What is pleasure? Pleasure is when I know my work is reaching people from all over the world, and when that same work brings in more work, it is like the cherry on the cake.
Thomas Scarborough’s An Arranged Love is the true story of its author. Centering upon the age-old tradition of arranged marriages and even more deeply rooted racism, this memoir along with showcasing what it means to have a relationship arranged in the West also brings into light the facade of many a person from whom the kind of attitude that they showed is unwarranted.
Mirjam, the dying wife of Thomas, invokes the tradition of her Mennonite background and names Ester, an African as her replacement after her death. A minister in the church, Thomas’s life takes a drastic turn when Ester enters. Although both keep their arrangement under wraps in the initial days, it is not long before it comes out in the open. Needless to say, the proposed marriage between a so-called White man and a so-called Black woman is frowned upon by most of the members of the church, even though it is a mixed-race church with as many Blacks as Whites. Facing numerous assaults, both physical and psychological which affects his career, Thomas’s relationship with Ester steadily blossoms into love, though he ends up resigning from his post. Along with the tornado that rocks his life, Thomas finds solace in Ester and her family who still have their roots in the ground.
Finally, Thomas and Ester get married and shift to a country cottage, where they dream of a peaceful life. But, they are targeted still, their home searched, their vehicle was broken in, several summonses from the police, etc. The story ends with Thomas and Ester going strong with their decision, and staying put with each other despite the troublemakers who are continuously trying to tear them apart.
What I thought would be a real story wrapped in the fancy covering of fiction, is, in fact, a memoir, a kind of story that one would tell to someone close. The writing is simple, though I couldn’t, at places, understand the deeply rooted cultural things, for example, minister of the church, Mennonite traditions, lobola, and a couple more. Nonetheless, Google helped and I continued when I got the gist of the meanings.
A lot of things are covered in the memoir, not just the part about the arranged love. From the hesitant contact in the beginning to the springing of love into the relationship, from the frowning men and women of the church to the wholehearted acceptance by the native Blacks, the author’s journey to find the love as wanted by his then living wife after her demise is a heartwarming read. The only thing that bothered me a little was the lack of grieving over the death of Mirjam, maybe because they suffered too long and Thomas had been prepared for that day, or maybe just that he isn’t much of a griever.
An arranged marriage is not new to us Indians. Since the time of our kings and queens, marriages have been arranged by the elders, be it for any political or personal gains or just for the sake of family honor or because both the parties agreed to throw in their sons and daughters together to spend their lives with each other. Though a lot has changed and the younger generation is given a choice to marry or not to marry someone, there are still many whose lives are not theirs, but their parents’ or elders’.
I had an arranged marriage, not because I am not pro-love marriages, but I trusted my parents enough to find me a suitable man. Also, because I was never into casual relationships and focussed mainly on my studies and later, work, this seemed like the best option. When I had agreed to marry my husband, I had talked to him only once on the phone and met him once just to see if we would be compatible and complement each other when standing together. Needless to say, we took a liking to each other after that first meeting, arranged by our parents. A striking dissimilarity that the arranged love of Thomas and the arranged marriage of mine is the duration of the courtship. While Thomas and Ester got a lot of time to study, think, analyze and evolve in their relationship before tying the knot, I and my husband hardly got a couple of months before we were declared man and wife. What Thomas and Ester did during their prolonged courtship, I and hubby did after our wedding and it was only hours and days and months later that we found ourselves in marriage. I found Thomas and Ester’s marriage a love marriage, but their relationship was surely arranged (a blind date kinda?), by his dying wife.
There may definitely be a lot of arranged marriages in the world, with lots of different rules and aspects and outlooks and traditions, but what binds them all is that nothing works in the absence of love. Love is the single most important factor in bringing two people together to spend the rest of their lives with each other.