My Cousin dropped by on his way to a friend's wedding. During the course of our conversation he told me that this friend is a Muslim and had been in love with a Hindu girl. After 6 years of courtship they finally decided to part ways and marry persons acceptable to their parents.

The curious aspect is that neither the muslim boy nor the Hindu girl are active practitioners of their religion and even the parents are not very strict in their adherence to customs and rituals. If they could have been good friends without the interference of religion why should it be a problem for a happy marriage? Do people really change after marriage and suddenly become practitioners of their rituals and customs? When people talk about problems that the children of such parents could have, I don't undertand what they mean. Don't parents of all religions bring up their children with the same kind of love and care!

Ultimately isn't marriage about the understanding between two individuals, two human beings more than what name they give to their god or what their prayer rites are like? if their love was really strong, would they not have found it worthwhile to stand up for it and convince their parents? or do the youngsters themselves have different requirements from the person they want to be in "love" with and the person they want to marry? Were the parents being just used as an excuse to get out of an error in judgement and then settle into a more comfortable long term arrangement?

I am not trying to be subversive but I am just trying to understand a societal trend. I cannot dismiss these are cases of immature physical attraction which gradually wore off. These are intelligent students from institutions like the IIT who have the ability to think issues through and the courage to take on the system. So when these young people take shelter behind not wanting to wipe the smile from their parents' faces, I find it tough to accept it at face value; because if such people cannot stand up and fight for what they feel is right, it is a very grim scene. And if they think that falling in love with a person from another religious background is "not right", then it is an even grimmer scene.
21 Responses
  1. Hi Usha,
    I must say that I was very plesantly surprised to see a positive support from you for an inter-religion marriage. Before you misunderstand, let me explain. Having gone thru an ordeal(to a certain extent) for my own marriage, I thought that the tolerance level of a generation before me for inter-case(let alone inter-religion) itself was totally absent.

    You certainly have broken that myth.

    Even though we are of different states and castes, my husband and me sometimes feel glad that we both are Hindus. I am not sure if this makes us narrow-minded or whatever, but somehow I cannot think of compatibility (of living a life under the same roof) with a person from a different country/religion.

    This, of course, is a very huge debatable topic, because each person is different from the other.
    and the above are purely my opinions.

    I have two very close friends each of whom, being Hindus, married a Christian - and are very happily the parents of sweet children also.

    So, it is no wonder that such marriages are indeed a succes.

  2. Mahadevan Says:

    When two persons are intensely in love, they accept each other for what they are. In otherwords, the other person's weaknessses, short comings and differences become acceptable. Parents and other members of the family, would look only at the differences and short comings and single them out for sharpened attack. A few weather the storm, marry and live happily.

    In a large number of cases, either infatuation is the sustaining force or the love is not intense enough and therefore the boy and girl too start seeing reason in their parental pleadings and decide to go their own respective ways. Many of us know that a number of such marriages have been successful and also that a few have floundered. A few think about identity crisis for the children.

    So long as they remain as good friends, they are acceptable to the families. Marriage proposals bring about several relationships that strikes discordant notes. The individuals involved, however mature or immature they are, alone have to decide for themselves, keeping in mind the fact that differences would come up, and also to plan asto how to bring the children up. Rightly or wrongly, religion has been taught as a way of life and this also influcences marital decisions.

  3. Pradeep Nair Says:

    I find no link between good spousal ties and religion. A marriage is only one type of relationship. And, like any relationship, this too flowers and lasts, only if it is nurtured.

    Alliances among the same religion are commonly sought after because of a mistaken belief that commonality of religion would automatically translate into an unshakable foundation for good spousal relationship.

    Just as commonality of religion hasn't helped many marriages; difference in religion also hasn't broken up many marriages.

    First cracks in a relationship like marriage appear the moment either of or both the spouses, get a feeling "I need not be committed to this relationship."

    The other weak link is a presumption that life is a bed of roses. This explodes when even a small problem crops up.

    When confronted with a problem, even a small one, if there is a determination to solve it together, the relationship not just survives but becomes stronger. But if the problem becomes a blame game, that's the beginning of the end. A sad end.

    This is not to say that any relationship can hold on whatever be circumstances. There can be a happy ending... when the two, successfully and happily agree to disagree; and resolve to stay apart "as good friends", for the better wellbeing of both.

  4. Hip Grandma Says:
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Hip Grandma Says:

    I don't think that it is the question of standing up against parental pressure.I feel that children these days are rather smart.I know of a case where the boy told the girl in question-'look we are both Hindus and worship the same Gods.But I speak Hindi and you speak Kannada at home.If my parents have a problem with that I'll call it off.' The girl agreed and said the same abt her parents.the parents were not convinced and they parted ways.A few tears were shed and that was the end of it.both are now happily married to partners chosen by their parents.No scenes created and no heart breaks.The romance factor is gradually phasing out and practical thinking is taking its place.My assessment is that if true love is missing. parents are conveniently labelled as killjoys.why would any one stand up for a thing that they don't believe in.I've written a satire on this and will post it on returning to India

    2:50 AM

  6. rads Says:

    I am surprised that even in this hi-tech India, things like this still exist. My own cousin happily eloped with her best friend of 8 years. Though none of us including parents, and elders opposed to her marriage, we didn't like the way she went about it.
    Either case, I suppose marriage is considered a lot more serious than being friends, and perhaps the parents feel the need to protect the progeny?

    There's a saying in telugu "evari pichhi variki anandam" loosely translated to 'a person's madness is his happiness'

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I think marriage is also a "coming together" of two families, not only two souls. How about life after marriage? Do couples renounce their families? No...

  8. Shruthi Says:

    I have seen this happen many times. In one case, in which the relationship had even reached the engagement stage, and then broke off, the Hindu girl was convinced that the Muslim guy's family performed black magic on him which made him draw back from the relationship. Though I don't believe in it, I was silent, because this gave the girl comfort - the thought that the guy did not back off out of his own free will. [And both people, mind you - highly educated and in well-paying jobs].
    Then there was another Muslim girl-Hindu guy combination who were apparently in love, and then when the time for marriage came, they did not even attempt to tell their families about their love. They assumed that there would be opposition, and they quietly broke up and went their own ways.
    Both cases make me wonder - in different ways - and no, I don't have an answer.

  9. read the post and the comments...made me thoughtful. The only conclusion I can come to was that the strength of the relationship was not enough to withstand possible pressures, and the couple realized that.

    I too think that two people who are deeply committed to each other can take on their families for that commitment...but of course, as others have sensibly pointed out, each instance is different....

  10. passerby55 Says:

    the cupid's Arrow ... you never know how it works.

    A good family friend is a christian and she got married to a muslim. SOme years ago i asked her how did it all happen,

    She said, My parents were dependent on my income and i knew i would never be able to marry,
    and then this love happened. My inlaws strictly told me that i will have to convert. I did.(they also allowed her to work and support her family as long as she wanted)

    "If my parents could manage and were not dependent on me. I would have not sacrificed my religion", she said.

    I guess, all love their religion and in some cases more than oneself in our country.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    I think in a lot of cases parents are blamed needlessly to a degree. So yes, I definitely agree with you in that context. Some folks do not even try to talk it over with their parents & I can understand that without necessarily agreeing to it.

    It is the burden of tradition & it draws it power from thousands of lifetimes & I do not think that it is possible for a lot of people to see things just from a 'whats the society got to do with it' perspective be it marriage or playing cricket for a career.

    So I don't think the problem is one of whom to marry; the problem is to live around traditions/norms/beliefs & strike the right balance.

    And I think the whole idea of 'true love' & marriage is another one of those traditional, rosy pictures. I think there is a lot of substance in what hip grandma says.

    Jeeves would have approved of her. :)


  12. hari Says:

    Hi Usha,

    On a philosophical and principle level, I do agree with you that their love indeed might not have been true or strong enough to look beyond caste and religious passion.

    But on a practical note, it is not just true love for each other that is going to take them smoothly through their family life till their end. They have to frequently interract and deal with our primitive minded and pseudo-civilized society at every stage of their life which may eventually corrode their true love and may even spoil the lives of their next generation.

    They may be beyond the religions, their parents may be broad minded, but our society at its most civilized mood is crooked minded. So I really would not blame the couple wholly for this situation unless you have the heart to be a rebel. But then nobody per se wants to lead a rebellious life.

  13. Deeps Says:

    Hmmm you made me think.

    Friends in different religions do not have to actually face the other person's religion. I have a close muslim friend. Even though she has told me about the rituals that they follow, I don't have to undergo it. She knows about our rituals (Hindu) too, but again she doesn't have to follow most of it.

    But Marriage is a different game altogether. My hubby and me are both brahmins, but just because we are from different parts of the states, the rituals are a bit different. Though my parents in law are understanding to most extent, they expect some of the rituals to be practiced. I am atleast used to most of the habbas and require minimal instructions to do something.

    But imagine a muslim girl in my place. The parents-in-law would certainly have expected the same from her. She would have a faint idea, but most of the things (even lighting a lamp in front of God) would be very strange to her. She might not even want to do it.

    The problem is always for the girl. Unless the guy is genuinely understanding, its the girl who is asked to change her religon. Be it a Hindu girl marrying a Muslim boy or a Muslim girl marrying a Hindu boy (and so in Christian too), the girl is expected to follow the so-called rituals.

    The problem might not exist if the people involved take a stand and say that we'll not follow any religon. Or maybe go and live in some other country :-p.

    Another thing I've noticed is that though the current generation is "modern", we really don't want to let go of our culture. We don't know the meaning of many rituals, but we try to find out and follow it. The culture aspect is very much alive. We not only follow it, we want our children to also continue the trend. In case of inter-caste marriages, this will become difficult. Thats the reason, I think, that people say, that the children are the ones who'll face problems. They might be expected to follow both religons which might be rather confusing...

    Again the above is all my opinions. I believe Love, Understanding and Trust will make a marriage work. This holds for both same-caste and inter-caste marriages :).

  14. "If they could have been good friends without the interference of religion why should it be a problem for a happy marriage? Do people really change after marriage and suddenly become practitioners of their rituals and customs?"

    The answer to both, according to me, is yes. End of the day, you would like to spend your life with someone who can relate to things you have grown up with.

  15. Usha Says:

    We all believe that earlier generations including the one just before us are all fossils hardened by their set values and beliefs.
    It is tough to find compatibility with someone from a background we have no knowledge of. It is a pity that in spite of several centuries of coexistence we do not bother to learn about the ways of living of people different from us.
    There is never 100% compatibility between 2 individuals. People work towards it, make modifications in habits and behaviour for the sake of the other person’s companionship. If there is a strong underlying motivation, then it is not tough to achieve this.

    Yes when 2 people are in love they accept each other . It is also true when you have opted for an arranged marriage and been thrown with a total stranger and his family. The system has told you that in order to make the marriage work, you have to learn to adjust. And overlook minor weaknesses. When people have gone through an arranged marriage and have differences the family/ society will tell you: “ Marriage is an institution that must be preserved. So learn to make adjustments”
    If the couple have had a love marriage family /society will tell you: “We told you this won’t work and that there are too many differences!”
    Identity crisis – hm, when I spoke about it in another post a lot of people made me believ that their identity transcends narrow domestic walls. So what exactly will be the crisis for the child? Give him/ her both the religions. Let him/her take the best from both.
    Today they marry in their late 20s – they are adults Mahadevan. If they re still immature then the parents have failed.

    Agree with you completely.
    It is finally an effort by the people involved to make it work. There are no guarantees that a certain type of marriage works and another doesn’t.
    Looking at marriages of most of my friends, I know there are all varieties in arranged marriages too – the good, the bad and the ugly. And the pressure on the victimized in a bad relationship in an arranged marriage is tremendous. A friend who was passionate about dancing and the husband’s family think it is a disgrace for the family if she performed publicly. And her parents told her to stop dancing as her marriage was more important. She lives in Chennai now but I know she died inside the day after she got married.

    Hip Grandmom:
    Can’t wait for your post.

    Hi tech happened in the past 20 years. These deep rooted things will take a long time to change. I believe if the partners in a marriage could be friends then all other problems will become lighter. In my opinion friendship is the best form of human relationship where you respect each other, give each other space to grow, care for each other and be there for them no matter what. That is why the man tells the wife during the sapthapadi mantra that he takes her as a friend.
    As for protecting the progeny, a medical certificate may be a better guarantee than the horoscope. ( that was a joke, I get your point and I( think it may be true. The pedigree factor huh?)
    I agree completely with the evari pichhi…Telugu is such a beautiful language that our Tamil Poet Bharathi called it “sundara Telungu”

    “I think marriage is also a "coming together" of two families, not only two souls. How about life after marriage? Do couples renounce their families? No...”

    Coming together of two families – is that what it is? Have you seen the television serials lately? If anything it seems like the in-laws are waiting to tear each other apart.
    And what is the guarantee that a daughter in law from an arranged marriage will adapt to the parents in law. Why are there so many old age homes and retirement homes in India then?
    I used to manage a bank branch and I had 7 lady clerks and 3 lady officers in the branch. Almost all of them had in laws problem. The one who didn’t have in laws problem had a gambling, drinking husband. All arranged marriages!
    I still believe that arranged marriages have merits but let us stop romanticizing about union of families etc…

    Yes, we assume a lot of things and take the line of least resistance. We surrender before the battle begins. I think that is when we do not have complete faith in ourselves and feel we need to go with the system as a protection against the downside.

    Yes, each instance is different. There are many who go through a marriage as a routine and don’t have great expectations from it. For them arranged marriage is such aconvenient solution. But when two people are in love the system should learn to leave them alone and work things out. In India, it is almost treated like a crime to fall in love with someone from a different background.

    I know people who have married within their own religion also sometimes sacrifice their dreams, desires and passions for the sake of making the marriage work.

    Absolutely sir, Jeeves would be proud of you!

    Nice analysis. Thanks. So how do we change?
    Have you seen “Guess who is coming to Dinner”

    I guess if you are rooted in the traditions and rituals of your community, You might not even fall in love with a guy from different background. So no one is going to force you to change. The problem is when the young people themselves have no such religious baggage and society tells them it is a problem and makes things difficult for them.
    And you are so right that Love, Understanding and Trust will make a marriage work. (This holds for both same-caste and inter-caste marriages :).

    If at the end of the day that is what they’d like to do, what were they doing mucking around with the emotions and dreams of a person from a different background in the first place?
    Time Pass?

  16. It is not 'time-pass' Usha, I would call it 'growing up'.

  17. Just came across your blog as I was reading through vidhya's musings. You write pretty good..I will keep cheking here.

  18. Usha Says:

    Thanks, I stand corrected. :)

    Thanks. Hope to interact more with you.
    Please feel free to share youropinions and thoughts.

  19. Shree Says:

    Hi Usha,
    I agree with you, there are a number of men and women who give in to parental pressure or look at their approval as they do not feel they have the guts to follow their heart not sure of the consequence. They can blame their unhappiness on parents and spend thier lives telling tales of their unhappiness , living a compromise at best or discreetly living dual lives feeling thir dual existence is justified as they have the right to look for happiness which they should have looked for to start with anyways .

  20. Preethi Says:

    I think I know why people do this.
    Its not that they think its not right, but its that they somehow realize that its tough to live with a person from a totally different social background than theirs for a lifetime.
    Its sad that they dont realize this before falling in love...

    But isnt it a reverse trend we see that all these kids do such things also for their parents' sake? THis asserts the fact that today's generation is respecting their parents more..

  21. Anonymous Says:

    I personally think it is because parents make it more of an issue- being friends is fine, beynd that the emotional blackmail begins.