HALF a dozen young technology workers are gathered around a table in south Mumbai. In between checking their smartphones, they describe an Indian social revolution of which they are in the vanguard. Marriage, one woman explains, is becoming freer and easier—“less stiff-necked”, as she puts it. All have far more choice when it comes to picking a marriage partner than their parents knew: two of the women have even married men from another religion. The old-fashioned marriages that they see on television and in films seem deeply peculiar. “It’s a different world,” one says.
Marriage is a central institution in all societies. In India it often seems more important than anything else. Witness the extravagant, days-long weddings, the lavish gifts of saris and jewellery, and the columns of spouse-wanted ads in newspapers—or just watch any Bollywood romantic comedy. Yet marriage in India is also changing, in ways that are liberating and exciting but also often confusing.