Sunday, September 17, 2006

meeting people is not easy/ caste no bar/ growing up Indian

Radiohead was wrong. Meeting people is not easy.

Being Indian can be hard, especially if you're growing up in America. You sorta feel burdened with maintaining expectations that the rest of your family doesn't have to worry about because by virtue of not living in India you have to preserve your culture in every way possible. This manifests itself strongest when it comes to meeting people...and no I'm not just talking about dating here.

As a kid growing you start understanding that contary to popular belief by non-Indians, the concept of arranged marriage is really antiqueted and invariably what you're really going to be brought through is a system of arranged meetings. Now I personally have no problem with this because frankly any help that I can get in meeting people is only a plus.

Having a job means that basically I have no means of meeting someone from Monday through Friday. Also, by virture of being me, I usually am a loner on one day of the weekend (Sunday) and Fridays nights are usually reserved for dinners and a movie or something. So basically it boils down to me having about 12 hours, from Saturday afternoon to Saturday night. Every hour that I decide to stay at home instead of going out cuts into my weekly meeting-people-time by 8.3%.

Thus help is good, in theory.

The problem that I'm realizing is that in practice the whole thing can seem rather suffocating...and I'm just a guy, it's definitely worse for girls. Getting told by your parents that somebody else's parents want to see you is a bit odd. To be fair the whole thing must be odd on my parents too. The odder thing is actually speaking to people. It's like trying to ask someone what the weather is like in the middle of a thunderstorm. While you're supposed to go through pleasantries to get to know the person, everyone is painfully aware of the serious backdrop under which this conversation is taking place to begin with. The goal isn't to just make friends.

While sorting shit out with someone is stressful, to say the least, I think the tipping point is having your parents ask "so how is it going? do you like the person? what did you talk about?" The endless questions are enough to make you wanna lash out or vomit. Whichever comes first. It's like I never asked to be put in this situation and now I have to deal with the pressure of providing play-by-play. If you're a bit of an introvert about your personal life to begin with, it's a little hard to say the least.

Having said that, allow me to back up. Being Indian means that you have been conditioned to grow up in a world of contradictions.

On one hand you're always told by your parents to branch out and being active, yet on the otherhand you're scolded for not spending enough time with your family. On one hand your parents brag up about our rich musical & artistic culture, and yet on the otherhand most kids are pressured to dismiss left-brained aspirations and pursue the academic. On one hand our parents will talk about how American families are not as strong and close as Indian ones, and yet on the other hand I've seen more than my share of jacked up Indian families.

I mention this digression for a reason. If I were to date an Indian person and bring them home, I think my parents would be happy enough that they were Indian and the rest of their approval or disapproval would mainly fall on their personal merits. But in the arranged meeting system, I feel like candidates are screened based on what part of Indian they're from (North? East?), if their family seems good, horoscopes, etc etc etc. But why should a person have to meet a completely different set of criteria solely because of where they were found? All of this is very nauseating because while it is entirely probably that their filtration system and mine may yield the same final person, I simply don't have the same order of priority as they do. It's almost as if the arranged meeting system fails to consider the most important question first: is the person a nice person? If they are, then you can move on and answer the rest of the questions.

As such when I get intros from my folks about people and I hear their analysis ("They're from a state far away from ours in India...those people are not fun....and these people are cheats") I find myself awkwardly in the position of defending people I don't even know from random stereotypes. The whole thing is a bit confusing especially when you have arguments with your parents about strangers you're not even interested in. I don't really see what the big deal is in getting excited over these things if you discover you don't really wanna be with the person anyways? Can't all the parents just give some breathing space? It would be easiest to just shut up and not be vocal about asserting the freedom of my own volition in the whole process. Or put more bluntly, you gotta pick your battles with the 'Rents. But that's not the point I think. If you aren't vocal about it at each and every turn you're just delaying a bigger blowup later on.

At the end of the day no person is going to be pressured upon me. But at some point amidst the growing pressure of going through all this bakwas I find myself thinking things I haven't really thought since high school. I wish I could just be like all the other kids. If you're a kid growing up in India, you encounter a prospective candidate pool from the moment you leave your front door in the morning until the moment you fall asleep. You don't have to really work at meeting people. If you're like me, growing up here, virtually 99% of the people you meet would not be acceptable. Also let me remind you, I know this is hard to believe, but it wasn't exactly cool to be an Indian kid either.

Some people read my writings and are left thinking "here he goes again, bashing the idea of being Indian, what a bakri chod." But I'm not bashing (or a bakri chod), I couldn't be prouder. It's the fact that you're willing to carry the extra burden of living up to expectations which should prove it. I don't have the luxury of simply waking up in the morning to be Indian, as people in the motherland have, by virtue of living here I have to be proactive in being Indian.

That shit is hard.


dazed and confused said...

Looks like both of us are in the same phase (I hope it is that). Check out the latest post on my blog.

random bored person in the UK who found you on google said...

much much much worse for girls!! and it starts at a relatively earlier age too. But, if you are easily bored like I am, and need to find sources of entertainment...these meetings can be fun!
Try debating pro communism during one of these meetings...oh the joy! (though you should probably don the riot gear to deal with the parental aftermath).

Shakes said...

will you marry me?

Random bored person in the UK who googled you again said...

depends....are you from a state of cheaters? or from the not-fun state?

oh and how could you forget to mention the marriage bazaar that is someone else's wedding.

Ohhh you know you are being 'watched' everytime you attend a cousin's wedding. (but yes, also the best place to frighten an auntijee by constantly promoting judaism)