Coming from a South Indian and Catholic background, you best believe I have been told all my life that a “boyfriend” is a bad thing. Not necessarily by my parents, but by the culture and kind of community I grew up in. When I was in college, I remember doing a double take when my mother said, ” I wouldn’t mind if you had a guy as long as he’s catholic and keralite”. You see, even among my fellow Indian peeps, there is still a prevailing boundary between every state of the country since the whole culture changes when you go across state borders. Indian states each have their own culture, cuisine, language, traditions and norms. This is why you will be met with a confused stare if you ask any one of us to speak ‘Indian’ (no such language…at least say Hindi….its the national language and some portion of Indians can speak it along with their traditional state’s language) or if someone says they like curry (no such thing as just ‘curry’…curry’s are just another word for broth/stew/food depending on what you are talking about…you have to specify the kind of curry you are referring to- eg, chicken, mutton, fish, vegetable, potato etc).
Coming back to the topic, this is the notion I saw around me as a child. Even in the Indian movies we watch, falling for the “hero” brought inevitable anger and sadness from the families of the guy and girl. In real life, especially in previous generations, having a boyfriend was seen as bringing shame on yourself and thus to your family. If you were a “good” boy or girl, you would heed your parent’s advise and wisdom on your future spouse. Oh and that’s another thing, having a boyfriend/girlfriend was perceived as a sure long term relationship that would hopefully lead to marriage. If you had a fling, may goodness shield you from the scorn and disrespect you would be met with by society and sadly by women folk especially.
So as a child who was always curious and always looking for answers to my questions, I thought and formulated my view on relationships early. I knew I was looking for love, the real thing and thus had no intention of messing around with flings since they clearly were not satisfying to my ultimate desire. So any relationship I had would have to be long term.
Secondly, I knew, even as a child, that I had not seen enough of the world or of boys to be an adequate judge of natures or mankind. Therefore, I decided I would wait until I knew I was wise enough to pick and also until I knew said boy well enough so I didn’t get myself in any hot water. Therefore, ideally, for me a relationship should begin in friendship and move onto anything else if the wind blows that way.
Thirdly, my parents’ opinion on the guy I would spend the rest of my life with was very important to me. I certainly did not want to break their hearts and stomp over them so I could be happy. I love my parents and as sad as it may sound, I would give up my dreams in a minute if it hurt them in any way.
Lastly, I knew I wanted a guy who was catholic and keralite, not just because it would make my parents happy but for myself as well. My faith is a very strong part of me and not only can I not imagine being able to accept another faith, I also have a strong desire to pass on my faith to my children. If I theoretically got married to a non catholic or even a non christian, I know there would be a difference of opinion there; one that perhaps my spouse might feel just as strongly about as me and I’d rather not have such a personal matter as religion tear a hole in my relationship. My keralite and Indian pride is also very high and I can’t imagine going a month without some spicy Indian food or passing up the little traditions and culture I have grown up with. I know its not the same with everyone, but for me, having someone who can share that love with me would only strengthen our relationship and being with someone who didn’t might even make me very uncomfortable and guarded in our relationship because it really is a big part of me.