‘How do I jump into bed with someone I don’t know?’

‘How do I jump into bed with someone I don’t know?’

 

Meeting boys: Not ok! Sleeping with a complete stranger your parents select: Perfectly fine! This is pretty much how many young Indians define arranged marriages. But what is really to be in an arranged marriage set-up? What are rules? Are there any? How do arranged marriages work in today’s day and age? In her book Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage, Chennai-based journalist and playwright Nandini Krishnan explores the dynamics of arranged marriages in today’s times. Through interviews with over 30 women and ten men, Krishnan writes about the arranged marriage experience amongst young Indians. First of the two excerpts from the book…


How do I jump into bed with someone I don’t know? So, we don’t do the chai-tray, bride-examination-ceremony any more. So, we meet grooms, and get to know them, and establish that they’re not serial killers. But, we can’t escape the fact that in a relationship it is often physical attraction that brings a couple together, whereas this is not so in an arranged marriage. While most couples brought together by horoscopes and family sneak a kiss or two, maybe even a cuddle, premarital sex is out of the question. Sometimes, the question of having to share a bed with a man who has been gauged by all other practical concerns is neatly brushed under the carpet. But one fine day, you’re married, and you know you’re supposed to be having sex. Everyone wants you to make babies, but no one has spoken about chemistry. How does one undress in front of a man one barely knows? Swatilekha Mukherjee found herself dealing with this problem. More than two weeks into her marriage, she wasn’t able to bring herself to sleep with her husband. He was uncomfortable too, and they would give up at some point within the first few days. After that, they simply went to bed without broaching the subject, or making any moves towards each other. Neither was comfortable discussing it with friends or family, and Swatilekha began to look up internet forums, to see whether anyone had spoken about this. ‘It’s amazing how many people have this problem. They’re all worried about whether they will ever find chemistry, or ever be comfortable enough to have sex. Isn’t it supposed to happen naturally? Clearly, it’s something the previous generation hasn’t thought much about. Most of us assume our parents had a celibate relationship — I mean, most of them don’t even hold hands in public — but we’re all here, so clearly they didn’t. But many women in this generation, even women who have slept with boyfriends earlier, find it difficult to get this aspect of their lives going.’ She found the advice from users on the forum ranged from discussing the subject and taking it slow, to watching porn, heading to a cold vacation spot, trying hypnosis, giving roleplay a shot, and getting drunk. ‘Someone suggested reading Ghalib’s shayaris out to each other. There was even a mini-Kamasutra in there, with advice on how best to titillate your partner and yourself, when you’re not very comfortable. Down to using soft voices.’ Eventually, someone said ‘Blue film is against Indian culture’, and of course, the rest of the thread was an argument.   Nandini Krishnan’s book explores the dynamics of arranged marriages in today’s times.  Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters

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