I had worked in a big global corporation when I met her — my colleague from India. Her name was Krishna.She joined the same team as I. She was a kind, a little bit shy person.
When our manager asked me to teach her I gladly agreed. I guess I inherited some pedagogical skills from my parents, so teaching was something I enjoyed. We had daily meetings where I showed her how to use tools and other stuff we had, explained her daily duties, but I hardly got any questions from her and it made me doubt if she understood everything. Therefore, I decided to choose a more personal approach and build friendly relationship between us. And here started our friendship.
Krishna lived in one of the most modern cities in India — Hyderabad, she was married and had a daughter. She lived with her husband’s family: his parents and grandparents, like many married Indian women. Her life wasn’t the easiest: she had a job but her husband was not happy about it, even though his salary wasn’t big enough to feed everybody’s bellies. After work she had to help her disabled mother-in-law, cook for the whole family, and clean. Krishna’s dream was to be a tour guide but her husband was desperately against it — no woman can be a tour guide in India, she said.
And I — pure European — was from a different world to her. She satisfied her curiosity listening about our culture, leisure, relationship, and even my personal matters.
I could feel how much she enjoys my stories about Europe and it’s culture. Italy was her dream country. So I invited her to come to Europe and promised to help her with a traveling. “No, I can’t” she said. “My husband won’t allow me to travel alone.” I was confused hearing that, so I asked her to come together with her husband. “Forget it” she replied, “His mommy won’t allow him to travel!” Her words made me laugh so hard but it was her real life!
Krishna told me her marriage story. Like most of the Indians her marriage was arranged by her parents and she was fine with that. She said that “there is love” in her marriage. However, I could feel her delight when listening to my stories about my “western-style” love life: he was my third boyfriend, we were crazy in love and our sex was the best. Still, even though my stories were something from the most romantic love movie, she wasn’t impressed with the fact that my boyfriend is not the first man I live with and she was a huge supporter of arranged marriages.
Her best and really nice argument was that no parents want to find a bad spouse for their daughter, therefore they will do the best to find you some nice guy from a good family. I felt she was kind of right. Most parents want the best for their children. Of course they will try to find someone who is not only good guy from a good family, but also who could be a good fit for their daughter. I personally know a couple whose marriage was arranged by their parents. Now they are crazy in love, you can tell! I believe there are plenty of such couples in India.
But then I remembered the poorest villages in India, especially in North India.
Often poor Indians “sell” their minor daughters to much older men stating that the life for girls is too dangerous and unmarried girls are in danger to be raped.
Indian authorities are trying to fight such a practice. First of all — child marriage is illegal. But many poorest people are illiterate and better know their customs than law. Several states have incentives — they have a conditional cash transfer program: ~350 USD is being paid for parents whose daughter is not married before her 18th birthday.
Marriages of young girls cause sad consequences: a bigger death rate during childbirth, violence, and infant health.
My friend Krishna had another argument about arranged marriages. She told me that the divorce rate is only 5 % in India.
Actually, I read that it’s only 1 %. And it is the lowest divorce rate in the world. This number makes me think about the percentage of real love. How many couples are truly happy? There are good and bad sides here. If you are happy in marriage — that’s perfect. If you are OK in marriage — it’s alright, probably… You are in your comfort zone — you live with people you know and you don not have to change anything. Who doesn’t like to be in their comfort zone? But if you are unhappy when it can be the end of your life. Society looks bad to divorced people, especially women.
A divorced woman is a shame for her parents.
A divorced woman is dirty.
A divorced woman was bad for her husband’s family, she was a bad housekeeper.
A divorced woman is not healthy.
A divorced woman is the worst choice for marriage.
Oh, they can beat you with their words and with something else… Which woman is ready to live like this?
A few years ago Krishna resigned from her job and our conversations became less frequent. Today she is still happy with her husband, but her dream to travel is hidden in the outermost corner…