• kewal sethi

finding a bride/ groom

finding a bride/ groom

this is a study of village sundrana in central gujarat mainly populated by patidars. the study was conducted in 2013 by alice tilche. i am limiting my writeup to marriage problems of the villagers.

manish patel has university education and tried to emigrate overseas but did not succeed. he was supervising the cultivation of his family’s land. he is 27, riding around on his motorbike, playing with his smart phone, and hanging around with friends. he has struggled to get married a=but has not been able to get a bride. his complaint is that girls have become too cool and do not want to marry farmers.

this is because the craze is to emigrate. migration has become a requirement for being a patidar. manish has been looking for a bride for years. bride is first sought through network of kin and acquaintances. marriage ads are not used saying they are for the city people. after a suitable girl is found, there is a meeting of the boy and the girl who take a final decision. he met a girl who was willing to marry him but he thought she was too dark, fat and ugly. the other families asked about his emigration plans and finding he had none, lost interest. once his friend told the perspective family that he was planning to emigrate to cananda and waiting for visa. after a while the family asked about the progress and as there was none, promptly broke off the talks.

the shortage of girls may be due to infanticide ad preference for boys. dowry may be a plausible reason for that. but it is also that the girls have also become crazy about emigration. the situation has become so tight that families are now prepared to pay bride’s price rather than ask for dowry. they are also ready to marry widows and divorcee. marriage with girls from lower ranked castes is also in vogue. sometimes they married an adivasi girl but it was kept as a secret till she learns proper gujarati and is trained to act like a patidar girl. such marriages are arranged through brokers. while some adivasis girls do manage to transform into new role but the pressure is too much and sometimes, they run away.

if finding a bride is difficult, finding a suitable groom also is not easy. usually the girls are the first in the family to get higher education and outperform the boys. with the craze for emigration, they look for a groom who could get away from the village life. one non resident indian, a student in australia, while on visit to india got twenty five proposals during three weeks visit. but the demand for dowry increases with the qualifications of the emigrant. of course, the parents are willing to pay a large dowry in such instances.

but there is no dearth of cheats in this game. sangeeta looked forward to a life of luxury away from india as the prospective groom had twenty bighas of land, four cinema parlours and business, all in uganda. once married she found out that there was no land, no parlour, no business and found that going abroad is no good at all. after much effort she got a divorce after two years. she is now looking for a job outside the village to start a new life away from the village. the family is still looking for a suitable match but still no farmer. and divorce does make a difference in looking for a match.

(based on india’s villages in the 21st century – revisits and revisions ed - jodhka; simpson. publishers oxford university press 2019)

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