Understanding Indian Arranged and Choice Marriages

For my project, I’ve chosen to look more closely at both arranged and choice marriages among Indians living in the United States. As someone who personally has zero interest in getting married anytime soon, I’ve struggled to explain to myself why I’m so interested in this topic. But that itself may be part of it – the fact that social structures and gender roles are changing, and, for what may be the first time in history, it’s becoming more and more socially acceptable and common not to marry. So how does the addition of this relatively new, third option in the arranged-vs.-choice mix affect the lives of those who come from a culture that is so deeply steeped in collective, family life?

I think that on a broad level, I want to try to understand as many different experiences and life choices as possible; as both a reader and a writer, that’s what I’ve always wanted to do – to connect with characters and the people in my life – but before I started college, (in typical first-generation-American/Joy-Luck-Club fashion), I rarely made the effort to turn that curious, empathetic eye toward my own culture. In the last four years, however, I’ve practiced reading, writing, and speaking in Hindi; accepted and even grown to like the cheesiness of Bollywood; studied Indian media “Beyond Bollywood”; studied Indian history; written essays and papers about my family and culture; etc.

But I’m still looking for more, somehow – particularly at a time when I myself am confronting the totally open, blank future ahead of me after graduation, I’m looking to understand how people choose to build their lives. For many, the question of marriage is a big part of that process. Combining my curiosity about Indian culture with my interest in gender and women’s studies, I’m going to focus on women in particular.

I don’t want to compare or evaluate what kind of approach to marriage is “better” or has a higher chance of success. I want to explore:

  • Motivations behind and attitudes toward both arranged marriages and “love matches”/”choice” marriages
  • How Indian women of different ages living in the U.S. conceptualize the role of marriage (and perhaps, though not necessarily, love) in their personal and social lives – is it economically necessary? Emotionally fulfilling? Integral to the family structure? Etc.
  • The day-to-day, human experience of marriage (both the hopes or goals leading up to it and the lived experience of it) as opposed to surface-level stereotypes of either arranged or choice marriages.

(Sorry, lots of parentheses and interjections. I’m still figuring things out!)

The notion of digging past reductive stereotypes of “barbaric” arranged and “foolish” choice marriages to expose the rich, diverse realities of women’s married (or divorced or widowed) lives is really the part that excites me most. This past summer, I stumbled upon old pictures of my parents – whose marriage was arranged – and seeing them as a young couple not yet rooted in the role of “mother” or “father” made me want to know more about what their lives were like before they became parents. What was it like living with a near-stranger and getting to know them? What were their common or independent goals? How did they spend their days?

My parents’ wedding (1978)
My mom!
My mom!
What are these outfits.
What are these outfits.

Now, of course, this wasn’t the first time I was conscious of the fact that my parents are, indeed, human beings in their own right, independent of the role they played in my life. But seeing those photos of their early married life reminded me yet again how easy it is to see only the surface of another’s life and not the memories, choices, and feelings that have shaped it.

That’s what I’m looking for, hopefully via interviews with Indian women on campus and also others of different ages. I will supplement with stories/interviews from my own family members as well as more analytical and generalizable scholarly research, but mostly I hope to talk to women who come from different backgrounds than my own. Finding them and getting them to open up will be the tricky part! As far as form goes, all I know at this point is that I want to weave together a narrative, or perhaps a collection of intimate stories, rather than just a synthesis of data. Outside research will definitely help me structure and analyze these stories, but my main goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the human experience of marriage.

Revised: What is the future of [Asian] Catholicism?

My peers knew it. My mentor knew it. My instructor knew it. Deep down, even I knew it.

My originally-proposed project topic on the future of Catholicism was way too broad. Trying to project the future of a religion “with 1.2 billion members in every corner of the world” (as I stated in my previous blog post) is way too difficult, especially in just 10-20 pages. If I did take a crack at it, I’d need at least a book.

I knew I needed to narrow my topic, but how? One possibility I considered was to examine the practice of Catholicism in an area where it is thriving, such as in Asia and Africa, and compare it to an area where it is declining, such as in the West. However, this topic requires analyzing a host of other factors far beyond merely Catholicism, and the Statistician in me just couldn’t bring himself to risk comparing apples to oranges.

Another option was to focus specifically on the future of the Catholic Church in the United States. As I mentioned previously, the Church here in America is struggling to pass on its faith to the next generation of Catholics. Perhaps my project could focus on what many see as the root of the problem–the crisis in the liturgy. That would have been a very good idea…if I hadn’t already written something very similar back in English 225.

Finally, the answer hit me. And how obvious it was! Examine the future of Catholicism in an area I don’t know much about. After all, this is a research paper. And which area? Asia sticks out to me because of a class I took my sophomore year about Christian missionaries in Asia. Since any projection of the future must be strongly rooted in the past and present, the knowledge I learned from this class is an ideal starting point for my research.

So, I will be examining the future of Catholicism in Asia. Funny how the addition of a mere two words can turn an impossibly broad topic into something that is actually doable.

St. Francis Xavier, Missionary to Asia
St. Francis Xavier, Missionary to Asia

Writing is.

Writing is a friend that never bails on you,

a hug of warm air on a summer day,

and a shiny new pair of nude patent heels


Writing is a backstabber,

a dark cloud that looms over your head,

your worn-down soles after walking too long in old tennis shoes


We are undeniably handcuffed to writing,

possessing a key that is far out of sight.

Writing is our fuel. It is undeniable.


Brooke Writes

Because I have a lot on my mind, and I don’t like a heavy brain.
Because if I said the things I pen in my journal out loud, God help me.
Because I don’t know myself that well yet
and it’s my hope that I will someday.
Because I honestly don’t know what I think about things like literary classics, arguments with my friends, catcalling, and the inherent terror that comes with being alive on this planet
and I’d like to find that out.

Because I have some really, really good ideas as well as some really, really terrible ideas, and I can’t always tell one from the other.
Because that woman on NPR once said language is powerful,

mundane sign

and I believed her.
Because that guy my dad works with said that print is dead, and I didn’t.

Because I’m angry,
feeling dumb,
feeling smart,
or just feeling,
and it makes for beautiful words.

Because as far as I can tell, mind-reading is not a real thing, and I know of no better way into someone’s head. Because I have thoughts, ideas, and experiences that are valid, and I think that there are people who could benefit from hearing as much.
Because sometimes, I feel wronged, and I need to get right.
Because I am a truly anxious person, and I feel safe here, on the page in front of you.
Because it makes me happy, dammit!

Why do I write?
The same as anyone else, I suppose, out of necessity.  Though if I’m being really honest, I think I might need it just a little bit more than everyone else.


Why Write?

Write because YOU’RE BRAVE.

Write to BRAVE the WORLD around you.

Write to shrink the WORLD when you FEEL too much.

Write to mold what you FEEL into the perfect WORDS.

Write because putting WORDS together makes STORIES.

Write because STORIES may be more BEAUTIFUL than words.

Write because all BEAUTIFUL things deserved to be PRESERVED.

Write to reveal yourself, to PRESERVE yourself— every single version of you.

Write to fall in love, to fall asleep, to climb the tallest trees, and to climb MOUNTAINS.

Write to retell, to relive, to remember, to craft and to create an ADVENTURE .

Write because you might forget the ADVENTURE that YESTERDAY was.

Write because YESTERDAY might not make any SENSE if you don’t.

Write because SENSE is overrated, because you THINK too much.

Write to THINK about the WORLD around you,

Write to EXPERIENCE the WORLD around you,

Write to LOVE the WORLD around you,

Write because YOU LOVE.

Write just because. 

To Write- A Manifesto

Writing is a thrilling sensation of expectation or a painful uncertainty.

 One second it feels like

the walls are closing in.

In the next moment you feel enlightened and it is like the world is expanding.

It feels like you are taking up your rightful space.

To write is to always experience something new.

Write because there are things out there that cannot be explained.

But we can try.



Finding the Right Words: A Manifesto

Write because the pen is the most sincere connection between your thoughts and the world.

Because if you don’t write, the names, faces, and pictures in your head will slowly slip away and you cannot afford to lose them.

Write because it is the only thing you will ever truly own, and the only thing you will truly feel the need to give away.

Write because it’s the best friend you will ever have and the clearest mirror you will ever look into.

Write because you’re not great at doing anything else, and because you don’t want to be.


For When You Find Yourself Wondering Why…

Write because why not? What do you have to lose? I know it’s scary. I’ve been there too. You think you don’t have anything worthwhile to say. You think no one will care. You think what you do have to say has already been said, and for that matter, said better than you could ever say it yourself. So what’s the point? But the funny thing about writing is that it can be whatever you want it to be. That’s what you need to understand. You don’t need to publish your writing. You don’t need to let your best friend read what you have written. You don’t even need to proofread it if you don’t want to. Just take the thoughts that are swimming around in that vast ocean known as your mind and write them down. Any thought will do. It doesn’t have to be happy or sad or funny or clever. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking or political or eloquent. It doesn’t even have to be fully formed. Just write it down. I don’t care what you do with it after you write it. You can rip it up in a fit of passion. You can light in on fire and watch your emotions disintegrate into the air before your eyes. You can make a paper airplane and sail it across your bedroom, watching it float effortlessly above the clutter on the floor. You can scribble it all out, write something else, scribble it out again, and then write something completely different. Words are magical in that sense. The combination of them is infinite and so too are the possibilities for you as a writer. So write. Not necessarily because you dream of seeing your name on the New York Times’ Best-Sellers’ List or on every shelf in every bookstore in the country. But because why not? Write because maybe something on that paper has the power to change someone’s life. Write because maybe, something on that paper has the power to change yours.

Project Idea: Societal “Brainwashing” #rayray

First I would like to say that if you want feedback from your classmates in Raymond’s class then you should use: #rayray

My project idea, as of now, is to evaluate what shapes one’s worldview. And when certain people believe that others have been “brainwashed” based on the fact that they hold an opposing worldview, what causes that assumption? I will analyze my brother and myself, two people who grew up in the same household and taught similar values in attempts to explain how we could completely disagree on hot topics such as gender and race. How has one person been indoctrinated and another not? How has this influenced their worldview’s?

In sum, my sociological worldview opposes my brother’s conservative, “American dream” worldview. Why is it that he believes I have been, “brainwashed” by my college learning? How has my brother’s education been so effective in closing his mind to disallow him to take another’s perspective?

On a larger scale, I will address how society is so effective in reinforcing teachings of normalcy and hiding the just, truth.


Does this make sense? Because I feel like it makes sense in my mind but once I try to articulate it, I really struggle. So your thoughts, feedback and opinions would be much appreciated.