Bride and Prejudice

Hemant Mehta

(Courtesy of www.friendlyatheist.com
)

Allow me to speak for a moment.

Bollywood star (and former Miss World) Aishwarya Rai is engaged to Abhishek Bachchan. (That’s like the Indian celebrity equivalent of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.)

Aishwarya is said to be a manglik. This means she was born at a time when “Mars [was] in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th, 8th, or 12th house of the Vedic astrology birth or lunar chart.”

If two mangliks get married, it’s ok.

But if a manglik marries a non-manglik, all hell breaks loose.

Guess what Abhishek is…?

According to some *brilliant* astrologers, the marriage of a manglik girl and non-manglik boy could result in the death of the male. Because, you know, Mars is evil like that.

(Oh, it gets better.)

How do you fix this problem?

Aishwarya will have to marry a tree.

A peepal tree or a banana tree. Well, either that, or she’ll have to marry Lord Vishnu’s idol. But only if the idol is made of gold or silver. (Incidentally, Vishnu is said to have been born under a peepal tree. So this makes complete sense…and she has married two trees and also the Vishnu idol and a marble bull if reports are to be believed.))

Because doing even one of these things will “make the entity take on the bad effects of Mars.”

Got all that?

This ceremony, called a Kumbh Vivah, is performed for manglik girls, but not manglik boys. Because as we all know, the position of the planets doesn’t affect the Y chromosome. Duh.

Apparently, Indian parents have one hell of a time trying to marry off their manglik-born daughters.

I  also conducted this little experiment on an Indian matrimonial website Shaadi.com, to see what kind of religious prejudices would make their cyber appearance there.

Some background: I’m a Macaca. And just like Jewish people have JDate, Indian people have Shaadi.com.

Shaadi.com claims 710,000+ success stories. Some of these are arranged marriages (your profile can be created by your parents, siblings, or friends). Of course, you can also put up your own ad to potentially meet a spouse.

It’s not a dating site like Match or Craigslist. When you register, they ask you for your gender. Your choices are “looking for groom” or “looking for bride”… (Sorry, gay people.)

From almost every conversation I’ve had about it with other Indian people, it’s pretty much the last ditch place you go when you need to marry yourself off. If you haven’t met anyone and your marriage is becoming a fading dream for your family, or if your family didn’t know another Indian family with a single son or daughter, you go to Shaadi.com.

The upside: If your ad is up there, you are likely to get many responses.

The downside: It’s Shaadi.com.

Anyway. The experiment:

I put up a posting a month ago just to see what would happen.

My profile name was FriendlyAtheist. (I’m blunt.) My picture was on the profile, as were my basic stats. My religion was listed as “No religion.” When it asked for a bio, I wrote about my hobbies/interests, job, etc. I did stick in a short paragraph in the middle saying I was an atheist who worked with “secular organizations.”

Everything was honest.

As for who I was searching for, I didn’t make many specific requests other than I was looking for someone in Illinois. And the woman’s age had to be 18-29. In all, 430 women fulfilled my (very broad) requirements.

The profile was up 19 days.

In that time, the profile was viewed only 32 times.

No one “expressed interest” in me, no one sent me messages, no one called me.

Ouch.

Yesterday, I put up a new profile. With a couple of exceptions, everything was the exact same, including the picture.

What were the changes? My profile name was now FriendlyIndian (I know, I know. Very creative). My religion was now listed as Jain (and my sect was listed as Shewetamber), the religion in which I was raised. The statement about my atheism and working with secular organizations was deleted.

It hasn’t been 24 hours yet.

17 people have already viewed the page.

One girl has already “expressed interest.” (Woo!)

I’m not about to extrapolate anything from this (and I took down the profile). Clearly, there are too many variables that could’ve played a role in this. People flock to new profiles quickly, religion is very important in the Indian community, etc.

But you’re telling me that on a website that brown people flock to when trying to marry someone; the atheism was that much of a turn-off?

*sigh*

And for the record, Shaadi.com, asked me if I was a manglik.

But I didn’t know how to answer that… because I have a &*%#ing brain.

And you thought a Scientologist wedding was all f’&%ed up…

So there you go, mom and dad. This is why I probably won’t end up with an Indian girl.

Hemant Mehta is an honors graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he helped establish the organization Students WithOut Religious Dogma (SWORD). Mehta also is chair of the Secular Student Alliance’s board of directors. His story has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Seattle Times, the Village Voice, National Public Radio, and FOX News Channel, among other major news outlets. Currently, Mehta is working toward a masters degree in math education at DePaul University in Chicago.

You can find out more about Hemant at http://www.friendlyatheist.com

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