“Love is profoundly political. Our deepest revolution will come when we understand this truth. Only love can give us the strength to go forward in the midst of heartbreak and misery. Only love can give us the power to reconcile, to redeem, the power to renew weary spirits and save lost souls. The transformative power of love is the foundation of all meaningful social change. Without love our lives are without meaning. Love is the heart of the matter. When all else has fallen away, love sustains.” – bell hooks
Those were the days when the voice of a desi version of Marx (fully shaven, of course) was running in my head: “A spectre is haunting India. The spectre of arranged marriages”. Thanks to the bigoted Love Jihad campaign, the snobbishness of this pretentious website and an enormous unspent, pent-up, rage, stored in me at this obnoxious concept of marriage markets, I have started keeping a close eye on my day-to-day encounters to discern and reflect on the instances that bequeath a halo of sanctity around arranged marriages and bestow the stamp of overwhelming cultural approval on the same. Unsurprisingly, I found many. For instance, in an Indian movie, there is an intriguing dialogue, which goes as, “ You may not marry the person you love. But you will love the person you marry”. Love is a trivial byproduct, that comes as a discount or a gift, in our marriage market. And of course, the products under intense scrutiny are the more profound things like caste, class, religion, skin tone, women’s character, women’s submissiveness etc..
And quite predictably, I was seething with rage at this ubiquitous embrace of a glaringly regressive practice. This rage, subtly, seeped into my conversations, sometimes completely engulfing me and my friends both.
“I can’t believe how people can still well nourish the concept of arranged marriages. It is one of the most regressive institutions in the society that normalizes caste-ist, class-ist and racist bigotry” I said, brimming with passion ignited by my hatred of arranged marriages and was expecting my friend to reciprocate and reinforce my line of thought. He was surprisingly pensive and silent.
After a while, he said, “In our country, love too is mediated through caste, class, and religion”
I did not grasp the complexities wrought in this seemingly obvious statement then, as I was busy shoving my progressive-ness into his non-receptive throat and repudiating him for resorting to such a lame excuse to defend the system of arranged marriages.
It was only after the sweat of my imposed radical-ness vaporized from my thoughts and on reaching the tranquil refuge of my room, did I start reflecting on what my friend had said. Inevitably, a slowly simmering urge to find out what percentage of ‘love marriages’ – a term, that is predictably, non-redundant in the Indian context- actually digress the rigid boundaries of caste, class and religion. Essentially, how socially permeable is the notion of love in India?
How many Brahmins fall in love with non- Brahmins? Banias’ with non-Banias’? Hindus with non-Hindus’? Upper-class folks with middle/lower class folks? Not many, I presume. Why is love so endogamous? “Love doesn’t see caste, class, creed , religion…” The dead bollywood fan inside me shrieks. But, it clearly does, doesn’t it? And how is this endogamous love radically different from an arranged marriage except an induced illusion of agency in such love affairs- a complacency that prevents an interrogation into the highly inhibited spaces of interaction- who we are allowed to talk to, to play with, and even, fall in love with?
No, I am not arguing that all the couples, that emerge from endogamous love, have become so consciously based on their caste, class etc proximity. What I am saying is there is something really rotten in a system where-even love (as my friend puts it, the most subversive weapon) is being stripped totally of its radical potential and is forced to become a convenient pet in the backyards of the ruling classes where most of the love marriages happen between people within the radar of each others’ social proximity. Love, like a caged bird, is forced to reconcile to the man-made regressive boundaries- its wings trimmed, so as not to give it a push enough to surpass the daunting walls of human division. The song of this caged bird is stifled with merciless hatred. No matter how hard I strain my ears, not more than a few relieving sighs of melody can be heard.
To me, love is more magical than an Iyer slipping a love letter, wet with his warm tears, into the books of an Iyengar. Love is more beautiful than a Mukherji sneaking in the night to whisper “I love you” and to kiss the lips, soft as rose petals, of a Bhattacharya.
This was precisely the reason why the concept behind (not the racist islamophobic one) ‘Love Jihad’ – inter-religious relationships- appealed so much to me. India would be a much better and a more inclusive nation to inhabit if more and more Love Jihad happens instead of our usual endogamous arranged-/love marriages.
Love can shake the foundations of oppressive structures with its radical beauty. The sighs of love being made, with gentle passion, can deafen the symbols of subjugation.
Love is liberating.
Love is engulfing.
Arranged marriages, even many love marriages, are just symptoms of a society ridden with larger malaises- segregation of spaces, segregation of thoughts and segregation of hearts.
The voice of emancipation inherent in love is being silenced subtly in our sickening society.
How do we liberate love from the clutches of endogamy?
How do we realize the true ‘transformative power’ of love?
How do we let ourselves soak in the splendor of un-tethered love?
How do we let lovers’ ,just, love?