A Guest Post by priya.
Finding a Life Partner – do we need a book on dating written for Indians?
My company has a branch in India and we sometimes get people from India to come and train in the US. These are mostly young men and women in their twenties, almost all of them single. Sometimes I take the ‘India team’ out for lunch or coffee, and invariably the conversation goes from work to more personal stuff.
There is this young man ‘Ravi’ (name changed) in the group. His parents are ‘looking for matches’ for him. He recently went to India to ‘see a girl’. So everyone asked him how it went. He shared that he was shocked that the girl confessed to him that she had dated another guy and it hadn’t worked out. (This was done in private, without parents around.) So he asked her why she is agreeing to an arranged marriage. The girl said she is doing it to keep things smooth with her parents, but intends to eventually meet someone and marry by her own choice.
So ‘Ravi’ just told his parents he didn’t like the girl and to keep looking. When he shared this with the group, everyone ( 5 women, 2 men) burst out laughing. Apparently, everyone in the group already had a steady bf/gf or were getting engaged to someone they had been dating. Everyone told ‘Ravi’ to ‘stop being ridiculous’, to ‘come out of the Middle Ages’, to ‘be an adult and go find a life partner on his own.’
Ever since, I’ve seen ‘Ravi’ talking more to the women colleagues. He is extremely awkward (like the guy in your recent post). He doesn’t know how to strike up a conversation with a woman – for example he could discuss her work and be interested in role in the project. Instead he talks about her looks or something she’s wearing – with someone he barely knows. The women sometimes joke about him behind his back. The interesting thing is that these women are perfectly comfortable striking up conversations, making friends, asking people out, etc. Some of them complain that ‘liberated men’ are in minority. ‘My bf wants to get a flat in Bangalore and live with his parents!’ complained one of the women. It seems to me as if out of the pool of educated/middle class/professional/worldly/sophisticated group of Indians, the women are changing, but the men are clinging to the past? I do know a few progressive men and don’t want to over-generalize here – this is not meant to stereotype men – but I was just wondering, is this true of the majority??.
I feel like men like ‘Ravi’ will go back to having an arranged marriage because they haven’t been raised to become adults. They are like children all their life – their parents will make decisions for them, and in a way that must be comforting because it takes away the responsibility of having to make your own mistakes, facing the consequences, learning, and making your relationship work. On the other hand, it must be so frustrating when things don’t work out in your marriage. You never had a say in it, in the first place. Then you ‘have to make it work’ even if you hate to.
Isn’t this a problem for many young Indian urban professional men? Even when they want to find a life partner of their own choice, they don’t know where to begin. How do you talk to a girl in a away that is not condescending, not creepy, not patronizing? How can these young men learn how to do this? There are no role models in their family (can’t talk to dad!). Friendship between boys and girls is discouraged in schools. The movies have such a creepy version of boy meets girl (except for some of the newer ones). So where is the opportunity to learn the most natural thing in the world – finding a mate??
Indian culture today is against young people choosing their own partners. Dowry, segregation, traditions, family values, Indian values, horoscope, caste, community, gotra etc are used to control their choices:
Some young Indian men seek not love but a good daughter in law for their parents:
Some young (and old) Indian men believe girls who have boyfriends are not ‘good Indian girls':
Many Indians understand rape as ‘sex outside marriage’ (consensual or not); interactions between ‘opposite sexes’ are seen as women ‘asking to be raped’. This also serves to prevent ‘choice marriages’.