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Arranged marriages don’t always work out – just consider the case of Shrien Dewani, who is wanted in SA over his wife’s killing. On the other hand, 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, from 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.
The first time we met, I was scared to look at his face. I was shivering. The only day I saw him properly was when we went to their house. He was very handsome. I told my sister that I was so young, that I didn’t know anything, not even how to cook.
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. Nowadays girls are more independent and go for what they want.
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. They have too many choices and are too independent.
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, from Joburg 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. - The Star
Six of the best wedding scenes on film
Monsoon Wedding (2001)
Bollywood has often been a source of great wedding scenes, indeed many of the plot twists of classic Indian cinema revolve around the fallout of marriages. Mira Nair brought the Indian wedding into the 21st century in this tale of a modern arranged marriage. The scene in which the bride comes clean about her romantic past is as good and more touching than all the great dancing and singing surrounding it.
The Godfather (1972)
“No Sicilian can refuse any request on his daughter’s wedding day!” At the start of Francis Ford Coppola’s sprawling epic, Constanzia “Connie” Corleone (Talia Shire) is marrying Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo), but this scene is all about the father of the bride, Vito (Marlon Brando). Dad uses the occasion to conduct family business as a big Italian wedding takes place in the sunshine.
Four Weddings and A Funeral (1994)
Working Title is the master of the wedding scene. As the title suggests there are four weddings to choose from, but the standout wedding is the third between American Carrie (Andie Macdowell) and Hamish (Corin Redgrave) as our floppy-haired hero Charles (Hugh Grant) is watching the one that got away. His day does not get better.
The African Queen (1951)
This has to be the most romantic and saddest wedding ceremony yet committed to celluloid. The wedding between Charile (Humphrey Bogart) and Rose (Katharine Hepburn) takes place at sea on a boat. It’s the most romantic setting. However, they’ve just been sentenced to death and the wedding is the last thing they will do before they die. It’s a symbolic, tear-inducing moment that is unbelievably romantic.
The Wedding Singer (1988)
This shows the business side of weddings. These are the people, from the caterers to the dressmakers and of course the wedding band, who see nuptials as an opportunity to make a fast buck. Pretty soon one wedding merges into another. My favourite wedding scene sees the heartbroken wedding singer (Adam Sandler) screeching Love Stinks at Cindy and Scott’s wedding.
The Princess Bride (1987)
The hilarious scene in which Buttercup (Robin Wright) appears to go through with her arranged marriage to Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) shows the importance of following marriage protocol. Worried about the impending arrival of Buttercup’s true love, Westley (Cary Elwes), Humperdinck tells the clergyman (Peter Cook) to get on with the ceremony. In his rush, he omits to get Buttercup to say “I do”.
Why some fail and how others find it can work
By Kaleem Aftab
Arranged marriages in South Africa are different from those in India and Pakistan where the bride and groom may only meet on their wedding day, says Dr Akashni Maharaj, a psychologist at Bellair Psychology Centre in Durban.
Here, traditional families who practise arranged marriages, introduce the young man and woman to one another to see if they can make a connection.
“These traditional families believe that doing it through introductions gets the best match possible. Many people still believe their parents know best. It’s not a love match, but they also have a choice, a say in the match.
“But, as much as you can say ‘no’ to a match, your parents expect you to say ‘yes’ at some point. There are criticisms to face if you keep rejecting people. Families believe that no one will want you over a certain age. If you’re over 21, you are considered on the shelf.”
Maharaj says that increasingly, families are moving towards love marriages, and giving children the freedom to choose their partners.
“Not all arranged marriages result in a wonderful life,” she adds. “They can turn out to be real nightmares, especially if the couple hasn’t been given enough time after the wedding date has been set, to get to know one another.
“It’s only later they discover their true personalities. Some find themselves in abusive relationships, and the women lose their identities.
“I have seen success stories, where couples embrace the idea of falling in love while they’re married. When two people are on the same path, they can grow to love one another. Those relationships blossom.”
Maharaj says arranged marriages among the older generation endured because women were more tolerant, more accepting of their traditional roles as homemakers, wives and mothers – or just lacked choices.
“Among the new generation, a lot of arranged marriages haven’t worked. Living in a more western society, couples find it easier to throw in the towel, get divorced and start afresh, especially if there are no children involved.
“And if either one has had a romantic relationship in the past, they can bring the baggage of that into the arranged marriage.
“But when there is no history of being in a relationship, that marriage is all they really know and they would want to be more committed to it.
“Couples who succeed in arranged marriages are those that brave the difficulties and find their way to one another. There is more of an understanding of values in a marriage…
“The upside of an arranged marriage is that it’s like a honeymoon all the time. They’re getting to learn about a new person. And it’s an exciting time for them. They don’t have expectations with anyone else, just with one another and that’s priceless.
“The downside is you could end up with a horrible person. It might be a real nightmare if you were rushed into the marriage and it could be difficult to get out. People think it’s easy to get divorced. Many men and women are strong family people. And they try not to disappoint the family.” - The Independent