Finding a wife in India.: Becoming Minnesotan

Ram Gada and Preeti Mathur, IAM Oral History Project 3 celebration, 2002.
  • Name - Ram Gada
  • Age at interview - 53
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 12.07.1994
  • A Bengali bride and her parents at their last meal before her wedding, India.
    Bengali groom, India, 2010.

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    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.

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

    • Chapter 1
    • Chapter 2
    • Chapter 3

    Download Ram Gada 1
    2:18 Minutes | 2.21Mb


    Narrator: Ram Gada (RG)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    PS:  So, we've got you through college and you went back to India to visit and to get married.  Tell me about getting married.

    RG:  Well, as you know, in India there is no dating system, so there were no dates waiting for me or anything like that.  And there were no high school sweetheart or anybody.  People knew about it, so people checked our cross-references about prospective girls, and they checked out us, our family and everything. So, it goes mostly by the community, religion, and caste.  We visited a few girls and talked about it.

    PS:  And your family's religion is what?

    RG:  Jain.

    PS:  So, all the women that you met were Jain.

    RG:  They were all Jain, yes, correct.

    PS:  And how did you decide which one you liked?  How many did you meet?

    RG:  What we have is kind of a resume.  We had about 25 resumes, and from resumes you made a first cut by certain parameters; based on background checks on religion or make phone calls and find out about so-and-so girls.  I'm sure the girls' parents do the same way about the boys.   Then, based on certain things, you decide to do a mutual interview at some neutral place.  You go and talk to the girl.

    PS:  So you went by yourself, without your parents?

    RG:  No, with parents.  But when you meet the girl the parents are not there.  What the parents do, they meet the girl's parents and their relatives.  It's kind of a social affair.   Also, pictures are exchanged in the beginning before you decide to meet.

    PS:  So, how many girls did you interview?

    RG:  About five.

    PS:  And how did you decide that Neena was the one?

    RG:  I think our tastes probably matched each other in conversation.  Also, the family backgrounds and everything matched.  When you do that, the most important perception is that the girl should be coming from a family with values, family values.

    Continues in Chapter 2

    Download Ram Gada 2
    1:47 Minutes | 1.72Mb


    Narrator: Ram Gada (RG)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    PS:  Is it part of the tradition in Jain religion to use astrology charts to match?

    RG:  Yeah, socially; not the religion, but socially it is a very accepted practice.   My parents did read those astrology charts matching.

    PS:  Did you think that was important?

    RG:  I don't think so, no.  Well, we went along.  Due to that, I didn't reject anybody or anything like that.  But as parents from centuries, they have done those things, so they look at those things.   I just looked and talked to the girl.

    PS:  Was dowry a consideration?

    RG:  No.  Even right now, there is no system of demanded dowry.

    PS:  But, it is sometimes given freely?

    RG:  Yes. Like a gift.

    PS:  So, you decided after you met Neena that she was the one and she felt the same about you?

    RG:  Right.

    PS:  How long was your engagement?

    RG:  One month before we got married.

    PS:  And you stayed in India that whole time?

    RG:  Oh, yes!  I had a four weeks vacation and then I took six weeks leave.  So, I had 10 weeks.   Before we got married we had four weeks where in the American terms, we dated.  We saw each other every day.

    PS:  Was that unusual?

    RG:  That's unusual, yes.  But both parents, on both sides, were pretty understanding, so we went out every day.  Yeah, that was the talk of the town.

    PS:  Were you chaperoned on all these visits?

    RG:  No, we were by ourselves.

    PS:  Hum, that's pretty radical.

    RG:  Yeah, in those days, yes.  But our engagements were done, though.

    Continues in Chapter 3

    Download Ram Gada 3
    2:12 Minutes | 2.11Mb


    Narrator: Ram Gada (RG)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    PS:  What was your wedding like?

    RG:  Our wedding was great occasion; a traditional Indian wedding where the bridegroom goes to the bride's house.  In this case in Bombay, there are no large houses, so they rent the community place.  They call it wadi, for garden, which is a large place.  It is decorated and everything.  The bride party receives the groom's party.  Then there is a Hindu style wedding around the fire.  People come and have a feast.  It is a typical Indian wedding.

    PS:  How many hours did yours take?

    RG:  It takes a long time!  (Laughs)  It was almost six hours.  By the time we left the house until we got back it was almost eight to ten hours.

    PS:  Did you start early in the morning?

    RG:  We started around noon.

    PS:  Big day.   Did you as a couple take a honeymoon or a trip or anything?

    RG:  We didn't take.  Normally people nowadays do take, but we didn't take.   Due to our schedule, we had to do the visa for her to get American visa.  So, we had to stay in Bombay. Another reason was I thought when we came back we would fly through Europe and we thought we'd take the honeymoon there rather than in Bombay.

    PS:  Did that work out?

    RG:  That didn't work out because after getting married, now you got a two-sided family.  Everybody wants to invite you to come to their house and visit and have a feast with them.  It is very customary in India.  So, we were busy visiting the friends and families on both sides now.  So, time went into that.  They were insisting, "You don't go to your vacation, just spend the time with us.  That is most important."   So, we stayed there and then we forgo the Europe vacation, which we haven't done yet!  (Laughs)

    PS:  So, you took your honeymoon to America!

    RG:  Honeymoon to America, that's right!

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  A social function or event.


    Noun:  The study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies and their supposed influence on human affairs.


    Noun:  Any of the hereditary social classes of South Asian societies.


    Noun:  A group of people who share a common understanding of the same language, manners, tradition and law.


    Noun:  The thought process of considering, of taking everything into account; something considered a reason for a decision.


    Noun:  Property or payment given by a wife or her family to a husband at the time of marriage.


    Adjective:  Of or relating to Hinduism, a religion, philosophy and culture native to India, characterized by the belief in reincarnation and a supreme oneness personified in many forms and natures.

    Noun:  People who believe in Hinduism.


    Noun:  A follower of the religion of Jainism, a religion and philosophy, originating in India, with a focus on nonviolence and personal effort to progress the soul towards divine consciousness.


    Adjective:  Two-way; reciprocal.


    Adjective:  Favoring neither side; unbiased.


    Noun:  1. Special event or function.  2. A particular happening; an instance or time when something occurred.


    Noun:  Characteristics or features used to distinguish one thing from another.


    Noun:  1. A customary action, habit, or behavior; a manner or routine.  2. The observance of religious duties which a church requires of its members.

    Verb:   To perform or observe in a habitual fashion.  (practices, practicing, practiced)


    Adjective:  Potential, possible.


    Noun:  A document that lists a person's qualifications and experience for a certain job or role.


    Noun:  A custom that is practiced within a group.


    Adjective:  Relating to a part of culture that is passed from person to person or generation to generation.


    Noun:  A collection of guiding, usually positive principles; what one deems to be correct and desirable in life, especially regarding personal conduct.


    Noun:  A permit to enter and leave a country, normally issued by the authorities of the country to be visited.


    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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