Yes, you heard it right..!!! It is strange. It is stranger when it is a cross cultural wedding…!!! It generates opinions, comments and advises from many; most of which sometimes might be unwanted. People, who were never bothered about you, suddenly, become your biggest ‘sympathizers’ and start advising you on why you should/should not take that decision, while others just lament on the loss of a ‘good (eligible) boy’ from the community. A very personal decision about two people deciding to live together for the rest of their lives becomes a highly political decision. Various social, political and cultural deductions are made out it.
When I broke the news about my Delhi based girlfriend, my parents, as expected, did not receive it too well. But with some amount of persuasion and re-assurances, they did turn around and now we are getting married this February. Amongst the Misings (the tribe I belong to), marrying outside the community is a recent practice. Though the numbers are increasing steadily, the community is yet to completely accept the phenomenon.
The idea of someone marrying outside the tribe, make many feel a sense of betrayal not only to the community but to its culture, values and rituals. The advocates of traditionalism among the Misings feel that it shall add on to ‘already declining culture’ eventually leading to the complete destruction of it. They, when asked, to rationally explain the same, often give distorted answers. Almost hypocritically, the same lot, see dating people from different communities as ‘completely okay’, while marrying is a complete no-no. When Pragya (my girlfriend, soon to be wife) and we fell in love, it was never based on our backgrounds nor was it a calculative deduction. We fell in love as two individuals, who saw and respected each other for the ‘persons’ we are. The same love, our respective parents had for us, led them to hold back their conservative views and agree to our marriage, for they were content that their daughter and son would have a happy life together.
To counter the ‘cultural decline’ argument, it has never been proved that inter-cultural marriages prove detrimental to individual cultures and traditions. In fact, such people are found to have increased respect towards diverse cultures. Pragya is a constant presence in all the Mising rituals and festivals, in Delhi. And so do I celebrate hers. We celebrate festivals like Holi, Dussehra, Diwali with the same glory as we do to Ali-aye’ Ligang or Bihu.
I have often mentioned in my writings before that the ‘cultural decline’ that we witness today among the Misings is a result of a long process of acculturation that took place in Assam. The Misings, who migrated to the plains of Assam, were forced to assimilate with the existing Assamese people to blend in well. Moreover, the constant neglect that the belief system of the Misings experience from its own people is increasing the pace of the cultural decline process. And marrying from outside the tribe does not fall in either of the category. A person, even after marrying outside her/his tribe may continue to respect the belief system. With us, it is exactly the same. We give space to both of our cultures and respect them. For instance, we are having a North Indian wedding in Delhi, while we have a traditional Mising style ‘Yamne La: sang’ and reception in Assam.
Culture is a dynamic entity and is bound to change with changing times. And any changes that come with the natural processes over time, should be accepted. But if the same change, comes by a forced hegemony from a dominant culture, should be fought and resisted. Marrying outside one’s own community falls under the gamut of ‘natural process’; as proved by the steady increase in inter-cultural marriages. Many like me often leave their villages and come to the cities in pursuit of a better education and a career. And with it comes, increased interactions with people from various cultures and regions. And falling in love and marrying outside the community is nothing but natural. Any attempt to stop it forcefully is not only wrong but also extremely regressive.
‘When it comes to choice of relationships, there is a thin line between caution and tribalism. If one looks deep into this issue, you will see that those who make personal vows not to have close relations with persons of a different tribe than theirs do so not because of the differences in culture (language, beliefs, religion, etc) which may cause friction, but because of their mindsets about tribes other than theirs” Thus, rather than making forced attempts to stop the young from marrying for love, it would be ideal to take note of the existing changes, accept them and make constructive attempts to ‘maintain the culture’ that we are proud of. And denying people the right to marry outside the community is not an answer to that problem for sure.
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