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‘Meet The Patels’ On Their Hilarious Journey Of Finding Love In The US

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By Anjana Radhakrishnan:

Ravi Patel is sitting across from a pretty, young Indian-American woman. He smiles nervously at her, his hair, still a little wet from the water he used, to slick it back into a semi-pouf (it doesn’t look great). The girl laughs as he checks in and makes sure she is okay: “Hey, is it cool with you if my sister records our first date?” And thus begins, the saga of awkward first dates made more awkward by a camera-wielding sister, complicated emotions, and self-discovery.

‘Meet The Patels’ is a terribly earnest and sweet documentary film that investigates how Indians navigate love, marriage, and relationships while abroad, specifically within the first-generation immigrant, American context. Ravi Patel, an Indian-American actor, gets Geeta, his sister, to join him on a journey as he tries to find love, the way his parents did – through an arranged marriage. The project begins shortly after Ravi has broken up with his girlfriend of two years because he can’t bring himself to introduce her to his parents who have no idea he has been dating a white girl out in California.

What follows afterwards is an empathetic examination of what marriage represents, what it means for families across generations, oceans, and cultures. As Ravi’s parents circulate his bio-data and upload it online, as Ravi goes on dates and attends Indian-American marriage conventions, things get hilariously awkward, emotionally challenging, and thoroughly relatable. By the end, it becomes clear that it isn’t just Ravi who has changed and matured his viewpoints on marriage, it’s his whole family who all have to balance their personal experiences and beliefs with the happiness and choices of other family members.

The story that ‘Meet The Patels’ tells, reflects that the ways in which Indians approach love and marriage have been radically changing over the past two decades. Traditional approaches to arranged marriages have changed drastically with over 1,500 websites dedicated to carefully airbrushed and flattering (often misleading?) profile pictures, inflated bio-datas, and very specific wish lists of physical and character traits for prospective partners. Inter-caste and inter-religion marriages have also been on the rise (if you’re interested in reading more about modern love in India, check out ‘India in Love: Sexuality and Marriage in the 21st Century by Ira Trivedi’).

Still, overwhelmingly, Indian millennials continue to participate in arranged or semi-arranged marriages. Research conducted by the International Institute for Population Sciences and the Population Council found that while semi-arranged marriages have increased to around a quarter of all marriages, only 5 percent of surveyed matches constituted ‘love marriages’. While Indian culture has seen some shift in how love and marriage is conceptualised, marriage largely remains an institution, shaped and informed by strong parental and familial involvement.

As ‘Meet The Patels’ skillfully documents, a lot of those ideas about love and marriage get transported along with families who immigrate out from India. Balancing different cultural norms around a decision that forms a big part of many people’s lives can get pretty darn tricky.

As an Indian-American who is also dating a white guy, who also broke up with him because I was terrified of introducing him to my parents, who also had to have some really tough conversations with my mother and father, ‘Meet The Patels’ feels like a warm hug. Despite the shaky footage and the ever-present boom mic, it’s just nice to see how other Indian families tackle these problems within these contexts of immigration and modern life. As the first child in my family, I had to break a lot of my parents’ expectations, expectations that make sense in the Indian context but can’t exactly fit in the American context.

I also had to learn how to talk to my parents about things, even topics that were super scary. It’s tough being in an interracial relationship because there is a lot, a lot that you have to learn on top of just learning how to build a healthy dialogue with another person. But that’s what I find really beautiful about it – I get to expose my partner to a whole other world while I have to learn how to engage with my partner’s cultural context in a way that keeps mine intact. ‘Meet The Patels’ is a must-watch for everyone whether you’re a parent, a child, or a partner. Plus, the next time my Indian cousin asks me what it’s like to date in America, I have a pretty handy resource that captures the pressures of interracial relationships and seemingly conflicted ideas of love and marriage between the spheres of India and America. That’s no small feat.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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