Monday, October 09, 2006

More than 50 years, but still no progress

Recently, a friend of mine told me that he had agreed to get married. That sentence would sound a little odd, unless you already knew about arranged marriages in India. The system basically starts with the parents of a "suitable boy" or a "suitable girl" take it upon themselves to convince their son/daughter that it is time that he/she gets hitched. After some persuasion, the prospective bride/grom gives her/his requirements. Some parents choose to ignore these and but many urbane, educated, "modern" folks do keep these "requirements" in mind.

In my friends case, it was his requirements that shocked and surprised me
1. She had to speak only a particular south indian language. No other south indian language would do, because
a) He disliked the movies and tv shows made in another south indian language
b) His mother disliked the other remaining languages
c) The girl should not feel offended if my friend and his mother happened to converse in his mother tongue
2. She must be religious and must have no aversion to a particular sect (with its own weird and controversal guru). If he chooses to donate hundreds of thousands of Rupees to the sect then its his choice and she must not have anything to say about it
3. She must not watch too much TV or movies as its offensive to his parents.
4. She must first devote herself to taking care of his parents and next him. Her wishes are irrelavent.

I could go on further, but my point is made. Essentially, I feel my friend is not looking for a marriage or for a soulmate. He's looking for a slave.

What surprised and shocked me was that this friend was very well educated, highly capable in his job, liberal in his views and quite dynamic. And yet, what these "requirements" reveal is a very parochial and narrow minded person. It was this revelation that came as a shock. After more than 50 years of Indians trying to rid themselves of their parochial nature, even the most educated, well travelled, well read people still tend to be highly discriminating in their personal chocies and views.
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