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OPINION: Love and Arranged Love

In 2001, I returned from Pondicherry after my residency program in surgery. My father said:

“There is a girl we would like you to meet. We can go tomorrow.”

I went. I saw. Talked a bit and that is it. Now it is more than fifteen years of life together.

I guess I was at a time- bend. I could have married one of the girls I chose. That time, it would have been mild rebellion if she was of the same community, and were from the same strata of society. Otherwise, it would have been major rebellion.

I have had those exquisite druggy states of longing, palpitations and immense headiness. Scientists have shown that “certain” situations create these altered states of consciousness, marked by secretions of oxytocin, dopamine and other neurotransmitters at the right places in the brain at the right times. These prominent altered states of consciousness are probably an evolutionary way of bringing members of the two sexes together. Together enough to pair bond, at least temporarily- for we are a race with high ‘MPI’. Male parental investment is essential for our children, born helpless and needing care for fifteen to twenty years.

But our recent history has been characterised by the collective. Huge collectives- cities, empires, kingdoms. And religions. The world over, it is common practice to arrange marriages among young couples.

Even today, 90 percent of marriages are arranged. Now elders allow a pseudo- courtship, and spare the young couple the pain of meeting each other for the first time at the time of marriage.

The very idea that one can leave such a momentous decision to the collective seems unthinkable to most people in developed countries. Actually, it seems unthinkable to me. I wonder how I allowed that to happen. I think I was just plain lazy. And the responsibility for such a decision weighs too hard on my laidback shoulders. Yeah- I think that is how I will justify myself.

It didn’t turn out so bad after all. I was lucky. Otherwise how can such an imposition be justified? I didn’t ask my wife how she feels. Ignorance is bliss.

Hmm…Maybe I shouldn’t think like that. Usha Gupta and Pushpa Singh of the university of Rajasthan did a study on two sets of couples. One set had ‘love’ marriages. The other had arranged marriages. This sort of study is possible only in India. The couples were married and together for some time, ranging from one to 20 years.

Each person separately completed the Rubin Love scale, a test to assess how much they were in love. Yes- such a test exists. This measures how much he or she agreed with statements like ‘I can confide anything to my partner’ or ‘if I don’t see him/her for a few days, I will be miserable’ etc.

The love couples, started off the first year with a high score, and averaged a 70 out of a maximum of 91. After 10 years, it fell to 40.

The arranged couples started their first year with 58 points, but over 10 years, their feelings increased to a decent 68 at ten years time.

What do you want? Start out cold and gradually glow hot and glow like the sun or blaze like a supernova and subside into a cold black hole. (I mean, it is only a statistical effect, and not as dramatic as all that, but the results are significant.

Whatever the truths are, the world is changing. Autonomy is set to grow. The collective can oppress, and use its clout to ruthlessly maintain and further old and outdated power structures. The collective wants to control the reproductive capacity of young people to enforce in-groupness. This explains Pakistan banning Valentine’s Day and our own interest groups clamouring for a ban on it.

One thing we have to realize though. The oxytocin induced fugue known as being in love doesn’t last. One has to find other ways of maintaining a relationship.

Jimmy Mathew is a doctor-writer based in Kochi who blogs at healthylifehappylife.in

Cover image by Prostooleh, Freepik.com

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