Dating While Brown Part I: Why Dating Is So Taboo In Indian Culture
In a perfect Indian world, a vichola, or a middle man of sorts, would go to one family they know and see if their child would be interested in marrying the child of another family they know. If that family agrees, he’ll go to the other family and do the same. If they both agree, then the vichola would bring the families together and they would meet, discuss, the girl and the guy would get to meet for a few minutes and then a decision would be made. If they agree, the wedding process begins. If not, back to the drawing board.
Obviously, that is an overly-simplified (and dated) version of arranged marriages but that’s how our parents grew up and how they expect us to get married.
According to an article written by Santana Flanigan , arranged marriages have been a part of Indian culture since the fourth century and began as a way of bringing together and maintaining upper caste families. Marriage wasn’t really seen as a union between two individuals, rather an “alliance” between two families. This idea eventually trickled down to lower castes as well for the same purpose. Arranged marriages aren’t even strictly an Indian thing. If you look back at European history, royal families had arranged marriages too and for similar reasons!
Things have changed, times have changed, however, most Punjabi parents still go the route of arranged marriages for their kids because the idea of what an arranged marriage stands for still holds true today: the joining of two families of similar upbringing to “preserve and continue the ancestral lineage.”
Even people today are still on board with arranged marriages, including myself! Despite the Western influences and being surrounded by movies and shows promoting love in the 21st century, almost 85% of Indians prefer to marry someone their parents have chosen according to CulturalIndia.net. A big reason, as Moni Basu from CNN states, is because of the stigmas that are still attached to marrying someone outside of your religion or social class. This is also one of the reasons dating was never really a thing and our parents still don’t believe it is. They don’t find it necessary to have to “date” someone in order to get married.
But why is dating so taboo?
Well, some reasons can include:
Dating is a Western idea and doesn’t fall into the conservative values many Indians hold. Dating is also synonymous to sex in Indian culture, which is a definite no-no. Girls and guys aren’t even supposed to interact unless they are family or married. If a girl is seen talking to a guy she’s automatically seen as a “bad girl” while guys are just, well, guys. Women are expected to be “pure” and dating is seen as the complete opposite.
Most Indian kids don’t leave their homes when they’re 18 and “discover themselves.” They usually stay at home until they’re married, so the same rules Western parents have apply to Indian parents: “my house, my rules.” In this case, it’s difficult to go against the grain on your parents when it comes to arranged marriage to date.
I don’t think Indian parents are 100% opposed to the idea of dating but they definitely don’t see it in the same way Westerners do. Indian parents see it more as a modernized version of arranged marriage. You can find someone you are compatible with, introduce them as your “friend” (not boyfriend/girlfriend) and then they, the parents, will go do some digging to see if he/she comes from a good family, if they have a good job, etc. and get the final say-so.
With dating being such a wide-ranging topic, I want to open up the discussion around dating in our culture including how our generation is going about it and the challenges that go along with it. Stay tuned next Wednesday as we continue to explore dating, while brown.