The relatives ask, 'Why isn’t she married?': Becoming Minnesotan

Nayana Ramakrishnan, July 24, 2008.
  • Name - Nayana Ramakrishnan
  • Age at interview - 47
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 04.03.2001
  • Bengali bride, India, 2010.

    Essential Question

    Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

    Traditions & Values: What makes up “culture”?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    In India it is traditional for a young person to marry a spouse selected for them by their parents.  This is called an arranged marriage, and is still commonly practiced today.  Indian parents find and introduce suitable candidates to their son or daughter, who can then accept or reject each potential bride or groom.  Unlike “love marriages”, the type of marriage common in the Western world, the bride and groom in an arranged marriage usually do not know each other well and are married soon after they meet.  However, it is becoming more common for younger Indian-Americans make love matches instead of accepting an arranged marriage. 

    To learn more about Asian Indian history and culture, visit our Asian Indian Community page.

    • Chapter 1

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    Narrator: Nayana Ramakrishnan (NR)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    PS:  It’s a cause for concern with Indian parents if their daughter is not getting married, right?

    NR:  It is. It was. But my parents are a little bit different. They didn’t put pressure on - my sister was also not the type to listen to pressure and to do things just because her parents said so. Yes, it was a concern but they weren’t worried night and day about it. But it is hard when you go back to India. The relatives ask, “Why isn’t she married?” or “Why isn’t she married already?” or “I have some boys I can give you names of?” How can you tell them, “Well, no she won’t even look into that”? Because everyone wants to be helpful, thinking it’s just a matter of not finding that person and the more people you get in the pool, the likelier she’ll find someone.

    But no, she had to come to her own decision about whether to do an arranged marriage. I wouldn’t consider this an arranged marriage. It’s like the old-fashioned, you introduce someone and then they decide whether it’s right for them and then they go ahead. They both did that because culturally they know about it. It’s not such a foreign concept, so it worked out very well for her. So it’s really odd that my younger sister, who’s the most Americanized, is the one who got married in the arranged - and the two of us, who are really quite Indian, got married as a love marriage. A little different.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Adjective:  Made American, in the custom, culture, or style of the United States of America.


    Noun:  1. The source or reason of an event or action.  2. A goal, aim or principle, especially one which transcends purely selfish ends.


    Noun:  An idea; an understanding; a generalization.


    Adjective:  From a different country; belonging to a different culture.


    Noun:  A grouping of people or resources.


    Noun:  1. Pressing; force.  2. Mental strain caused by one's own or others' expectations on one's own performance.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
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