In the fourth installment of our series "Help! I'm 30, Tamil... and Not Married", Jana explores the growing trend towards "self-arranged marriage."
Meet Ravi. He’s a professional in a large Western metropolis. He’s confident, charismatic, gainfully employed and very much single. He has nothing to complain about, right?
Not if he’s Tamil and just turned 30! Relatives he didn’t know existed are coming out the woodwork to set him up with their second cousin’s neighbour’s tutor’s sister. He’s been making the rounds at all the major events catered towards Tamil singles in his city. He won’t admit it, but he went to eight of those events last year. And no, he wasn’t dragged to any of them by his old roommate as he claimed.
He met women, chatted them up and even went on a few dates. But no one made it past round one. Not one individual got him even remotely excited about the possibility of a second date. He hasn’t given up though. He’s optimistic, and he’s decided to go to just one more event before throwing in the towel and putting the search for his future love in the hands of that aunty down the street.
Let’s pause here and reflect on Ravi’s situation for a moment. We’ve all experienced this firsthand or know someone in a similar situation. So what happens when Ravi does meet someone and has a very promising first date that leaves him in excitement and anticipation for the next?
Do you recall those Tamil movies from the 80s and 90s where the protagonists declare their love for each other on their first meeting? If you do remember, you’re more than likely around the same age as Ravi. And you’re probably laughing now at the absurdity of it. You’re thanking your lucky stars that the development and expression of love and commitment in real life (and even in most Tamil movies now) is much more mature.
This self-satisfied expression of gratitude and smugness might be well-warranted if you’re younger than 26. But this early expression of love and commitment is now all too common with newly coupled individuals in their late 20s and early 30s – and that means you! So before you start branding these individuals as “FOBs” or desperados, let’s look at why this is a growing phenomenon in the Tamil community.
There are three main factors that play a key role in fast commitment. Some elements of all three will be recognizable to those Tamil movie heroes/heroines from the early 90s.
Firstly, individuals in Ravi’s shoes are starting to become marriage minded and therefore do not necessarily foresee the need for a long courtship.
Secondly, it’s so rare for individuals like Ravi to meet someone they can click with on multiple levels and connect to on 30 years of life experience. The instant they meet someone who can relate to their obsession with Harry Potter novels or can keep up with their witty sense of humour or has even heard of that obscure architectural masterpiece in the Annex, they’re smitten.
Thirdly, reasons one and two are so strong that issues that arise early in the courtship are patiently worked on by both individuals. This creates a sense of commitment and a vision of future harmony. Whether this is merely a false facade or actually a sense of harmony is yet to be determined.
After such a long search, Ravi is at last happily in a relationship that’s on the fast-track towards engagement and eventually marriage. In the process, Ravi and his partner have just crushed all progressive dating norms adopted by young Tamils in the last 15 years by employing relationship principles that would be recognizable to their parents!
So is Ravi really better off having found someone on his own? Or has this relationship become no different than had he let that aunty arrange a meet up? It has been such a fast and furious relationship, after all.
This kind of relationship fast-tracking – which has hints of both old Balachander films and modern arranged marriage concepts – is now quickly becoming the norm for Tamil couples in their late 20s and early 30s. Can we chalk it up to maturity, self-awareness and an increased willingness to make long-term commitments? Or is it a result of a race against time, self-delusion and short-sighted commitment?
Are Ravi and his partner really in love? Or are they merely in love with the idea of love? Of course, there are couples of any age who successfully move through the different relationship stages at a fast pace. But they tend to be the exception rather than the norm.
So are Ravi and those like him on the fast track to a happy married life? Or are they on an express route to a rude reality check a year into their marriage or even sooner?
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