Challenges Facing the Indian Marriage


Meena is the only daughter of wealthy parents who emigrated to the United States just before she was born.  Meena literally grew up with a silver spoon in her mouth and received anything and everything her heart desired.  She loved her parents dearly, but felt suffocated by their intense need to control her life.  She studied hard, attended an ivy league university and later attended graduate school.  Her parents often wondered when she would fit marriage into her busy life and career.  They introduced Meena to eligible successful bachelors every chance they got. Meena was not interested however, and instead met a wonderful man at work whose qualities of patience, focus, generosity, and humor enchanted her.  After several months of dating, she felt certain he was "Mr. Right."  The only challenge was telling her parents, as Mr. Right, was not a young Indian doctor or entrepreneur as her parents had hoped.  He was an African American researcher with a young child from a previous marriage.  Meena broke the news of her love for "Mr. Right" to her parents over dinner one evening and they were heart broken.  They had dreamed of a large and beautiful Indian wedding with all their friends and family members in attendance.  They did not understand why Meena would not want to marry an Indian and why she would want to take on the responsibility of a step-child. They did not speak to Meena for several weeks and ultimately did not even attend her wedding to Mr. Right.  Meena and "Mr. Right" live happily and they are expecting their first baby. Meena's life is perfect, except for the loss of her relationship with her parents and her sense of estrangement from the Indian community.  Meena wishes she did not have to choose between her parents and her new husband.


Asha and Ajay seemed to have the ideal marriage. Asha was from a well known and wealthy family in India. Ajay was from a middle-class family, but well educated with a job in the U.S. Asha's parents agreed it would be a good match as Asha would have the opportunity to live in America. Asha was a beautiful and loving housewife who took care of her husband and their young son with great affection. Ajay was a hard working engineer who loved his family dearly. Ajay enjoyed a freshly prepared meal for dinner each evening and expected Asha to keep an immaculate house, and spend time with him every evening when he came home from work. Asha did not mind catering to her husband's needs, but occasionally she wanted a break from caring for the house, her son, and her husband's demanding physical expectations. Over time, as stress at work increased, Ajay became angry and violent when Asha did not meet his needs or refused his advances. He would leave the house, drink heavily, and return early in the morning. When their son was old enough to begin school, Asha started working part-time to help pay for rising costs. There she met a thoughtful and caring man Sam. She began sharing her frustrations with Sam and he provided her with much needed emotional support. One night, after a particularly difficult altercation with Ajay, Asha left the house and went to Sam's apartment. Sam agreed that Asha could live with him.  Asha experienced a sense of freedom and happiness for the first time in her life. After much deliberation, Asha filed for divorce from Ajay. Distraught, Ajay tried for months to convince Asha to return to him.  She refused to return to Ajay, accepting the reality that she would likely be looked down upon in the Indian community and her family would likewise experience shame in India. Ajay has since remarried and Asha lives independently with her son.  


Dev married a young woman Maya selected by his parents. He received a scholarship to study in America and eagerly leapt at the chance to have a good life abroad.  He decided to leave his wife in India with her parents until he had settled down and then he would sponsor her.  After a year, Dev brought Maya to join him in the U.S. Maya was very upset at the thought of leaving her family and close friends.  She did not have a chance to get to know Dev well before he left for the U.S. He was still very much a stranger to her. She had heard about life in American and was unsure if she would be able to adapt to the food and western culture. As she feared, she did not like the weather in the winter months and found it difficult to adjust to her new life as she could not drive or speak English well.  She refused to attend parties or social gatherings with Dev as she was embarrassed by her lack of a college education.  Dev tried desperately to get Maya more engaged in the community and to help her make friends. The more Dev tried, the more reclusive and depressed Maya became. Maya's parents came to the U.S. to check on their daughter.  They worried about her weight loss and extreme unhappiness. They blamed Dev for Maya's distress and informed him that they would take Maya back home to India. Dev was certain that there would no chance for his marriage to succeed if her parents took her back to India. He wanted to make his marriage work and felt frustrated by his in-laws interference. He begged Maya to reconsider leaving him and promised to help her feel more at home in the U.S. Maya ultimately left Dev and moved in with her parents in India. She has gone back to college. Dev completed his education and has a job with a Fortune 100 company. He lives alone. Neither Dev nor Maya has filed for divorce yet.