Meera Verses Margaret
Meera Verses Margaret: Why Discriminate Against Your Own?
Interfaith marriages have many issues, but within-faith marriages are not without their own issues either. The within-faith divorce rates and the gravity of problems are not less. Some of the root causes of within-faith marriages are unusually high expectations, ingrained social customs, discrimination against women in the Eastern (and Middle-Eastern) cultures, and, a paradoxical human nature to discriminate against their own type. It is time for an attitude change for the people from the Eastern cultures. In this article, some of the main issues related to within-faith marriage in people from the Eastern cultures are highlighted using hypothetical names, Meera and Margaret.
A new fiancé, Meera, may be expected at the first visit to help the mother-in-law-to-be in the kitchen frying samosas (Indian dumplings) while the same Indian mother-in-law-to-be will be joyous if Margaret just eats the samosas she has fried for her. Further, any gift from Meera’s parents will not be sufficient to please the boy’s parents, while the same parents will gladly buy many Indian costumes for Margaret and her entire family at their own expense.
In Eastern cultures, women have traditionally been housewives and expected to be responsible for household chores, and, to maintain social relationships. In this day and age, educated and new generation Eastern women are expected to take on additional responsibilities such as earning for the family. Unfortunately, some Eastern men and their families have not fully adapted to the reality of this social change. Meera may work outside the home but when she returns home after work, she is expected to carry out all household chores, including taking care of children and cooking; while her husband may decide to help where he feels appropriate or just relax. The same Eastern man, if married to Margaret, will gladly take over most house-hold chores including cleaning dishes.
Eastern parents are not used to seeing men working in kitchen or folding cloths after laundry. When Eastern parents visit their son in the West, normally they wish to relax during their vacation. However, as soon as they see their son going into the kitchen to help Meera, the parents will immediately intervene and offer to take over their son’s chores, not Meera’s. The same Eastern parents do not realize that they will never have a chance of living with Margaret for a month or even a few days.
We know a case where a Hindu-American girl married to a Pakistani after religious conversion to Islam; the (former) Hindu is treated like a queen when she visits Pakistan. Contrary to that, her Muslim sister-in-law from Pakistan ends up getting rude treatment from the same Muslim in-laws, in spite of her doing all home chores all day. These Pakistani parents do not realize that the (former) Hindu daughter-in-law, in her mind, underwent a fake-conversion ceremony (Shahadah oath) necessary for the Islamic Nikaah wedding. Further, the Pakistani parents are still unaware today that this couple also had a Hindu wedding ceremony (prohibited in Islam) and their Hindu daughter-in-law is performing Ganesh pooja every day in America.
When there is a within-faith marriage, parents expect to maintain traditions coming from generations. For example, Bangla Desi Raquib’s Muslim-Muslim engagement is in trouble because of the expectations that he purchase certain gifts (clothes) of sufficient value for his wife’s parents in Pakistan. The dowry system is still prevalent in the East, however dowry will not come even in a dream of parents if the engagement is to Margaret.
It is normal to micro-analyze potential fiancé when it is within-faith marriage. For example, a Patel-Hindu contemplating marriage to another Patel-Hindu has to answer if the selected Patel is Kadva or Leuva Patel and whether they are Swaminarayan, Shaivites or Vaishnav. However, the same parents will not know Margaret any more than some German-French.
During the engagement process, the within-faith fiancée undergoes strict scrutiny and background checks. If there were some un-authenticated information that Meera was fluttering with boys in college, it could become a big moral issue. It is a common practice in the Muslim community to display bloody bed sheet after the honeymoon night as proof of the bride’s virginity; and if the new bride does not come through, it could be a grounds for divorce on the first day. Contrary to that, no one will ever dare to find out about how many boys Margaret has slept with prior to engagement.
Most Eastern boys and girls in Western colleges probably purposely date friends from a different faith. One of the main reasons is that in the early 20-s, the within-faith dating may soon escalate to marriage talk that they have no interest in. Further, Muslims and Hindu girls will not consider sleeping with a boy friend of their own faith due to social stigma; however, these girls may be less reluctant with a boyfriend from another faith. Likewise, an Eastern boy may start dating Margaret just for romantic times and may end up marrying her.
Due to the issues mentioned above, should Eastern boys and girls consider interfaith marriage over within-faith marriage? That is certainly not the message here. Interfaith marriages have their own issues. In general, one should expect higher divorce rates in interfaith marriages versus within-faith marriages. Most inter-religious issues will surface only after your children reach ages 5-13 when time comes to decide the “formal” religion of children.
Cultural issues could also add to complexities at later age. As an Eastern man enters late middle age (i.e. 50+ years,) he would tend to go back to his own roots and find that there is nothing of common interest left with the menopausal-Margaret.
In general, compared to interfaith marriages, the gravity of issues is higher in the early years of within-faith married life. If Meera wishes to be successful in a within-faith marriage, she has to learn to deal sternly with in-laws. Further, from the start, Meera has to start teaching the Eastern husband rules of married life. If Meera manages to deal with the issues early on, the rest of married life may improve over the years. Contrary to that, most inter-religious issues will resurface about ten years into married life and religious conflicts will continue till it is a time to perform the final rites.
Time has come for the Eastern parents to adapt to the new realities of life. Generally, parents will have always something to complain about Meera’s choices, be that inter- or within-faith marriage. Those parents should be reminded that the situation could potentially be worst if Mira decides to marry Margaret.
Parents should know that they don’t “own” the child, but that child has come to this world through you, a set of parents. If parents start respecting their children like they do to their boss at work, parent-child relationship will blossom and both will benefit.
Grass is always greener on the other side. Instead of getting stuck on issues in your planned married life, one needs to learn to deal with issues at hand. For example, if a person raised in the Dharmic faith happened to fall into love with a religious person from an Abrahamic faith, the most critical question to address upfront is the formal religion of your children (simply say No BBS). On the other hand, if you are considering a within-faith marriage, look for real compatibility in your intended spouse and evaluate potential negative influences of in-laws in your married life.
Life is never like a rose garden; and even if it is, roses always have thorns. Learn to live and let others live. -Admin
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