Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I Don't Know How I Feel About This....

One of the reasons I started to write this blog is that a lot of the issues that I talk about hit close to home for me. Once upon a time I thought that only my parents were rigid and cultured and protective of that but through blogs like Indian Homemaker, I realized that there are even more orthodox parents than mine, and mine are pretty orthodox. I think it is true about what they say about NRI's, that the parents especially live a life like they did back in India and are reluctant to change for fear of losing the culture, while in reality India has moved on and they have become a lot more modern than the NRI's think.
However, some of it stays the same, especially the arranged marriage circus. Because I did the shaadi.com experiment, I realized that while on the surface India appears more modern, its more traditional institutions like marriage retain the same shape, in the form of arranged marriage.
I just recently turned 20 and my parents have been dropping "hints" to get me prepared in the future for marriage, never mind that they haven't talked about sexuality or anything to me. It is automatically assumed that I get married. I remember the first time we had a fight about this. I was saying to them that I wasn't sure if I wanted to get married and they got all persuasive about why it was important, and they didn't want me to be alone if something happened to them. They said I would get "hoomph" which is Gujarati for comfort or warmth, from marriage. A certain security, if you will.
I think they have become more open about it since my cousin on my mom's side recently got engaged (she's the same age as me). She's studying to be a pharmacist and she didn't want to get engaged at first. But last summer she went to a marriage where her fiance's mother saw her and liked her (especially since she is thought to be beautiful, cultured, "sanskaari", etc). Their son was going to the UK to do his MBA (he's obviously older than her) and they didn't want him to "fall in love" with God knows who there (hint: not a Gujarati Brahmin Vegetarian Religious Cultured Good at Dancing Well-Educated Cheerful Tolerant Adjusting Obedient Pure Non-Smoking Non_Drinking Sheltered Homely Woman). So my cousin sister, who has obviously never had a boyfriend before and is encouraged to concentrate on her studies, is approached by this woman who wants her as a daughter-in-law (Well, they didn't approach her, they approached her parents). Her parents obviously didn't tell her this was happening at first, they wanted her to be unaware and concentrating on her studies, not stuff like this that she shouldn't be worrying her pretty little head about. They found out the boy's side was of the same caste and had a good reputation (from a "good" family") and they had a big house in the city, and they were modern and didn't ask for any dowry or anything. So they approached my cousin and asked her if she wanted to meet him. She said no, but they told her to at least give him a chance. So she and her other girl cousins went over to the boy's house, where his sister was there (she's in her mid-20's) and they talked, and from what I hear, it wasn't awkward or uncomfortable at all because she had her cousins with her and it was just like a friendly chat. So from this one talk, she told her parents she liked him and they started getting the engagement preparations ready. Her future mother-in-law bought her a dress and jewelry and took her to get ready at the beauty salon. My cousin's siblings dressed up too, her brother in a silk gray suit (you know, the ones that look shiny) and they had a small ceremony where he put a ring on it and they exchanged garlands. Guess how many days this happened in?? (You read right, not MONTHS or YEARS, but DAYS.) 4!!! She met him at Day 1 and got engaged on Day 4!! And then he went to the UK to do his MBA (it takes 3 years and 2 are already passed). Actually, he skipped some classes because he is so "smart" apparently and he's finishing his MBA up and coming back to India this spring. From what I hear they are very happy and my cousin is encouraged to talk to her fiance so they talk together and she even asked her parents for a new phone so she could see his face. She sends him pictures of food she makes, and she's adopted the in-laws as her own (like a good DIL) and goes to the movies! with them because they are basically alone now that one daughter is married and the son is in the UK. So they go out to eat and stuff and she's become rather attached to them, taking care of them and calling them Mom and Dad.
Anyways, I'm not being sarcastic because I'm jealous, but I'm just shocked at how sickeningly traditional this is. The poor girl doesn't even know who she is yet, hasn't even graduated college yet, and she's already "taken". I think it's cute that they talk and stuff but I don't know....there's just something off about taking the first person you see and being with them forever. She's never going to have time to discover herself, she's literally going directly from her parents house to her husband's house. There's supposed to be a sense of "security" in that, about protecting your little girl and making sure she doesn't get her heart broken, but is it security or suffocation? The marriage is supposed to be strong because it's backed and supported by both the families and if anything goes wrong the "elders" will be there to sort it out. There are millions of stories like hers and you already know how her future's going to play out...she's going to get married, go live in a joint family, have her suhaagraat, , the new family members/extended relatives/society are going to judge her like a piece of cattle and compliment her if she fits the traditional perfect role well which she will because she's beautiful,obedient yet talkative and friendly, the inlaws are going to start pressuring for grandkids, she's going to pop out a few kids, and maybe become a stay at home mom. The only refreshing thing is that her in laws are modern and even want her to drive. They've given her capris and jeans as presents because they want her to be modern like the girls her fiance sees in the UK. It's like he never left!
Anyways, the point is that my parents have started talking to me more and more about this, and when I asked them why, they said it's because they want to give me mental training to prepare me for it. My dad always likes to be prepared for the future and he likes security, so he started making a "marriage plan" for me. One thing that got me was that they said they wouldn't be doing this if I was going to med school because then I would have to concentrate on my studies. But since I am doing business it is ok? I don't think my dad is confident I'm going to get a job in this economy either, so he's making backup plans. When I asked him why, he told me that since we're going to bring someone from India (again, all his idea), it'll take "him" a few years to settle down and finish his residency. So I'll actually be "starting" my life when I'm 27. Also, my dad said he doesn't care how much I make (150K or 200K is fine, he said), but he wants the other guy to come and double the income so we can live a good life. I didn't realize you had to be a millionaire to live a good life.
This all would be fine if he was just dreaming about it with his head in the clouds, but he actually made the choice to go ahead and open a new email account for me, and talked to someone about putting an ad in the paper for me. He said it's going to be a plus point that I'm so fair and beautiful (fair according to Indian standards). I think I'm more like yellow.
So he's already made this huge plan about how if we get responses, then I'll see if I like them *no force* and then potentially we're going to go to India THIS SUMMER to check out the matches and if one seems good to us then I'll ideally be married by THIS WINTER along with my cousin (2 in 1 to save money). This all seems like a ridiculous joke and if somebody saw it they would think it is, but it's not. It's really sad actually. I am wary about this not happening to me and I for sure don't want to give up my freedom so I said no to him but I think he's actually going to go ahead with it anyways and see what happens.
I just feel really really uncomfortable about this whole situation. I know they're not "pressuring" me but they keep dropping hints about potential hypothetical situations that involve "my husband". I've told my mom I'm not sure I want to marry or have kids but her response is that no woman wants to get married but she has to, and that I will change my mind in the future. It's just, like, the rules of (anti) feminism!! I think deep down, they feel some sort of responsibility for me and that as parents their job isn't finished until they settle me down. They don't take me seriously and I just feel pushed into this box with each comment they make, like my future is already decided.
Maybe you can pinpoint why I feel so anxious about this whole thing and what exactly is it that makes me feel so uncomfortable. Is it that I feel humans are just turning into packages? So after they get their degree "stamped" on them, they are shipped into the marriage market? It sort of feels like this is what my life has been leading up to, the reason to study and the reason to work hard. I don't know how I feel about this...


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  2. Rucha,
    I feel you are going thru the classic abcd phase of discovering your identity .parents want you to be a Desi girl which you are not but you can't deny your ethnicity to the outside world
    It is a struggle so I would suggest you write your objectives in life with risks,opportunities and time
    On a piece of paper and make a plan .
    .e.g like say to dad no wedding biz till graduation.

  3. Hi Saxena, thanks for your comments.
    I agree, it is really getting hard for me as my dad put an ad in the paper without telling me!! I got 30 proposals in one day because I am an "NRI". And my parents want an MBBS doctor to marry me...they said it will take 5 years for him to settle down in US so I should start looking from now...It feels like a business transaction.
    It is too early for me to make a decision...I want to travel the world and discover who I am.
    Thanks for your comments..they are good ideas and I think I am going to do what you suggest. Thanks for reading once again.

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  5. i am 31 so i have been there. desi parents are not completely wrong but dont know how to handle an american youngster.you have to talk in a less rebellious way and slowly gain trust and freedom.Yes they are dead against pre marital intimacy (especially for girls )but your career and explore the world dreams can be worked out.

    1. Well what they don't know won't hurt them! ;)
      But seriously, that feels like lying. They already know I am "rebellious" so they would get surprised if I become acquiescent. And I will do my dreams no matter what...its not like I need their parental permission or something.

  6. I did some research and found somethings..
    there is some science why so many religions and cultures want to keep their woman locked up
    Plus with the risk of pregnancy, poverty and STD pre marital sex was declared immoral.
    I believe as you have more partners the love in not in heart but in the brain as you check more boxes about your partner .Indian culture wants you avoid that and bond only with one man of your life and also wants men access only to wife.But when you see around today ,you feel you are lacking a choice and social life .
    But what if you get an abuser in the desi scenario?

    . As a man , i will tell you only 20 % of the guys are really bad. but media sells them as bad news sells but good news doesnt.

    now for you tell you parents that..
    you want to get a career .you want to travel to different countries and explore cultures(you can foreign opportunities in employment).change a few jobs.live independently before thinking about men. it will be hard but you have to negotiate this.If you tell the feminist stuff that you have a right to do whatever you want ,explore sexuality etc. and do whatever you will have issues with folks.
    handle it tactfully and not rebelliously.Set up age limit like 25-26 no wedding biz with your dad.
    .5 years down the line when you have done all the flying around..
    Try the route you want for a man.Even arranged marriage based dating wont seem bad then to you, i promise you.:)


    1. allright I will think about it...I find that if you have a well paying job and are well settled then they nag less because they are content that you are secure. what is your story..are you married through arranged?

  7. Yes I was nagged a lot before having a degree and a full time job.my dad was suspicious of my friends and didn't allow overnight stays at their places and I was a guy.he was a poor driver in youth so car for me in my teens. So I moved out at 22 with a full time job .saved and bought my first car cash in 4 months flat as daddy did take care of student loans.drove on I 95from maine to the Florida keys .did a lot of outdoor activities across new england every summer and stayed out overnight .had 2 serious girlfriends before my marriage and yes I married through arranged dating but we clicked that way.


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