Thursday, 3 January 2013


Once every few weeks, I go home to my parents’ house and we have dinner together. In the last year my relationship with my parents has been better then it’s ever been. At least I’d like to think it is. We don’t argue about much anymore, and I actually look forward to seeing them every few weeks. Earlier this week, I  was at my parents house and that thread that every single Indian person over the age of thirty(who is not in a relationship) dreads started: marriage and dating.

First my mom showed me wedding pictures of a cousin who got married a few weeks back. Then she showed me pictures of another cousin’s new born baby. Then she started to tell me about how the people in the Indian community were asking if  I was going to be getting married anytime soon. In fact they’d asked so many times that she and my dad have had to develop a series of smart A#$#$ responses so that people would stop asking. Some of these responses were funny so, I’ll share them below:

  • Dad: If you’ve heard our kids have gotten married, please let us know
  • Mom: I don’t have any grandkids that I know of
  • My own smart AS#$# response if I’m ever asked: Sure I’d love to meet a nice Indian girl if you know any that also like girls. (I just want to see the look on some old Indian lady’s face when I tell her that). Even if she goes into cardiac arrest, it’s nothing to worry about because there’s bound to be a doctor nearby.
All of this I think was a not so subtle way to ask “why the hell don’t you have a girlfriend yet?”  So instead of arguing which I used to do, I thought to myself “shit that’s going to make a great blog post”. Thanks mom :)

A Culture of Expectations

In the community I grew up in, we are raised with lots of expectations. There are certain life paths that you follow and certain ones you don’t.
  • Get Good Grades: If you’re one of those kids who had your report card put on the refrigerator when you got good grades,  I can’t relate to the way you were raised at all. When you’re Indian, nobody puts your report cards on refrigerators because it’s expected that you get straight A’s. If we got an A-, people would ask you us why we didn’t get an A+. I have a cousin who’s grandfather was a math professor, so for every birthday he got a new math book. I guess the upside is that he’s good at math. So, basically the expectation is high academic standards from time time we actually get a report card. This isn’t so bad, since it’s sets us up to do well in life.

  • Go to a Good College: If an Indian kid told his parents that he didn’t want to go to college, he’d probably be disowned. I’m not joking. An Indian kid knows he’d have to be out of his damn mind to even put this theory to the test. Ramit Sethi even said it in his book I will reach to be Rich ,  not going to college would never be an option. Again, this isn’t such a bad thing. But, people will judge you for where you went to college. If you go somewhere second rate, you won’t be talked about at the Indian parties that your parents go to every week. If you go to a good school, then you've got many more expextations coming.

  • Study Something Practical: This is one of my personal favorites since I’ve never used my degree in any of the jobs I’ve had. I have a degree in environmental economics and policy, and the only thing I remember is taking a class where the professor was talking about how to maximize the amount of milk you could get out of a cow. Mention the idea of studying something that has no practical use and you’ll get some blank stares from people in the community. Part of me wants to find the UC-Berkeley course catalog, find the most obscure major in it, and tell everybody that was what I studied. The way I see it, I might was well have some fun if I’m going to put up with this.
  • Go to Med School, Law School, Become an Engineer or a Doctor: I know Indians are not alone in this. I’ve heard Persians, Asians, and immigrants in general fit this mold.  The question people will ask if you don’t go down one of these tried and true paths is “well, then what the hell are you going to do?” Becoming a blogger and planning to spend a year traveling the world to surf is definitely not on this list. Fortunately, I have a sister who has satisfied our quota by going to medical school.
  • Get Married before your 30(if you’re a girl, soon after for guys): This of course is what inspired me to write this post. My mom started telling me that people have certain expectations of you when you’re in your early 30’s. One of them is that you get married.  My stock on paper is apparently plummeting by the moment. What started out as “we don’t put any pressure on you about this” turned into a phone call from my grandmother who wanted to know when she was going to be able to wear a sari that she had bought for my wedding.
Then while my dad was washing the car, the first thing he  asked me was  “so, have you found a girlfriend, or have you seen any girl that you like? Are you even trying?”  I didn’t argue.  I told him about my attempt to use okcuipd. and the overall inefficiencies of sending out one email after another (maybe I should outsource it to India). I explained to him that I wasn’t sitting in my apartment like a hermit and that I’ve been making a significant effort to meet people, but this stress about is not really going to to help the situation.
I’ve said before that that it’s really important to make the distinction between setting and setting down.Although I grew up with Indian values, the more I’ve drilled into my own personality with this journey, the more I’ve realized that I don’t identify with Indian values. I don’t even want to raise my own kids with many of these values. My dad asked if I’d ruled out Indian girls completely, and I said “no, but for the most part I don’t see myself with an Indian girl. I’m not closed off to the possibility. But the probability doesn’t seem that high.” When he mentioned that there are girls they could introduce me to, part of me was tempted to have him setup a bunch of dates and then write a series here on the blog about it. Then, at least something useful would come out of it.
What this comes down to is something simple. you should not live  on other people’s expectations. The Indian community might have expectations, but they are not the ones who have to live with my decisions. After the 500 person wedding that they want to attend on my tab, they won’t give a shi#$#. They’ll find some other kid who hasn’t gotten married to gossip and worry about.
The truth is I’m just starting to learn quite a bit about who I really am. A house in the suburbs, white picket fences, and an escape from my life once a year doesn’t seem like a very rich way to live life. In fact with a world so vast, I feel like this would only be living a small percentage of my life.  If I was bordering 40 and hadn’t been on a date in 10 years, then maybe my parents would have a reason to worry. So to my mom and dad, what  I can say is this. If you have taught me anything, it’s that worrying is a waste of time and energy. If I’m not going to waste my time an energy worrying about this, then maybe you should do the same. The community will never stop talking because that’s what they do.

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