Obviously, the biggest reason why arranged marriages are successful in India is religious and caste compatibility. The absence of such compatibility is a deal breaker in most homes. Just like mine. Seriously! I realized this harsh truth only after I married a man from a different religion and caste. What started as a gentle banter between the aunties and uncles on either side quickly precipitated into a full-fledged cold war and bitterness. On Parents’ Day today I will tell you how we taught our parents a lesson in love in our interfaith marriage.
(As told to Tina Vasishth)
The interfaith issues raised its ugly head like a demon
Never did I expect the playful rivalry that I witnessed during the course of our marriage to snowball into a major crisis today. I am furious to even think of how, despite knowing that they will never be able to make peace with each others’ ways, had originally agreed to let us marry.
Even so, wouldn’t it have been wiser had they distanced themselves from influencing how ‘our’ family should function within our four tiny walls?
Below the cool, polished exterior of today’s pro-liberal parents lie layers of ugliness wrapped tight around their very bones. When we got married, the Christian family shunned the mangal sutra, but the Hindu one was hell-bent on me having one around my indifferent neck.
Best way to win arguments is to avoid it
Let me not tell you whether I am a Christian or a Hindu, for it doesn’t matter. After eighteen, I have been largely agnostic and borderline atheist.
While I loved what Richard Dawkins wrote about, I rather chose to obey the words of Dale Carnegie. He was the one who taught me that ‘the best way to win an argument is to avoid it’!
And, needless to say, as most well-read young girls of today, I am discovering feminism, and am enraged at all that happens around me, on an everyday basis. So, clearly, the feminist argument is stronger in my mind to shun the mangal sutra, though I would have gladly accepted the religious frivolity part of it to placate the families.
I wanted to maintain peace
Though the fire rages in my mind, I somehow manage to put up a ‘tolerant’, cool exterior. And, accept the ways of my tribe, whichever side of the marital fence that I’m on – for want of propriety.
Did I call it a marital fence? It sometimes feels like our two families are like warring countries separated by miles of barbed and electrified fences. That’s how I felt, and it was suffocating to no end.
Come festivals, there are clear instructions from either side on ‘how’ to celebrate it. For Hindu days of fasting, I was forced to go hungry, rather, hungry to the office, and for the Christian month of Lent, I was asked to fast too. They wanted to see which side we swayed towards. Deep inside, it was vexing me, and straining my relationship with my husband – who continued to smile and pass it all off as harmless, ‘cute’ interferences.
He even got defensive about his people when it came to their religious push and shove behaviors that never ceased to stop, and was only increasing in a bid to keep up with my family’s dose of craziness. We stood it all, and thus, 2 years of our interfaith marriage zipped past.
The arguments became longer
In the third year of our marriage, my husband and I have been having longer and longer arguments, and have had many many near-fist-fights over religious topics. To my horror, I also discovered that he had been moving inch-by-inch over to his conservative family’s side. What a dark shift from his iconoclastic, free-spirited persona. And this change in my husband, in turn, annoyed my parents, who wanted me to ‘double it up’.
What we finally did
Last weekend, we decided that enough was enough. After a really big fight that involved shouts, door bangs, and tear streams, some strange passion brought us together. We felt closer for a moment. That was when we decided to switch off our mobile phones and take a real break.
After messaging both parents that we were on a break (from them, of course!), we drove up to a nearby hill station. We shared the driving duties, played the songs from our college days, and even sang the lines together. After checking into a nice resort, we slept for ten long hours. When we woke up in each others’ arms, we felt much calmer, and better.
We finally found peace
We emailed for leave, and stayed on for three more days and began having ‘normal’ cell phone-free conversations. It is funny how much we lose in our excessively digital lives. No more WhatsApp forwards from our ‘family’ groups, or private messages from parents to bring the spouse to ‘our’ faith. We went hiking, visited a temple and a church on the same day, and surprisingly, found both places good!
For two long evenings, we walked around the lake holding hands, and we wrote to each other real love letters. It was truly our blissful weekend! When we drove back, we decided to bring both families together for a talk.
It may even be funny to you, but we have even formatted a ten-point playbook of religious tolerance both families should adhere to!
Seriously! Our minds are now together, and crystal clear. And, we can’t wait!