Are couples happy in Indian arranged marriages?

Where love falls is a phrase that is often used when love, after it has fallen, ends up in a place where two people don't seem to fit together. However, it gets really complicated when this where love falls is in India. Arranged marriages are still the rule here, over 90 percent of weddings supposedly come about in this way, they are simply called "marriage", while the other form, the extraordinary one, is called "love marriage".

If you ask Indian married couples about it, there are quite a few who are very happy with the result of the planned reunion, in which the respective relatives have checked everything in advance, from education to temperament to hobbies to the horoscope or an algorithm based on such information best partner calculated. With a steady increase in the number of connections that are established via dating websites, one shouldn't be under too much illusion in Germany about how free the will really is when it comes to love. In India, however, real problems begin where lovers find each other free.

Weddings between members of two castes are still a rarity today, they only make up about five percent of all marriages, and between two faiths it is probably only a little more than two percent. For example, when young Lata married her beloved Brahma, the two did so without the family's consent. When Lata's brothers found out, they filed a lawsuit against Brahma: kidnapping. Lata and Brahma belong to different castes, but have now been married for 20 years, very happy, as she writes, which the two found again, especially during the corona pandemic, when they sat together for months.

Zamrooda and Rajnish, on the other hand, needed years before they were allowed to celebrate a Muslim-Hindu wedding, according to a special law called the "Special Marriage Act". Raul, who comes from the upper middle class in Hinduism, also married the Buddhist Subhadra against the wishes of his worried parents. The poor farm girl would ruin the family's reputation.

A Hindu woman kisses a Muslim on Netflix? Does not work at all!

All these stories can be found on the Instagram account "indialoveproject", which has been around since the end of October. Lovers tell how they found each other, most of them have been together for many years. So it is the successful connections that are documented here, the beautiful stories. But the whole thing has an ugly background. Because if you are a Muslim in India, for example, you have to be prepared for the fact that it is very difficult for a Hindu family to give their blessing to an interreligious connection. "Love Jihad" is often spoken of as if Muslim men seduced Hindu women and carried the holy war into the marriage bed so that Islam could spread in India. In connection with the current difficult situation of Muslims in India, there is often talk of "Hindu nationalism", which is fueled by the ruling "Bharatiya Janata Party" (BJP).

A few days ago a controversy broke out in India over the Netflix series "A Suitable Boy". There is a scene in it in which a young Hindu woman kisses a Muslim man in a Hindu temple. Immediately following Twitter's #BoycottNetflix, "politicians got involved. Narottam Mishra, a senior member of the BJP and interior minister of the vast state of Madhya Pradesh, told CNN," This extremely offensive content hurts the feelings of people of a particular religion. "He asked the police to take action against the distribution of the series.

While the attitudes of many educated Indians, especially in the big cities, tend to be liberalized on these issues, the complaint by the jewelery manufacturer Tanishq was also stopped two months ago. It showed a Hindu mother celebrating her imminent birth at the "baby shower" organized by the Muslim in-laws. The large corporation Tata, which manufactures everything from steel to tea, and also owns Tanishq, wanted to promote the new collection with this campaign. Tata quickly buckled when the shitstorm broke out on social media.

After the defamatory term "Love Jihad" trended on Twitter, three journalists launched the "India Love Project". Since then, a new story has been published there every day, illustrated with pictures of happy couples, some with a Polaroid patina, others in black and white. It is not only Hindus and Muslims who often have a hard time, even across castes or wealth differences, a wedding is often not welcomed by the family. One of the first entries tells the story of Sandip and Bishan, a writer and publisher, who met online. Sandip was still working in San Francisco, Bishan in Calcutta. It took years before they both lived in the same time zone. "Our families, even if they do not take part in Pride parades, have made their peace with us," writes Sandip. Homosexual acts were not a criminal offense in India until 2018.

So far, the "India Love Project" has only about 24,000 followers, but that will change quickly after it was reported in many newspapers and news portals in India. The idea is as beautiful as it is convincing: to meet the hatred that marriages across all boundaries of religion, caste and gender, with what it is actually about - love.