Now that I’m in the arranged marriage market, I’ll probably do a series on that. I think there has been this book that some female has written about it, but I haven’t read it. I periodically plan to write about this market, and its quirks, comparing it to the “normal louvvu market”. I’ll try my best to keep the identities of those I’m interacting with in the market secret – if not for anything else, because there is a good chance that they might be reading this.
A lot of people shudder at the thought of arranged mariage. They think it’s some kind of a failure. They say that it is a compromise. Some of them enter the market only grudgingly. If not anything else, presence in the arranged marriage market is an admission of failure to find a long-term partner without bankers’ support. Some people tend to take that personally. They think that they are failures in life because they had to request their parents to find them a partner in life.
Two years back, my good friend L Balaji (no, not the cricketer) came up with the hypothesis of a “common minimum programme job”, borrowing the phrase that our politicians are most likely to use when they form a coalition government, which is getting increasingly common nowadays. He defines a CMP job as one which “clears all cutoffs, but doesn’t perform spectacularly according to any criterion”. A CMP job offers you decent pay, keeps you in a decent city, gives you a good work-life balance, decent colleagues, etc. But you cannot really expect to get too much kick out of the job. You may not love the job, but it offers you enough to not get pained.
I think the traditional problem with the arranged marriage market is that people assume that people are in the market to find CMP spouses. Someone who looks “decent enough”, is “smart enough”, is “nice enough”, etc. Traditionally it seems like the evaluation in the arranged marriage market is a series of tickoffs – looks good? check. Can talk grammatical English? Check. I good to talk to? Check. And so forth. So what one ends up with is someone who clears all criteria, and not necessarily someone spectacular. You basicallly try to find someone you can share a house with until you are sixty four, and little else. Even that one major cutoff, I think, sometimes is given short shrift.
This boiling down of the market to CMPNess is responsible for the “compromise” label that the arranged marriage market attracts. And amazingly, a lot of people (who are lucky enough to have found someone better than CMP in the market) start talking about how one needs “to adjust”, “to compromise” etc. Definitely not the kind of stuff that the young person fresh into the market would love to hear. In fact, I think these CMP people are what gives arranged marriage a bad name.
Thinking about it, I think the CMP nature of the market doesn’t have much to do with the people who ended up choosing CMPs, or who ended up as CMPs (note that one can be both). It has structural origins. The problem, I think, lies with the structure of the market, and that all the CMP people have simply adapted to this particular market structure.
When you don’t like a set of rules, there are two ways to deal with it, or maybe three (depending upon whether you count like a mathematician or like a social scientist). First is to adapt yourself to the rules, basically to compromise. Then, you can allow the rules to stay in place, and you can work around them. Find loopholes and exploit them. This is what lawyers excel at. The final option is to bend the rules.
In my next post on this topic, I will talk about the structure of the arranged marriage market, and try to explain why it differs from the normal blading model.