There was a time, when inter-caste marriage was an unthinkable prospect. Now despite Khap Panchayats and honour killings, the younger generation is getting attracted to the opposite gender belonging to different caste/language/religion even a different country. This is happening in the metros definitely, due to the spread of education. Girls from a different caste are being happily and openly welcomed by their in-laws into their families. And the former are ready to adjust and fit into their husbands’ families as if they always belonged there.
Rita Deepak Thakkar also fit into her in-law’s family like she belonged there. This school teacher knew her would be husband for 7 years since they met in college. When they decided to take the plunge her husband’s parents formally went to her home to ask her hand in marriage for her son. Things fell in place smoothly because even when Rita and Deepak were just friends they would visit each other’s homes and meet each other’s parents.
Ajay Bhandari’s sister worked with Bindu in the same bank and he would come to the bank to visit her. Bindu and Ajay saw each other there and their’s an arranged cum love marriage. The banker recalls, “My husband waited for me for almost 7 yrs as I was having a crisis at home. My mother was bedridden and I had to look after her. So I decided not get married. But then my husband waited for me. When my Mom expired we got married. Though my MIL and other family members were ready to take care of my ill mother, I was firm not to get married right then.”
Priya Badshah knew her would be 16 years back. This PR and her husband-to-be were together at work, where they both were working part-time while still pursuing their education.
Lakshmi Rai’s would be had seen her for the first time, while going to the office. He later found out her name and residential address. Then he sent his mother to ask for Lakshmi’s hand in marriage to him.
That First Meeting: That first meeting with the in-laws is an important event in life, particularly if it is a love marriage. Rita does not remember what her MIL said the first time they met because it has been so many years now.
Bindu’s MIL said, “Good Choice. Sabar Ka Faal Mitha Hota Hai. Mere bete ke Sabar ka Faal Mil hi Gaya.”
Priya’s MIL had asked her if she was ready for what was to come. She recalls, “She asked me whether I have thought through this, hard and am I sure that I can handle this.”
Adjustments: When a girl marries into a family of the same caste/language/religion/country itself there are a lot of adjustments she has to do. This is because every family is different in attitude and temperament. Given this situation, if a girl marries into a family of different caste/language/religion there is bound to be a lot more adjustments expected of her.
Rita recollects, “Both my MIL and FIL were principals at different schools. Since both of them were educated, I did not have any problem with adjusting. The main problem was cooking. Besides, when I was in my mother’s place I used to have a lot of freedom like I used to wear jeans and other modern clothes. But my in-laws did not want me to wear such dresses. I was well-prepared. Anyways when you are going for love marriage you have to be mentally prepared that there would be a lot of adjustments you will have to make. If you are mentally prepared you can adjust with their culture and family very fast. Then many problems do not arise.”
Bindu found it difficult to adjust with her husband’s Maharashtrian family. But this banker got their complete support after marriage. She says, “I have grown up in a Gujarati family and got married into a Maharstrian family. I faced the language problem but my husband and I decided to talk in Hindi though he knows Gujarati. And now my in laws also communicate with me in Hindi.”
Priya informs, “Our courtship lasted 6 years before we got married. By the 6th year, both our immediate families were just desperate to see us settled. While most of them readily accepted me, some did with doubts in their mind. After all a Punjabi working woman was not something they were used to as a daughter-in-law, joining their clan. Yes I had difficulties for sure but looking back at this 10 year marriage, it doesn’t seem very different from those which any other Indian woman goes through. It’s just that, mine were much more entertaining when today I recount those memories. Small things like covering my head while having meals with family and getting used to eating in a common ‘thali’ with 7 more people, sometimes those being complete strangers in community get-togethers. And bigger things like observing Roza with fasts, for someone who has never ever fasted before marriage. And the list goes on…”
Lakshmi did not have much adjustment in terms of culture. But she liked to wear Salwar Kameez, which she had to give up due to the insistence of her husband’s relatives. She adds, “Then I started wearing saris. I had to talk to my husband and his relatives in Marathi only. I had to give up my job also because my husband’s relatives from his village did not like it. Then after 1 year of marriage after my first son was born I came to the city to live with my husband. I have a very good relationship with my MIL. But she is not comfortable with the city life, so she lives in the village.”
Welcoming the Next Generation: Those who have already taken the plunge and had been welcomed into a family of different caste/religion and temperament, are ready to accept DIL or SIL from a different caste/religion. All they would be interested is the family background and the girl’s attitude towards the elders and life in general.
Lakshmi says that she would accept girls from any caste or religion for her 2 sons. She would accept her even if the girl did not have a proper family background. She would only look at the girl’s attitude and her manners.
But Rita prefers a SIL/DIL from a different caste/language rather than a different religion/country because she would not be able to handle the situation. For her the family background and the girl or boy would be important.
Priya finds, “Personally for me, religion is all about one’s faith and trying to be a good human being. My daughter is still 6 years old there is a long way to go.”
This article was first published in Eve’s Times magazine and has been reproduced here with the permission of the editor, Swati Amar.