I was 14 years old when a 27 year old man - accompanied by his parents - arrived on my parents' doorstep, to ask them for my (very little) hand in marriage. It sounds like the stuff of sitcoms but there was the offer of goats, the promise that they could wait until I was 18, and then the addition of more farm animals.
My father, an incredibly liberal man, took the arrival - and subsequent request - quite badly, furiously throwing them out of the house in a manner similar to something you'd see in COPS. As I sat in my room, thanking the universe that I didn't have the kind of parents who would ever marry me off to anyone, I heard voices from the front lawn screaming, "But we've flown all the way from Turkey to meet her!" and finally, "What if we increase the number of goats?" After they left and my father calmed down, he said, "Dilvin, you know you can marry whoever you want as long as he is kind and takes care of you." As an afterthought he added, "But not before you're 30." We never spoke about it again.
I trusted my parents to find the best match for me and I knew there was no pressure to marry unless I genuinely liked the guy and could see a happy future with him.
I was fortunate that my parents weren't in favour of arranged marriages (or child brides, for that matter), but arranged marriages are more common than we think with most recent stats indicating up to 55 per cent of unions worldwide have been plotted by mum and dad. And while most of the media's spotlight is directed at forced marriages, there are many who say their parents did a better job at choosing their life partner than they ever could.
Journalist Astha Gupta, 36, was 25 and living in her native India when her parents asked whether she would be open to an arranged marriage. Having seen her older sisters enter similar unions Gupta says it was hardly a shock that her time would come. "I trusted my parents to find the best match for me and I knew there was no pressure to marry unless I genuinely liked the guy and could see a happy future with him," she says, likening the experience to being set up on blind date “but easier because my parents were the ones doing all the research”.
After a period of ten months where possible prospects were introduced and rejected ("Sometimes they liked me but I didn't like them and vice versa," she says), Gupta came across Abhishek, the man who would eventually become her husband. "He lived in Australia and was looking for someone who was Indian too but one who had modern values."
From the moment I saw him in person, it was like chatting to an old mate, except we both knew it was more than that.
Initial emails became marathon phone conversations and three weeks later Abhishek flew to India to meet her in person. "From the moment I saw him in person, it was like chatting to an old mate, except we both knew it was more than that," she says. "We had fallen in love and gave my parents the go-ahead to organise the wedding." The pair wed four weeks later before 500 guests in a traditional Indian ceremony before flying to Australia to start their lives together as husband and wife.
The couple have been married ten years, have a three-year-old daughter and say they thank their parents every day for their introduction. "Over the years, our bond of love and friendship has only cemented which has been wonderful," says Gupta. "Obviously I know many others who have not been as fortunate, so whether we got lucky or not, I do not know, but our arranged marriage was the right choice for us."
SBS Insight explores arranged marriage: