Intercaste marriages are tough to pull off!
If you are in love with someone from a different caste or religion, you probably have a tough road ahead in convincing your parents to agree with your choice. Intercaste marriages are challenging for several reasons.
1. Indians don’t seem to like inter-caste marriages
Data collected by reliable surveys show that India’s preference for intercaste marriages is very low. According to the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), only about 5% of the 42,000 households they acknowledged intercaste marriages.
What’s more surprising is that there is not much of a difference between rural and urban populations in India when it comes to preference for intercaste marriages!
2. You can get married out of your caste and then get murdered!
Couples face immense family problems after intercaste marriages. It seems Indians don’t just register their dislike for inter-caste marriages only via surveys. Some of the regressive families take matters into their own hands and hand out a death penalty to the offending couples!
Honour killings, a sudden disappearance of the bride/bridegroom, ‘suicides’ (that’s how they are reported to the police), are real consequences of crossing the caste boundaries. These incidents don’t just happen in Bihar or Haryana. Even economically developed states like Tamil Nadu has deep-rooted misgivings against inter-caste marriages.
3. Nobody will come to your support after an inter-caste marriage
Because intercaste marriages are an unpopular concept, couples who elope to get married find themselves cornered. They strain of severing all ties to family members and the possibility of being discovered puts a heavy toll on their lives.
In many cases, they will have to relocate to a new city and build their lives from nothing. Here is a poignant story from one such victim!
But, don’t despair and not all hope is lost! We have created a step-by-step playbook that will help you in convincing your parents about inter-caste marriage and navigating the marriage ceremony itself!
Step 1: Understanding your parent’s worldview
Your parent’s background and worldview about caste can determine how easy or difficult it is for you convince your parents.
1. Orthodox: There are parents who are thoroughly orthodox and will not let their children marry out of the caste/religion at any cost. These parents believe that marrying out of the caste is a setback to their prestige or standing in the social circles and an affront to their religion/beliefs/traditions.
2. Don’t care about caste/religion: There are parents who actually don’t care about caste or religious affiliations. They just want to make sure that the children make the right choice when it comes to marriage! These parents have a liberal opinion about intercaste marriage as they might have married out of their caste or been exposed to a different culture outside India.
3. Middle of the road: There are parents who don’t care about the caste as long as the caste has a better social standing! This opinion is rooted in the idea of arranged marriages as a means to climb the social ladder or create a better economic future.
Here is a video that will give you a wide cross section of parent’s opinions about inter-caste marriages and love marriages.
STEP 2: The art of breaking the news to your parents
Once you determine which camp your parents belong to, you can frame a strategy to break the news. Pick one from the below options depending on your situation. There are different approaches depending on how your parents view intercaste marriages.
1. Direct approach: Round up your parents up and break the news! This is a ‘shock and awe’ approach that will be a start of a major battle of attrition. Whoever gives up first will lose!
This battle may go through the following stages:
- Parents will first express outrage.
- Some of them will even beat the crap out of the son/daughter.
- They may ask you to get out of the house and not show your face again.
- If you stand firm, this anger will graduate into emotional blackmail and pleads.
- They will have some of your relatives to drive some sense into your brains.
- If you go ahead and marry without their approval, they may not show up for your wedding.
- If you lucky, they may change their mind once they see that you are happy and the relationship gets back on track.
- There is a distinct possibility that its curtains for your relationship with you parents forever!
2. Indirect approach: Share this news with someone in your family that’s close to you (anyone other than your parents). Pick someone who has a lot of influence/goodwill with your parents. Confess your secrets and explain to them why your choice is good for you.
The idea here is to make this relative your ally in your quest to convince your parents. The job of convincing your parents falls on this relative. You will face the brunt later on once the cat is out of the bag, but you can deflect the initial anger and rage away from your path.
3. No decision is also a decision: This approach involves playing along with your parent’s wish to get married but saying no to everyone they present! Eventually, they will get fed up and ask if you have anyone in mind 🙂
4. Leverage familiarity: One way to out-flank your parents is to introduce your love interest to your family just as a friend and nothing else. Let your love interest spend time with your family members and gain their trust over a period of time before you break the news! This strategy works well if your family is not too orthodox as they may not even entertain your ‘friend’ especially if your friend is of the opposite sex 🙂
If your parents are orthodox, the indirect approach should be your approach to breaking the news about your love interest and the possible intercaste marriage.
STEP 3. Convincing your parents
When we look at the 5% of the intercaste marriages, we can make a couple of logical conclusions:
1. Intercaste marriages do happen!
2. Some of the couples that chose intercaste marriages must have managed to convince their parents!
When we look at couples that have a successful intercaste marriage, there are some lessons that you can draw upon in order to convince your parents.
You need to see how many of the above points are in your favour and act accordingly.
Sometimes, you should choose one over the other. It’s either your parents or your love interest. Be ready for this. But, don’t be foolish as well. If you cannot survive as a couple independently, don’t take rash decisions.
STEP 4: Handling inter-caste marriage ceremonies
Assuming you are able to convince your parents about the intercaste marriage, here are a few practical tips to help you navigate the wedding rituals:
a. Intercaste wedding rituals involve a lot of compromises. Both the families would want to do everything as per their cultural practice or norms. From your side, please make sure their tussle doesn’t hurt your relationship with your fiance!
b. Some intercaste marriages end up having separate wedding rituals on different dates and locations. In a way, its a lot more fun! Example: One of my cousins married as per Hindu traditions and then had a ceremony at the Church at a later date.
c. Compromises are inevitable in intercaste marriages. For example, non-vegetarian food may have to be skipped if the other party is sensitive to such preferences.
d. Some couples forgo all ceremonies and just organise a reception. This is a great option if you think the drama of your families butting head is too much to handle.
e. In many cases, the girl’s family calls the shot in terms of marriage rituals as they end up footing the bill! This boils down to negotiations between the parents.
Check out this video of an intercaste wedding ceremony for your inspiration!
Intercaste and inter-religion marriages can be a beautiful experience for the couple who embrace it. Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia D’Souza had an inter-religion marriage (Click here to check out the wedding snaps) and they rocked it!
Riteish is a Maharashtrian Hindu and Genelia is a Christian. Their inter-religion wedding ceremony was stunning and involved two separate events based on Hindu and Christian wedding rituals.
Are intercaste marriages successful?
There is no statistical data available to conclusively declare the success or failure of intercaste marriages in India. There are many notable marriages in Bollywood that have stood the test of time. There are divorces and separations as well (As it was the case with actress Amala Paul recently).
However, the right question to ask yourself is are you ready to deal with the three common challenges of intercaste or inter-religion marriages?
Challenges you should overcome for a successful intercaste marriage
1. Cultural differences and rituals: Dress habits, food habits, and even language can create a lot of friction in the long run. After marriage, as interaction with the in-laws and the extended families increase, you will have to deal with situations where your spouse may not meet your expectations.
2. Dealing with children: Many inter-religious couples raise their children to practice both the religions or in some cases decide to embrace one religion. This can potentially become a flash point in the future.
3. Social pressures: Intercaste couples in rural areas of India face immense social pressure. Honour killing is common in India and even in big cities renting houses can become a challenge when the landlord is picky about your family situation!