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Mixed Marriages or Mixed-up Marriages?

"Iyer boy Srivatsam Revathi Brahacharanam seeks fair, homely, cultured bride of same caste…" reads a classified in the matrimonial section of a newspaper. But why the same caste?  Should it matter? One look at the way the matrimonial section is classified - separate sections for Gujaratis, Bengalis, and Maharashtrians - and it is clear that it does matter. Even in a country like India with its different religions, communities, castes and subcastes, mixed marriages still raise a few eyebrows.

Marriage of religions, not people

People say they are not that rigid, but when it comes to religion, take it with a pinch of salt. Take Mrs. Khanna for instance. Her son married a Muslim girl. She says, "Like all parents I would have preferred my son to marry a girl from our community. But once I met Saira, I had no objection to the marriage because my daughter-in-law is a wonderful person. My only condition is that my grandchildren be brought up in the Hindu faith." 

These objections on religious grounds seem to have no rationale behind them. If Mrs. Khanna's daughter-in-law is a wonderful person in spite of being a Muslim, then as long as Mrs. Khanna's grandchildren also grow up to be wonderful people, does it really matter if they are Hindu or not? But then, religion and rationality rarely go hand in hand. 

Couples adjust, families don't

Most members of the older generation find it hard to rise above the religious differences. When Sarah heard her niece was going to marry a Hindu boy, she expressed her displeasure in no uncertain terms. "No one in our family has ever married outside the community. Hindus are idol-worshippers and we Syrian Christians believe that idol worshippers are sinners." 

Advocates of the arranged marriage system feel that by matching a couple's religion, caste, creed and horoscope, one is merely stacking the odds in favour of marital adjustment. Meera Sehgal is a firm believer in the system of arranged marriages. She says, "Adjusting to living with your husband is difficult enough. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to try and fit into a whole new culture if you marry out of community."

However, with the right attitude it is obvious that people do manage to maintain a balance. Sonea Vasunia, is a Punjabi married into a Parsi family. She feels that her children should be exposed to both the faiths. She says, "My children will be raised as Parsis, but my in-laws have no objections if I take them to the temple once in a while. As a matter of fact, both my children can recite the Gayatri Mantra as well as the Parsi prayers. They know that some prayers are Mummy's and some Daddy's. There is no confusion at all." 

Identity crisis for Kids?

Religion is more than just a belief in God. For some people, religion often dictates the way one lives one's life, the customs one follows, one's acceptance into the community. 

Sweta Keswani is the daughter of a Christian mother and a Sindhi father. In her opinion, religion gives you a sense of identity.  She says, "My parents are not religious at all so they never taught us any prayers or told us anything about their respective faiths. As a matter of fact, the closest I've come to being religious is attending a convent school. But as a result I feel lost and isolated sometimes. It would be nice to have something to believe in and to participate in family customs and celebrations. I've decided that when I have a family, I will see to it that my children follow some faith so that they have some a of belonging."

There is no guarantee that marrying the person of the same caste, community and religion is the key to marital bliss. It is how a couple deals with the ups and downs of marriage that determines whether the marriage will be a success, not whether they were raised with the same religious customs and beliefs.  And it is often those marriages that society summarily dismisses as "that marriage won't last for more than a day" that go on to witness many, many years of marital harmony.

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