“Wise men say…”
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As a method of investigation I chose the Colombo-Strategy: 'Acting' dumb, I asked my Indian
friends naive questions on love and relationships. "You don’t understand … you don’t just randomly fall in love - it’s a dangerous business". I drew my conclusions and let them elaborate on the course of events: first there is the set-up – usually in the form of “inviting family friends”. It starts with what I imagine to be the mother of all awkward situations: the two families sit around the dinner table followed by some “Why don’t we let the children talk”-private time to talk about what classes you took in college and the favorite cricket team – all the essential information you need to decide on your future spouse.
As alien as this practice is, I don’t want to ridicule it… it is tempting though… it’s easy writing a witty blog with anecdotes of matrimonial advertisements and charter flights with Indian bachelors from New Jersey to Delhi (the modern form of kidnapping the Sabine women). But I will take my European ideals of individualism and romanticism aside for a moment. After all, marriage as a
social institution serves a different purpose in India. Living in a countries that is still deeply divided along religious and caste lines and in a culture that is much less individualistic and puts a higher value to the family, it gets increasingly difficult to combine personal and family expectations. The partner has to be of the right cast, sub-caste (and preferably sub-sub-caste), the same religion, of a reputable family and social class, often astrology has to match… and if it so happens that they love each other, great. But checking whether Prince Charming is meeting all the baseline criteria can be a depressive business.
Compromising on personal feelings for the sake of family harmony is alien for someone growing up in the Hollywood-culture that portrays the protagonist overcoming barriers before inevitably ending with his/her soul-mate. Hearing the claim of American wise men that “only fools rush in,”
the Indian wise man would respond that “only fools ask too many questions.” Going by the divorce rate, the Indian wins. Yet again: the name of the game may be the same, but it’s played by different rules.... after 10 weeks in India I’m still puzzled by what these rules are. What remains are my friend Aron’s * (* name changed) words during his prep talk back in Boston: “Indian women…? It’s way too complex – just stay away from them!”