Sunday, April 1, 2007


Uma, pictured here, is one of my students. Intelligent, sharp as a tack--and thoughtful, kind, and considerate to boot. She’s also highly articulate and skilled in computer use, the most skilled of the 51 students in my M.Ed class.

She'd be a great snag for a would-be suitor.

Well, guess what? Yesterday, shortly before I took this picture, she gave me an invitation to her wedding. She's to be married in four days' time.

Uma and I get along pretty well. I was surprised she hadn't told me before that she was so soon to be married. I asked her when it was that she first found out.

"About ten days ago," she said.

"Did you know the man before the announcement of your engagement?"

"Oh yes," she said. "He's my cousin. My uncle’s son."

Not necessarily a first cousin, I hasten to add; maybe second or third cousin. I don’t know. As in Africa, in India the term “cousin” and “uncle” can have various interpretations. My students often call me “uncle,” for example. It’s used out of respect and is a polite term of endearment.

The families of Uma and her beau had put their heads together and arranged for this marriage to take place. I don’t know how much choice Uma or her husband had in the matter. For all I know, the marriage may have been arranged by the parents a long time ago. In South India, as elsewhere in the world, all kinds of considerations factor into the family selection of marriage partners for the children. Love is not usually one of them. Love is expected to come later--maybe.

But Uma was bubbling with excitement when she gave me the invitation. She was passing invitations around to several of her classmates, too. Uma is about to become the wife of a man who will whisk her away to Kuwait in the Middle East, where he works as an accountant.

Together they’ll make a fortune and a family and live happily ever after.

If it’s customary for marriages to be arranged in India, what’s the harm in that? The divorce rate here is about 1-2%; in America and England it’s over 50%.

They’re even beginning to wonder, in England, if it’s worth getting married at all.

Which system works best? You decide.

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