A few years ago, a friend during a light-hearted conversation mentioned about his perceptions of a future son-in-law. Initially, just like any other typical Indian dad, he was looking forward to meeting a boy for his girl preferably from the same religious subsect, family-class, and optimally from the same local region, and possibly speaking the same native language. As time passed by, the father compromised on many of the external labels he attributed to the future groom. He dropped region, language, heritage, ethnicity, etc. from his wish list as he realized that it was nearly impossible to find someone based on current societal factors, philosophies of millennials, and the nuances of the western culture. Later he became more open-minded and dropped more or less all pre-conditions including color, cast, creed, class, and religion, except gender.

marriage
A snap from a marraige hall / Photo by Vivek R Nair

 

The idea behind the anecdote hits the core beliefs of many ethnic parents who are born and brought up in closed societies with innate biases, staunch belief systems, and traditions. The story exemplifies the predicament most Indian parents face in the western societies. They are equally confused as their children while trying to accommodate inherent traditionalisms with western ideologies.

I believe many parents look for someone from the same clan and that is in a way is understandable. It is a common belief that as less complicating factors are involved in a relationship, especially in a marriage, perhaps it has a better chance of survival. However, that belief has few holes now, as we see more and more ‘other kinds’ of marriages fare better and survive.

Societies are changing across the globe; in some places changes are rapid. What was unimaginable years ago is the norm today. In many cultures, the definition of traditional marriage is being rewritten. Many young people see the traditional marriage and the values attached to it in a different light. Some even question its value and shy away from marriage altogether for the sake of freedom, and independence.

Marriage boosts heart surgery recoveryWhen the ideologies clash, parents’ traditionalism with new generation’s laissez-faire openness, that environment will have shades of mistrust, weakened relationships, and added confusion. Proof positive of parents’ meddling in their children’s marriage is exemplified in a study conducted by South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario has unearthed statistics on forced marriages (different from arranged marriages) that was perpetrated by immigrant parents in Canada. The study states, “…that parents, siblings, extended family, grandparents and religious leaders were all involved in pushing individuals into forced marriage. The reasons were mostly cultural (66 percent), but honour, money, and immigration purposes were also behind some forced marriages”.

The logic behind such appalling action is beyond anybody’s comprehension. Perhaps, it is the self-centered and senseless beliefs prompted by religious and cultural heritages. However it is called - ‘cultural’, ‘protecting family honour’, ‘religious rites’, ‘preservation of faith, culture, religion’ - none makes any sense at all. In certain cases, forced marriages lead to abduction, torture, and ‘honour killing’ when the children objected to such forced alliances.

I believe that parents have only good intentions about their children. However, when parents get into certain bull-headed perspectives that are completely opposite of the visions of their children then the relationship hurts.

I know parents who have arranged marriages for their sons and daughters from their homelands. Most often, those alliances ended up in difficulties soon afterward due to various reasons including the attitude brought about by cultural contradictions.

We are the products of our respective cultures. That doesn’t mean that we have to live in that cocoon. There is always room to accept good ideas from other cultures, religions, and ideologies. Yet, for some people changes, however good, are scary, worrisome and enflaming.

(The author, a technology professional, resides in Toronto, Canada with his family)