You can fall in Love – but only within your Caste or Community – 18 Sep 11


I was a bit shocked about the proposal of the woman and it made me think. She was an Indian woman but in London. How does a couple marry there? I was not shocked about the idea of arranging a marriage, I was very used to that from India. But how does this all work in London? I thought people in the west choose themselves whom they want to marry after falling in love. Is that how it normally is? Someone proposes in this way and then they marry?

I was in Europe for the second year. I met many people and had already made several connections in London but it was still a fully new world for me. London Indians, white people, comments about Europeans made by Indians, there were a lot of new impressions. One of these impressions was that the Indians in London are very proud of their culture. I had by then visited many people’s homes and with this interest and idea of learning more about them, I experienced many things that made me understand their behavior and way of living better. It is not that long ago, 2002, and I believe not much has changed until today.

This pride, which I have experienced very early and found strong, was of course also prevalent in the matters of relationships and marrying. They were Indian families and in the Indian culture of their parents and forefathers it is normal to arrange the marriages of your children. They live however in London, a city in a western country with a fully different culture where people choose their partners for themselves. I got to know that there is a kind of middle way. These parents may want to stick with their culture but I have experienced that they are also open to adapt to a more modern, western lifestyle.

They do give their children the possibility to have a love marriage and it happens, not only rarely but quite frequently. There is however one criterion that the parents want their children to take care of: find someone of the same caste. If that is absolutely not possible, at least find someone of the Indian community. Don’t marry a westerner, stay within our community, those whom we know, their relatives, people with the same cultural background.

This is how they adjusted to the western world. You are allowed to fall in love, that is fine. You can choose a boyfriend or girlfriend to marry yourself, that is also fine. But it has to be an Indian boy or girl. You have a certain amount of freedom and at the same time some restrictions. Young Indians take the possibility and matches are made in this way. I had thought in the west everything is free but the reality is different. You can choose, but stick to the rules!

If someone is however not able to find someone in this way, parents feel it is their responsibility to get them married and so they start the matchmaking process. They tell some people whom they know that their son searches for a wife for example. These people tell their relatives and friends or already know someone eligible. I have met several families who then went even to India or other countries where the Indian community is big, to find a suitable partner. If they approach a family in Africa for example who is in some distant way related to them and tell them that they would like to marry their son to the daughter of the family, the Indian family in Africa will be happy. Their daughter will live in London, that is everybody’s dream! The wedding can be arranged quickly once a decision is made. One can marry in Africa and then bring the woman back to the UK. It can be vice versa as well. I tell you, everybody is happy with this solution, too.

The point is that this way seems to them even more ‘Indian’. It is more traditional and someone in an arranged marriage in London can be very proud of the fact that they preserved their roots in this way, even if it is difficult to understand for their British co-workers or friends.

For westerners it is easier to understand a love marriage, even if there is the condition that a partner has to be Indian. And many people also find their spouse in this way. Their parents encourage them to go to evens such as my program or bigger religious events to find like-minded people of the same age, interested in religion and of the same culture. It is just like other people who like art go to a museum opening in the hope to maybe meet someone there. Others go to a club to find someone who also likes to dance. This is how I always also had young people in my program and I learned that many hoped to maybe find a match for them there.

7 Replies to “You can fall in Love – but only within your Caste or Community – 18 Sep 11”

  1. When I was living in London I shared house with few other young people who were renting rooms there. One of them was an indian woman. She actually needed this room two days a month only when her parents came for a visit. This was also the purpose of renting a room there, to show it off to parents.All the other time she was living in a place of his boyfriend and coursmate for IT who was not indian. I do not know how this story ended. The young woman did all this apparently for the respect for her parents lifestyle.

  2. That is the problem that many immigrant children have to face in our western countries. I can talk for Germany and tell you that there Turkish girls who fell in love with German boys often have very big problems convincing their family that this is what they want. They only want to have Turkish sons-in-law and there has been a lot of violence due to this. My opinion is if you are in another country you have to adapt to the rules and society and culture of that country. You need to learn the language and you need to live together with people in order to properly integrate. If you don’t want to integrate, don’t go there! You cannot expect your children to live in that country and not adapt!

  3. I am loving the topics that you are picking up :). This is so true. Some of my well educated friends did this and they want India to be developed like other countries

  4. Thanks for shedding the light on the topic…..Staying in the Indian culture there is a lot of benefits……marrying outside the culture….there is lot of different kinds of clashes. Different thinking, different views, different faith ….different traditions, etc. Children that are born to these parents have a lot of confusion in growing up. On the other hand they are exposed to learn more about both the cultures, belief etc.

  5. It is a very interesting topic that you talk about here. There are obviously many problems with living with other cultures. However, I believe that marriages between two people of very different cultures is possible. For example, I know of a couple where the woman in British and the father Malay from Malaysia. It is possible!

  6. I think that what needs the most attention in this topic is the young person’s choice. Yes staying within your own race or culture is probably easier. However, if they find someone with a different background and are happy, isn’t that preferable to them being unhappy in a same race marriage. I believe it should be up to the person to decide.

  7. Not only Indian people but also members of other countries have their own restrictions in marriage and partnership. But what they all have in common, is that the partner should belong to the same religion or country or have the same skin color. But who can choose when and with whom to fall in love?

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