The Arrangement

From The New York Times:

MARRYING ANITA A Quest for Love in the New India

By Anita Jain

Book Like many single women looking for love in New York, the journalist Anita Jain was fed up with the local dating scene. In 2005, Jain, who was then 32, wrote an article for New York magazine ­— “Is Arranged Marriage Really Any Worse Than Craiglist?” — in which she wondered whether she should let her Indian relatives find her a husband. It seemed tempting. What marriage-minded woman doesn’t dream of never having to walk into a singles bar again? Yet, while few modern Westerners would be willing to outsource their spousal selection (heck, most won’t even let their mothers set them up on a coffee date), Jain actually hopped on a plane to Delhi. It was the reverse journey her father had taken more than three decades earlier, when he left his homeland for America in search of better job opportunities. Jain, on the other hand, was going to India for what she hoped would be better dating opportunities.

It isn’t until the final weeks, when her parents visit, that she tries the arranged marriage route. By then, it’s apparent that while you can take the girl out of America, you can’t take American ideals out of the girl: she still craves a romantic spark. Of course, there’s nothing new in the story of a woman seeking a husband. What’s new here — and stunningly so — is Jain’s engaging, intelligent voice, at turns wry (when she catches sight of a former Sikh suitor without his turban, she comments: “Now that I can actually see him, I realize he’s kind of cute”) and provocatively curious (why do her smart, married Indian cousins, who aren’t allowed to defecate during the day in their own homes, seem more at peace with their lives than she is?). The result is less a dating memoir than a thoughtful, incisive exploration of the nature of connection. Ultimately, Jain seems to be asking, Is modernization really progress? After all, if with choice comes freedom, then why do so many single women feel imprisoned by their loneliness?

More here.

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