Week 4

First of all, I have taken public transportation and subways in London, Paris, San Francisco, Boston, NYC, etc., and no public transportation system has confused me more than the one in Mumbai. I can NOT figure out the bus systems and it confuses me to no end. I digress..

But more importantly, I was speaking with a domestic, 23-year-old, PHD student and she brought up marital relationships in Indian culture. She said that there are “love marriages” and “arranged marriages.” “Love marriages” are what we are familiar with in Western culture, but they are not the ideal in Indian culture. The student stated that a daughter’s marriage is determined based on what the family wants, not what the bride wants. “Love marriages” are seen as reckless and not for the benefit of the village or family. If a bride marries outside of her caste or village, she will be outcast or killed by the village. The student stated these killings are called “honor killings” and the village feel that it is serving the village’s best interest by killing the bride or groom who didn’t follow the tradition of marrying someone in their caste or village. The “honor killings” can happen at any time after the unwanted marriage. The student stated that the village members will even barge into the newlywed’s house, and take them to the center of the village square so everyone can witness the killing.

The student stated that parents will commonly put ads in the newspaper advertising their son or daughter for marriage, kind of like a Western dating site. For example, they will promote that their daughter is “homely,” which is an ideal wife, meaning they are going to cook, clean, and not question their husband. The student stated that most marriages happen between 18 and 20 years old, so when she graduates with her PHD at 29, she won’t be easily married off. The student stated that in some villages, an educated wife is preferred, but in most villages, an educated wife is not seen as valuable. Within each caste system there are also “roots,” in which people can not marry within. It’s kind of the equivalent of marrying your second cousin in Western culture. Sometimes parents will marry their children who are in the same “root” without realizing it, due to lack of proper documentation or birth certificates of residents, and then are subject to being outcast or an honor killing.

The student stated her parents got married with an arranged marriage at 12 and 15 years old. Present day, getting married at that age would be considered illegal under India’s Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. I asked if she thought that her parents loved each other and she stated that if she asked her mother if she loved her father, her mother would look at her like she had 3 heads. The student stated love wasn’t something you talked about or was even a rational consideration when thinking about marriage. The point of marriage is for financial gain or status.

Tidbits about Mumbai:

-Rickshaw drivers wear either brown or white outfits. If they are in white, you know they own their rickshaw so they will be able to give you change if you need it, when you pay for your ride. If a rickshaw driver is wearing a brown uniform, they don’t own their rickshaw and are renting it from someone. They also don’t tend to have change for when you pay for you ride.

-A backwards swastika is written in Sanskrit  in Hinduism with the meaning to protect from evil and attract good.

-Some people or families who are street vendors, will sleep in a cocoon in a blanket, with the blanket over their head at night next to the street. I noticed this while attempting to take the bus to my internship last week. Mothers will sleep with their children in their blanket cocoon with them. It concerns me to think what they have to do during monsoon season to survive.

-On my way to my internship there is a lane of outdoor barber shops. There are about 4 ft by 7 foot spaces that line the street, one right after another, and I refer to this as “Barber Shop Lane.”

(The photo above was retrieved from Google on January 24, 2016)

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