Most days I find that India has a lot more in common with America than it does different. Partly because I am coming from a western perspective and we have a tendency to think of India as “backwards,” I generally find myself pleasantly surprised by the freedoms people (esp. women) enjoy here.
Seeing girls playing the drums alongside men during the Ganpati procession or going to an office everyday where three incredibly empowered Indian women call the shots, I sometimes forget about the other side of things.
Until we get the paper on Sunday.
Each and every Sunday I flip to the “Matrimonials” page and am reminded just how far from America I actually am.
I don’t know whether I find Sunday’s matrimonial ads humorous or upsetting and I can’t fully explain my fascination with reading them weekly, but I thought it might be a good thing to share. And another reminder, that although we have a lot in common (and I see more and more of it every day) there are still aspects of Indian culture that I have not been socialized to understand fully coming from a western perspective.
For one, the advertisements for suitable mates are divided into categories. You can choose your match based on caste, class, religion, region or purpose for seeking marriage. I won’t say that in America we don’t put each other into similar categories mentally, but you would be appalled to see it published in the paper one day.
Secondly, I’m still coming to terms with the idea of arranged marriages v. so-called love marriages (which are slowly becoming more common in parts of India).
Just hearing my host parents talk about their arranged marriage or discussing the idea that “marriage comes first, love comes later” in our Gender class reminds me how narrow-minded my American perspective can be.
I don’t want to think of all Indian women as victimized by marital culture because that simply is not the case but I also hope they are leading fulfilling lives here and finding happiness and kindness in their marriages.
I’ve certainly been getting mixed messages about love marriages v. arranged marriages up until now. When I see my host parents so pleasantly and contently in love as a product of arranged marriage while simultaneously reading articles in our Gender course about cases of domestic violence in love marriages, it rocks my understanding of which is better for couples.
The “Matrimonials” page is in color, not black and white–perhaps as a metaphor for marriage practices in India. There’s no right or wrong, just understanding and I will only get there by talking to people about it.
And actually, I find it rather comforting to know that there are so many other perspectives in the world to challenge my own.