I Love Siouxsie’s Version, I do.

Allow me to sum up the Slate article I’m about to blog in four words:

Arranged marriages don’t suck.

There, was that so difficult to admit?

Dear Prudie,
I am a 30-year-old single woman who has been living in the United States for the past few years. I am considered smart, successful, and attractive and have an interesting and fulfilling life. But my family, who live in India, are worried that I’m still single, and have been trying to arrange my marriage. While I do want to be married, I’ve had a couple of relationships that didn’t work out; I’ve been very independent and have lived life on my own terms—so I now find it hard to go through the arranged marriage setup. I know my parents will never force me to marry someone I don’t like, but the idea of having an arranged marriage seems archaic and almost mortifying. I’d also like to believe that marriages should be based in love and there should be an element of romance involved. My mother thinks that as long as two people have a certain compatibility and mutual respect, love can happen later. What should I do?
—Confused

Wait- wot’s this? Someone who isn’t second gen can be “confused”? Shocking. Utterly astonishing, I tell you. ;) I thought we American Born-types had a monopoly on bewilderment.

Dear Confused,
Now that I have a daughter, I’ve come to see the wisdom of arranged marriages. What’s she going to know about picking a mate? Right now, I have a few candidates I’m keeping my eye on—since my daughter is only 11, I have plenty of time to monitor how these boys turn out. You say you would like to find a husband, but haven’t been successful at it. I understand your aversion to the idea of an arranged marriage, but as long as everyone understands you will not be pressured to wed the guy, why not see who your parents come up with? Certainly their knowledge of you, the young man, and the qualities two people need to get along has to be as good as the algorithms of Match.com. Yes, there is an archaic quality to the notion of being introduced to someone you are supposed to marry, but that’s the ultimate, if unstated, goal of most fix-ups. As for romance versus compatibility—you and your mother are both right. If you meet the man in question and you two fall in love, what a story of romantic destiny! And romance without compatibility and mutual respect—no matter how you two got together—is destined to be a relationship that didn’t work out.
—Prudie

Wow, not only do arranged marriages not suck– neither did Prudence’s take on them! And no mention of henna, spices or a mango anywhere! This is a landmark moment in the history of how arranged marriages are perceived in America. A mainstream columnist grokked the concept better than a brownie did; she realized that really, it’s more about the “assist” than the “arrange” and she didn’t get all westernized-aggro on our kundis about oppressive traditions, in fact, she basically asked, “What’s the harm?”. If you’ll pardon me, I’m going to go faint now, from the refreshing lack of orientalism/sensationalism/um…narrow-mindedness…ism.

::

Thanks for the tip, fish-eyed one. :)

231 thoughts on “I Love Siouxsie’s Version, I do.

  1. 200 canada

    This post illustrates the vulgarity, corruption and sexism that lurk within some supporters of arranged marriage. I am fine with the institution of assisted marriage, but I have also seen it offer institutional support to this sort of distasteful Madonna-whore complex (which is often coupled with racism– as in, western women are whores) too many times.

  2. Both sides opposed the marriage for 5 years as they were from different Sikh subcastes. Death threats were issued, etc…her parents stopped speaking to her. Eventually, she married the guy but her parents have cut her out of their lives…their only daughter.
    There should be no caste in sikhism. But punjabi culture has the caste system. The sad part is too many punjabi sikh’s practice the caste system.
    And do they ever! Gujarati Patels seem to be notorious for being so self-righteous but I think Sikh Jatts are worse. Most would rather have their kids marry ANYONE (black, white, yellow, blue, green, whatever) than marry a Punjabi Sikh who is not a Jatt. Of course I speak only from my own experience, but I have yet to meet a Jatt who said they would/could marry a non-Jatt Punjabi.

    Interesting that low caste Jatt converts to Sikhism, which rejects casteism, still cling to this pernicious divisive apartheid so tenaciously. As long as there is someone lower in the hierarchy (chamars are lower than jatt sudras in the original hindu punjabi system) this silly pride in caste status survives. Even after leaving hinduism. So strong is the power of social ranking in humans.

    Of course whites outrank desis of all castes indiscriminately. But within their ghettos, mental and/or physical, many desis still derive great satisfaction from outranking fellow desis.

  3. arranged marriage is good. i am afraid to talk to girls. without arranged marriage i don’t think i would be able to get a wife. plus my mom and dad taught me that i should treat girls with respect, and that loose talk with them may put me at risk of being labeled as having a questionable character within the community.
    arranged marriage rocks. i have been in l.a. for three years and been with fourteen girls.

    hey canada, your 2 post don’t jibe w/ each other. are you the loveable shy suitable boy or joe francis meets anand jon (minus the rape)? i mean, you’re afraid to speak to girls but you’re having sex with a new one every 2.5 months.

  4. I am fine with the institution of assisted marriage

    Heh. sounds like “assisted suicide”

  5. Runa:>>Just because you fall in love with someone who neither society nor your parents chose for you, does that mean that you are forsaking all other relationships?

    Not at all. You still be un-married(live together) and continue to visit each other’s families, Diwali dinners etc. You can have it all without marriage.

    My partner – and now husband – insisted that we should get married because his parents would have freaked out.

    Sorry to say this, but your husband should have taken a stand and refused. If one does not have the courage to stand up for oneself, then one should not fall in love.

    Love = 1×1 relationship.

    Marriage = NxN relationship(where N>1).

    M. Nam

  6. MoorNam, You still have’nt countered my point:

    -You may think and want to have everything without marriage but,like I said, if you want to live in a particular society , you will need to folow its rules whether you agree with them or not. For example, if the husband and I had chosen not to get married , I don’t think there would have been ANY dinners Diwali or otherwise with the family! In retrospect,I am glad we got married because I like having strong family ties -just a personal preference.

    Your opinion/suggestion is alright in theory but fails miserably in practice in the context of current social mores.If its any consolation, I read somewhere that the majority of couples here (US) are choosing to live together and NOT get married.So maybe the change will come slowly to society and the 1X 1 marriage will actually be reality and not just a pipe dream

  7. If one does not have the courage to stand up for oneself, then one should not fall in love.

    Moornam, I think you will like these: 1 2 .

  8. Moornam #206:

    Marriage has meant different things in different societies and times. Marriage as practiced in Nordic or Nordic-derived societies –even before the sexual revolution– is not an NxN institution to the same extent as among caste Hindus (or even Latin cultures– I remember reading about how Americanization committes in the days of southern european immigration would teach courtship as a “Protestant way”). The nuclear family based on romantic love between husband and wife has been a bedrock of Protestant cultures for a fairly long time. You are generalizing your cultural biases.

  9. Prema at #203:

    “Interesting that low caste Jatt converts to Sikhism, which rejects casteism, still cling to this pernicious divisive apartheid so tenaciously. As long as there is someone lower in the hierarchy (chamars are lower than jatt sudras in the original hindu punjabi system) this silly pride in caste status survives.”

    Right on, Prema! Finally someone has pointed out the backward status of the Jatt caste. Personally I don’t understand why they are considered a “forward caste” in every state of India save Rajastan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forward_Castes), making them ineligible for the Indian Government’s reservation benefits.

  10. Runa,

    What’s happened is that marriage has been reduced to a meaningless ritual to appease certain family members so that they don’t cut you off. Morevoer, the notion of marriage has been glamourised so much that an expensive wedding has become more important than a loving marriage. People want to get decked, invite powerful people, cut business deals etc on the pretext of marriage.

    This will come crashing down. Give it a couple of more generations. Eventually, theory wins.

    M. Nam

  11. What’s happened is that marriage has been reduced to a meaningless ritual to appease certain family members so that they don’t cut you off.

    I have to disagree on the “meaningless ritual” issue. Marriage continues to hold a much higher place in the social mores of all than other relationships do. It remains an aspirational goal for most people. Even in cultures where social sanction isn’t necessary to commence a sexual relationship, people still get married. It’s not an even a statistical outlier, it remains the norm in relationships.

    I think this is because marriage allows individuals to make a public affirmation of their relationship. X wants to be with Y, and they both want the whole world to know about it. This is neither meaningless nor insignificant.

  12. Interesting that low caste Jatt converts to Sikhism, which rejects casteism, still cling to this pernicious divisive apartheid so tenaciously. As long as there is someone lower in the hierarchy (chamars are lower than jatt sudras in the original hindu punjabi system) this silly pride in caste status survives. Even after leaving hinduism. So strong is the power of social ranking in humans.

    Although I should probably leave this for a Jatt to respond to, but since I have Jatt friends I’ll tackle it… I think the above is a common misconception and doesn’t show any understanding of the situation on the ground. Although Jatts have traditionally been considered low caste by Brahmins and Khatris/Aroras, but that consciousness (of being considered ‘low’) never pervaded the mentality of the Jatts. As a community they have a lot of self-esteem and pride, and actually tend to look down on both Brahmins and Khatris/Aroras. Furthermore, despite whatever supposed rank they may have held within the Hindu caste system of the medieval era, the modern reality (which has been true for a long time now) is that they are the socially and numerically dominant group within Sikhs. They are also the main landowners in a rural culture where ownership of land confers immense status, and being a shopkeeper or a pandit who performs rituals (or providing any kind of service for payment) is looked down upon. In all likelihood, the only reason they were considered low caste in the first place, is because they are largely descended from Scythians and other Iranian-type invader migrants, and as they became hinduised culturally, they had to be placed somewhere in the existing caste structure, and obviously the Brahmins were not about to make them high caste…especially since Jatts traditionally never really obeyed Brahmins or held them in regard. It’s true that a lot of brahministic ritual and cultural influences did creep in over the course of centuries, as it did for society as a whole…which is one of the things the Sikh Gurus (who were non-Jatt) were against.

  13. What’s happened is that marriage has been reduced to a meaningless ritual to appease certain family members so that they don’t cut you off.

    I’m witchu on this.

    I think this is because marriage allows individuals to make a public affirmation of their relationship. X wants to be with Y, and they both want the whole world to know about it.

    But historically speaking, especially in western traditions, the affirmation is made not so much for “X wants to be with Y” rather “Z,Q, and R better stay away from Y, and vice versa” The commandment says, “Thou shalt not covet another man’s wife”, not “Thou shalt not covet another man’s long term girlfriend that he’s been living with for 5 years even though she always complains about too many dishes in the sink.”

    To me, marriage = guilt escaping. Most people, in particular in the Indian context feel they “owe” it to someone to get married, whoever that may be. And its usually not one’s self.

  14. Even in cultures where social sanction isn’t necessary to commence a sexual relationship, people still get married…marriage allows individuals to make a public affirmation of their relationship. X wants to be with Y, and they both want the whole world to know about it.

    Have you seen how dogs go to sleep? They walk round and round(on the carpet/marble floor etc) many times over and flop down in the middle to sleep. This is a hangover from their non-domesticated jungle days for millions of years where they had to pad down the forest floor to kill bugs/level the grass to get a good night’s sleep. This is not necessary on the living room carpet, but they continue the meaningless ritual.

    People had weddings throughout civilisation because of their strong sense of community belonging. When the marriage was in trouble, they needed help from their family(that has been outsourced to shrinks today). When they needed money they had to go to relatives (which has been outsourced to banks/Government today). When they were sick they needed people(which has been outsourced to Medicare/Medicaid). Yet, they continue the meaningless ritual of inviting people who will play no further role in their marriage apart from burping loudly after dessert.

    Human beings are not dogs – they are many times smarter. They won’t carry out these rituals for millions of years. The idea of marriage has changed only in the last 60-70 years throughout the world with the advent of pre-martital sex. As I said earlier, give it another couple of generations.

    By no means am I putting down the institution of marriage. I think it’s the bedrock of society. I’m just saying that the institution is dying due to government intrusion into personal lives (see my link earlier on). People are mindlessly going around the fire/exhanging rings so that they can see the videos and tell their friends that so-and-so came to their wedding. They will come to their senses soon.

    M. Nam

  15. Amitabh Kindly give a single proof of any thing you have mentioned regarding jatt and please no link to Jattworld Jattwarior and sikhnet give a real scholarly example b/c this seems like BLA BLA coming without any evidence something those sites are known to do. How are Jatts Iranian Scythians descendents? (yest my dear sir i am aware of 3 books by Englishmen who made these claims on skull measurements phrenology but give at least a Spencer Wells type arguements showing dna) How are (or ever were) Jatts Low Caste? ( at present all jatts seem to treat non Chudhas chamars mazhabis pretty lowly and violently at times, and pay brahmins handsomely )

  16. Ennis, Camille:

    Thank you for the clarification regarding the Sikh gurus stance on caste. I was under the impression that they were against discrimination – one could dine together, e.g., and still see no problem with endogamy, or maintain that people were spiritually equal and still have no problem with endogamy – but you sugest that they challenged caste altogether, the entire order, which is quite remarkable.

  17. Although Jatts have traditionally been considered low caste by Brahmins

    Thats the bottom line. The caste system is brahminical in origin. If brahmins assigned Jatts to the low Sudra caste, then thats their caste. Period.

    despite whatever supposed rank they may have held within the Hindu caste system of the medieval era, the modern reality (which has been true for a long time now) is that they are the socially and numerically dominant group within Sikhs.

    Its irrelevant what the modern reality is. Casteism isnt a modern system. Dominant Sudras are still Sudras based on the ancient varna system. Dalits have become presidents, scientists, businessmen, soldiers etc but that has not changed their outcaste status. Thats the reality of this idiotic system.

    In all likelihood, the only reason they were considered low caste in the first place, is because they are largely descended from Scythians

    Nonsense. Caste has nothing to do with race. As the fact of Jatts being assigned the lowest caste while the Rajputs who also “supposedly” had similar origins being assigned the second highest caste, proves. In any case its delusional to think that Jatts are “largely” descended from non-Indians. DNA studies and simple observation of a Jatt gathering should dispel such wishful thinking. Punjabis are much closer genetically to the rest of Indians than to west asians.

    Jatts traditionally never really obeyed Brahmins or held them in regard.

    Thats silly and irrational. Jatts were once all hindus, so they of course held brahmins in high esteem before most of them converted to Islam or Sikhism.

  18. The fucking bane of Indians — caste. Makes me want to puke sometimes. Somehow it seems even sadder that some Sikhs cling to it because at least the gurus had the moral foresight and courage to condemn it systematically hundreds of years ago, making it a relatively progressive religion and social movement.

    I remember being amazed at how caste figured in The God of Small Things amongst Syrian Christians too.

    Ah to hell with it, I just watched Amitabh Bhachan in an Indian version of Lolita, if it wasnt for the cute actress playing his 18 year old paramour that would be almost as detrimental as the caste system. Indian cinema still sucks.

  19. Whatever MoorNam. Either way, lame, half hearted, slightly creepy attempts to film Nabokov novels by Bollywood should be eradicated as an abomination.

  20. I am fine with the institution of assisted marriage Heh. sounds like “assisted suicide”

    Haha. And what would be the opposite of assisted marriages? Hindered marriages? Not far off the point, really.

  21. Somehow it seems even sadder that some Sikhs cling to it because at least the gurus had the moral foresight and courage to condemn it systematically hundreds of years ago, making it a relatively progressive religion and social movement.

    I couldn’t agree more…yet even gurdwaras are segregated by caste. In Sacramento, in the Rio Linda area there is a Dalit gurdwara, and I’m sure this is the case elsewhere too. Those Jatts who truly think they’re better than non-Jatt Punjabis and impose such caste-based separation are the equivalent of white supremacists.

  22. Thats the bottom line. The caste system is brahminical in origin. If brahmins assigned Jatts to the low Sudra caste, then thats their caste. Period.

    It doesn’t matter what the brahmins ‘assign’ you as if you don’t accept it. If I decide my next-door neighbour is lower caste than I am, he as a Korean-American will laugh it off and think I’m crazy…without ever for a moment accepting that he is lower…even though I might persist for the rest of my life in my belief that indeed he is. It sounds like you have an axe to grind with Jatts. Since I have no particular interest in defending them beyond a certain point (they can certainly speak very well for themselves), nor in knocking them down, and certainly no interest in making them the next big topic here, I’m going to bow out now. But I think you’re trying to force a discordant reality to fit in to your viewpoint, regardless of whether it’s a good fit or not. Now, there are certainly other castes (baniyas are a good example) who accepted that Brahmins and Rajputs were higher than them, while in turn considering themselves higher than other castes like chamaars. THAT’S the caste system and mentality in full effect.

  23. As the fact of Jatts being assigned the lowest caste while the Rajputs who also “supposedly” had similar origins being assigned the second highest caste, proves.

    OK, one last comment, regarding the above…Rajputs were assigned a high status because they filled a (perceived) needed role for one thing, but also because they completely capitulated to the system.

    I will really try not to comment further on this stuff, at least on this thread.

  24. Prema, speaking directly to the more modern history of Jatts (i.e. the last 600-700 years), Amitabh is right on. The whole Scythian/Iranian thing, eh, I’m not so sold. But, regarding their role in the Sikh community, their appreciation for land-owning, and their appreciation for people who “work hard with their hands,” is, in my opinion, a really accurate description.

    And, with respect to whether or not they respected Brahmins, the answer is no. Why? Because many Jatts have a strong appreciation for people who work, and the historic anecdotes I’ve been told say that many Brahmins relied on alms and the support of members of the community to survive. I’m not saying this derision is justified, again, just providing context.

    Also, I have no evidence for this whatsoever, but what I was told anecdotally by relatives is that one of the reasons Jatts are so “low caste” is because they didn’t fully buy into the caste system to begin with when they moved into the Indus River Valley. In retaliation for not conforming to the prevalent social order, they were assigned a low caste rank. As a result, you have a community that was already very clan based and close that becomes even more tight knit, but this time with a strong identification as a Jatt, not as a Sudra. This also helps to explain some of the caste-vs-caste violence, because for many Jatts it’s not about your caste, it’s about your clan. I know this may be splitting hairs, and I don’t think it’s justified or ok, but I do think it’s important to realize that not everything breaks down into the standard conceptualization of the caste system.

    Ennis, Camille: Thank you for the clarification regarding the Sikh gurus stance on caste. I was under the impression that they were against discrimination – one could dine together, e.g., and still see no problem with endogamy, or maintain that people were spiritually equal and still have no problem with endogamy – but you sugest that they challenged caste altogether, the entire order, which is quite remarkable.

    Thanks risible, I think so too :) They did challenge the caste system altogether as an inherently unjust system. Like I said, this does not mean that Sikhs or Punjabi Sikhs do not have their own issues (whether it is classism, sexism, racism, etc.), but at least the principles and teachings of Sikhi itself reject all of these attitudes and systems of inequality.

  25. Just a word on what ‘Iranian’ means in this context. It doesn’t simply refer to the Persians of Iran. It’s a broader term for various peoples, current and historic, speaking various languages in the Iranian language family. By that definition, Pashtuns are an Iranian people, as are Kurds, as are the Baloch. As, of course, are the Persians. There is a lot of phenotypic variation between these groups as well as within these groups, they do not all look exactly the same. Scythians, now extinct, are also believed to have been speakers of a language in the Iranian language family, and therefore an Iranian people. It is very likely they looked somewhat different from the Persians of today. I don’t think ANY group in India is pure Scythian by any means, but I think it’s likely that some groups have some amount of Scythian blood (mixed, of course, with other strands, including indigenous desi).

  26. Rajputs were assigned a high status because they filled a (perceived) needed role for one thing, but also because they completely capitulated to the system.

    So did the Jatt hindus. Jatts were low caste hindus before they became Sikhs, muslims or Arya Samajists. The jatts who have remained hindus, such as the ones in Haryana are considered Sudras and treated as such by the upper castes. Indian courts have also recognized them as low caste sudras and eligible for reservations. Most Jatts converted to Sikhism to escape their low caste status in hinduism. Note that while all the 10 sikh gurus were khatris, most khatris have remained hindus. Why? Because unlike Jatts they had a high status in hinduism.

    It doesn’t matter what the brahmins ‘assign’ you as if you don’t accept it. If I decide my next-door neighbour is lower caste than I am, he as a Korean-American will laugh it off and think I’m crazy…without ever for a moment accepting that he is lower..

    You should be embarrassed for making such a silly argument. You can consider a korean whatever the hell you want it will not apply to him because he does not subscribe to your ideology. Jatts being hindus subscribed to the brahminical caste system by definition (before Sikhism, Arya Samaj etc). If brahmins considered them low caste sudras, thats what they were, as long as they were hindus. Sikhism does not assign caste. The caste-conscious Jatt sikhs need to face the fact that if they have any caste at all it is the sudra caste carrying over from the time when their ancestors were hindus. They can then feel superior to the Chamars, which is probably why this idiocy continues among so many of them despite the fact that Sikhism rejects casteism.

  27. Prema, speaking directly to the more modern history of Jatts (i.e. the last 600-700 years), Amitabh is right on.

    Casteism didnt originate in modern times, in the last 600-700 years, in case you and Amitabh didnt know that. What was the caste of the Jatts when they were/are hindus? Thats the point. Most Jatts converted to Sikhism or Islam many centuries ago. Neither sikhism nor islam assigns caste to its followers. So if muslim or sikh jatts want to boast about their caste they should be reminded of their lowly origins. That they are dominant in their villages now doesnt change the fact that they were sudras when they were hindus. As the hindu jatts of Haryana still are.

    I was told anecdotally by relatives is that one of the reasons Jatts are so “low caste” is because they didn’t fully buy into the caste system to begin with when they moved into the Indus River Valley.

    This is really the height of naivety. Dont fall for such absurd anecdotes which are inspired by shame of lowly origins. If they were hindus which they were, they bought into the caste system. The fact that they are still ashamed of the caste status of their ancestors tells us that the influence of hinduism remains with them even after conversion to sikhism. You dont see such shame among the descendants of european serfs and such desperate attempts to rewrite history. Shame is on those who created this system and who perpetuate it. Seems like many sikhs continue to be part of the problem even though the sikh gurus were part of the solution.

  28. OK, at this point I’m continuing this NOT because I want to defend Jatts, but because I want to counter Prema’s ridiculous arguments.

    The jatts who have remained hindus, such as the ones in Haryana are considered Sudras and treated as such by the upper castes.

    BULLSHIT. Jats in Haryana are the socially and economically dominant group…combined with a rather aggressive temperament, so NO ONE treats them like ‘sudras’. The days of treating brahmins like royalty are long over anyway even in other parts of India. Who else would you like to define as ‘upper caste’ who treats Jats poorly? Baniyas? That’s a joke. Rajputs? The Rajput presence in Haryana is miniscule. You just have an ideology to defend at any cost despite all the evidence against it, and you have some sort of an axe to grind.

    You should be embarrassed for making such a silly argument. You can consider a korean whatever the hell you want it will not apply to him because he does not subscribe to your ideology.

    That’s exactly my point…that Jatts did not subscribe to the ideology you describe. And you can’t simply say that ‘since they were Hindus they AUTOMATICALLY must have subscribed wholeheartedly to the caste system’. Some nuance, please. Jatts as Hindus were not the same as Tamil Brahmins as Hindus. Entirely different society, culture, and power dynamics. Hindus are not all the same throughout India. You’re approaching this whole thing ass backwards…first you come up with an ideology (that all Hindus by definition did X) and then you try to force that ideology on actual real living breathing human beings who show several orders of magnitude more complexity than your simple equation, and it falls completely on its face.

    The fact that they are still ashamed of the caste status of their ancestors

    You don’t actually KNOW any Jatts, do you.

    Anyway, I have seen discussions like this really get out of control on other forums in the past, so maybe it’s time to consider closing this thread (please let Prema have the last word of course).

  29. I’m with Amitabh on this one and really don’t have much more to say. Additionally, I am not naive in providing a family anecdote. I offered the story I was told to provide a sense of the narrative that many Jatts tell their own families. Is it shame over having a low caste? That’s not how it’s been told to me, although I could see that logical extension (why argue against your low caste status if caste doesn’t matter?). Rather, it has been an explanation for fierce clan-identification. I’m not saying casteism didn’t exist, and the anecdotes was not a comment on Jatts after their conversion to Islam/Sikhi and whatnot. I think the critiques brought up of Jatts are important to bring to light, but that said, I also think using an ancient historical index to measure behavior today is not entirely helpful, and furthermore, I don’t think it’s right to label an entire group based on your outside interpretation of a community. However, given that you’re dead set on painting the entire community as a group of casteist crazies, I don’t see the point of continuing this discussion.

  30. I don’t see the point of continuing this discussion.

    Neither do we, especially since we are long past discussing things which are on-topic. Thanks, all and fare-thee-well.