BERKELEY, CA – Vijay Agrawal, 19, is tired of explaining what a love marriage is to everyone who assumes his parents had an arranged marriage. While no one bugged him about it in high school, non-desis at university start discussing the topic to pontificate about how terrible arranged marriage is.
“It was so much easier in high school when no one bugged me about it,” said Mr. Agrawal, a freshman at UC Berkeley. “Most of my classmates weren’t even aware that arranged marriages still exist. It was only brought up a couple of times during some late night bonding. Someone asked how my parents met, I explained, end of story. But college has been completely different. Here everyone seems to be aware of arranged marriage. They’ve already formed their opinions on it and want everyone to know.”
“It started innocuously,” continued Mr. Agrawal. “In the first couple of weeks we’d all be asking each other about where we were from, what we were studying, etc. But the moment I said I was Indian, and not of the Native American variety, someone would always perk up. Their eyes would narrow and they’d say something like Did your parents had an arranged marriage? And then I’d have to explain the difference between love marriage and arranged marriage, how my parents met, yada yada. They often looked disappointed when they learned my parents were a love match.”
“But man is it worse when it comes up in class. I’m taking Sociology 101 with, like, half the other freshman. I made the mistake of sitting up front the day we discussed marriage. I hadn’t done the homework so I was clueless about the topic for the day – but it seemed like I was the only one. When people started going off about how terrible and misogynist arranged marriage was, I had to speak up about how things were changing. I thought it would be a good thing for people to hear how my parents didn’t have an arranged marriage but no, it fell on deaf ears. It was all arranged marriage is bad bad bad. When class ended and I was walking out, a couple of people gave me suspicious looks like they didn’t believe me.”
“It’s been weird how frequently this happens – and it always seems to happen to me. None of my other desi friends have to deal with it as often as I do. And I have anti-arranged marriage stalkers now too. They hang out in the hall outside the Indian Students Association meetings waiting for me. I’ve started sneaking in and out through the window to avoid them.”