The Consequences of domestic Violence and arranged Marriage – 10 Jun 16

Yesterday I told you that a facebook friend of mine had come. In one of our longer talks, we of course also came to the topics of culture, relationships and love. We shared a few thoughts on the problems that can arise and of course talked about their possible solutions as well. With all of this thought processes going on, I wanted to share a little part of that with you, too.

When talking about Indian culture and relationships, there will always be one issue coming up: arranged marriages. A lot of people here, the majority of Indians in fact, still believe very strongly in this concept. That includes young people as well who, from the beginning of their lives, get the idea that their parents would definitely find the right partner for them. What do you need for this idea to work though? Apart from the luck to find someone compatible, it requires trust. What to do however if the child doesn’t have this trust?

I believe this can happen a lot in this society and even more with the advance of modern media, globalization and possibilities to travel, see and understand more and be freer. Young people get to see a lot more than what they were able to know in the past. They may not trust their parents to make the right choice anymore. And often you don’t have to go very far to see why: in their own home, they can often see an example of how marriage should NOT look like.

Fights, suppression and even violence – nothing very uncommon in many Indian families!

It is also no wonder, in my opinion, that this scars a little child. And it may scar him or her so much that the idea of marriage is too scary. That there is the wish for love, closeness and intimacy – but the fear of experiencing violence too big! There is no trust – in the other gender, in parents to make the right choice and even in themselves to choose correctly.

A young woman may very well get afraid of her future husband beating her the same way her father was beating her mother. Young men may be afraid of his future wife nagging and constantly trying to get into fights, showing her disappointment just as his mother was doing to his father.

At the same time, they long for that ideal love which they see in movies, hear of in stories and feel a desire for the same experience in their hearts. They have this need for acceptance and love but they don’t dare.

For me this makes one more thing very clear: we have to do more to stop domestic violence. We have to make people aware of their options, of the possibility to leave and even press charges. We have to make this pressing of charges easy and possible. And in the end, I believe still arranged marriage is not the right way, as more people will feel disappointed with the partner that was chosen for them. This leads to conflict and an unhealthy environment for children.

More than anything however I want to ask parents: be an example for your children because they learn from your actions much more than from your words!

Do Westerners divorce too easily or do Indians stick around too long? – 17 Mar 16

I yesterday told you of one of our first experiences at Ammaji’s Ayurvedic Restaurant. The four of us, Purnendu, Yashendu, Ramona and I, have committed ourselves completely to our new work and love getting fully involved in everything surrounding it! We are thus often talking to our guests before or after their order, collect feedback, help serving and constantly improve our new venture. One of these conversations which Ramona had with a female customer was rather interesting, as it mirrored a very Indian view on westerners and their relationships!

The lady had come from Delhi together with her adult daughter. It was their first time in Vrindavan and they were happy that they had found our restaurant so that they could relax during lunch after a busy morning of visiting temples. Ramona started a conversation and soon they also asked where she was from and how long she had already been in India. They got to know that we were married and the moment Ramona told this, I was just walking by, so I stopped as well to greet our guests. The older lady got serious and told Ramona: ‘You know, now that you are married here, you should stay. We Indians believe a marriage is forever!’

We replied she should not worry, Ramona would not run away from me!

Obviously, we laughed but the fact that this woman had mentioned this shows a widely popular perception Indians have of relationships and marriages in the west: they believe western people easily break up and even leave their spouses much more frequently and maybe even without thinking much about it.

In a way, it is true: the divorce rate in the west is significantly higher than the one here in India. It is also true, the average Indian will have a lower number of relationships throughout his life than the average westerner.

There are a few different thoughts and facts to this however, too: In India, relationships before marriage are not appreciated which is why people don’t normally make it known when they are in a committed relationship. Or they don’t regard physical contact or emotional attachment as a relationship, as it is not a usual concept in this society. It happens in hidden and when it is over, it is simply as though nothing has ever happened. That’s how in the west, there seems to be much more trial and error – while in India, it also happens, just not officially. Maybe less, but it does happen, too.

When it comes to the divorce rate, it is very clear why exactly there are less divorces in India: not because people are much happier in their arranged marriages with people they had never known. No, there is the same amount of unhappiness and failure to communicate in between spouses – but divorce is such a taboo in society that most people just don’t think it is an option! Women are dependent on their husbands and cannot sustain themselves or their children, families offer little to no support to relatives that want to get a divorce, religion opposes the very idea of ‘turning against your fate’ and especially as a divorced woman, life can be difficult and even insecure at times.

So while many Indians think westerners divorce too easily, I often think Indians make divorce too difficult. Men and women often live in misery due to this. Of course, some people in the west don’t try to work on issues in their relationship in order to solve them – but sometimes Indians just don’t see that nothing helps and it would be better if each went his or her own way!

Marriage is a Bond of Love – Kids prove that Gender doesn’t matter! – 15 Mar 16

While we were in Gurgaon in the past days, an event took place which Ramona would have attended, had she been in Vrindavan: a girl who has learnt at our school got married. What makes me write about it now is not however this fact but Apra’s response to it when we met her yesterday!

The girl I am writing about has started her schooling already at a higher age than children usually do – that’s how her parents have decided to marry her now. After her wedding, she had gone to her husband’s home. Yesterday she came back and as she lives close-by, she stopped by at our restaurant on the way. She was accompanied by her sister and both of them talked for a while with Ramona. Obviously, Apra, in the meantime was standing next to them, watching and listening.

After they had gone, Apra asked Ramona: ‘Ma, has she married a man or a woman?’

For us, this was actually a question that made us happy and in a way satisfied: our definition of marriage, which we told Apra of course, is that two people love each other so much that they decide to live together forever. Please note: two people, not a man and a woman.

Obviously, as the majority of marriages in our surrounding consist of one man and a woman, we were not completely sure whether Apra had picked up that detail consciously or not. This question however confirmed: for Apra, it is just natural that two men or two women can love each other as much as her Ma and Pa do.

It is a natural thing to feel and believe – and I believe as long as you don’t actively teach children to think differently, boys and girls will grow into adults who accept homosexuality as something normal. Something that comes with whatever an individual feels.

When we talked about this incident, Ramona laughingly told me about another conversation she had with our daughter: Apra and she were inventing a story about two princesses. They were sisters and Apra decided that they would also get married but when Ramona objected that sisters don’t marry, Apra replied: ‘Okay, they can marry a prince. But they have to share!’

That, my dear daughter, is promiscuity and a topic we will discuss another time! 🙂

Marriage and Relationship – a difficult Concept for a 4-year-old! – 7 Mar 16

Today I am thinking to tell you about love, marriage and children – and their many questions! I do this as I watch and listen to my four-year-old daughter learning more about life!

Apra knows that her parents are married. She has seen photos of Ma and Pa getting married, of the celebration with the guests and of course the beautiful dress. Many of her parents’ friends are married: Thomas and Iris, Sonja and Peter, Michael and Andrea and so on. Even Oma and Opa. There are others, single friends, who always come alone. Obviously, with them this question doesn’t even come up. There is a third type of friend however: those who are not married but in a relationship!

Apra simply assumes that they are married. Veri and Chris were recently here and I told you about their visit. Somehow we reached the topic of weddings and I believe it was then that Apra asked Veri: When did you get marry?

Veri asked that they were, in fact, not married – and for quite a while Apra could just not believe it! She asked three times on the spot whether that was true and confirmed the answer each time with her mother as well, in case Veri and Chris were joking.

The information was repeated however and so she finally asked: why not?

Now we all go and try to explain this four-year-old that one can spend lots of time together, love the other one and still not be married. Then when or why do you marry if it is nearly the same anyway? I always joke and call this time before marriage the relationship’s ‘trial period’! One day you just decide that it is over! Now you can organize a celebration and make it ‘official’ that your relationship will last forever!

Wouldn’t your love be good enough without that certificate? I always told people we were married even before we had signed a paper – because that’s how it felt to me. Try explaining this to a little girl!

She processes whatever information you give her, stores it in her little but so quick mind and connects it with other things she has heard or learned. You feel good about it, too, because you have the feeling that you taught her something special about life, something that really matters. You feel she has understood something important. Additionally you get to say things like ‘You know your Ma and Pa love each other sooooo much!’

And then, hours later, you get a question: ‘Are you sure Veri and Chris are not married?’ 🙂

Life for Women in India is changing – but not where it is needed the most! – 14 Jan 16

I yesterday explained how a lot of old traditions are the cause of current bad situations in the society, for example the pressure women experience after marriage with so many people expecting them to become mothers really soon. Some of my readers agreed but added: it is changing. I agree but only until a certain degree!

First of all, let’s look at those places where it is already changing: metropolitan cities are of course seeing change first of all. These are the places where there are women working, where girls go to study just like boys and where there are even day-care offers for the children of working mothers and similar things.

I can tell you however that for one, this is a tiny part of India’s population and that for two, the mentality has not changed as much as one would wish to believe!

Yes, Delhi, Mumbai and other big cities have already brought change for women. Parents give them much more freedom and they can explore life in a completely different way than girls and women on the countryside.

Apart from the fact however that this is a clear minority, even there, life remains unjust for those of the ‘weaker’ gender with traditions maintaining a high priority in the minds of parents, relatives and members of society in general! While boys can roam around freely, girls are kept in a protective bubble which keeps them not only safe but also isolated. They are discouraged from dating and if they do, parents keep a close eye on whom they meet. No late nights, sleepovers can happen only with the best girlfriend whose parents are known to be respectable people and she has the duty to report exactly where she is going.

It is a pretense of freedom. A demo version, not the full one. In most cases, it still expires at the point of marriage when a girl, educated and already in her career, is expected to yield to the wishes and needs of her new husband and his family. Because this is a tradition that is still hardly broken anywhere! ‘Respect your husband’ means do as he says.

And from that point, expectations are the same, the process that follows is the same and the pressure, pain and tears are the same. So no, the big cities have not got rid of such problems yet – in fact, this has brought up other issues which I may discuss next week.

Leave old Times behind – ‘No Sex before Wedding’ is a Moral of the Past – 13 Jan 16

For the past two days I have been writing about the pressure especially women face here in India after their wedding: while they were supposed to be virgins until the day they enter marriage, they are now supposed to become pregnant as soon as possible! India lives in a society with lots of restrictions when it comes to morality. I believe this has to change to make space for more happiness and satisfaction in a modern life!

It is true that a lot of these moral values and ideas of how one should behave have its origin somewhere in the past and in that time they may have been right, too. In earlier times, people didn't have such a high life expectancy as they have today. In order to make sure that their children got old enough to survive before lot of these moral values and ideas of how one should behave have its origin somewhere in the past and in that time they may have been right, too. In earlier times, people didn't have such a high life expectancy they themselves died, they had to start producing offspring early. That's how it made sense for a married couple to put their efforts into this right after marriage. And that's how still today it is Indian standard to make babies as soon as possible. Nine months after the wedding, it could already be time!

Not before the wedding though! Oh no, unmarried women should never get pregnant, that would be disastrous! In earlier times, it could really have meant her ruin because women were the ones taking care of the home while men were providers. They had no possibility to earn money and support themselves and their baby!

Today however, things are different. The outer environment has changed and thoughts should change accordingly, too! Nowadays we can expect to live long enough for seeing our kids grow up and sometimes even our grandchildren, too! So we can wait a few years longer before we actually marry and a few years more before we get children! There is no need to get married in a hurry to a person we don't know. Arranged marriage doesn't make sense – you have enough time to find someone you actually like and want to spend the rest of your life with! And you don't have to rush with getting children either!

Finally, today women should have the possibility to earn their own money and support themselves. So if they have sex before marriage, if they get pregnant and if they decide to keep the child, it should not be the end of the world!

Unfortunately we are not yet at this stage here in India, as you know if you have been following my blog or are familiar with the situation here. But we should reach there – and I think with time, we will!

When your Mother-in-Law maintains your Period Calendar after your Wedding – 11 Jan 16

For Apra's birthday, many friends had come by and it was really nice to have some talks with open and like-minded people again! When we sat together, a friend who had got married about a year ago told me how much pressure she was facing not only from her family and her in-laws but from society in general. For what? For finally getting pregnant!

Yes, in India it is quite normal that some months after the wedding – which was of course arranged – everybody gets the good news: a baby is on the way! This is how it works, this is how it should be and this is the whole purpose of your marriage. You are supposed to bear children, preferably boys, secure the continuation of the family name and create heirs for the family business! This is your main purpose of life right after marriage: get children as fast as possible!

This friend told that she as well as her husband were quite content with not making a child right away but instead spending some time on just getting to know each other and intensifying their relationship. That is a very unusual idea in India where people generally say that the child would be like a glue or magnet for the parents to get closer together! While they were happy in this way however, their families were not! She was unhappy about the pressure everyone was creating!

Another friend, whose three-year-old daughter was playing with Apra in that moment, remembered the same situation after her own wedding. Her mother-in-law started calling her every month, asking whether she had had her period already. She even started marking the days of her daughter-in-law’s menstruation in her calendar and started calling exactly on those days, becoming very disappointed whenever she heard that she was actually bleeding, so not pregnant!

Can you imagine the kind of feeling this gives to a woman? You are practically only there as a breeding station, nothing else! It doesn't matter what you want or don't want – your complete surrounding thinks you must want a baby. They all are eagerly waiting for news.

If news don't come for some months or even a year, rumors start: they must be having problems conceiving! Who of the two is infertile? Have they taken treatment? Or is he maybe not interested in sex, maybe gay?

Oh, gossip-loving neighborhoods are eager to have such topics to talk about and they sense scandals when there is nothing else but Mother Nature at work!

It is ridiculous that we tell women and also men how their life should look like and at what point of life they should be thinking or desiring what! It is not healthy for society in total and for the individual women either. Because what happens if they really cannot become pregnant? More about this scenario tomorrow.

When Women accept their Husbands’ extramarital Affairs – 7 Dec 15

When I was in Germany, some friends told stories of their friends. One of them made me think of the situation a lot of women are in here in India and I wondered whether it is not such a big difference after all: in relationships, some women decide to simply accept their husbands’ affairs. For comfort or out of fear.

A friend told me that a woman whom she had known for more than twenty years, had been living in a very unusual setting with her husband for a long time already: her husband only comes to visit her about once a week. For the rest of the time he lives with his girlfriend. Whenever he comes home, everything is as though they were normally married: he brings home his laundry which she washes, she cooks for one more person at meals and he is simply back home.

They don’t sleep in one bed however – and that was the point of the story where I just had to ask: what came first, sleeping in separate beds or the girlfriend? It was sleeping in separate beds! The woman had once told her husband that she didn’t feel like having a sexual relation with him anymore. She didn’t want to sleep with him anymore and gave him the option to go wherever he wanted to go to in order to satisfy his needs.

They didn’t get separate for several reasons, mainly because it is so much simpler: they keep tax and accounts as one, she can live as she has always been living and he has his freedom as well. They are on good terms, everything is alright.

I had to think of the families that Ramona goes to visit, the parents of our school children where women often pretend they are living in a normal, happy relationship while their husbands are actually sexually very active outside their marriage. It is even clearly visible from outside that the woman is more alone than together with her husband – but they keep up the image of a marriage. The pretense of a life together as a couple, because it is easier than separation and for them better than being seen as divorced in a society that frowns upon that.

I see similarities, I feel it is pretty much the same. It is more comfortable to do it this way. At the same time I don’t want to judge whether it is right or wrong or maybe right in the context of one country and wrong in the situation of another one! It was simply a similarity I saw and wanted to point out – maybe you find it interesting, too.

I am a pervert because I am married, am called Swami and talk about Sex – 10 May 15

I recently got a comment on a blog post that had pretty much nothing to do with what I wrote but with who I am. Or with what that person thinks of me. And that was very clear. Here is this very sophisticated comment:

“you are a pervert , married person has no right call himself Swami , why you are using "siyaram" in website name? its misleading , most of your articles are about sex”

So while I don’t want to give unnecessary attention to such attempts to throw me off-balance, I had to laugh about this one and thought to share my thoughts with you.

Let’s start analyzing this comment: why am I a pervert in this person’s eyes? I am married and called a Swami, something which I don’t have a right to, in this person’s view.

So, if I was married and not called swami, would it be fine? I guess so, I would just be a regular husband writing a blog.

If I was called swami and was not married, would it be fine as well? Yes – then I would probably live just like many other Swamis do: have hundreds of girlfriends, sleep with female disciples wherever they go and even use force or blackmail on those who don’t want to come to their bed voluntarily. They do all this but nevertheless have hundreds and thousands of disciples who know all of this and just accept it as it is. So they can have rape charges against them and be holy gurus while I get called a pervert because I love one woman and decided to marry her? Great logic, I do have to say that!

I have written about me being a Swami and my website being called ‘jaisiyaram’ a long time ago in my blog. I have replied to this question many times. The short version is that the word ‘Swami’ just means owner. I have this name because of my personal past and I believe that I can keep it as I do really own myself. Nobody else is my owner – I am me and mine!

And then, on top of this all, I dare writing about sex!

I think that is this person’s biggest problem. Yes, I love sex and I love talking about it. I even feel a certain responsibility to talk about it with children and others in a society in which sex is a taboo. A society in which Swamis can have sex everywhere but are not allowed to talk openly about sex.

I do not however, as he thinks, write most of my posts about sex! And that is with what I would like to conclude this answer to the comment: I believe the real pervert is not me. The pervert is that person who sees and reads sex everywhere, thinking ‘most’ of my articles are about sex, while actually only 60 of altogether 2694 blog posts are in the category ‘sex’!

Rape within Marriage doesn’t exist in India because of the Institution’s Divinity – 6 May 15

I would like to write about an issue which is an evergreen in our society here in general and also on my blog: women in India. The reason to write about these problems today again is the statement of a government minister who recently said that the concept of rape within a marriage just didn’t exist in Indian culture. Isn’t that great?

Let me explain how we came to this ridiculous statement: a female Member of Parliament quoted the UN Population Fund which had found that 75% of married women in India get raped by their husbands. The MP asked the government what they were planning on doing about that.

The reply by a minister of the ruling party was that this was an idea which came from the west and didn’t exist in India. Something which is ‘not good for our country’! As in India, according to him, a marriage is a divine and auspicious connection and because of the religious beliefs and culture of India, this just doesn’t happen in India.

Are you shocked about such a statement? I tell you, we can hardly expect anything better from a pro-religion government that focuses on preserving ancient culture and traditions! Nevertheless, as an Indian, I just sit there and wonder about the lack of thought or even intelligence in such voiced statements!

According to our old religious culture, there is also no concept of divorce! Divorces started in India only when India got its freedom and our constitution was written. In the Hindu Code Bills, the provision for divorce and rights for women were made. Only from that time on, it was illegal to marry a second wife. There were big protests in that time, with the argument that it is not in Hindu culture to leave your husband because according to Hindu religion, a couple gets married for the next seven lives. Protesters said such laws would finish the auspicious religious culture.

I guess this minister also forgets that it once was a tradition in this great culture to burn the widow together with her husband once he died because she will be born again as his wife then. Rajaram Mohan Roy made a law to finish this tradition – but nevertheless there were people who carried on for a long time and believed it would destroy their culture if they didn’t!

In that time, Hindus were still allowed to have many wives and in temples, priests and religious leaders had religious prostitutes, called devdasi, to fulfill their sexual desires!

This all was once our culture. You can see the situation of our society, of this country’s traditions and of people’s beliefs in history! And throughout the history, Hindu religion considers women as second-grade citizens. They are only items, there for using and bearing children.

The UN can say that 75% of married women get raped and it should be considered a crime. Our nationalist, religious government however doesn’t agree because it is ‘against religion and culture’! Yes, in this country, men use rape to show women their place, to show that they are the ‘weaker gender’! And if any woman complains about being raped, it was her fault – she forced the man to rape her by wearing the wrong clothes or acting in the wrong way! If you are a bit more generous, rape is a ‘mistake of young boys’ – as our state’s chief minister’s father Mulayam Singh Yadav once said.

In traditional Indian culture, a woman is her husband’s property. He has all rights on his wife. Women get to know this early. A man won’t allow his daughter to look at unknown boys or talk with them. She is donated to a stranger on her wedding day and forced to sleep with someone she doesn’t know. Is forced arranged marriage anything less than rape?

But no, rape within marriage doesn’t happen in our country. The UN must be wrong. Every woman complaining must be wrong.