Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How to arrange a marriage when the bride and groom have never met...

La's younger brother, Cho Cho rang last night. He rang La's phone and didn't ask to be rung straight back so I knew something was up. It's never good news when he pays for the phonecalls himself. To be fair, he's on a very small income and lives in a developing country.... but you get the idea.

After La gets off the phone he looks at me and frowns, smiles, sighs...and then sort of giggles. Of course I'm thinking, "How much money does he need this time?"... but say, "So, what's up with Cho Cho?"
It turns out that their mum  has been approached by a family friend of a friend to marry La's little sister, Tsomo to the other family's son. Hmmmm.....awkward.

La is the oldest son, has a university education and lives in a first world country. His father is dead. His mum is not educated and Cho Cho, who still lives over there... can be a bit... um, er... flighty. He's good people, but he's not the most practical guy. Case in point... he went to live in Russia for 6 months this year and when he got there got a bit of shock when it was cold. We had to send him money for a coat. He left the Himalayas to go there! He took t-shirts but nothing warm to wear..... anyway....

So after a quick conversation with La asking me what I think..."Derr! I think you should ask Tsomo what she bloody well wants!"... we decided to call their mum. Mum has lots of questions..."What do you and Taff think? What should we do? "  La, never one to avoid putting me on the spot, says loudly, without covering the phone, "What DO you think, Taff?"

And there you go. Suddenly the entire family is looking to this privileged, white chick with her sophisticated first world wisdom on arranged marriage. HOLY SHIT BATMAN! This was not in my brief when I married outside my culture.

Naturally the first thing I think is "YUCK, tell her to run like the wind.... arranged marriages are terrible"... But I take a deep breath and think about it. It turns out that Tsomo is not against the idea. She's 34 now and isn't sure. She thinks she wants to have a family.... and La and I are very aware that her time is running out.

I know that arranged marriages have lower divorce rates than love marriages and after 5 years the happiness levels are considered to be about equal. So I bite my feminist tongue and start thinking about it pragmatically.

If you were to arrange a marriage... what would the deal-breakers/clinchers be? I asked about his education, thoughts on having children, ideas about her working/independent income, health, alcoholism in the close family and living/travel plans.

We didn't get any answers last night. Nobody has met or spoken to the prospective groom. He's 29, working and studying and lives with his family in a pretty big town in the Himalayas. BUT he wants to get married quickly and Tsomo will have to give up her job and move to his town and live with his family.

That's the part that shits La to tears. He's not happy about her giving up her job at the Institute where she works as a trained another part of the Himalayas. I thought the same but then realised... if they marry, then someone is going to have to move. And that means giving up a job... and it's pretty usual for this culture to have the new bride or groom move in with the in-laws.

So now we're waiting for answers to these profound questions and the few extras I threw in... what are his teeth like, does he snore...  and does he do sock sock, shoe shoe.... or sock shoe, sock shoe?


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