Are Inter Community Or Inter Caste Marriages Not Made In Heaven?

Posted by Simantini Deb in Society
April 11, 2017

“Marriages are made in heaven,” is something I have read numerous times and also heard from many. Looking at the happy couples, all smitten by love, we cannot agree more on this. At the same time, when some marriages fail we say the same, “Marriages are made in heaven, may be they were just not meant to be together.” Such is our society, we twist everything as per our convenience.

If marriages are made in heaven, I wonder why there are so many myths around this beautiful union of two lives. Why do we have certain conditions dictated by our society? I’m sure God doesn’t have so much time in heaven to match a bride and a groom ensuring they are from the same caste or community, confirming that the groom is older than the bride, or the bride is shorter than the groom in height and many such so-called ‘rules’.

I have no intention to hurt anyone’s sentiments or to defy the age-old customs of our society, for I am sure that our older generations had framed these conditions basis on their experiences and wisdom. What I intend to bring out here is that it is time we start accepting change. We have come a long way, things are progressively changing, so don’t we break all these taboos and let marriage be a union of two lives who love and respect each other, and are willing to spend the life together.

Inter-Caste Or Inter-Community Marriages

“Oh you’re married to a Malayali? How do you adjust with their food, don’t they add coconut oil in everything? Do they like to eat what you cook, don’t you Bengalis cook with mustard oil? Have you picked up Malayalam, how do you communicate with your extended family members?”

It’s more than five years that I’ve been married, even then when I meet someone who newly learns about my inter-community marriage, I am inundated with several such questions. The bewildered look on the faces do not go un-noticed when they get to know that I am a Bengali, married to a Malayali living in Chennai. Makes me think about how our society is conditioned to perceive that everything is ‘normal and perfect’ when a marriage happens within the same caste or community. The ones that are inter-caste or inter-community are stigmatized or challenged.

There are a myriads emotions attached to a marriage. It comes with baggage of laughter, tears, joys, sorrows, issues and challenges, be it within the community or outside. In our fast paced life, we’re accustomed to living on our own terms. Whether we live with our siblings, parents or friends, there always is some bone of contention. The same applies to a marriage where we live with our partner or with the extended family. This happens in all the marriages, but it is convenient for the society to pick the odd one, and hence the stigma around the ‘inter-community’ marriages.

It’s heart breaking to know that couples are forced to end their relations as their families do not approve because their family’s pride is connected with caste. They fear that the family network will get fragmented with the news of such inter-community marriage of their children.

I have known friends who waited for years to get married only because they respect and love their parents and chose not to elope with their partner, but their stubborn parents had finally won over their weak heart. A few of my friends have also cited my marriage to convince their parents. I’m so glad it worked out well for them else their parents would have been chasing me by now.

Jokes apart, of-course language, food and rituals are important, but not more than love, respect, affection and the desire to spend the rest of our lives with each other. While there are many who still vehemently believe in the caste system, I’m glad that neither mine nor my husband’s family were socially conditioned like that. And here I am, perfectly enjoying and cherishing all the imperfect moments of my ‘Bong-Mallu’ affair!

Groom Must Be Older Than The Bride

“Groom – 32 years, looking for a bride of age between 25-28 years,” this is a common sight in matrimonial ads in newspapers and websites.

Age is another such taboo when it comes to marriage, especially when the groom is younger than the bride. Perhaps it made some sense to have a younger bride during our grandparents’ time. Those days, the bride was supposed to be docile and submissive and it was easy if she was younger. Also in those times, one of the objectives of marriages was reproduction and a younger bride ensured a longer fertile period (no wonder why our great-grandparents or even our grandparents had so many children).

However, this is not the same anymore. Women these days are educated and independent and marriage is no longer about procreation. It is more about harmony and companionship, a man and a woman decide to share their lives because they find themselves compatible.

Arguably, the maturity rate of a woman is faster than a man, which is also one of the reasons why our older generations believed in the groom being older than the bride. This is because the man was meant to be the bread-earner and he should be open to the responsibilities that come with a marriage, being responsible as his wife and for the children.

In India, religion often comes in the way of marriage. A couple is expected to be from the same caste, and community and inter-faith marriages are looked down on by the society.

But, we women are now much more empowered. We talk about equal rights irrespective of gender. This also means women are competent enough to share equal responsibilities in a marriage, to take care of herself and the family. So why do we need our men to be older when we share the responsibilities and chores equally?

Truth to be told, there are bumpy rides in all marriages and the last thing anyone would want to add to it, is this age issue. Time is definitely changing and I’m so glad to witness this change happening around me. I have many friends where the wife is elder to her husband and they prove that the ‘groom must be older’ is only a myth. If age is such an issue and the husband has to be older, we should ask, “what’s your age” instead of, “what’s your name” the moment anyone sweeps us off our feet.

As I mentioned earlier, I have absolutely zero intention to hurt anyone’s feelings because I know that those who vehemently believe in these factors will not adapt to the liberal society overnight. Those who are breaking these barriers may still be a minority in our society. But above everything else, we should understand that more than any such myths or conditions, what is more important in a marriage is to keep working on it. We need to make a conscious effort to be compassionate and loving without taking each other for granted. May be then, with more happy couples around, we will start believing that indeed “marriages are made in heaven”.

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The article was first published here. It has been published on YKA by the author.

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