This year Valentine’s Day coincided with Maha Shivratri. Asian women are often encouraged to worship Shiva, so that they have a husband like the Lord himself.
Valentine’s Day this year therefore bears extra significance. And many Indian restaurants are offering an all vegetarian menu to keep it simple for the girls who are fasting for the Puja as well as want to celebrate the V-day.
Talking about husbands and marriages, though love marriages are very common in today’s times, the Asian community predominantly believes in arranged alliances, when the families choose a groom or bride for their child who is attained a ‘marriageable’ age. The techniques of bringing alliances have changed, as internet takes precedence over word of mouth. The criteria for finding a groom or bride has also changed, but profession is one aspect that remains of high priority in most alliances.
Kamal, speaking to Asian Voice said, “Times are changing. But the issue remains that alliances get difficult as families insist on groom's profession that needs to be conventional. I know families that run chain corner shops or mini super markets. But no one wants to give their daughtes to a groom working in a shop.
“It is just not about the status. It is about the hard work involved. Looking after corner shops is a big task involving odd and long hours, and is very time consuming. Often girls don't want to marry into a lifestyle like that.
“Many boys' families have actually asked me if I could get them alliances from India. But that does not work either.”
The problems are manifold. Growing up in a society, where most British Indians are very ambitious, and high achievers, often a traditional business of looking after corner shops does not look lucrative for current generations or even the millenials. Growing up it was very common for us to hear our friends talking about helping parents with their 'shop work' on the weekends. But with time that has changed. Though children taking up their parents' shop business is reducing in number, it still remains a noble profession as anything else.
Last year during an interview with a young Patel boy who helps parents in their corner shop, the same issues were discussed. The 35 year old man, who is kind, humble and well spoken, the family has lost many good alliances because he works in the shop, though it is at a posh part of London suburb.
While this trend remains prevalent, exception proves the rule. Aditi Basu speaking to Asian Voice said, “I think it's a relative choice. I have seen both cases, where the the father refused to give away the daughter to a man he though did not earn enough. And also a case where the daughter was married into a family where the groom was not so well to do but was thought to be an extremely good human being. Every choice has it's pros and cons.”
Hansa Gadhia said, “It does not matter as long as he is earning enough to support his wife and family and got a job that he can hold.”
Sonali Dulani Wattai added, “He needs to find a girl who can see him and accept for what he is. Arrange marriage could be tough but I believe there is hope.”
Smita D'souza said, “I met my husband in London, while we were both students, and he was bartender in a big British boutique hotel. My family thought that was unacceptavle, though my mother as open to it. Later he became a bar supervisor and during our wedding, he was a bar manager and now he is a hotel manager. You have to give the person a chance.”
The society seems to be undergoing changes, but in reality it remains tough for men with unconventional jobs. Mou Sircar told Asian Voice, “I met husband three four times before we tied the knot. Education and profession matters. Only hardly gets to know a person if she/he is a good human being, until one starts living with them. It ultimately depends on what the boy/girl/their parents are seeking- social status, stability or compatibility.”
Mohua Banerjee Ganguly, mother of a daughter herself said, “There are honest ways to earn money in different ways but that does not qualify him to be on my shortlist.”
Shalini Virdi also reiterated the same. She said, “There has to be a balance. Good family values and good education makes one decent. One also needs to be working on a decent profession and earn well for his family. Initially everything will be ok, but after marriage if one partner is above the other in profession, then slowly but surelu problems and ego starts to creep up.”
Meenal Upadhyay added, “Yes if I was looking for grooms for myself or even someone in family, would definitely look for someone in a professional job.”
In an utopian world, we may think forging relationships and alliances remain an easy task. What created our future in this country, the nation of shopkepers, it is ironical how that profession is no longer acceptable as something prestigious or credible. Though as time passes, we perhaps can see the rainbow against the horizon, a future with different possibilities.