|Interview group, Feb 2|
Arranged marriage is still very much the norm for many people. By no means has it gone away and been replaced by an individualistic Western model. However the "old form" of arranging marriages, in which the "boy" and "girl" meet once formally before the wedding, is seen as antiquated. Girls today prefer to weed out their suitors on their own, knowing what requirements their parents would place on finding a match. Then, they prefer to get to know the boy for months or even years - as boyfriend and girlfriend - before starting to discuss marriage arrangements. If they meet a boy through their parents or community (euphemism for same religious, ethnic, and caste background) they would also expect to have as much time as they need to get to know him before consenting to marriage. The girls trust their parents and for the most part accept the benefits of marrying within the community.
|Uncommon PDA at Bandra |
The girls look forward to finding a mate who is educated, financially stable, and who will support her. The girls stress that education leads to a host of other desired qualities such as a broadened perspective, more tolerant and "modern," and more gender equality in the home. They want boys who will understand them and support them emotionally. Even when the boys' mothers argue with them, they want their husbands to take their side.
I was surprised to find several girls who flatly refused to marry a boy from their own community. They explained this by pointing to problematic issues they've seen or experienced - like alcoholism and abuse - that they wanted to stay away from. In these cases, they generally prefer to find someone who shares their religious background, only not from their region of origin.
Although many girls said they would be open to finding a love match from any community, when we got down to details, most would prefer to stay within their own religion. This is likely due to the web of social and legal ramifications linked to marriage and religion. Diets, daily practices, and religious and cultural responsibilities are all factors. However, the law can also be esoteric. For instance, two completely different sets of marriage laws govern Hindu and Muslim marriages. Hindu girls cannot legally marry until 18 years old, according to the Hindu Marriage Act (1955) and a later amendment called the Child Marriage Restraint Act (1978). (This also includes Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs which are considered off-shoots of Hinduism.) However, Muslim girls may marry younger due to cultural expectations, and the State looks the other way. If a young Muslim bride under 18 needs to get out of an abusive relationship, she has no legal rights to do so under the Marriage Act.
|The Wedding Car, ready to take the|
new couple from the reception
This openness to inter-community marriage contrasts directly with the marriages of these girls' parents. With few exceptions, their parents marriages were arranged, or some mixture of an arranged and a self-initiated match. In some cases their parents were set up by a matchmaker, but in most their marriages were arranged more informally by word of mouth through the community: "Hey, my daughter is available, do you know anyone?"
|Matrimonial ads in the Sunday paper|
As part of my sabbatical, I will be developing a presentation, article and lesson plan to share with teachers who might like to include some of this updated material in their curricula. I promise to make it available by early summer (that's when it's due). For me, it will be nice to see how the new data complements and sheds new light on the classic Serena Nanda material.