A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for June 6th, 2011

On love marriages and my story..

Posted by Pepper on June 6, 2011

IHM’s recent post on love marriages spoiling the family system of our nation brought out this rant.

I have to admit, I’ve led quite an ignorant life and did not realise how terribly messed up the society we live in is. I come from a very liberal and open minded family. My cousins, especially from my mom’s side have all married people from different regions and backgrounds. I was hardly ever exposed to the rigidity that is so deeply woven into the core of our society. Until it was time for me to get married. I guess I should share my story, though I’ve always been too hesitant to display the dirt on this blog.

Mint’s family is the opposite of mine. They blindly follow customs and traditions and have rigidity seeped into their bones. Nobody in his family, has ever had a love marriage. Not even a distant relative. The whole concept of falling in love is frowned upon. Because, if you’ve been brought up with good values, then you will quietly obey your parents and marry the girl or guy they choose for you. After all, parents know best. No questioning. And oh of course, they believe they are a very close knit family and operate as a single unit. All decisions are taken by the eldest member of the family. In their case, it is Mint’s dad’s elder brother. Most of their family members live in a small town in Tamil Nadu. The eldest member is supposedly highly respected and treated as an authoritarian figure.

When we were dating and started talking about marriage, Mint warned me and told me to be prepared for the obstacles we would face because of the rigid nature of his family. But he also told me, despite everything, we would make it work. I asked him what if his family doesn’t agree? He said, we would wait until they did. And if that never happened? He said if they are too unreasonable and we’ve waited long enough and see no change, then he would walk out of his family.

For a long time, I lived in fear of the day he would tell his parents about me. I was in UK, drowning in the midst of assignments and worrying about his parents reaction. One day, he buzzed me on Gmail and told me he did it. He told his parents during a phone conversation he had with them. He told them there was a girl in his life, he wanted to marry her, she was from Bombay, belonging to a very different caste and community. They were stunned and silenced. They couldn’t believe their son actually had the audacity to fall in love with a girl, that too, from such a different caste. The first few days they lived in denial.

And then it actually hit them. His mom broke down and wept. She wondered what she had done to deserve this from her son? How could he betray her like that? Because of him, she’d have to live in perpetual shame. How would she face the world? What if people boycotted them? Do you note, how most of the fears stem from a common concern – what will the society say?

We decided to give them some time to come to terms with it. Every few days Mint would call home and talk to them about it. Each time they showed signs of protest, he’d tell them he had made up his mind. The following months were quite a blur for his family – full of tears, self pity and fear of the extended family’s reaction. They only spent time worrying, without taking any action.

After months of persuasion from Mint, and months of procrastination from their end, they agreed to talk to my parents on phone. All his dad told my dad during their conversation was that this kind of stuff was not done in their family. They needed time to think it over. I remember feeling quite mad at that time. Why should my dad be made to hear all that? They’ll think it over? Do they think I am not good enough for their son? Of course when I think from their point of view, it is a whole new ball game.

More time passed, and his parents were under high pressure to take action. They finally mustered up the courage to break the news to the extended family. As expected, more drama ensued. Each time our parents spoke on phone, his dad would tell us he is ‘trying to convince’ his family members. Finally, after what felt like ages, they said they were coming to Bombay to meet us. I happened to be in Bombay at that time too. We rejoiced and thought we were finally moving in the right direction. But there was more to follow..

They came in a big group. Mint’s parents, his dad’s elder brother and his wife, another elderly relative from their family, and they brought along another couple who they said were family friends. We welcomed them home, expecting everyone to be cordial and things to go well. I was extremely nervous. Not only was I meeting Mint’s parents, I was also meeting his extended family, all alone. Mint was in the US. I hated facing it by myself. But that is how it was.

Right after they came home, they asked me to sit down and answer some questions of theirs. I obliged. I was sitting on a chair, all alone, facing 3 men who were shooting questions one after another. That incident left such a bitter taste in my mouth. The worst part is, they seemed to have a lot of questions for Mint, but were asking me those. I am sure a lot of my teeth eroded with all the grinding I did. How am I supposed to answer these questions without snapping or being rude?

“These things are not done in our family. What do you think? You can fall in love like that and just inform parents?”
“Why couldn’t Mint tell parents earlier”
“We choose the girl or boy for our kids, because parents know best. Who gives you the right to make such decisions?”
“People like Mint are spoiling our family culture. Now what if tomorrow other children from our family come and say they want to marry somebody of their choice?”
“If we allow one person, others will use him as an example. We don’t want others getting spoilt because of him”
“I am the one who makes all the decisions of this family. If I say no, there is no way you will ever get to marry him. What are you going to do then?”
“These things happen in your Bombay. But we are a very close knit and cultured family. We don’t allow all this. We can’t accept it. This is not about you and him. This is about us and our family.”
“You are young blood. You think you know what you want. But you are only being carried away. You don’t knwo what is right for you.”
“Tomorrow if you have trouble in your marriage, nobody will support you because you had a love marriage. Then what will you do?”
“Even if we take just our family members, there are about 200 people. We have to convince all of them. If they don’t agree, they will boycott our family. If they don’t agree, you can’t get married.”

It went on. I was fuming. But I bore it all. I smiled and tried to answer every question they put my way. But what the hell was this? They come all the way to my city, to my home, only to create a scene like that in front of my parents and family? They attack me when Mint is not around? Had he been there, he would have asked them to shut the f*ck up. Who the hell are they anyway? Some random man comes and ascertains his authority on my life? Whether I marry the person of my choice will be decided by 200 idiots I don’t know or care about? I wanted to scoff right then and there and tell them that unlike what they believed, they had no say in my life. They’d only have a family member walk out on them. But I shut up. The interesting thing is, all these questions were asked by the other men, not a single one came from Mint’s parents. I don’t think they’d have wanted to put me through this, but they were too meek to protest.

After all that, the women took me to another room and cornered me. Here is what they told me.

“If you do get married. You have to learn Tamil. You don’t have a choice”
“Because this a love marriage. Nobody from the family will want to talk to you. You have to keep trying to talk to them even if they don’t respond. If you keep trying, somebody they will like you hopefully”
“You have to adjust to our customs and rituals. Our style of cooking, our way of living, everything”
“Will you be able to do all this?”

I was exhausted.And I don’t know how to argue or back answer.So I said a ‘Yes’ to everything. For one, I knew they were talking bullshit. I know the kind of person Mint is, and I knew he’d never let me be affected by this crap. I knew I could live the way I want. There’s a lot more that wen’t on, but if I were to write all about it, it would never end.

All of that is a part of the past, but like I said, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I hardly interact with Mint’s extended family. His parents are very good to me and we get along quite well at the surface level, but there are some invisible walls between us that prevent us from being too close. Till date, they feel disappointed by Mint and ‘what he did to them’. Mint’s cousins who talk to me occasionally are too timid to let the elders know that. A part of his family always wants me to be the ‘outsider’. Some members of his family are cold to me, to the extent of being rude.

This has been a very long post, so I don’t want to speak further. This is so wrong, in so many different levels. But I will analyse it another day. For now, I only wonder. How much more shit will two people who fall in love have to tolerate? For how long will they be treated as criminals who bring shame to the family? For how long will they be denied the most basic right of choosing who they want to live with? Sigh. This is such a stupid world.

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