Amarjit: Fated Attraction
Amarjit (not her real name) and Simon meet most days, often for only an hour, at lunchtime or after work. In the four years they have known each other, they have spent a couple of holidays together, with Amarjit telling her parents she was visiting a girlfriend in France. They hope one day they may be able to live together but they are in their late 20s and feel that, for them, time is running out.
“My parents started introducing me to prospective husbands over three years ago. Until then, they concentrated on my older sisters; now it’s my turn. Getting me married off is all that matters to them at the moment and, until that day comes, they say they can’t face their friends with pride.
“My family did allow me to go to university but didn’t want me to develop western ideals. As I see it, you can’t have one without the other. I spent three years away studying and I now work with mostly English people. Obviously I am influenced by the outside world. For instance, I love to see friends but that isn’t part of our culture. As a woman, I am not even allowed to drink alcohol.
“Sikh parents don’t trust their daughters to pick up just the good bits about English culture, you see. They are worried that we’ll go and start sleeping with loads of men or something. Women are treated like second-class citizens with no opinions. They just have to do what they’re told to please their families.
“Simon and I were instantly attracted to each other. We met through work and started having lunch together. Gradually we became good friends and it’s progressed from there. He’s a great friend to me and a real source of strength. I do worry that he will get fed up and end it all. But he doesn’t put pressure on me – I think he realises I am under enough pressure from the other side.
“When my family first started bringing these blokes round to meet me, I began to get frightened about my future. I felt I could no longer keep our relationship a secret and I told my father about Simon. He was very shocked and he hit me really hard. He couldn’t handle it. It is terrifying when people you love threaten you. My mother says that if I ran off with an English man she would kill herself. What would she and Dad have to live for, she says. But when I tell them I don’t want an arranged marriage, they don’t listen. I don’t think they care if I am happy or not. Honour and tradition are what matters.
“I wish they could just meet Simon, but I know they would never agree to it. He’s got all the qualities they are looking for in a husband except that he isn’t a Sikh. They feel that if we got married and it all went wrong, they wouldn’t know his culture or his temperament and that they wouldn’t be able to help us because of that. Asian marriages are not so much of two people as of two families; this, they say, gives a marriage strength. My family believe a marriage for love wouldn’t have as strong a foundation or chance of survival if things went wrong.
“I find it totally embarrassing when I have to meet men at the house. I am only told about it two hours before they arrive, usually with their mother and sisters, who look me up and down to see if I am pretty enough. I have to get dressed in Indian clothes and wait upstairs until I am called. We greet each other and talk Punjabi, and we are never allowed to be alone. It’s awful. It makes me laugh when they ask, within minutes of meeting me, how many children I want. But my family say I should just answer the questions to please the man – say yes, I love doing housework – then do what I want when I am married.
If I knew Simon would be waiting for me, I could go through with a marriage to please my parents, then divorce. But it wouldn’t be fair on him. I’d be with someone else and he wouldn’t know what was going on, if I was sleeping with this man or not.
“I suppose some arranged marriages do work out but a lot of people must be deeply unhappy. Asian people of my parents’ generation think that if you fall in love with somebody, they could just leave you the next day, whereas an arranged marriage is based on more stable foundations. I don’t know if I’ll end up doing it. I don’t want to but they put so much pressure on, they really do. They say I just don’t know what it’s like and that once I’ve done it, I will be really happy.
(by Lynne Wallis, adapted)
loads of masser av / mengder av
opinion mening, oppfatning / meining, oppfatning
progress gå videre / gå vidare
fed up lei av
handle håndtere, takle / handtere, meistre
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