daughters are all educated – I’m thrilled they’re not housewives. He can be stubborn, but he’s a gem.
I’m not sure arranged marriages would work these days. Children are brought up differently from the way we were raised.
My advice to those who are thinking about getting an arranged marriage is to look first at the family background of your prospective partners and see what values their parents have instilled in them.
Rakhee, 39, of Johannesburg married Dhiren in 1999.
I had brought two boys home to meet my parents – my dad was cool with it as long as they were Gujarati – but it didn’t work out. Their mothers had issues and we weren’t in the same caste as them.
At 24, I was single and working at the AA in Braamfontein. My middle sister, who was married, kept asking my elder sister and me when we were getting married. My mom worried about us, too.
One day, my mom told us about a boy related to a friend of hers. Was my older sister interested in phoning him? My sister, who is quiet and shy, wasn’t keen.
My mother’s friend kept phoning every week. My mother nagged for us to get in touch with him. Eventually I told my mother to give him my name and number so that I could tell him politely that I wasn’t interested.
Dhiren called me one Saturday from the Oriental Plaza where he owned a store, and we decided to meet for coffee.
I wasn’t nervous, but I think he was. I was honest with him. Knowing that this was an introduction to an arranged marriage, I didn’t want to pretend to be someone else. This was who I was – he could take it or leave it.
Dhiren was a decent guy, from a decent home.
He was vegetarian, like me. He didn’t smoke or drink.
Being the only son, he was under pressure to settle down.
He had met some girls, through introductions by the families.
But he liked none of them. They were more interested in his bank balance and the kind of car he drove, which put him off.
He liked that I didn’t ask about those things.
We saw each other for about a month or two, before we agreed to an arranged marriage. I wasn’t head over heels in love, but he had admirable qualities. We became friends.
He was honest, someone that I could trust.
I wanted to try this route because my previous relationships hadn’t worked out.
Our families met, exchanged sweetmeats, and then sat down to lunch to agree on a wedding date. We married about a year later.
We went to Bali for our honeymoon. We were still a bit awkward with each other.
Then we lived with my in-laws for three years, which was pleasant. They are lovely and very supportive people. My mother gave me good advice on how to carry myself and behave in front of my in-laws, which paid off.
Initially, I was homesick. Every Friday I would go home to see my parents. I have to admit it was scary in the beginning. It felt strange to be in another home and in bed with a man. But as time passed, we got to know each other. My mother taught me that you can make things work – it’s all up to you. It’s like what Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to be.”
We are still discovering each other. In the past two to three years, we have really bonded. We’re quite transparent in our relationship. I know him like a book and I trust him wholeheartedly. In our careers, we’re opening up new avenues for ourselves. We make decisions together. And having our two children has brought us even closer.
We have our fair share of ups and downs. I know he has told me that he can’t imagine life without us. I am more in love with him now than I was in the beginning. I’m definitely glad that I took the risk with him.
We are so close, you wouldn’t say that ours is an arranged marriage.