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Caste can't do you part

An intercaste marriage is a myriad of sweet and sour adjustments. Unlike same caste weddings, the differences begin to show up even before the wedding ceremony takes place.

An intercaste marriage raises more than just quizzical eyebrows. Weddings being all about tradition, customs and rituals, the differences are many. By and large these are marriages of choice or what we generally call love marriages where the girl and the boy make the initial decision to come together in a martial alliance. There may be resistance from the parents, making an intercaste alliance into a more complicated "arrangement" than even the arranged ones. But then, customs or traditions are seldom the reasons which can break up relationships. The differences can be easy to handle if you mark out some basic rules for yourself. Especially the bride who may find it unnerving to be amongst people who speak a different language, dress differently, have distinctly different eating habits and follow a different set of customs than what she has been used to in her growing years. Naturally it requires a certain mental steeling of sorts.

VISIT YOUR WOULD-BE'S FAMILY OFTEN BEFORE MARRIAGE

One of the best ways to save yourself from a culture shock is to familiarise yourself with your husband's family. If you know, for instance, that your mom-in-law follows and believes in certain religious or traditional customs, you will find it easier to handle the stark difference when you are in her house. During your visits, take pains and ask questions on how they celebrate different festivals or observe fasts etc. You will find, that there are similar reasons and beliefs at the core of varying customs. It is just the exterior difference. Often, different castes worship different deities, but if you care to understand the philosophy behind the worship, you will soon feel comfortable. It won't be very different from what your mother told you.

HUSBAND-TONGUE

It is quite intimidating to wake up one fine morning after the most significant day in your life to find yourself amongst groups of relatives and guests speaking a tongue that you don't understand. Of course, if your in-laws are sensitive, they won't expect you to pick up a pen and notebook and start tutoring yourself on a new language. If you know their language and can speak snatches of it, great, but if you don't, its still okay. Just be polite and request everyone to speak in a common language when you are all together. Tell your husband how awkward you feel when you don't understand a word of anything that is spoken in the house. Don't let the language become a barrier. It is often not that way, because most Indian languages can be followed to some extent. You will also learn by hearing it being spoken. Meanwhile you take the initiate to use a common language in the family. Don't get tongue-tied.

THE WAY YOU DRESS

It would make a huge difference to your habits if you got married into a caste or a religion that has very conservative dress habits, but otherwise, in India, clothes are the last thing to be worried about. Yes, you may have to adjust a little bit on special days or on festival or weddings, but by and large you can stick to what you wear, unless you wear jeans and shirts everyday. Even that would be fine given the outlook of a particular family, but like everything else, if they please you and are okay with what you wear, then go out of your way, once in a while, to please them. Wear a pretty sari or their traditional dress on a special festival and they will be assured that you are not stubborn. In fact, you may find it very interesting to wear jewellery and clothes that are different from your own customs. Believe in change.

PALATE PEEVES

Okay, so you want your dahi parantha every morning at breakfast, whereas your in-laws make only idlis and dosas!! Yeah, surprisingly food habits are reported to be a real trying test in an intercaste marriage. Years of habit and liking rarely change. Idli-dosas may be savoury to your palate for a while, but you will soon start yearning for "your kind of food". Also, some girls say that the different aroma in an unfamiliar kitchen can sometimes put them off. The pickles are different, so are the homemade namkeens. Besides everything smells so differently! New aromas can be strangely alienating, making you homesick for your mom's kitchen. But hang on. Can't you cook your type of meal off and on? Surely you could, unless your in-laws are deliberately hostile. You could introduce some of your favourite recipes now and then. Don't deprive yourself of the food you love. Find a way around it.

LAUGH TOGETHER, LIVE TOGETHER

Humour has no language, no olfactory contradiction. You can laugh in a sari or in a pair of tightfitting trousers. You can laugh if you are married to a Tamilian or if you have decided to wed a Kashmiri Pandit. Loving and living together has a great deal to do with laughing together. Cultivate a sense of humour in life. It should be the most important homework you do before getting married into a family or caste which differs drastically from your own. You will discover a oneness, a sense of belonging when you find that human traits are the same, despite the difference in pickles, papads or the idol of the deity worshipped.