Last week I interviewed Kavi Ahuja, an Indo-American raised in New Jersey and now lives in Brooklyn, New York with her partner David Moltz, a quintessential American, they own an artisanal perfume brand D.S Durga. We got talking about the sensitive subject of marrying outside the faith or someone from another race. Kavi met David almost five years ago, has two children with him and admits her parents had some reservations when she took him to meet them but didn’t give her a hard time. They have great chemistry, David is a bit of an Indophile, who is into Yoga, Indian food and loves cooking. Like most Indo-Canadians, Kavi grew up having tons of Indian friends, mostly the children of her parents’ friends. Kavi believes that IF South Asian women can’t find an eligible man within the community, it won’t hurt to look outside. The issue of being single is usually faced by South Asian women, the men somehow don’t fret and somehow manage to find partners willing to spend their days barefoot and pregnant. She encourages her female friends who all happen to be highly successful professionals to expand their pool of eligible bachelors to include other races, but they balk at such a suggestion not because they have a problem with it but because they are afraid of incurring the wrath of their family and community.
I once met a mother who was having sleepless nights worrying about her unmarried daughter who was now pushing 30. She was making serious efforts trying to find a suitable partner, insisted her daughter went to a Indian cooking class to hone up on some cooking skills which would come be her USP. After putting ads in the newspaper on her behalf, she got from parents of prospective partners asking first of all her caste, if she could cook and how much she earned. Often because the daughter who was a professional in the financial world was earning a lot more than their sons, many matches didn’t work out. Some of the suitors who made more than her enquired if she’d be willing to quit her job once children entered the picture. Others wanted to know just how well she cooked, an answer of ‘reasonably well’ wasn’t good enough, and she was rejected by some because of it and then ofcourse the issue of her being of a ‘lower’ caste caused some parents of suitors to hastily end the meeting.
I asked the mother if she would consider her daughter marrying a Canadian from another race. She dismissed that idea out of hand, saying ‘Canadian people divorce and don’t have family values’. She seemed to hold in high esteem the kind of South Asian men and families who sought to know her daughter’s expertise in the kitchen, the shade of her skin and her caste. It was sad that even parents of eligible doctors, engineers and other top professionals had the same requirements and expectations of the girls their sons would marry and these highly educated men meekly went along with ‘tradition’.
Parents should give their children the green signal to marry outside
Parents handicap their childrens’ chances of find their own partners early in life. A large number of South Asian parents right from the get-go let their children know that marrying outside the community, caste or religion is not an option. Dating is totally unacceptable and so many young second-gen teenagers and young adults end up liking someone belonging to another race or religion but not pursuing the interest because it would get nowhere. There are scores of stories of young adult couples belonging to different communities or castes trying desperately to get their parents to give their seals of approval, often they have failed and have been forced to choose between being disowned and marrying the person they love. Guess who invariably ends up winning? The family.
Importing partners is still an unhealthy option
Thousands of South Asian parents routinely put out Matrimonial ads in India hoping to find someone from India for their second-generation sons and daughters. While this has worked out well for many, it has ruined the lives of countless young people who are either separated or trapped in bad marriages. Twenty or thirty years ago, importing partners from ‘back home’ was understandable given that the community was small, but today, importing a partner from India is inexcusable unless there is some love involved. Secondly there are too many Indian parents who simply want their children to marry a Canadian or American citizenship for obvious reasons.
Second-generation should protest caste-based marriages
When second-generation professionals acquiesce to arranged marriages that involve caste, color and disguised dowry, they are actually perpetuating a system that is responsible for so much discrimination and unhappiness.
Many parents would rather allow their daughters and sons to stay single rather than marry outside the community and that is indeed a tragedy.