Today I am very excited to introduce to you, my mum - Bal Dharar. I’ve wanted to interview her for a while for the blog. It was actually one of the original ideas for when I first set up Secret Wedding Blog. My mum’s upbringing was very different to my own. She had to do as she was told and be a ‘good girl’. It included consistent housework because that’s what Indian girls had to learn. Especially as they were going to marry and go into their in-laws home, it was essential for them to do their ‘duty’ as a good productive daughter. Honour and dishonour were vital; you had to do what you were told and never bring dishonour to your family. Just like in Mulan - *please bring honour to us alllll*. Watch that film and you will see the similar elements of how daughters must bring honour to their family, it’s a pressure and a duty that is felt strongly. This is just like my mum’s upbringing.
I asked her a few questions and it was quite an intense conversation. I already knew about how my mum and dad were married but talking about it again and comparing it my own wedding ideas and plans was very emotional. I could never imagine going through what my parents went through. They both agreed that they would never put us through a semi or arranged marriage - phew!
What age did you get married and was it a good age to get married?
I was 21 when I got married and at that time, it was considered old. I didn’t know any different as I genuinely thought I was late to get married. Most girls were 16-18 years old when they got married. They got married young and were going to be living with their in-laws, who would continue raising them as their own. Looking back now, I think I was definitely too young but we had a different kind of maturity. What I mean by this is that it was engrained to us that girls didn’t really have a career. If they weren’t studying, their families would get them married off. As soon as I finished my education, I was married off.
It was a semi-arranged marriage, describe how it worked for you?
I really thought that I would see a photo of him as this is what happened at that time. You would see a photo of the person, then you can say either yes or no if you wanted to marry them. However this did not happen with me. We all went to a relative’s house as I was told I was going to meet his family. His family arrived and they sprung it on to me that the boy is here. I was so shocked considering I grew up and was not allowed to speak to boys and then suddenly him talking to me was considered okay? Obviously I was very shy, so he did all the talking and I just answered his questions. Luckily I liked what I saw and thought he was very handsome
What input did you have in your wedding, if any?
The only say I had in my wedding was my make up. It was done by my friend Rita and that was pretty much it. Parents would do their duty, have kids, educate them and get them married. It wasn’t like nowadays where the couple chooses everything, we didn’t even have a first dance. My dad chose my wedding lengha (outfit) and when I saw it, my face dropped. It was a slightly orange colour and I had always wanted a deep red colour for my bridal lengha. I didn’t question anything, I did as I was told, I was an obedient daughter and just got on with it.
What are your views on arranged marriages?
Arranged marriages depend on the era, obviously back then it was one meeting with a simple answer of yes or no. However after that, you were not encouraged to speak to each other until you got married to them. This was to prevent the arrangement falling through and ‘what would people say’; knowing full well, divorce wouldn’t even come into it.
I think nowadays it is done nicely. For example, the couple are given each others numbers and they arrange to meet up. They have a few meetings, it is almost like dating. None of the family members are involved until they are ready to get to say yes to getting married, then the family get involved to start the engagement traditions.
What are your views on multicultural marriages?
In my time, I could never have entertained the idea of a multicultural marriage. As you can probably imagine that my parents would be angry because it’s not what ‘good girls’ do. Fast forward to nowadays, they are fine. As long as the two people are in love that is all that matters. If my kids want to have a multicultural marriage, I have no issues with that because their happiness is my priority.
How have multicultural marriages become more accepting?
Today’s generation are wanting to make their own choices and parents know that deep down they want their kids of be happy. The only thing that parents might think is what would other people say… However, the more and more it is happening, people are becoming tolerant. It’s still not easy for couples at the beginning stages of their multicultural marriages because a lot of parents and people of the older generation are still not used to it. It’s not easy but couples know what they want and they are responsible for it, it’s their life and they want to live it how they want to.
Growing up, you always told me and my sisters, no boyfriends, get your degree then do what you want after that. How do you think that has affected your kids as people?
I believed that you three (me and my sisters) thought you would have full freedom once achieving your degrees. I expected you to finally go crazy with all the freedom you wanted but it didn’t work out like that. I think it gave you focus. My priority for you all was not to be distracted from your education, I wanted you to get your education and work sorted before thinking about boyfriends. You all turned out fine though
I hope you enjoyed my question answer session with my lovely mum. You can see how much things have changed from her time to nowadays. It worked for my parents to meet once and then live happily ever after once married. I am so grateful that I am able to fully make my choice. Especially when it comes to who I want to marry, after years of dating him, and my say on my wedding. I want to know about you or your parents. How different was their wedding compared to those of today? Let me know below!