Thursday, October 6, 2005

Arranged inter-caste marriage

This weekend, I was gossiping with Mom & Dad. And topic veered towards weddings. A Kannada dentist school friend of mine had married a Gujarati doc from her city. I always assumed it was a love marriage. But Bingo, now I am informed that it was an arranged match. I was incredulous. "Oh come on, it’s just a story they make up." But nope. Dad replied, "I know the boys side. And this was properly arranged by the family via a matrimonial ad in newspaper."

I was aghast. Totally shocking. "How is that possible ?" Obviously I don’t live in the real world. "Why not? There are so many other cases." And out tumbled the list.

Another Kannada colleague's daughter got married to a Delhi fella. This looked like a plain love match, both working for the same company. But no, it’s an arranged match. The boy was her colleague’s colleague in a different location. "Oh please, they just made up the story". And when another family friend was looking for bride for their eldest son, they talked to their second son's classmate's family, for his sister. After their family Guruji said it was fine, wedding was fixed. Here, boy is North-Karnataka brahmin and girl Punjabi Sardar. "Oh this is impossible". And, I was brought up-to-date on a lot more cases.

But how can there be an inter-caste, inter-language arranged marriage? Won’t there be language or some cultural problems?
My Dad came back with, "Why? Do we have language or any other problem with our son-in-law? No."
Um, er, well our match was fixed by the boy & the girl. I didn't utter that. Because that’s very old water under the bridge.

Anyway, still, don’t they face any problem in their community ?
Mom replied, "Its only villagers who whisper, that they didn't marry in the same caste. Educated people in cities don’t care about such things, as long as all other criteria are met." Good family, stable job, proper behavior, decent social standing, etc etc.

Wow! Now this is mind blowing. And in a good sense :) I mean, how come there is no publicity for arranged inter-caste marriages. 'Arranged marriages' are discussed threadbare by people who are scared of the expected. 'Love marriage and why they fail' is the favorite of writers in 50 & above age bracket. But this - arranged inter-caste - is going on from so long and is totally ignored. There is such a disconnect between media and real-world.

Last I read was this report on Haryana-Kerala alliances in issue of The Week (they haven't put it online). And 36 of them ! Here the factor is shortage of marriageable age girls in Hissar. Before I can panic, we are told that all girls are very happy. That's heartening. And this too began with a 'lovu marriage'.

And for some reason, this report reminds me of Punjabi-Mexican families who settled, a century ago, in Southern California's Imperial Valley.

Maid in Kerala
Haryanvis seek brides from down south

by Vinu Abraham

The two places have little in common: language, clothing, culture or food. But Hissar in Haryana and Kunjimangalam in Kerala are fast building bonds - through marriage. It all started innocuously. Eight years ago, Sudheendran, a young man from Kunjimangalam in Kannur district, went to work in Delhi, fell in love with a girl from Hissar district and tied the knot. Soon after, his brother-in-law Rajeendar, who was looking for a bride, saw a picture of his younger sister Rathi and liked her. Both families approved the match and marriage took place.

Instead of being an exception to the rule, Rathi's good fortune transformed the destiny of more than 35 girls from Kunjimangalam area. Social factors played the matchmaker. In Hissar, girls of marriageable age are a minority thanks to a skewed female to male ratio. Most men wait well into their 30s before they find a match....For the Malayalis, glowing reports of marital bliss and the fact that the men do not demand dowry made up their minds.

Bit how do the couples overcome the language barrier ? "For the first two to three months we did have trouble," says Preetha who is back in her village for the birth of her first child. "But our in-laws rigorously coach us in their language. We also got used to their food in a few months."

Word of mouth has helped sustain the trend. The girls often suggest names of friends and relatives to the prospective grooms. Krishnakurup, a barber, recently married his daughter Prasanna to Gulshan Kumar from Hissar. "When the proposal came, we made inquiries with families who had sent their daughters to Hissar", he says. "We found that all girls were happy. Hissar men are caring and their family bonds are very strong." And with more proposals coming, the love story of Kunjimangalam and Hissar is likely to endure.

2 comments:

Sugar said...

I have a dear friend who is from India who somehow escaped this arrangement. From what I understand her dad put her on a plane to America and said "go to school there"... it is a long story. Today she owns her own medical lab company! It's a small company and there is a lot of stress, but she is so happy.
Also, she is such a endearing person so much so... she invited me to her daughter's graduation ceremony and we plan to meet for lunch soon. :)

Moonface said...

Just chanced upon your blog. I love (most) things Indian and am fascinated by the culture, though have always been totally intrigued by the arrange marriage system.

Post a Comment