Young Men and Women in India Choosing Their Partners on Their Own Is Nothing New

By K S Venkataraman

     Young Indian men and women in the US or in India increasingly choose their own partners now. Parents are usually informed that they are “seeing someone” who they met in college/at work/on online dating sites. In the due course of time, these youngsters eventually settle down in life with their choice of life partners.

Young men and women choosing life partners on their own is not entirely a new phenomenon in India. Literature dated 2500 years before our time has poems describing the lament of parents over their daughter leaving with her beloved without even informing them! Here is an example.

     Aga-Naanooru is an anthology of 400 verses in classical Tamil. Here is the verse in Aga-Naanooru in the original, by the poet Karuvoor Kannambalanaar. (Reference: Aga-Naanooru by Puliyoor Kesikan, Pari Nalayam, Chennai, Verse 263):

The verses in Aga-Naanooru are dated between 600 years BC and 300 years AD. (Incidentally, the UN has declared Tamil as a classical language of the world. The other UN-recognized classical languages are Sanskrit, Mandarin, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. India is the birthplace of  two of the world’s classical languages.)

     The language in these verses is old classical Tamil that most Tamils of today cannot understand without the help of commentary by scholars.  The gist — not a translation — of the verse is this:

    The Sun making waves in the oceans is worshipped all over the world, But this summer, it has dried the lakes and ponds, making the rich farmlands fallow, thus plunging farmers into poverty. 

     In this hot summer, along a trail through the forest used by people to go from one village to another, in an area with thick foliage, thieves with bows are hiding on higher branches of tall trees to rob travelers. 

     My innocent daughter has left my house eloping with her lover, and now has to travel through the dangerous forest… …

     The neighboring City of Vanji is well protected by Kothai, its courageous spear-bearing king. Even my prosperous farmland is as safe as Vanji.  If only I had known my daughter’s love for her beloved, willingly and without any ill feeling and rancor, I would have arranged the marriage of my virtuous, innocent daughter with a lovely, bright forehead such that her beloved can rest his head on the valley between her still-growing breasts and sleep.  Alas! I cannot do this for her now.

     So, relax and take it easy if your wards go on their own in choosing their life partners. This has been the way of the world all over.  Besides, there is nothing else you can do about it anyway!   ♣


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