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KIRA SPUCYS-TAHAR and RAJNI ANAND LUTHRA try to understand what drives the contemporary Indian Australian young women
PART THREE – RELATIONSHIPS
Married ladies, how did you meet your significant other?
Neha: We met at uni in India.
Simmi: We went to uni together in Melbourne. We were friends but only started dating when we both moved to Sydney and started working in the same building. He’s from an investment banking background as well.
Before we got together, I had many thoughts about what the guy needed to be like. That they need to be a certain way. I was perhaps more attracted to the really confident guys, but I mistook that for arrogance. Although my husband was a bit shy, as I got to know him, I realised he was exactly what I wanted – ambitious but down to earth with a great sense of humour. So I guess you have to be open to people you meet and not be so judgemental. So I always encourage my friends girls and guys, to be open when they meet people. All the superficial stuff doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, you just want to be with someone that makes you happy.
Geeti: Amongst family and friends, your partner is the one who’s going to be with you for the majority of your life. You have your parents, but you have to leave them. Then you get you partner and have kids, but your kids are eventually going to leave you as well. So to find that best friend in your partner and a support system, someone who will support you in whatever you do, it’s so important. Everyone else moves on, but there is hopefully that one person you grow old with.
Naina: I actually met my fiancé at a christening. I knew his sister-in-law, and he asked me for my number on that day. He’s a nerd, that’s just the fact of the matter (laughs). I had no notion of what I wanted in a man, the only thing I had was faith that I would meet someone. I refused to believe that out of six billion people in the world, there was no one for me? Not possible. He’s wonderful. We don’t fight – whereas in the past I’d probably have a fight with someone or the other every day. He listens, says sorry… he can have one look at my face on Facetime and say ‘Are you okay, what happened?’ The only thing I probably don’t like is when he says ‘I want to take care of you’. It’s the male thing in him.
Simmi: My parents were always like, being female you should have equal opportunity, go out there, be independent, explore the world… And suddenly it all changed. You’re 25 or 26 and they’re like, get married, get married… and you think, what the hell is wrong with you? (Everyone laughs)
Yes! When you’re 16, it’s like, ‘Don’t talk to boys, don’t talk to boys…’ and then at 26, it’s like, ‘Where’s your husband?’
Would you live together before marriage? How would your family react?
Naina: We’re engaged and it was entirely my decision to move; it was between him and me. My parents were supportive. I know their first instinct was, though they never said it, that I’d get married first and then move. But, ultimately they want me to find out if we can live together and actually be together, because we’ve been in long distance from the beginning. If we weren’t engaged, they probably would not have been as cool with it… (laughs)
Simmi: In my situation, my parents are in Melbourne, his parents are in Brisbane and we were living in Sydney, in two different apartments. I had that discussion with my parents about moving in together before the wedding. It was sort of met with a ‘Hmm, let’s think about that’. I put it into financial terms though: ‘We’re giving away money each month for no reason and it doesn’t make financial sense’. They understood that.
Have you felt pressured to get married from your family or parents? Have they posted a matrimonial profile?
Sharika: My mum did that, absolutely. Shaadi, Bharat, you name it, I’ll be there. She knows how to download my picture from Facebook and put it on there. I’m like, where did you learn all this?!
Annie: I would hit the roof if my mum did that.
Geeti: Has your mum made you meet anybody yet, Sharika?
Geeti: And how many guys have you rejected so far?
Sharika: All of them! So many, I’ve lost track. There are so many that don’t even get to me that they cull out.
One story emerged of some parents being so swept up by the community pressure that they flew half way across the world to find their daughter a match.
Geeti: It’s not always parental pressure, it’s yourself. You want to have that big Bollywood wedding and for that you need a Bollywood guy! I’ve found that change though in myself. I want that less and less. I’ve always been fixated, I want a big, fat, Indian wedding but now I want something smaller.
Simmi: For me, during that pressure period, it was full on. And it was a shock to me because my parents were never about getting married during the first 25 years. They were all about career, being well educated, financially independent, do well in life and everything else will come. And then suddenly they just changed. I think it was more the society, the community that we have here. Many of the girls in our family and friends circle started to get engaged and they felt sorry for me. I think the community felt bad. My parents were okay but then that social pressure was driving them and influencing them. ‘Oh what about Sinmi, does she have anybody? No? Oh okay, we’ll keep a lookout’.
I was away from them, in Melbourne, so I wasn’t there to filter it and defend it. And it became this big thing where when I’d speak to them every week it would be, ‘When are you getting married? Have you found someone?’ and I would just go, it’s okay, someone will come along at the right time. And I still see this happening with family friends. Guys get some pressure too, but it’s not the same as girls and the age is later.
Naina: I find it so interesting that until you’re 25, they’re different people. Study, study, study, get your degree, don’t talk to boys, get a good job. You hit 25 and then they’re like… marriage!
Simmi: We have to remember, our parents are growing up with us, especially in Australia. I always say, your parents want what’s good for you, but they don’t always know what’s best for you. I think only you know that.
Would you try online dating or Tinder?
Shazya: I’ve tried Tinder, but it’s just a bit of fun, nothing serious.
Neha: There’s an Indian version now…
Annie: It’s called Dil Mil, or something like that.
Sharika: I’m not sure about the whole online thing. I’ve gone on the website, eharmony.com and I was just like, ‘oh’. I don’t know, it’s just not really for me.
Simmi: Is that because of social conditioning though? Because in all those Bollywood movies they’re running for the train.
Annie: It still seems very manufactured.
Simmi: A lot of my Australian friends don’t want to talk about meeting online, but in the US it’s much more accepted.
Naina: I’ve seen a few success stories of people who’ve met online.
What are your thoughts on horoscopes or kundli?
Neha: We did it, just for fun. I think a match of 18 (personality traits) is required and we just made 18! I just wanted to find out. My parents said ‘No, don’t do it, you’ll get confused’, but I just wanted to.
Annie: But there’s remedies if you don’t match…
Geeti: But your horoscope’s going to match with thousands of people, you can’t marry all of them…
Ananya: I think we’re more Indian here than people are back there. Because if you said this to some people there, they’d be like, ‘What’s wrong with you? What are you talking about?’
Would you consider sex before marriage?
(We’ve chosen to report this section anonymously)
*Yes! Try before you buy. (laughs) But I definitely don’t want to have this discussion with my parents.
*Yes. I’ve already told my mum about it. I share everything with her and I just had to tell her. She was actually fine about it; she just said as long as you don’t regret it, it’s up to you, and as long as you’re safe.
*No. It’s not necessarily the thing in Indian culture, but it’s a personal choice. I always do what I want to do. It’s something that I don’t want to consider before marriage. If I wanted to, I would have.
*It shouldn’t matter.
Would you live with your in-laws?
Neha: I don’t mind. They’re very nice people. I’m happy inviting them over to come and live with us, and when we go to India we spend 50% of the time with them and 50% of the time with my family. They’re very supportive of everything we do.
Annie: I wouldn’t mind. I think it depends on your personalities. I would be open to it. I just pray that I have a good rapport and relationship with my in-laws. In Australia, where people are more individualistic, I think it’s nice to see some women are still living with their in-laws.
Shazya: I don’t think I would. I’m so used to my own independence that just allowing another person into my space, that’s a big deal for me.
Geeti: I would really respect that relationship and the only way to keep that is to have a bit of distance. You don’t want your partner to have to choose between his mum and his wife.
What about sharing household chores?
Neha: Initially I was trying to be the perfect wife. I’d say, ‘You sit, I’ll take care of everything – I’ll handle work, uni and everything at home’. I was raising my own expectations and putting all that pressure on myself. Of course though, one year later I had to tell him, ‘I can’t do this, you need to help me.’ I had literally been watching tutorials on YouTube, making him breakfast, lunch, dinners, smoothies… doing uni at night, working. He would help me a bit, but I had no expectations from him. And because I’d been doing that from the start, he got used to me doing it all. Ultimately we settled on a 50/50 split and he now helps me out wherever possible.
Simmi: I feel Hollywood and Bollywood have a lot to do with our expectations – this notion that you have to be the perfect wife when you get married and do everything. But it actually has a negative effect because it means the women are not being themselves anymore which is what drew them together. You have to ask them, ‘what do you do for yourself?’ And it’s not as though their husband has said anything, it’s all a self-expectation. It should be 50/50 and you should be doing the chores you each like.
Geeti: I think I’ve taken a difference experience from that. My mum also does everything, but I want my partner to do the complete opposite to my dad, he should be doing more. I want a different experience.
Naina: I’ve told my partner, when we move and I don’t have a job initially, I’m happy to do everything, I’ll bake bread. But once I find a job, we have to share, it’s not going to be sustainable. He loves to cook, he cleans. I don’t want him to get used to me doing everything.
Read more about the women’s views on the future HERE
Read more about the women’s views on identity HERE
Read more about the women’s views on society HERE