Desi Marriage: Eligible or Ineligible Question

17 Jun

Desi Marriage: Eligible or Ineligible Question 

Why desi parents are hell bent on getting their children married especially girls by certain age? I guess it is a woman’s sexuality rights they are eager to transfer to the man and his family. They are really tired of guarding her. I remember our landlord in Rajasthan raised an orphan so as to marry him to his developmentally disabled daughter. He did marry her and legally raped her then abandoned her when her mental balance was totally lost. I also recall this great aunt in our native village that had Down Syndrome. She was married to a widower with kids. After Gauna (actual marriage, the woman goes to permanently live with her spouse this is when a marriage is consummated). She too came back more stupefied later she lived like a servant than wife in his house. I guess these women definitely needed to get married to ensure their place in the heaven. 

 I also keep wondering why are grandparents so eager. Are they interested in few festivities, sweets or few gifts or a place in heaven? Can’t they just do that without an excuse of a marriage in the house? Never understood how a grandchild’s wedding could ensure place in heaven. I remember when I turned 18 my paternal grandmother started singing to my father “I want to see my first grandchild get married before I die.” I was pretty mad, I asked my father to give me an assurance that if I got married grandma will die if not naturally then definitely unnaturally. Yes, I was a brat. Dad and I didn’t speak for three years. This was not the reason it was a different one and that demands a whole different post. She lived for another decade. Good I didn’t get married or it would have been bad blood there…

I guess both desi men and women experience such pressures from families and community. Oh, I know Log (faceless strangers in the community, just like paparazzi) who gossip around why X’s son or daughter is not yet married. Thanks to these Log or half the population will remain unmarried. Des is really great people make sure invalids, drunks; wife beaters definitely find a wife. Last week I was imported to another sleepy town along with a bunch of singers to officiate a prayer ceremony for a family. To be clear, I don’t sing I was an accompanist as their guy was sick. I had a day off and I am always open to challenges and charting unknown waters I was happy to be a side kick for a change. I have watched so many bollywood movies especially Karan Johar flicks thanks to Amu that I can confidently and independently officiate a wedding, I know the whole chant Mangalam Mangalam…  

During a break before the guests arrived the lady of the house was serving me lunch and after little hesitation she struck a conversation. She informed me the prayer was for seeking blessings to start preparing for the upcoming wedding of the eldest daughter. So she started filling me in how good her daughters are. The elder one 31, she works for Alzheimer Association and the younger one helps couples finance their IVF procedures. (I do not attend weddings except those held at Summer Solstice, if I had a choice I would have run away from my own wedding. I remember telling Sum, friend, I do not know why I am doing this. I refrained all my friends from attending my wedding. Sasha and Ji went ahead to participate in a rail roko and Lal left for Delhi the same day. Sum came, I do not know why; even he doesn’t know to this day). 

These days IK (a white woman raised Catholic, teaches Kundalini Yoga and thinks she was desi in a previous life) is my social conversation coach until six moths ago it was A’s job (you met him here) and while in teens it was Rinks (she is here). IK tells me how I need to go beyond listening and to seem interested. I need to ask some appropriate questions. The problem is I don’t understand half the things and other half I don’t care unless the other person clearly tells me what is happening and if they need any help. So it is a pretty win-win situation for everyone. When I did not utter a word IK elbowed me. I mumbled, so the guy is desi? The look on IK’s face is worth $1000, how can you be such an idiot. 

The mother of the bride continued, “Oh he is an ABCD Telagu, who doesn’t know much about his own culture and language (the bride is north Indian).” I was pleasantly surprised. She further added how it was not a love marriage. I guess love marriages are considered parental failure in upbringing virtuous kids. She explained how she started looking for a match for the elder one when she turned 23. For six years parents approached all relatives and friends to suggest a good match even made few visits to  Des to showed their daughter (as if she was a commodity to be sold to highest bidder). But all efforts failed and the girl’s age kept growing like an evening shadow. Finally she told her daughter to find someone she liked (Wao, what a great favor: WE TRIED, WE FAILED, YOUR TURN and claim to modernity, we are pretty modern we let our daughter pick her spouse).

This reminded me of my cousin who is a second generation Brit, turning 3O’ in 2012. My aunt has been hovering over this self employed adult who bought her first home at the age of 23. Likewise aunt started looking for a match for my cousin since her 21st birthday, though she hasn’t given up yet but now her approach is “You may bring home anyone you like but he should be X caste.” My cousin is pretty mad and her answer was “All those guys interested in me have moved on just because you would not budge and now when the pool has further shrunk you want me to go and fish without any dating skills. Forget it.” Aunt’s weekly dramas are now monthly theaterics as audiences have moved out.  

Anyway, the mother of the bride continued, “A friend of mine suggested this guy, they had known the family for a long time. Our daughter was reluctant we asked her to at least meet him. They exchanged emails for three months before they finally met. Initially she told us she didn’t like him but we insisted she take her time to know him better (these are the same parents who prevented her from looking at any one in her prime youth). I have another cousin in Des, when she entered college my uncle was driving her back home. He stopped the bike and said to her pointing to our fields, “Look I want you to go to college in a straight line (an expression of speech) if ever I heard anything (read you talking to young men or men making cat calls at you) I am going to kill you and bury you in these paddy fields and no one will ever come to know.” (Wao, my great family traditions, readers I am lucky to be alive, thanks Mom :) . Even they had a hard time finding a decent match for her, it felt as if this hundred pound young woman all of a sudden became thousand pounds of sand that no one will take even when delivered in a Sentro with big cash. Finally they found her a simpleton and a MIL to happily lock her horns with. All iizz well…

The mother of the bride to be left the table to fetch me some water, the bride’s aunt whispered in my ear, it is a love marriage. Thanks for blowing the poor mother’s cover uhh. Meanwhile more guests arrived and started congratulating the mother for her son’s wedding. That is when I came to know she also has developmentally disabled twins (25). The older one is still functional he can follow instructions and works four hours a day as a gardener’s aide at a local hospital. He can only follow instructions but not have a conversation. Last December the family travelled to Des for trousseau shopping for the elder daughter and meanwhile they got their older son married to a very beautiful 23 years old. I saw the wedding album my expressions changed I just held my breath beneath my teeth. Who would do that to their daughter? What was her limitation? She is too short just 4’10”. I asked what she does, the bride to be replied “Right now she is learning to speak English.” Great, the wife doesn’t speak English and the husband doesn’t understand Hindi.

I also recall the convent educated beautiful Rajput woman I met a decade ago at the naturopathy institute in Jaipur who was there to get her severely mentally disabled spouse treated rather a respite from his assaults. Some relative arranged this match to get even with her father. She had two sons from this man and no way of walking out of these aggrevated rapes her natal family would not let her do that for divorce is not heard of in their family. A widowed aunt was her only suppoter she ensured her some inheritance.I have seen similar bollywood and TV soaps where love conquers every thing and a disabled starts dancing  a perfect number but in real life developmental disability remains and nothing changes other than the woman’s life… None of the healthy normal women left the disabled man that I know of. 

I came back pretty disturbed how someone could do that to their daughter. Then I recalled my friend C, her younger brother is blind. One time I was at her place helping her mother in the kitchen. Her mother told me how she’ll find a sighted poor Brahmin girl to marry her blind son. Those days Bhaiya was dating his friend’s sister who was partially blind. He had to give upon her due to family pressure as she was from a different caste but later on his own he posted an ad in the newspaper for a match. He got numerous responses from sighted women from poor families. He picked a Gujrati woman, now his family was mad that she was Gujrati. I guess they had decided they’ll not be happy no matter what.

I am still wondering why a healthy working woman cannot find a husband but a developmentally disabled dependent man can easily beget a wife? If there are fewer women than men then how come there is a shortage of eligible bachelors? May be there are bachelors but just not eligible? Do women have to lower their standards just to have legitimate sex. In absence of intelligent conversation and commonality of shared ideals to me a marriage seems to be just an arrangement to have legitimate sex. It is just legitimate sex not safe sex we all know the tales of unsatisfied men visiting the street… I guess if women had an option they would not hesitate either. I guess it definitely works or why else would such seemingly dysfunctional system continue for times immemorial. May be arranged marriage is the only shot for all those who cannot strike it out on their own…

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12 Responses to “Desi Marriage: Eligible or Ineligible Question”

  1. Giribala November 14, 2011 at p11 #

    Sad realities!! It is impossible to change the outlook of the older generation, but let’s hope the youngsters, especially the liberated women bring change!!

    Like

  2. Indian Homemaker September 22, 2011 at p09 #

    So sad and so true. Agree with everything you have observed and described. The pressure on women to ‘Get Married and Stay Married’ is the biggest reason for dowry, male child preference, acceptance of domestic violence as a ‘nok jhok’ or a family matter, hundreds of other ills, and this.
    Shared it on twitter.

    Like

  3. Priya October 16, 2010 at p10 #

    As a woman who grew up in India, I can definitely relate to your post.

    I think its a shame that people in India are classified as ‘rebels’ for basic human rights such as choosing your own life partner, or for that matter choosing to live alone.

    I know that the situation has definitely improved in places like Bombay in the past 2 decades. Hope the situation improves at least in our childrens’ generations in other Indian towns and villages.


    @Priya,
    Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.
    It makes Desi Girl wonder how Desis have this tendency of living through controlling one another’s lives in the name of filial piety- as if alive relatives were not enough that dead had to be dragged in :) .

    Anything called human right immediately becomes selfish and against the great tradition and culture of these historic communities…

    …Hope the situation improves at least in our childrens’ generations in other Indian towns and villages.

    Yes, the situation will definitely improve if our generation starts treating one another as humans then our children’s generation will bless us…

    Please share this message of hope with anyone who may benefit.
    Peace,

    Desi Girl

    Like

  4. Milky Chai June 23, 2010 at p06 #

    DG, interesting read. My favorite line ever “I guess love marriages are considered parental failure in upbringing virtuous kids”!!! I’m going to have to steal that sometime. The dynamics of desi match making are very complex and I honestly don’t know how many desi girls survive through these ordeals. Glad to hear you broke the norm and are assertive in your own right.

    Like

  5. Smitha June 23, 2010 at p06 #

    That was a shocking and saddening read.. But no doubt happens all the time. Brides need to be super-talented, even if the bridegrooms are lacking in several areas. The only reason I can think of is, that parents are in a super hurry to get their daughters married off.. And esp, if the girl’s family is poor, I guess..

    Like

    • girlsguidetosurvival June 23, 2010 at p06 #

      @ Smitha

      Parents being super hungery to marry off their daughters is due to the premium placed on being married. The culture places so much emphasis on women being married and remaining married by creating hell for single women that not just parents but even women feel they have a protection of a man even if he is incompatible. Often times parents raise girl children as “paraya dhan” (another’s property that they are montoring or guarding). At any cost they want to get rid off her even if they have to pay a big bribe called dowry.

      Also marriage is the only legitimate medium of sex for desi women. Yes, agreed even for men but men do frequent all the places everyone knows about. Poverty does play a part but another thing is about the property holdings of the man’s family. Often woman’s parents don’t care if the groom has his own talent or skills. Just being married to a rich and reputed family is a qualification enough. If a woman has any physical limitation according to the desi standards, dark complexion, short height, over weight on and on… she is further treated as worthless.

      @milkychai

      I am just one. Many women have done it before me and many will do it after me. Most of my Desi Girl’s friends are suffering the consequences of so called love marriages coz’ love was the first thing that went out of window only marriage was left. Coz’ the men we chose realized after marriage that they had to follow their great family traditions and deal with their insecure mothers and sisters.

      During the independence struggle women who actually were on the frontlines they broke all the rules and excelled. Hindu women married Muslim or Christian men and vise versa and they led succeful married lives too. Vilma Farooki, Zohra Saigal, Zarina Bhatti are top of my head. Their unions were successful because those men and women were committed to national interest and gender equality and setting examples, men did not cave into family pressure. It is this later lot of confused men who even when they marry women from their own communities do not even know how to take responsibility of their actions and choices.

      About support group for abandoned spouses. It is a very samll groups sometimes only 2 people turn up. On a good day may be five or six. There is lots of stigma attached. Abandoned it self means the person did not have a choice because first person walked out. There is a huge need for support as a great number of software engineers have speard lots of dirt around. Here is a piece from

    • Dr. S’s work
    • http://www.child.alberta.ca/secure/public/wcpfv/tuesday/simarjeet_sahota.pdf

      In 5 yrs things have changed now there is U and T visa under which victims of domestic violence who are spouses on dependent visa can apply for independent visa.

      * Margret Abraham’s Speaking the unspeakable will give you more information on DV in Desi Community in the US. http://www.sawf.org/newedit/edit07092001/womensociety.asp

      * Shamita Das’ A Patchwork Shawl Rutgers University Press, N.J. 1998.

      Peace,

      DG

      Like

  • rajesh June 19, 2010 at p06 #

    dear author(certainly female)
    it is easier to state but difficult to act and live.
    reconsider your views.
    i am too not an orthodox but getting a suitable legal match may make life more charming.
    all the tests including health,fitness, hobbies,lifestyle,economical condition,mental states and any other required parameter can be strictly verified by both partner upto expectations ,but legal will be nice.
    hope you are with me
    regards

    Like

    • girlsguidetosurvival June 19, 2010 at p06 #

      Rajesh,

      Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.

      Yes, the author Desi Girl is a woman but before that she is a human. I did not understand your ter “legal match.” Any two consenting adults are adults now the question is how is this consent derived??? Emotional manipulation, social censure, intimidation both emotional and physical, threat to withdraw resources and affection etc.

      Yes, partners should definitely pay attention to compatibility issues because coupledom is not just eating, going to work and procreating. The post was focusing on how nornam healthy women are so much devalued that they are married of to men with developmental disability. Developmental disability is manifest. It is not hidden, the characteristics are prominent – Down Syndrome, Williamson Syndrome, Autism and many more forms.

      The cases mentioned in the post have documented how healthy people of both genders are manipulated to partner with in compatible partners. In the cases mentioned in the begining an orphan was raised and supported by this man only for the purpose of marrying him to his daughter and second man was widower and had two children. Thus their limitations and vulnerabilities were exploited by those in personal power. The bottomline is both men left the women.

      The other cases I have mentioned where healthy women married men with developmental disability were rather treated as lesser beings one due to their physical attributes- short height and the other as an instrument to get even with her father. The woman voluntarily marrying C’s brother was too poor to afford a dowry to buy a suitable groom. None of these women left their partners.

      * Blindness is not developmental disability.

      Every thing happening in these cases is pretty much legal. Women are adults so their consent can be treated acceptable under law. But then the question remains is the consent of developmentally disabled person acceptable in the court of law??? No,then how come it is acceptable in the case of marriage.

      I have a sister with DS. I am a member of Down Syndrome Association. Every year we have fund raisers and we have weddings of so many people with DS. I am hopeful my sister will find a partner from our DS community. No one is misleading anyone. It is open and out.

      The whole point of the post was to show how high preminum is placed of marriage for women in desi communities that they are married off to incompatible partners just for the heck of getting married. This proves women are devalued in the society.

      You are right couples should explore issues about family health histoy, mental health issues, hobbies life styles etc. Arranged marriages covered the economic class and social standing of the family. Often families ignored if the guy was employed, just his family wealth was considered good enough as compared to his personal industrousness.

      I hope this clarifies the issue.

      Peace,

      Desi Girl

      Like

  • Sumera June 18, 2010 at p06 #

    Desi’s care too much about society – some ruin the lives of their children, and their own by caring too much about others (who incidentally have enough problems of their own but of course are more interested in everyone elses to gossip about…..)

    Nice blog!

    Like

    • girlsguidetosurvival June 18, 2010 at p06 #

      Sumera,

      Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.

      It is easier to focus and fix other people’s problems than attend one’s own trobles because concentrating on one’s own problems makes the person uncomfortable and basically they do not know how to even handle it. Also, dealing with other people’s stuff gives a sense of purpose and power/control over them. More over I guess it is for these reasons Desis are more interested in lives of others.

      Please share this message of hope with who ever may benefit.

      Peace,

      Desi Girl

      Like

  • Bikram June 18, 2010 at p06 #

    :) nice one .. I guess its tradition .. I know that if my dad or grandad had told me they found a girl and get me married I would not have been able ot say No to it ..

    Like

    • girlsguidetosurvival June 18, 2010 at p06 #

      Bikram,

      Are you sure, you wont be able to say no. Oh my, I guess we desi women are more assertive than you guys… we are literally pushing boundaries in all directions :) .

      Like

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