Mixing Curry with Career

Life According to the Modern Indian American Woman


New York, New York, USA
December 31
Namaste, I am an Indian American writer who can cook savory desi dishes, but chooses not to. I'd rather be drafting stories, reading books and exploring the world. If you are seeking commentary on the Indian American lifestyle from a modern woman's perspective, you've come to the right place. Please feel free to comment and pass along the link. Thank you! Follow me on Twitter ~ http://twitter.com/SandyaSagar


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MARCH 9, 2011 12:20AM

Marriage Bio Data Not Wanted

Rate: 13 Flag

Those Seeking Alliance Apply Elsewhere

My mother, with a roti roller in one hand and a cordless phone in the other, left her pan frying while she barged in my room ordering me to talk to her sister in south India. I knew what this was about. My aunt had enlisted a professional matchmaker to find me a groom. I am a 30 year old single woman living in New York with a family firmly stuck on the concept of arranged marriage despite the rise in divorces among Indian Americans. Had I gotten married to either of the two men I seriously dated in the past five years, I would have ended up separated already. But according to my folks, I would have been happily married with children by now if I'd listened to them.

"It is still not too late, this software engineer in California seems like a good boy," whispered my mom while handing me the phone. Reluctantly, I chitchatted with my aunt about the weather, Bollywood movies, and my latest articles. Slowly, my relative, a pretty mother of two with the beauty and grace to match Padma Lakshmi, steered the conversation to the match she found for me.

"His family alreadly liked your picture and is eager about this alliance. The best part is that your horoscope charts are a good match too," she said optimistically. "He's the same sign as my husband, and you know that means he'll be a good man," she continued, trying to persuade me knowing how much I look up to her spouse. I do admire my uncle, for the way he won my aunt's love after my grandpa set them up. Till this day, he treats her like a goddess and takes good care of his in-laws.

Still, I argued, "I am not ready to get involved, I am still healing from the heartbreak from last year". She pleaded with me to put the past behind and move on.

"I can't wait to hand your ex's family a fancy wedding card to show how well you've done!" she gloated. While I appreciated the thought (although I'd never invite them to my wedding), I felt the request to engage with a complete stranger a bit out of line. My mother's snarky side remark about my affinity to talk to strange men in bars didn't help.

"Hey, at least I am making the choice to communicate with them," I replied. Besides, I only talk to them, not agree to marry them. I am a strong willed, independent, world-traveling career woman who's lived on her own terms for over fifteen years. I cuddled with my cat to calm myself and told my aunt that I'd think about this man. 

That same day, another relative, who considers me as one of his daughters, sent an email saying, "We think this new boy is right for you, please go visit him in Sacramento." I wasn't sure if he was being facetious. I hadn't seen a picture of this supposedly handsome fellow my whole family approves, or even viewed his "bio data" emailed to my father, and yet all of a sudden, I was to fly cross country to meet him. Of course, I was reminded by all that I was under no obligation to agree to marriage, but not without emphasizing that that this man, who's never even heard my voice, is willing to move to the East Coast for me. Talk about pressure.

            Ever since my last relationship failed a year ago, my folks have been trying to get me married off. According to them, I have no time left for dating and seeing if the guy is right over a period of time. Since I live at home, as is common for unmarried Indian women to do (but mostly to save money in this shaky economy), I get asked to talk to a different guy every other week. My father always adding, "well, you haven't had much luck on your own, so let us help you."

I haven't exactly been savvy with my choices in the past. My first love was half Indian/half white and after dating for two years said he always envisioned marrying a non-Indian woman. I should have left when he admitted to still having a crush on a college friend a few weeks into our relationship. The second time I fell madly in love, it turned out the guy, albeit being from a "good" Indian family, was a sociopath who kept the truth about his other girlfriends from me all throughout our yearlong courtship. And I defended him in front of my family when they tried to quell the spell I was under, until I came to my senses and left him.

            But how do I know my folks know any better? They say reviewing the families first brings up a better pool of men, and that their experience makes them wiser. It's comforting knowing my loving clan is looking out for me. But whenever they proposition a guy to me, they always start with "he comes from a good family, has a great job (which translates to makes good money), and his skills are in demand in this country (read recession proof)." Like that's supposed to get me to put on a sari and ask them to plan the engagement party. If they said, "this animal loving guy volunteers at soup kitchens, is passionate about his job, and can't wait to go hiking in Peru," I would have gotten that cross country plane ticket.

When I do communicate with some chosen men out of respect for elders, I get rejected because I am not a doctor, engineer or have loads of money. Then, there are others who ask their parents to find them brides only to have girlfriends on the side. Some expect me to be a docile housewife cooking, cleaning, and catering to them while they pursue their careers. Who needs men like that? The ones who want to get hitched as soon as possible are either under their own parental pressure or looking for a green card (which my family thinks is just fine because I will be getting good karma, not realizing how flawed their reasoning is). I may be thirty, but I am not going to settle.

            It’s usually recommended that one enlist the help of trusted family, friends, co-workers, even mentors in finding potential matches. I agree that looking for love doesn't have to be a lonely endeavor, and getting set up by those who know me well enough to have a better screening process would certainly help. I still hold out hope that one day I will meet and marry a tall, handsome, ambitious, dedicated man with good values. I have seen some of my friends who had arranged marriages get along well and those who had love marriages fail to stay together and vice versa. There is a belief among Indians that marriages are made in heaven. If that is the case, I suppose it doesn't matter if my folks find me the guy before I do. My main requirement- he better have more to show than a bio data with his academic degrees and his high paying job. The number of fancy cars and acres owned is not going to seal the deal either.  




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Sandya, your writing talent (and humor) shines in your autobiographical accounts! I like the idea of this blog.
Sandy, I am agreeing with your parents only. It is quite important to be settling down before u become Chritmas Cake. But, you can have your way too.
Here' how: Its a 3 or 4 or 5 step process. It a case by case dependency.

First, let me write your bio data for you. Marketing and positioning is everything girl. especially in the 10's.

Second, seems to me that all these good boys are wanting is a green card only. That being said, let me set up the DANCE.

I sense your puzzler's going sore just about now trying to figure out this acronym. As a not so good Indian girl, you oughto t know it. After all, it is the central, if unspoken, theme of marriage talks amongst Indian families. But let me help you out in case a migraine's setting in...

DANCE. Let's see, what could it possibly be? Could it have somethng to do with Dudes? Yes, i suppose you could say so. In an oblique fashion. Okay, maybe 'tis time to let your cat of the bag. But, wait a minute, do you keep your cuddly cat in a bag? Should that not be a hat. As in a Cat outta Hat? I think we should go with this one. What do you think Sandy?

Which brings me back to my point. Hmmm, what was my point? All this digression and I seem to have forgotten my point... Aha! I remember now.

Its that D word. The one that no Indian 'alliance' can proceed without. Even tho this D word is technically disallowed, Indians will always be Indians.

Its the Dowry people! Sandy, as your fair weather friend, let me handle this key aspect of the alliance talks for ya. I am thinking that for starters, we put forth a strong request for a Vespa Bajaj scooter and a carbon fiber dual role street/ mountain bike. Both in pink, naturally. Other elements will be announced in due course. Don't think we should forget the blank credit card with a six figure upper limit either.

But wait, I hear readers telling themselves that the flow of dowry is all wrong. Should it not be flowing from the girl's family to the boy's family? Yes, if this was India, that would be generally be the case. But, we are in Nueva Jork, aren't we. The rules are simply different in the City. Blame it on the Apple, the big one.

Sandy, you papa will be delighted to hear of this subtle shift in the rules. In fact, he will be eternally grateful to you (and maybe i na small way, me. After all, credits due where its due.

Which finally brings me, and I hope, all of your many, many, fascinated and hopefully, emphatetic, readers such as myself, to step 3.

After taking your prospective wanna be good indian boys to Peru, both the north and south poles (at least one of them), having them fight with the opposition in Libya, maybe we can be reasonably certain they must want to be around you if they are still around by this time.....

Thereafter, we commence step four: the A in DANCE. I think I willl let the readers figure this one out. Prizes to people who can guess correctly.

Well Sandhya, it is evening now, and this will have to be continued.


after friend through
I hear you. I am a south Indian living in South India, single at 26. You know the rest of the story. Great writing.
I am not Indian and have been married for a while, but finding a mate has never been easy and I can certainly relate. It is a funny read, but the situation is not that funny. Since you live in US, you are probably familiar with When Harry Met Sally. In such situations I always remember Marie hugging her fiancee and asking him to reassure her that she wouldn't be out there anymore. It is hard to find a good companion for life whether you are Indian or not of any age. I am glad you are not willing to settle. I also think that it is better to live without a mate than with a bad one.
It seems that there is a disconnect between what you are looking for and how you are evaluating people and what your family looks at. I must say that your way sounds a lot better and makes more sense to me. Mutual interests are very important and coming from a good family actually does not guarantee anything. I found the attitudes of some of those men particularly appalling. It seems that none were interested in you personally. I think you must give this feedback to your family and try to readjust what they are looking for, not just a "good" boy (Funny, what family would be willing to admit that their boy or girl are not really good ones? So, in reality it means nothing.), but find out about his interests first. Apart from that, keep resisting selling yourself cheap. My best wishes to you. It seems that you have an idea of what you want and that makes me confident that one day you will find him.
Sandya, You did the right thing by not rushing into marriage. I truly think it has to happen naturally and not in a forced way.
Sandya, You did the right thing by not rushing into marriage. I truly think it has to happen naturally and not in a forced way.
I wish there was something clever for me to say. I never understood arranged marriage. It's a bit like letting someone else pick out your underwear isn't it? It is intimate, and ends up very close to you yet if you don't pick it yourself then you stand a good chance of it being too tight or the wrong style or just plain uncomfortable, leaving you to throw it out and pick out your own.
An intelligent, creative woman like you should definitely wait for the right person for you. Since your relatives are not likely to stop trying to introduce you to potential men, perhaps you could play along and make the process more fun, and tease your relatives by letting them know why you pass on each one. Give them a clear idea of what your values are in a person with whom you would share your life.
I had an assistant who came from a very upper-class Indian family--though she was as American as could be. During the time I worked with her, I loved having a peek into her family life . . . they were all up in her business 24/7, but as she explained it, to be any other way was unthinkable. Thank you for letting me have another peek, and good luck to you. P.S. Amita is a doctor now, twice divorced. Her parents are thrilled by the first, aghast by the last.
I'm kind of torn with my response. First, I think you should choose whomever you want, when you want, and that's that. But then, here I am, a guy in his 40s who has never married, and personally I'd be overjoyed if I had parents around who were trying to set me up with someone, cause I certainly can't seem to do that on my own. I suck at meeting people, and therefore, I've given up. So, that probably comes out a bit different from what most people would respond with.
I read a mass market paperback called "Marriage: East and West" by David and Vera Mace in 1966 and it blew my mind (it was written in the 1950's). I ordered a copy off Amazon and read it again last year. Much to think about.
I'm rooting for your animal loving guy who volunteers at soup kitchens, is passionate about his job, and can't wait to go hiking in Peru.
I think as I look at arranged marriages I could see some good points. Mainly you have to become friends before falling in love. You also have to work at it and you know from the start you have to work at it.

It also avoids the hormone rush of meeting someone new and falling head over heals in love on the first date. Hormones may help you pick Ms. Right Now. Will she still be Ms. Right when you come down off the brain chemicals?

But even a broken clock is right twice a day. So some of your friends made it. Great, but if you are truly looking at an arranged marriage I only have one question for you. ARE YOU NUTS!

Keep doing it the way you are. If a guy breaks your heart, and you learn why he did, then you are smarter and can make better decisions about the next guy who comes along. I believe the couple who met in school and were first loves and are happy, are lucky, or liars.
In one of my classes there was a lovely young Indian senior just getting ready to graduate who was about to enter into an arranged marriage. She was a smart, beautiful young woman, completely Western in appearance so it was pretty shocking to hear at first but she explained that she and her intended had written to each other before they ever met and he sent her love poems and she eventually did fall in love with him and if she hadn't her parentsnever would force her to marry him. She said that her parents knew her better than anybody so she trusted their judgement and with 50% of all American marriages freely contracted ending in divorce it seemed as good a way as any to find a life partner. I really wish her well and think about her often and hope that she is happy.
catnlian: "ARE YOU NUTS!"

Question mark, idiot.
My copy of "A Suitable Boy" by Vikram Seth is 1,424 pages long. You laid out the whole dilemma quite nicely in 1,223 words exactly, a very well written contemplation on the subject.

I wish you the best of luck. He is out there somewhere. We know that. Where I come from, we say that there is a lid for every pot. I wish you luck in finding him.
Sounds like you and I have got opposite problems. It has been suggested to me (by the therapist I was seeing a number of years ago) that I would actually be better off in an arranged marriage because I'm rather clumsy at the whole dating game. So, I'd say, do what feels right, but don't shut down any options - including remaining single.
What an entertaining peek into your family life. The concept of arranged marriage seems really awkward to me, but I've heard from many people, especially older Indians, that arranged marriages really do work, because both parties just accept the fact that this is the person they're supposed to be with. End of question. Good luck to you!
Can't blame for wanting to make your own choice but I read somewhere that divorce/separation rates are not much different for arranged versus self-chosen marriages. Not that that would have persuaded me in the slightest. Good luck.
"When I do communicate with some chosen men out of respect for elders, I get rejected because I am not a doctor, engineer or have loads of money."
I find that kind of questionable....
you have a lot of high expectations yourself.
just see your family as a sort of informal dating service, I think you're being too picky about *dating* ... yes I know the indian traditions but maybe you are *dating*, not marrying. you cannot evaluate the whole package until some dating interaction. thats the point of dating! you should have lower requirements for mere *dating*....
vzn, that is such an excellent point! After my divorce I dated like crazy on the principle that I could talk to anyone for an hour. And it worked out very well. I got to know a lot of interesting people, even though the overwhelming majority were not men I wanted to be romantically involved with. It helped me to sort out what I wanted in a relationship. And when I did meet the man who became my husband and the father of my son, he didn't fit 90% of the criteria I'd had in mind for a future partner. But he won me over anyway and I've never regretted it.