“I have a line in my book where I say marriage is the only intended outcome of growing up in India,” Mansi Choksi tells New Lines magazine’s Surbhi Gupta. “Like, that’s how it feels for a lot of us.”
Choksi, author of the “The Newlyweds” and co-host of the latest season of NPR’s Rough Translation podcast, has spent many years untangling the fraught politics of marriage in the country. “On a family level, it’s almost as if it’s seen as a marker of success. Finding the right match for your son or daughter is like your ultimate duty towards your child,” she says. “And disobeying your parents’ choice for marriage? Possibly the ultimate disrespect that you can have towards your parents.”
But in a nation where over 90% of marriages are arranged and seldom cross lines of class, caste and confession, a new generation of young people are questioning the traditional boundaries. “And love marriage is one of those fault lines,” says Choksi.
“Young people in India are just trying to figure themselves out. Like anywhere else in the world, I guess.”
It’s not a choice that’s taken lightly, however. The consequences for couples who take it can be severe, especially when they come from different religious or caste backgrounds. “The stakes are really varied, right?” Choksi says. “Like the stakes can be as little as disappointing your parents to honor killing.”
It should be no surprise, then, that marriage often features prominently in national politics. In July, the chief minister of Gujarat announced that he was considering a law which would require parental approval for love marriages. Hindu nationalist politicians promote conspiracy theories about “love jihad” — “this idea that Muslims are are taking away Hindu women as part of a concerted effort to convert them to Islam and eventually outnumber the Hindu population,” Choksi explains. Meanwhile, despite the objections of Narendra Modi’s government, the Supreme Court is considering the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples.
“There’s these conversations happening across the country,” says Choksi, “ I think that young people in India are just trying to figure themselves out. Like anywhere else in the world, I guess.”
Produced by Joshua Martin