The following article originally appeared in the newspaper's February 11, 2016 (Valentine's day themed) print issue.

This is an issue about love and sex, but that’s hardly ever on my mind. Instead, I’m usually thinking about having to get married within the next couple of years. It’s something that’s been lingering in the back of my mind since I was 13, and now that I’m almost 20, it’s pretty much at the forefront of my mind at any given moment. Not that that’s a terrible thing, since I’m so used to it.

It’s a simple reality for me, but all of my friends are distressed by the thought of it. How can I manage, knowing it’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen sooner than they would expect for people in this day and age? I have had a friend turn to me on more than one occasion, the panic clear on her face, and say, “I need to find someone perfect for you before your parents do!”

You might have an idea of what an arranged marriage is like—two people who might not know each other too well, or at all, getting hitched by their parents. Sure, it can go like that, and to tell you the truth that’s the sort of future I’ve feared since I was a kid. In my head, this sort of scenario used to translate into meaning I had little choice in the matter, not to mention little love and, well, sex is not in the cultural vocabulary, so I can only guess what that would be like in such a marriage. So this seems to be a situation that has nothing to do in the love and sex issue.

Except it does, if you look beyond that fatalistic perspective. For a lot of people now, it’s not so much an arranged marriage as it is “semi-arranged” or more of “guided dating.” That’s a relief, considering I’m a diehard romantic about things, easily found to be silently and furiously compelling the guy across the bookstore to notice me already because we’re soulmates.

I’ve had to breach the topic of marriage with my mom multiple times in the past year now, and it still gives me sweaty palms and a deep and unnerving sense of doom, but her matter-of-fact view on the matter is almost… reassuring, I guess? I’ve bargained my freedom till 24, but she says it takes years to find a good arrangement, so we have to start looking now. She tells me this will be a matter decided between me and her, so I do have a say. She tells me he has to be at least six feet tall, a doctor, and as handsome as a Bollywood star (ain’t mad about that). More seriously, he has to be of the same ethnic and religious background, and we should be compatible. Mostly reasonable, right? And she told me I can try to find him for myself (meaning point someone out for her to make contact with, then we get to meet a handful of times under parental supervision before making a decision) but that doesn’t mean she won’t be looking.

It’s sort of a team effort, though I’d rather not think about getting married at such a young age anyways. Regardless, it’s an uneasy peace. But all around me, I’m seeing some good, mostly in people I know (friends and family) finding each other and getting their parents to arrange their marriages, whether it be through social circles, university, or matrimonial websites and apps. And these are really well-matched couples, too.

Seeing their relationships, so quickly made but so secure, is reassuring. These are marriages built on mutual respect, admiration, friendship, and a sense of partnership that grows into love (and yeah, I guess sex, but no one talks about it except as ‘baby-making’), because they’re in it for the long haul (since divorce is an entirely other topic). I don’t think it would be all that bad for my first relationship to be my last, because after all, there’s no one right way to do something.

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