Jude’s Marriage: Oct. 23rd

A journal contribution from Sue while Ashok is in New Delhi:

Today Jude insisted on driving Ashok to the airport at 5 in the morning for a business meeting. He also insisted on taking care of a rental car and driver for me for the rest of the day. Jude then took the remainder of the day off to satisfy the wishes of his family by becoming a married man.
At five minutes to four I was driven up to St Xavier’s Church. The wedding was to start at four, according to the invitation. After a quick perusal of the church and surrounding area it appeared no members of the wedding party had arrived, there were no other guests, and no visible preparations were made for a wedding. Even after living in India for a year, I still can’t figure out when you are really expected to show up to these social events. Eventually, people wandered up and some time later a car with red roses scotch taped all over drove up. A bride in a red and gold sari gracefully glided up the steps to the church. Next, our Maruti Esteem drove up at high speed, and this time Jude, dressed in a light blue suit, emerged from the driver’s seat and walked with deliberation and confidence to the entryway.
The ceremony soon began. Christianity merged with the Indian culture in some interesting ways: the priest wore a traditional Catholic robe, but was barefoot; the bride wore a sari with a white veil; the priest frequently gave the bible loud smacking kisses for emphasis. Despite the seriousness of the Catholic liturgy, it was a typical Indian wedding; people were talking, kids were running around and yelling, and the only really focused participants were Jude, his wife, and the priest.
When the ceremony was over, politician-sized garlands of flowers were placed around the necks of the newly married couple, and they walked down the aisle. The newlyweds stood together unsmilingly in front of the tall church doors while all of the relatives took turns standing with them. Everybody took advantage of having a photograph taken.
After the ceremony, came the reception. One of the virtues of Indian hospitality is that if you are a guest, you are treated "as a god". A young girl, who spoke English, magically appeared as my social guide and translator for the remainder of the festivities. A Pepsi and a wedge of vanilla ice cream were procured just for me. Several other women and curious children pulled up chairs and we got down to a translated females only question and answer session about saris and western clothes, spicy Indian food and about husbands and children.
Despite the fact that the wedding was held in a Christian church, the marriage tradition was Indian. Jude’s father had shown Jude pictures of two sisters, and told Jude to pick one. Jude and Vinita met each other just once in a formal family interview. Looking at these two people, you had to wonder what it would be like to start off on a marriage with someone you didn’t know at all. Of course, from the Indian point of view, this is completely irrelevant at the time of a marriage. What is important is the social compatibility of families in terms of religion, caste, status, finances and prospects. It is assumed that with all of these other more important factors in place, the married couple will learn, over time, to accept and perhaps to love each other. Culturally encouraged personal qualities of acceptance, devotion, and obedience to parents all help to make this possible. Theoretically, I’ve always believed arranged marriages make as much sense as Western style romantic marriages. However, knowing the background of this marriage with the blackmail and heavy family debt the concept left me in doubt.
I asked Jude a couple of weeks ago if there was a way he could marry without being loaded down with such debt. The family has several years of loans to payback to the loan sharks for the sister’s engagement party, dowry, and now more for Jude’s wedding. Jude said one member of his community got married in a mass civil ceremony but that afterwards, no one recognized the marriage because without the reception, food, music and associated trappings, the couple was considered not truly married. The young newlyweds remained solitary, ignored by the neighbors and community. In an interdependent country like India this was a deathblow.
All of Jude’s brothers and sisters, half brothers, and half sisters, and cousins had several children apiece. There was one glaringly obvious feature of the next generation of offspring: for every one boy, there were five girls. Marrying daughters with dowries is much, much more expensive than marrying sons. This family was not going to have an easy time in the future.
With the veil raised, one could see on appearances alone, Jude had scored. Vinita was beautiful: about 25, round figure in all the right places, full lips, big eyes, and very sultry looking.
The bride and groom spent two days together (including the wedding day), and then Vinita left, to go back home to ChitraDurga and her studying for the upcoming teacher qualification examinations. Jude reported for work and life went on.