'I Offer Thee My Body, Mind, and Soul': A Qualitative Inquiry into the Union Formation Processes among Second Generation Patels in Florida

Material Information

'I Offer Thee My Body, Mind, and Soul': A Qualitative Inquiry into the Union Formation Processes among Second Generation Patels in Florida
Copyright Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Cultural identity ( jstor )
Indian culture ( jstor )
Marriage ( jstor )
Men ( jstor )
Parents ( jstor )
Quasi community property ( jstor )
Single status ( jstor )
Spouses ( jstor )
Women ( jstor )
Womens songs ( jstor )

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright the author. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Embargo Date:


This item is only available as the following downloads:

Full Text




Copyright 2006 by Namita-Naomi Manohar


iii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS My heartfelt thanks and appreciation go to the Patel women and men who willingly participated in this study. Their candid responses and honest perspectives on an essentially personal topic made this project not only possible but also exciting. I hope I have truly represented their stories, expe riences and challenges in this thesis. I acknowledge, with thanks, the critical role my advisor, Dr. Barbara Zsembik, assumed this endeavor. Her mentoring, s upport and guidance have transformed this project from a mere fulfillment of requirements for the master’s degree into a valuable learning experience. My thanks go also to the other members of my advisory committee, Dr. Tanya Koropeckyj-Cox and Dr. Vasudha Na rayanan. Their assistance in refining the project and their valuable feedback at all st ages of this endeavor are appreciated. Our many discussions enabled me to enjoy my work and challenged me to deepen my knowledge in my chosen specialization. I am especially indebted to Dr. Narayanan who introduced me to my key informants in the Patel community in Gainesville, Florida. My deepest gratitude goes to Ms. Naina Pa tel and Ms. Lata Patel, who as my key informants in the Patel community introduced me to members of the second generation who agreed to participate in the study. My thanks go also to my friends Aditi Murti, Aparna Giridharadas, Rupa Nair, Dana Be rkowitz, and Yuko Fujino who introduced me to their Patel friends, students, and colleagues, some of whom particip ated in this study.


iv Lastly, I would like to acknow ledge with thanks my fam ily and friends in India whose interest and emotional support since the inception of this project have been invaluable to me.


v TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iii LIST OF TABLES.............................................................................................................ix ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... ..x CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................1 Research Questions.......................................................................................................1 Background To The Research Questions.....................................................................3 Definitions Of The Generations............................................................................6 Union Formation...................................................................................................6 Ethnic community.................................................................................................7 Rationale...................................................................................................................... .7 2 OVERVIEW OF THE LITERATURE......................................................................12 History Of Indian Immigration To The United States................................................12 Acculturation And Identity Constructi on Among Indians In The United States........15 Segmented Assimilation And Bi-Cultura l Identity: A Theoretical Overview....15 Acculturation Among Indians In The United States...........................................19 Bi-Cultural Identity: Indian-ness In The United States.......................................23 Gender And Union Formation Among Indians In The United States........................28 Family And Gender Construction: The First And Second Generations..............28 Dating And Courtship: The Generational Perspective........................................33 Engagement And Marriage: Sn apshot Of Two Generations...............................38 Critique Of The Literature..........................................................................................46 Summary.....................................................................................................................52 3 METHODOLOGY.....................................................................................................55 Research Design.........................................................................................................55 Sample, Sampling Method And Recruitment.............................................................56 Sample Of The Study..........................................................................................56 Sampling Method................................................................................................62 Recruitment Of Participants................................................................................63


vi Data Collection...........................................................................................................67 Analysis Strategy........................................................................................................71 Reflexivity: Being Indian Wh ile Researching Indians...............................................73 Being Indian........................................................................................................74 Being Indian, But Non-Gujarati And Non-Patel.................................................77 Being Indian And Female....................................................................................78 Being Indian From An Urban, Liberal Family In India......................................80 4 COCONUT OR COCKTAIL: IDEN TITY CONSTRUCTION AMONG SECOND GENERATION PATELS..........................................................................84 Sources Of Identity Construction...............................................................................85 Patel Families......................................................................................................85 Parents..........................................................................................................86 Grandparents................................................................................................88 Patel And Gujarati Community...........................................................................88 Features Of Bi-cultural Identity..................................................................................91 Language.............................................................................................................91 External Symbols Of Identity..............................................................................95 Food..............................................................................................................95 Festive celebrations......................................................................................98 Internal Symbols Of Identity.............................................................................101 Religion......................................................................................................101 Family values.............................................................................................105 Features Of American Identity..........................................................................107 The Dynamic Nature Of Bi-cultural Identity............................................................108 Trajectory In Bi-Cultural Identity Formation....................................................109 Birth in India and emigra tion to the United States.....................................109 Age and Maturation....................................................................................110 The Public-Private Dynamic In Identity Performance......................................111 Negotiating The Borders Of Identity: Indian, American Or Both.....................112 Between two cultures.................................................................................113 Labeling of self...........................................................................................114 Conflicts and challenges in negotiating identity........................................115 Outcomes of bi-cultura l identity negotiation.............................................122 5 “SSHHH . . . ! DON’T TELL MY PARENTS”: DATING AMONG SECOND GENERATION PATELS.........................................................................................127 Definitions Of Dating...............................................................................................127 Defining Dating: The First Generation..............................................................128 Dating as American behavior.....................................................................128 Dating as courtship and a precursor to marriage........................................129 Defining Dating: The Second Generation.........................................................131 Rules And Norms Related To Dating.......................................................................134 Gender Based Rules and Norms........................................................................135 Rules and norms pertaining to women.......................................................136


vii Rules and norms pertaining to men............................................................139 Non-Gender Based Rules And Norms..............................................................142 Age.............................................................................................................142 Partner selection.........................................................................................142 Dating Behaviors......................................................................................................144 Discussion About Dating...................................................................................144 Onset And Occurrence Of Dating.....................................................................147 Secrecy In Dating..............................................................................................149 Semantics Of Dating..........................................................................................152 Distinctions Between American A nd Patel (Indian) Dating Behavior..............153 First Generation Reactions To Da ting Amongst The Second Generation................154 Awareness Of Dating........................................................................................155 Ambivalence About Dating...............................................................................156 Lack of understanding about dating...........................................................156 Discomfort with dating...............................................................................157 Acceptance Of Dating.......................................................................................157 Dating Experiences Of Patel Women And Men.......................................................160 Onset of Dating And Dating Partners................................................................160 Dating Behaviors...............................................................................................161 Parental Reactions To Their Dating..................................................................164 6 “DON’T MARRY A B (BLACK) M (MUSLIM) W (WHITE)!”: MATE SELECTION, ENGAGEMENT AND MARRIAGE AMONG SECOND GENERATION PATELS.........................................................................................166 Conceptualizing Marriage........................................................................................166 Semi-Arranged Marriage...................................................................................166 Love Marriage...................................................................................................169 Prevalent Marriage Type Among Second Generation Patels............................172 Mate Selection..........................................................................................................173 Marriage Conversations: Raising Th e Issue Of Marriage And Marriage Pressure..........................................................................................................173 Finding A Spouse..............................................................................................179 Whom should I marry? the criteria for mate selection...............................180 How and where should I find a spouse? The spaces of making marriages195 Adaptations to the United States: Creating spaces for making marriages.199 Breaking The Rules: Responding To Out-Marriage Among Second Generation Patels...........................................................................................205 Family reaction to out-marriage.................................................................206 Patel/Gujarati community reaction to out-marriage...................................211 Second generation reaction to out-marriage...............................................212 Rite Of Marriage.......................................................................................................212 Rite Of Marriage: Semi-Arranged Context.......................................................213 Introduction and relationship assessment...................................................213 Building a relationship and ma king a choice: Courtship...........................214 Declaring your intentions: Engagement.....................................................218 The wedding day........................................................................................221


viii Rite Of Marriage: Love Marriage Context........................................................222 Marriage Visions And Expectations.........................................................................224 Choice To Marry...............................................................................................225 Timing Of Marriage..........................................................................................225 Preferred Marriage Type...................................................................................227 Visions Of Spouse.............................................................................................229 Criteria for mate selection..........................................................................230 Qualities, roles & respon sibilities of spouse..............................................233 Parents’ Stories: Th e Generation Effect...................................................................236 Stories Of Dating & Marriage...........................................................................237 Changes In The “Making” Of Marriag es From The First To The Second Generation......................................................................................................239 7 GATHERING THE THREADS: C ONCLUSIONS AND DISCUSSION..............244 Summary And Conclusions Of Findings..................................................................244 Identity...............................................................................................................245 Dating................................................................................................................248 Mate Selection, Engagement And Marriage.....................................................251 Discussion.................................................................................................................255 APPENDIX INTERVIEW GUIDE................................................................................266 LIST OF REFERENCES.................................................................................................271 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH...........................................................................................275


ix LIST OF TABLES Table page 1 Quota sampling matrix – sex by marital status........................................................59 2 Demographic characteristics of sample....................................................................61 3 Cultural characteristics of sample............................................................................61


x Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts “I OFFER THEE BY BODY, MIND, AND SOUL”: A QUALITATIVE INQUIRY INTO THE UNION FORMATION PROCESSES AMONG SECOND GENERATI ON PATELS IN FLORIDA By Namita-Naomi Manohar May, 2006 Chair: Barbara Zsembik Major Department: Sociology This qualitative study examines the intersect ions of bi-cultura l identity and union formation – dating, engagement/betrothal and marriage – among second generation Patel women and men in Florida. Patels are the most prominent members of the Patidar caste who originally hail from the western state of Gujarat in India. In the United States, they comprise a relatively small, but econom ically successful Indian ethnic group. Importantly, the Patel community in the United States continues to maintain traditional familial and union formation patterns. This study uncovers how second generation Patels navigate union formation in the context of being Indian-American. Eighteen semistructured, interviews were conducted with second generation Patel women and men, in three marital status categories – single, enga ged/betrothed, and married – to uncover the workings of this process. The construction and adoption of a bi-cultu ral identity by second generation Patels are acculturation strategies that enable them to navigate between their ethnic and


xi American worlds. Patel women and men cons truct for themselves a blended or hybrid identity – essentially a single identity with Gujarati/Indian and American traits – rather than two distinct identities. This blended bi -cultural identity intersects with and shapes their union formation decisions, behaviors and practices. The processual nature of union formation is a manifestation of this intersection. For Patel women and men, being bi-cultural imp lies a desire to marry for love, for their marriages to be psychologically and emoti onally fulfilling and not a mere joining of families, and not disappointing their parents. Thus, dating is the mechanism by which Patel women and men re-conceptu alize love and marriage. It not only enables them to learn about love and their expectations from a romantic relationship, but often assumes the mantle of courting a spousal candidate introduced to them by their parents in a process called the semi-arranged marriage. While parents may acquaint eligible spousal candidates to each other, the decision to pur sue a courting relations hip and to marry is that of the second generation alone. Gender is critical to the process of pe rforming bi-cultural identity in union formation. Second generation women are concei ved to be keepers of ethnic culture for their generation and the next. In union formation, this translates into re strictions in dating, pressure to marry on attaining marriageable age, a strict preference for their husbands to be Patel, Gujarati or Indian in that order, and a strong intolerance for exogamy – all more so than their male counterparts. In privileging the voices of second generati on Patels, this study redresses a lacuna in the existing body of knowledge on Indians in the United States.


1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION This study examines how bi-culturali sm shapes union formation processes – namely dating, engagement/betrothal, and ma rriage among second ge neration Patels in Florida. Also explored are the intersections of bi-cultural forces, gender structures and generational influences in the Patel commun ity in Florida in shaping union formation processes among the second generation. In-dep th, qualitative inte rviews with second generation Patel women and men in thre e marital status categories – single, engaged/betrothed, and married – were used to construct a narrative about their identity, gender construction and performance, and uni on formation processes. The generational influences and perspectives were teased out retrospectively, by the second generation interpreting their parents’ behaviors, standard s and expectations with reference to identity and gender construction and union formation. In this chapter I presen t the (a) research questions guiding this study, (b) the backgr ound to the research questions, and (c) rationale for the project. Research Questions Segmented assimilation, as propounded by Portes and Zhou (1993), Zhou (1999), and Zhou and Xiong (2005) conceive of the adaptation of ethnic communities to American society as occurring along multiple paths. They identified three possible acculturation trajectories adopted by immigran ts and their American born children. One path of assimilation, namely “rapid economic advancement with deliberate preservation of the immigrant community’s values and tight so lidarity” is central to this thesis as it is


2 widely adopted by Indian immigrants to the United States and their U.S. born children (Portes & Zhou, 1993, p. 82). Implicit in this path of segmente d assimilation is the idea that the successful achievement of econo mic advancement, while simultaneously preserving ethnic community values, requires an existence in two cultures – the ethnic culture and the culture of the larger, differen tiated, host society – a bi-cultural functioning (Szapocznik, Kurtines & Fernandez, 1980; Sayegh & Lasry, 1993; Warikoo, 2005). The product of this bi-cultural functioning is a bi-cultural identity embraced by both immigrants and the second generation, which is performed in their daily lives and that informs their life decisions and experiences. It thus stands to reason that the bi-cultural identity of second generation Patels will im pact their union formation choices, behaviors and decisions. It is in this context that I ask as the primary research question: What is the interplay of bi-cultural functio ning and the resultant bi-cultural identity with the union formation processes – na mely dating, engagement and marriageamong second generation Patel women and men in Florida? The bi-cultural functioning of second ge neration Indians is mediated by gender structures and ideologies, and by genera tional influences. First generation Indians construct gender such that second generation women bear the burden of being the “keepers” of Indian culture and heritage and are perceived as criti cal to the transmission of that culture to the succeeding generations (Dasgupta, 1998, p. 957; Warikoo, 2005). In espousing this gender ideology, the behavior and roles of second generation women are more rigidly monitored than those of s econd generation men. Gender structures and ideology are critical in the examination of union formation as they influence the possibility of participati ng (especially among second generation women) in mate selection behaviors such as dating and courting, and impact the process by which mates are selected and marriages made in the cas e of both second gene ration women and men.


3 The union formation decisions and behavior performed by second generation women and men – such as preference of a particular ma rriage style, the standards for a suitable spouse, and the timing of dating and marriag e – are not only influenced by the gender structures and ideology they have been socialized into, but are also a di rect product of their responses to negotiations with those ge nder structures (Wakil, Siddique & Wakil, 1981; Lessinger, 1995; Dasgupta, 1998; Ra ngaswamy, 2000; Dugsin, 2001; Sheth, 2001; Khandelwal, 2002; Segal, 2002; Ka llivayalil, 2004; Warikoo, 2005). Generational influences are perceived in two areas – in the j uxtaposition of union formation among first generation Patels and that of the second generation, and in the constructs developed by the first generation (s uch as mate selection criteria, spaces for mate selection, process of mate selecti on, desired and acceptable union formation behavior) which directly impact the union form ation of second generation Patels (Wakil, Siddique & Wakil, 1981; Vaidyanathan & Naidoo, 1990; Lessinger, 1995; Leonard, 1997; Dasgupta, 1998; Mukhi, 2000; Ra ngaswamy, 2000; Khandelwal, 2002; Kallivayalil, 2004). Informed by this research, I derive one sub-question from the primary research question: How do gender structures and ideology and generational influences intersect with bi-cultural identity in shaping the union formation processes of second generation Patel women and men? Background To The Research Questions An elucidation of the background to the re search questions necessitates an insight into the Patel community in the United St ates, their linkages to India and their immigration story. The Patels are an agricultur al caste – namely the Patidar caste – from the state of Gujarat on the west coast of India (Pocock, 1972; Jain , 1989). Traditionally, they have been involved in the production of cotton, barley, rice, and wheat (Jain, 1989).


4 Early in the British colonial rule of India, British officers, impressed by the industry and skills of the Patidars, awarded them impor tant government appointments of assistant revenue collectors. The Patels were the head men of the villa ges in charge of assessment of revenue and administration of justice. Sinc e that period in history, however, the term Patel has been transformed from an administra tive title to the label of an Indian ethnic group (Pocock, 1972). It is note-worthy that no t all Patidars are Patels, but because these two groups are very closely synony mous, I use these terms interc hangeably in this thesis. It is difficult to undertake an explan ation of the Patel community without interweaving it with a narrative of the Gujarati community. The Patels constitute five to eight percent of Gujarati immi grants in the United States and have achieved extraordinary economic success in the Untied States (Assar, 20 00). In addition, it is important to point out that the Patels are Gujaratis (along with other Gujarati sub-groups such as Shah and Desai) and accordingly, Patel culture is Guja rati culture. Thus, in this paper, the term Gujarati and Patel will be used synonymously. The Patels benefited substantially from the family reunification categories in immigration introduced by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Pa tels have entered the United States through a pattern of “chain migration” wherein family members sponsor new immigrants’ entry into the Un ited States (Assar, 2000, p. 18; Sheth, 2001). As immigrants, the Patels have distinguish ed themselves economically in the United States while maintaining the ethnic valu es, culture and community solidarity. The Gujaratis, most especially the Patels, are c onspicuous in the hospita lity industry (motels, and luxury hotels), in industry, and medicine and in retail business undertaken through networks of grocery, conveni ence and liquor stores, restau rants, Seven Elevens and


5 Indian stores (stores selling et hnic products) (Sheth, 2001). It is in these professions that the Patels have prospered economically a nd in doing so have achieved the “American dream” of economic success (Jain, 1989; Assar, 2000; Sheth, 2001). In their social life, Gujarati s/Patels as an ethnic group in the United States have not remained as rigidly conservative as of old. Ho wever, the Patels continue to be a tradition bound group. They continue to maintain trad itional family struct ures, marriage, and language and residential patterns in the United St ates, and make special effort to socialize the second generation into the culture of the community (Jain, 1989; Assar, 2000; Sheth, 2001). Their commitment to tradition is espe cially manifested in the union formation processes of the second generation. Gujarati pare nts, like most Indian parents, disdain the relaxed sexual morality in the United States, most particularly pre-marital sex. This often leads them to curtail dating among the s econd generation, especially second generation women (Jain, 1989; Assar, 2000; Khandelwal, 2002). With reference to marriage, the Patels continue to practice endogamy, preferring that the second generation marry within th e Patel community. In addition, the Patel community in the United States is an intern ally stratified community (like their Indian counterpart) and continues to be organized according to their village of origin in India (Jain, 1989; Assar, 2000). Members of the same village of origin are conceptualized as family – related to each other and marriag es within the village are perceived as incestuous (Pocock, 1972). Thus, the Patels in the United States practice village exogamy, where the second generation is admoni shed to not only to marry another Patel from a village of origin other than their own, but also from a village of origin acceptable given the caste ranking of their own village. In addition, Gujarati/Patel community


6 culture informs the criteria applied in selec ting a mate, in deeming the eligibility of a potential mate, and in the process by which marriages are made (J ain, 1989). It is thus evident that as an ethnic community, the Pa tels are an exemplar of the bi-cultural functioning model. Their bi-c ultural identities enable them to function in American society and achieve economic success in the United States, while preserving the cultural core of their ethnic community. In setting up the background to the research questions that guide this project, I have invoked some concepts that require lucid de finition. Three essential concepts require delineation in this project – definition of the generati ons, union formation, and ethnic community. Definitions Of The Generations The two generations of interest in this st udy are the first and second generations. It is in the defining of the latte r, that the former becomes se lf-evident. Dasgupta (1998), and Sheth (2001, p. 54) define second generati on Indians as “Indian-Americans born and raised, or raised from early childhood in Am erica”. Implicit in this definition of the second generation is that of th e first generation as immigrants who are born and raised in India. These definitions guide the conceptualization of ge neration in this study and the sample selection criteria ela borated in chapter three. Union Formation In the context of this pape r, union formation encompasses three processes – dating, engagement/betrothal, and marriage. The literature on union formation among Indians in the United States often constructs dating and marriage as disparate categories and overlooks the process of engagement in entirety. In addition, union formation is constructed as a linear pro cess progressing from dating to marriage (Lessinger, 1995


7 Rangaswamy, 2000; Sheth, 2001; Khandelwal, 2002; Kallivayalil, 2004). This paper deviates from this approach and conceives of the three processe s as fluid categories wherein one cannot be understood without the other, and to do so would reveal only a partial snapshot of union fo rmation among the Patels. Conse quently, union formation is conceptualized as a complex interplay of the three processes which culminates in marriage, but need not nece ssarily begin with dating. Ethnic community India is acclaimed for her cultural divers ity rooted in the regional, religious and linguistic expressions of her people. The variegated cultur al expressions in India are classified as cultural/regional communities or groups (Khandelwal, 2002). In the United States, Indians are classified as an et hnic community or group. However, inherent heterogeneity in the Indian community ne cessitates the imagini ng of diverse ethnic communities (based on cultural/regional/linguis tic diversity) within the larger Indian ethnic group. In this paper, the term “ethnic community” will be used to designate not only the Indian community in the United States , but also ‘cultural/regional communities’ among Indians such as the Gujaratis/Patels. Contextualization will be provided at all instances of utilization of the c oncept to qualify it s application. Rationale The undertaking of this research project necessitates the answer ing of three interrelated, essential questions – why the Patels? Why the second generation? And why union formation? In responding to these questions, I outline the rationale behind this project. Research on diverse ethni c groups among Indians in the United States is a relatively underdeveloped area when compared to the plethora of research on Indians in


8 the United States. The existing body of knowledge on Indians in the Un ited States, in my opinion, tends to homogenize the Indian experi ence by recounting the stories of “Indians” and not of particular Indian ethnic groups such as the Gujaratis or Patels. This should not however be construed as a total neglect of the ethnic diversity among Indians by researchers. Existing research does highlight the experiences of specific Indian ethnic groups, but often this takes the form of a ch apter in a book about Indians in America or receives passing mention, for instance, when the unique adaptations of some Indian ethnic groups are documented. I argue that the outcome of hom ogenizing the Indian experience lies in the inability to make accura te generalizations about the lives of Indians in the United States as these may vary among ethnic groups. The neglect of the heterogeneous or divers e experiences of an ethnic community is also evident in the segmented assimilation theory/bi-cultural functioning model. While this theoretical perspective accounts for the racial/ethnic structure in American society that mediates the acculturation of ethnic groups into the latter, it fails to account for the mediation by intra-ethnic group diversity. The ethnic diversity among Indians in the United States implies not only differential extents of acculturation by variegated ethnic groups but also the diverse me thods of bi-cultural functioni ng – both of which cannot be sufficiently accounted for by th e theoretical framework. This study seeks to address these gaps in the body of knowledge on Indians in America by concentrating narrowly on the expe rience of one Indian ethnic group in the state of Florida. The decision to study the Gujaratis/Patels was made for two reasons – their under-representation in research on Indi ans in America; and their epitomizing of the bi-cultural functioning model. Gu jaratis/Patels are an underst udied Indian ethnic group as


9 was evident in the difficulty experienced in identifying relevant literature on the community that was not dated. It should be poi nted out here that a significant proportion of the existing body of knowledge on the Gujarati/Patel community documents their economic endeavors, progress and success in the United States. In some of the research [for instance Jain (1989), and Assar (2000)] other social stru ctures that in tersect with economic life such as gender, immigration, and acculturation have been demonstrated. However, there is a conspicuous absence of research on any aspect of union formation in the Gujarati/Patel community save the pass ing mentions of some of the community’s union formation practices in the existing literature. This lacuna necessitates extrapolations from acculturation and union fo rmation literature on Indians in America and South Asians as a composite whole to Pa tel union formation processes in Florida. Thus, through this study, I attempt not only to address the chasms in and contribute to the existing body of knowledge on the Gujaratis/Pate ls, but also to give primacy to union formation (among Indians in the U.S.) as a research agenda. In addition, my initial reviewing of the av ailable literature on the Gujarati/Patel community indicated that perhaps this community would be a sterling exemplification of the bi-cultural functioning process largely because of their succe ss in achieving economic advancement while maintaining their ethnic traditions. Thus in selecting the Patels as an ethnic community to research, I sought insi ghts into the workings of bi-cultural functioning and identity and the impact (i f any) the latter had on union formation. It is my belief that the relative neglect of diverse ethnic groups in research on Indians in the United States is a result of th e attendance given to the voices of the first generation that those of the second in na rrating the Indian experience in the United


10 States. The second generation has not been the focus of the res earch to the extent that the first generation has, and often they too (like diverse Indian ethnic groups) constitute a chapter in the works of scholars. In the process, the unique experiences and interpretations of Indian-Americans, rather th an those of Indians in America, have not been adequately documented. This trend is be ing reversed in recent times with a small but growing body of work that center ar ound the second generation/1.5 generation experience in the United States. The decisi on to focus the current study around the experiences of the second generation was guide d by this lacuna I have perceived in the existing research. By elucidating the second generation experience, I hope to tease out not only the unique interpretations and na rratives of union formation held by this generation, but also their inte rpretations of the first gene ration’s perception of union formation. In so doing, I seek to augment the growing body of research on the second generation. In conclusion, the questions, concepts, a nd rationale assembled in this chapter guide the study undertaken and the analysis presented in the succeeding chapters. Chapter two provides an overview of th e existing literature on Indians in the United States and an explanation of the theoretical frameworks gui ding the study. The revi ew of the literature has been arranged around the conceptual frameworks of immigration, acculturation, dating and marriage, gender, generation, and the intersections among them all. Chapter three is a presentation of the methodology guiding the current study, and includes an elaboration on the sample selection, data coll ection methods and analysis strategy used as well as an analysis of my role in the resear ch process. Chapters four, five and six are analysis chapters that elucidate the findings of the study. Bi-cultural identity construction


11 and performance by second generation Patel wo men and men is presen ted in chapter four, followed by their dating patterns and behavior s in chapter five, and their mate selection, engagement, and marriage patterns, choices a nd behaviors in chapte r six. Chapter seven comprises the discussions and conclusions where I summarize the findings of the research and attempt to identify and explain br oader theoretical concepts and perspectives emerging from the analysis.


12 CHAPTER 2 OVERVIEW OF THE LITERATURE This section gives an overview of the l iterature and has been divided into the following subsections (a) hist ory of Indian immigration to the United States, (b) acculturation and identity construction among I ndians in the United States, (c) gender and union formation among Indians in the United Stat es, and (d) critique of the literature. History Of Indian Immigrat ion To The United States The immigrant experiences of Indians in th e United States of America have to be contextualized in terms of the ‘push’ and ‘ pull’ factors that motivated their migration. The first significant wave of immigration to the United States took place between 1900 and 1910. These immigrants were agricultural la borers who considered themselves to be sojourners in a foreign land (Segal, 2002). Although they were of high caste standing in India, famine and the resultant poverty motiv ated their migration to the United States. The decision to emigrate was usually a family one and the goal was to amass sufficient wealth so as to restore the family lands in India. These immigrants were largely men and hailed from the state of Punjab in Nort hern India (Rangaswam y, 2000; Segal, 2002). Following this period, exclusionary laws passe d by the United States Congress in 1917 and 1924 effectively slowed down Indian im migration until 1946 when quotas for Asian immigrants were increased (Segal, 1998). The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 heralded the next wave of immigration which increased the number of Indian immigrants dramatically. The most significant features of this legislation which aided Indian emigration were the abolition of


13 the national quota system instituted in the prev ious legislations and the establishment of family reunification as one of the preference categories fo r immigration (Chandrasekhar, 1981; Juthani, 1992; Khandelwal, 2002). Accord ingly, there were two main streams of Indian immigrants during this time. The pr ofessional stream was made up of skilled Indian professionals who were responding to the need for such workers in the United States and to the scarce em ployment opportunities for them in India. These immigrants were either from the middle or upper classes in India (as these were the classes who had access to education) resulting in an interplay of class hierarchies in immigration. Spouses, children and family members (like siblings, un cles and aunts) made up the other stream of immigrants who utilized the family reunifi cation category to gain entry into the United States (Lessinger, 1995; Leona rd, 1997; Rangaswamy, 2000; Sh eth, 2001; Segal, 2002). The next wave of immigration from Indi a began in the 1980s and still continues. While a significant number of these immigr ants were less skilled than their 1965 counterparts, this period also witnessed an increase in Indian students (especially single women) seeking graduate education in the United States (Rangaswamy, 2000; Khandelwal, 2002; Segal, 2002). Thus a wide r spectrum of socio-economic classes was now gaining entering the United States, transfor ming not just the fabric and color of the Indian-American community, but of the United States as well. Since the 1980s, there has been a steady stream of Indians to America creating a medley of professionals, students, aging parents, relatives and non-professional workers straddling various class lines to form the Indian community in America. The Patels are members of the Patidar cast e of Gujarat – a land owning, influential caste in Gujarat. The Patidars (Patels) are a diasporic community whose recent


14 movements around the world have their origins in the famines, drought and plague that afflicted their district in central Gujarat in the late 19th and early 20th century. It was during this period that the Patidars began mi grating to East Africa (Kenya and Uganda) and Tanzania and in doing so, converted th emselves into a wealthy trading community (Pocock, 1972, Sheth, 2001). Gujaratis as an et hnic group also have a long history of migration to England, Fiji, Tr inidad and Guyana and of achieving subsequent economic and political success (Sheth, 2001) . Note worthy is the fact that all the countries that contained the Gujarati/Patel diaspora were former British colonies. With the collapse of colonialism, and th e rise of local leadership and governments especially in Africa, the Indian community of East Africa was expelled often times forcibly from those countries. In this pro cess, a significant proporti on of Gujaratis/Patels made their way to the United Kingdom and even tually to the United States (Sheth, 2001). Thus the immigration trajectory of Gujaratis/Pa tels to the United States can be traced to three main streams – a small stream from East Africa (often via the United Kingdom), another small stream from the Caribbean a nd a large stream directly from India, especially after the 1965 immigration legisl ation and in the 1980s (Jain, 1989; Sheth, 2001). While a small group of Patels had immigr ated to the United States in the late 1940s, the significant proportion of Patels we re post-1965 and/or post-1980 immigrants. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was a liberal legisla tion that heralded immigration of Indians in la rge numbers to the United States. The Act abolished the national origin quota systems favoring wester n European immigrants instituted in previous immigration legislation and establ ished a preference system emphasizing family reunification and occupational skills (Cha ndrasekhar, 1981; Khandelwal, 2002; Segal,


15 2002). Patels in the United States have trad itionally practiced “chain migration” (Assar, 2000, p.18; Rutten & Patel, 2003), wherein immigran ts to countries like the United States have been sponsored by family members (usu ally related by blood or marriage) already in these countries. In addition, Patels immigr ating to the United Stat es also tended to be “twice migrant” – having emigrated to the United States after so journing in another country most often the United Kingdom (Assar, 2000, p. 16; Sheth, 2001). Acculturation And Identity Construction Among Indians In The United States Migration to another countr y necessitates some adaptive response on the part of the immigrants to the culture and the society of the host country. Refusing to choose between their world of origin and their adopted countr y, Indians in America work to create a new hybrid “bi-cultural identity” a fusion of th e two cultures they straddle – through the process of segmented assimilation (Jutha ni, 1992, p. 139; Patel, Power & Bhavnagri, 1996; Dasgupta, 1998; Farver, Narang & Bhadha , 2002; Khandelwal, 2002; Segal, 2002). Segmented Assimilation And Bi-Cultu ral Identity: A Theoretical Overview Classical assimilation theories were first conceptualized as a response to European migration to the United States. Assimilation wa s conceptualized as a natural process by “which diverse ethnic groups come to share a common culture and to gain equal access to the opportunity structure of society” (Zhou, 1999, p. 196). This process necessarily involved the desertion of ethnic cultural traditions and behavioral patterns and the adoption of those of the host society – in this case the United States, in this manner creating a melting pot. Critical to the assimila tion process was the idea that once set in motion, the process “moves inevitably and ir reversibly toward assimilation” (Zhou, 1999, p. 196; Zhou & Xiong, 2005).Gordon (1964) one of the premier exponents of this perspective, identified seven stages in the process of assimilation commencing with


16 acculturation – which he conceived of as the “minority group’s adoption of the ‘cultural patterns’ of the host society” – and proceeding steadily toward structural assimilation which is the “entry of members of an ethni c minority into primary-group relationships with the majority group” (Alba & Nee, 1999, p. 138). Assimilation theories were however inapplic able in the context of Asian and Latin American migration to the United States a nd the flaws in the assimilation perspective became more evident. Sayegh and Lasry (1993), Alba and Nee (1999, p. 138), and Zhou (1999) note that the greatest shortcoming of the assimilation argument was in its expectation of “erasure of a ll signs of ethnic origin” by immi grants so as to become melted into mainstream American society a nd to gain equal acces s to the opportunity structure. In addition, assimilation theories do not account for structural constraints – the most important being socio-economic class a nd racial and ethnic sy stemsinherent in American society that impinge on the ability of an immigrant group to assimilate into American society. This is especially eviden t in the conceptualization by Gordon (1964) of the desired cultural standard that represen ted the direction and eventual outcome of the acculturation process – the “middle-class cult ural patterns of, larg ely, white Protestant, Anglo-Saxon origins” which he called the “core cu lture” of American society. (p. 72). This conceptualization does not account for the heterogeneity in American society of social class and racial and ethnic systems into which an immigrant group or people may assimilate. Apart from these flaws in th e assimilation theories, it should also be mentioned that assimilation theo ries refer largely to new i mmigrants and do not make any reference to the adaptation pr ocess of children of immigran ts who are born and brought up in American society.


17 In response to these anomalies in assimila tion theories, accultur ation theories were developed. Gans (1999) explains that as opposed to assimilation, which refers to the “newcomers’ move out of the formal and info rmal ethnic associations and other social institutions and into the host society’s non-et hnic ones”, acculturation refers mainly to the “newcomers’ adoption of the culture, that is, the behavior patterns or practices, values, rules, symbols, and so forth, of the host so ciety (or rather an overly homogenized and reified conception of it)” (p. 162). It is conc eived of as group-level (for instance an ethnic group) and an individual-level (for instance a member of an ethnic group) phenomenon and in doing so accounts for acculturation responses by not only immigrants but also those of the second generation –children of immigr ants born and brought up in the United States (Berry, 1992). Acculturati on also implies a mutual pr ocess of adaptation by both the immigrant group/individuals and the host so ciety. However, it is acknowledged that the host society remains basica lly unchanged, while majority of the changes occur in the immigrant group/individuals (Gordon, 1964; Berry, 1992). Segmented assimilation as explained by Portes and Zhou (1993), Zhou (1999); Zhou and Xiong (2005), and Portes and Rumbau t (2005) is a popular acculturation theory which developed as a response to the flaws a ssimilation theories. It is of particular relevance to the case of Indians in the Unite d States which will be demonstrated in this work. “While rejecting the classical vision of an undifferentiated, unified white middleclass core, segmented assimilation conceives the mainstream as shaped by systems of class and racial stratification” and thus explains both acculturation and economic adaptation in the context of an unequal society (Zhou, 1999; Zhou, & Xiong, 2005, p. 1122). More importantly, unlike the linear assim ilationist trajectory of adaptation, the


18 segmented assimilation perspective acknowledg es the multiple paths of acculturation by both immigrants and their children. Three possible patt erns of acculturation of immigrants and their children into American society were observed: One of them replicates the time-honored portrayal of growing acculturation and parallel integration into th e white middle-class; a sec ond leads straight into the opposite direction to permanent poverty and assimilation into the underclass, still a third associates rapid economic advancemen t with deliberate preservation of the immigrant community’s values and ti ght solidarity. (Por tes & Zhou, 1993, p. 82) The path chosen by an immigrant group or the second generation and the segment of society they acculturate into is determined by th e interaction of individual factors such as education, language ability, age of arrival a nd contextual factors of exit and reception into American society such as racial stratification, spatial segregation, economic opportunities etc (Zhou, 1999; Zhou & Xiong, 2005). It is the last path of segmented assim ilation – namely rapid economic advancement with the preservation of ethnic culture – that is adopted by Indian immigrants into the United States and their U.S. bor n children and so is of central importance to this thesis. Berry (1992, p. 72; 1997; 2001) has described th is path as “integration” implying the maintenance of ethnic identity by the group as well as a movement to become an integral part of the larger society, acknowledging along with Sayegh and Lasry (1993) the path is most often pursued by immigrant groups an d their U.S. born children. The path of preserving ethnic culture and identity, while achieving rapid economic advancement implies an existence in two cultures simultaneous ly – the ethnic culture and the culture of the segment of society into which accultura tion is desired – a bi -cultural functioning. Thus the product of this path of segmente d assimilation is a flexible, hybrid, bicultural identity embraced by both immigrants a nd the second generation and having four possible outcomes: a well adjusted bi-cultural individual fully involve d in both cultures; a


19 bi-cultural individual id entifying with either heritage or host culture and fully involved in that culture; a bi-cultural indi vidual identifying with either cu lture who is marginal due to little involvement in that culture; and a bi-cultural individual identifying with both cultures but marginal due to little involveme nt in both cultures (S zapocznik, Kurtines & Fernandez, 1980; Sayegh & Lasry, 1993; Wa rikoo, 2005). Bi-cultural functioning and the resultant bi-cultural identity have implicat ions for gender practice and union formation among Indians in the United States these intersections will be e xplored in this project. Acculturation Among Indians In The United States Indians attempt to maintain th eir ethnic culture by making it an integral part of their lives in the United States and recreating it fo r the newer generations. This maintenance of ethnic culture is undertaken largely by the family and ethnic community through the process of enculturation or ethnic socializa tion (Farver, Narang & Bhadha, 2002). Indians not only adopt American (largely white mi ddle-class American) cultural traits and standards, but are also modify ing and altering their values a nd practices to adapt to their new homeland rather than discarding them in favor of something totally new (Wakil, Siddique & Wakil, 1981; Patel, Power & Bhav nagri, 1996). Thus, Indian acculturation to the United States is a creative integration of the characteristics of two (or more) cultures accompanied by the ability to operate effectivel y within each (Patel, Power & Bhavnagri, 1996; Dasgupta, 1998; Farver, Narang & Bha dha, 2002; Srinivasan, 2001; Segal, 2002). Indians, in their public a nd professional lives, develop and maintain the American characteristics of being ambitious, achieve ment-oriented, materi alistic and upwardly mobile. They view these adaptations as a “functional compromise” with the American society (Wakil & Wakil, 1981 p.934; Patel, Powe r & Bhavnagri, 1996). In their social lives however, they create a pa rallel ethnic society through wh ich they maintain a strong


20 allegiance to their culture, to their language of origin, to their own ethnic group and to traditional values such as filial piety, conti nuity in the performance of traditional roles by the genders and the discouragement of au tonomy in the young (Saran, 1985; Helweg & Helweg, 1990; Patel, Power & Bhavnagr i, 1996; Rangaswamy, 2000; Segal, 2002). Two key factors moderate the acculturation of Indians in America – generation and gender. The pattern of bi-c ultural functioning has been actively adopted by first generation Indians as a means of affirming thei r ethnicity and identity on foreign soil and of transmitting their culture to the new gene ration. Despite this, first generation Indians have remained essentially Indian (Sheth, 2001; Srinivasan, 2001). The second generation has been brought up to take advantage of al l the opportunities and material techniques available to them in the United States while simultaneously “retaini ng and strengthening the distinctive spiritual essence of the national culture” (Kallivayalil, 2004, p.547). For the most part the second generation has blen ded to varying extents, the two cultures and living styles. More importantly, they have “no illusions of being Indian. They are as American as they can be. They are sure of their American gr ounding, yet they are intensely aware of their roots” (Sheth, 2001, p.71; Srinivasan, 2001). Gender is critical to the pr ocess of acculturating to the United States for both first and second generation Indians. For the first generation, immigration to America did not result in significant changes to traditional familial and gender roles and behavior which continue to be rooted in tradition. Hierarch ical organization marks family life wherein formal authority is determined by age and se x. Men, particularly th e father and eldest sons, are perceived to have the most au thority and the primary responsibility for maintaining families (Rangaswamy, 2000; Segal, 2002). Women, who can be demanding


21 and authoritarian in their professional lives, “reveal themselves to be remarkably docile women in the presence of their husbands” an d continue to be primarily responsible for domestic tasks (Rangaswamy, 2000, p.35). Gende r was thus performed largely in the ethnic context. In its preoccupation with pa ssing on culture, language and tradition to both its male and female offspring, the Indian comm unity has placed a heavy burden on women. Historically, Hindu women have been constructe d to be “keepers” of culture and heritage a construction embraced by nationalistic groups in the early 19th century in India (Falk, 1995; Dasgupta, 1998, p.957; Warikoo, 2005). The soci al reform movements in the early 19th century sought to improve th e status of women in col onial Indian society. The nationalistic groups feared the consequence of these reforms would be the ‘westernizing’ of Indian women and mounted a response wher ein they dichotomized culture into the material and spiritual (Falk, 1995). Material life was pursued in the public world and was thus constructed as the male domain. Spiritu al life, the source of all integrity was an interior world preserved through values and th e customs of home and thus the domain of women. Thus gender was constructed such th at the compensation for the absorption of men with all things “materialistic” was for women to carry their “spirituality” with them wherever they go through thei r dress, behavior, religiosity , and social demeanor (Falk, 1995, p307). This ensured the continuity of Hindu cu lture even in the face of change. This tradition of conceptualizing women as keepers of cultur e has continued in America as well. The behavior and roles of second generation daughters are more strictly monitored than those of sons. Da ughters are expected to be de ferent to authority, be wellmannered and polite, and face more restrictions on their behavior than sons (Patel, Power


22 & Bhavnagri, 1996; Dasgupta, 1998; Kallivayal il, 2004). Second generation Indians, in perceiving themselves as American rather th an Indian are beginni ng to redefine their roles and behaviors such that these reflect greater equality between the sexes. In doing so, they are performing gender in a more cosm opolitan context than their parents and are subsequently modifying the performance of gender in their ethnic context. The Patel community is a true exemplar of this acculturation process. Patels make up one percent of the other Indian ethnicities in the United States (Assar, 2000). Relative to the other ethnicities though, the Patels ar e an embodiment of a successful immigrant story. Aficionados of the achievement oriented American work ethic, and most especially of the ideals of hard work and pursuit of mate rial success, the Patels are one of the few Indian immigrant groups who have distinguished themselves economically in the United States (Assar, 2000). They however remain a traditional, integrated community. They retain their village of origin as a point of reference in the United States and maintain ties with their communities in India. Vestiges of their lives in India have been preserved in the United States, in their continued parlance in Gujarati, their traditional family structure and gender definitions and in their marriag e patterns (Jain, 1989; Assar, 2000). Although immigration to the United States has pr esented Patel women with professional opportunities, a significant proportion of them continue to adhere to community norms that require married women to be homemake rs (Assar, 2000). Sec ond generation Patels are brought up in this traditi on and easily claim their herita ge. However, the dearth of research on the lives of the second generati on makes further elaboration difficult. This process of bi-cultural functioning am ong Indians in the United States, results in the embracing of a bi-cultu ral identity among both first and second generation – an


23 identity which is a fusion of Indian-ness a nd American-ness. The Indian community does not however make special efforts to crea te American-ness as the younger generation imbibes this by virtue of being born a nd brought up in America, going to school in America and having multi-cultu ral friends and peers (Wak il, Siddique & Wakil, 1981; Sheth, 2001; Khandelwal, 2002). Indians are more concerned with the creation of Indianness or Indian identity largely for two reasons – transmission of their culture to the second generation and preventing the oblitera tion of their roots unde r the influence of America in future generations. The developmen t of an Indian identity in the second generation is critical to identity formation am ong Indians in America. It is this sense of Indian-ness that is at the root of their bi-cultural identity. Bi-Cultural Identity: Indian-n ess In The United States Culture, both Indian and American, is integral to the process of identity construction. It symbolizes group identit y, ethnic group affiliation and group survival especially in a foreign land (Khandelwal, 2002). Thus the pro cess of identity construction among Indians involves transplanting Indian cultural traditions in America, modifying these traditions to the American milieu within which they ar e rooted, transmitting them to the second generation, all while simultaneously adopting selected American traditions (Rangaswamy, 2000; Khandelwal, 2002). In conceptualizing Indian identity in an I ndian context, it is difficult to reconcile between a pan-Indian identity and a more ethnic one rooted in the diverse regional, cultural and linguistic groups that make up the Indian community in the United States. The post-1965 immigrants, in a desire to fit fully into American multi-cultural politics, invoked and created a unitary Indian ethnic cu lture (Khandelwal, 2002). This sense of Indian-ness was grounded in common citizenship with India and with Indi an culture. This


24 process was not a simple one as it meant th e highlighting of some aspects of Indian culture and the denial of ot hers. For the most part it al so meant that the overarching Indian-ness which was being created was equate d with Hindu identity (due to the larger proportion of Hindu immigrants). The result, so me observers of the process note, was the creation of a an “ethereal, imagined and stereotypical” identity rooted in a reified and often simplified version of Indian culture (Mukhi, 2000; Sheth, 2001; Khandelwal, 2002; Kallivayalil, 2004; p.539). By the 1990s, under the onslaught of increasing numbers of immigrants, the panIndian culture began to disappe ar. In its place emerged an Indian-ness that was diverse and encompassing the myriad ethnic (region al, linguistic, religious and cultural) expressions of India (Khandelwal , 2002). This does not imply that the narrower identities that are now being created are radically different from an overarching Indian identity. Rather, I conceptualize them as variegated e xpressions of a complex Indian culture with common cultural threads existing in all ethn ic Indian identities. However, there is growing allegiance to the ethnic identity as opposed to a pan-Indian identity especially when inculcating the same in the second generation (Khandelwal, 2002). Indian-ness in America is once again be ing transformed by th e second generation of Indians who are born and br ought up in the United States. They are seeking to make sense of their identities as Americans and I ndians. In doing so, they are embracing an identity which is a fusion of both India and America – a bi-cultural identity – and which is simultaneously changing the fabric of “I ndian-American ethnic id entity” (Khandelwal, 2002, p. 146). They undertake this by not just embracing the Indian-ness that their


25 parents attempt to create in them, but also by engaging that identity and modifying it to their American one. As explored in the following chapters of this document, the second generation invokes the symbols of Indian culture such as language, religion and festivals, food and family values as sources of Indian ident ity construction. They maintain that these symbols are evoked consciously in their families and ethnic communities to expressly construct Indian-ness among the second generation (Saran, 1985; Jain, 1989; Rangaswamy, 2000; Khandelwal, 2002). For thei r part, while absorbing the Indian-ness invoked by their families and et hnic communities, the second ge neration is adapting these symbols to the American milieu within whic h they live and in doing so are creating for themselves a bi-cultural identity that is a fusion of Indian-ness and American-ness and different from that of their parents. When attempting to understand bi-cultural identity, it is important to be reminded that bi-cultural functioning is being undertaken not exclus ively by the second generation, but by the first generation as well. The difference between the first and second generation, as explained by schola rs in the field, lies in it s product – the constructed bicultural identity. For the first gene ration, their essential identity is that of an Indian. They identify not just with life in India but also with Indian cultural standards and expectations which they actively evoke for the younger ge neration (Sheth, 2001; Khandelwal, 2002). They invoke for themselves an American identity only in their public and professional lives primarily in order to function effectively and productively and to achieve the success and the better life which had motivat ed their emigration in the first place (Srinivasan, 2001; Segal, 2002).


26 The second generation by contrast, identif ies as American, but American with Indian ancestry (Sheth, 2001; Srinivasan, 2001; Khandelwal, 2002). India is not their home country, but their parent s’ and ancestors’ homeland. They regard it as a source of their heritage, but for the most part are certai n that they could not live there. They are very aware of the fact that their birth and upbringing, education, life styles and careers situate them as Americans (Khandelwal, 2002). I nherent in their bi-c ultural identity are contradictions and paradoxes, the most significant of which is the idea that their dual identities are not equal. One identity – the American – is conceptualized as a juxtaposition to the other and is often perc eived (by the first generation if not by the second) as needing to be inferior to th e other – the Indian. In reconciling these contradictions, they often use contextual fact ors help them to decide whether to operate from an American or Indian base (Rangaswamy, 2000). Scholars have noticed a traject ory involved in the formation of a bi-cultural identity among second generation Indians. As children, the second generation grows up in an environment of “family-oriented Indianness”, which is followed by a period of increased exposure to American society and culture through school and peers (Sheth, 2001, p.73). This period is characterized by confusion and (sometimes) shame with their Indian origin which could translate into reje ction of and hatred for the heritage. However, once they attain college age and a certain level of ma turity, a significant pr oportion of the second generation reevaluate their Indi an identities and are able to look upon their ancestry with more pride and with greater confidence and self-esteem – a process some terms as “second migration” (Lessinger, 1995; Leona rd, 1997, p. 155; Rangaswamy, 2000; Sheth, 2001).


27 Adopting a bi-cultural identity, particul arly for the second generation, is not a painless process, but one fraught with threats to the very identity that they are attempting to embrace. Inherent in a bi-cultural identity is rejection of a wholly American or Indian identity in favor of a hybridized one. For the second generation, this oftentimes translates into a feeling to being unfairly caught betw een two cultures and having to choose which of them will be more dominant in their de finition of self (Wakil, Siddique & Wakil, 1981; Rangaswamy, 2000; Srinivasan, 2001; Farver, Narang & Bhadha, 2002). This existential debate is compounded by the cha llenges that larger American society and culture, pose to their identity making the second generation more conscious of their race and ethnicity and exhorting them to make c hoices based on their identities (Khandelwal, 2002). Mukhi (2000) captures this reality aptly: . . . [the second generation i ndividual is] thrust into a situation where home is unlike the world, where food smells, tastes and looks different from what is eaten by other contemporaries, where [the indi vidual] is darker in color than her classmates but not black, where [the individual] wors hips not only a bearded old man in heaven or one hanging from a cross, but many deities in a variety of shapes and forms. Young peoplesometimes have to make major decisions based on the ethnicity of who to be with, what to c onfess about oneself, what one can or cannot indulge in. (p. 146-147) In responding to these challe nges, the second generation fo r the most part, attempts to define what it means to be Indian-Ameri can on their own terms rather than on their parents’ preferred ethnic iden tities – a positive response wh ich extends to them a sense of satisfaction and ease (Farver, Narang & Bhadha, 2002). For others, reconciliation between the two identities lies in either the co mplete denial of one or its incorporation into the other– a reaction which could either be momentary or permanent – or gaining some level of comfort with “not havi ng an identity” (Rangaswamy, 2000, p.171; Sheth, 2001). Feelings of confusion, shame, anxi ety, fear and a lack of belongingness and


28 acceptance not only accompany these responses, but often influence the embracing of a bi-cultural identity (Dasgupta, 1998; Sheth, 2001; Kallivayalil, 2004). In summation, the construction and imbibing of bi-cultural identity is more fluid but more disconcerting for the second generati on than it is for the first. The former “feel[s] constrained to make choices without having had a chance to develop a sense of belonging as either Americans or Indians”, de nying them a point of reference they can fall back on (Khandelwal, 2002, p. 190). For the first generation, that point of reference lies in Indian tradition and culture to whic h their allegiance was fixed prior to their migration to America, providing them a re lative ease in making choices when their American and Indian ways of life clash (Khandelwal, 2002). Thus bi-cultural identity among second generation Indians is “process ual, constantly transforming, emerging, [and] incomplete” (Mukhi, 2000, p. 147). Gender And Union Formation Among Indians In The United States The bi-cultural functioning of Indians and their resultant bi -cultural identity is very evident in the domains of family and ge nder practice. Ideas of Indian-ness are inextricably linked to the cons tructions of family and gende r by the first generation which directly influences union formation patt erns among the second generation. First generation Indians, in their attempt to creat e and maintain an Indian identity among the second generation, establish a dichotomy be tween American and Indian values and notions of self on which constructions of fa mily and gender are based. The latter creates opportunities and obstacles to union fo rmation among the second generation. Family And Gender Construction: Th e First And Second Generations Traditional family values are considered by first generation Indians to be the cornerstone of Indian culture in the Un ited States, and the distinguishing element


29 between themselves and Americans. They crea te a disjunction between the Indian and the American wherein the latter is constructed as “sexually pr omiscuous, irreligious, [and] outspoken” and the former equa ted with “spirituality, refine ment, [and] sobriety” (Saran, 1985; Mukhi, 2000, p. 117). In the domain of fa mily life, American s are perceived as lacking commitment to familial ties and relati onships. They are criticized by the first generation for their lack of atte ntion and affection toward their elders; for their dearth in disciplining and controll ing their children and for not spending what Indians consider to be adequate time with their families both immediate and extended (Lessinger, 1995). There is thus a desire among the first generatio n for the youth to be protected from this pervasive American-ness while simultaneous ly inculcating and encouraging Indian values (Mukhi, 2000; Sheth, 2001; Khandelwal, 2002). Rooted in the juxtaposition of Indian a nd American, are percep tions of the self which not only form the bedrock of Indian family life in the United States, but also intersect with gender cons truction and union formation. Indians tend to embrace an allocentric belief system wherein the self and family are constructed as integrated and interdependent rather than separate. “Indivi duals of all ages are expected to make sacrifices on behalf of the [family], and the welfare and integrity of the family always supercedes individual needs and self-ide ntity” (Lessinger, 1995; Farver, Narang & Bhadha, 2002, p.340). As opposed to the American culture which stresses individuality, autonomy and self-reliance to achieve person al satisfaction, the Indian perspective considers autonomy as something which deve lops in later life with matrimony and parenthood, but not something that adolesce nts and young adults can be expected to exercise properly (Lessinger, 1995; Segal, 2002). Accordingly, first generation Indians in


30 the United States establish families governed by these expectations and value systems and socialize the second generation into a “duty based morality” wherein the youth are expected to uphold the family honor by exhibiting good behavior, academic excellence and factoring in the family’s wishes in decisions made by the youth especially with regard to union formation (Dugsin, 2001, p. 237; Farver, Narang & Bhadha, 2002; Khandlewal, 2002). In this familial context, ge nder is constructed such that women are responsible for the upkeep of family honor, ar e expected to be dependent on the family and most especially on male members in the family and to uphold fili al piety even after they establish their own careers and familie s (Dasgupta, 1998; Srinivasan, 2001; Farver, Narang & Bhadha, 2002; Kallivayalil, 2004). In accordance with the Hindu religious tradition of “ dharma” the traditional Indian family in India clearly defines segregated roles and responsibili ties for men and women wherein men are expected to be the prim ary wage earners, decision makers (although women may influence these decisions indire ctly) and the protec tors of women and children (Khandelwal, 2002, p. 118; Segal, 2002). Women, by contrast, are in charge of the home, including food preparation and attend ing to the everyday needs of the family (Khandelwal, 2002). While emigration to the Un ited States involved a transportation and transplantation of these cons tructs of gender in America, the process was accompanied by acculturation-fueled modifications in gende r construction as the first generation embraced a bi-cultural identity. Far from being traditional women adrift in American society, first generation Indian women engage the society they live in. A significant pr oportion of them are educated professionals engaged in careers or business and sharing in the provision of


31 household incomes (Leonard, 1997; Khandelw al, 2002).They continue however to be primarily responsible for all the domestic tasks especially child care and food preparation. First generation Indian women continue to “believe [that] marriage, childrearing and nurturing the family are their most fulfilling social roles” and often see their professions as extensions of these roles (Lessinger, 1995, p. 11; Kallivayalil, 2004). First generation Indian men, who have been re ared in a strong patr iarchal tradition in India, are often less amenable to modify ing gender arrangements following emigration. In most double income Indian households in America, women’s earning capacity does not “produce and equivalent sharing of th e house workload” as their husbands do not assist with house hold chores (Khandelw al, 2002, p. 133). Moreover, a lot of first generation Indian men, in their fear that their wives will become more ‘American’, begrudge them their professional lives outsi de the home and in some cases expressly forbid their wives to work outside th e home (Lessinger, 1995; Rangaswamy, 2000; Khandelwal, 2002). However, it is important to note that there ar e a number of first generation men who take pride in their wives’ professional accomplishments and willingly support and embrace a reallocation of labor in the home (Lessinger, 1995; Sheth, 2001; Khandelwal, 2002). What is critical to note about the above described gender arrangements is that they form the basis of the first generation family life. The second generation is reared in families where the gender role and responsib ility segregation was not only visible but also emphasized. Second generation women, wh ile encouraged to excel academically just as men are, are taught not just skills they require to fulfill their roles of wife and mother, but also the fact that th ese roles are inevitable in their lives (Sheth, 2001, p. 153;


32 Srinivasan, 2001) . They are encouraged to be subm issive and unprotesting in the home although they can be assertive and demanding in their professional lives (Rangaswamy, 2000; Khandelwal, 2002). Just as with their mothers, second generation women are invested with an ideal Indian womanhood and the responsibility of upholding for themselves, and transmitting Indian values a nd morals to the next generation (Dugsin, 2001). Coupled with this is the parents’ fear of losing their daughters to American culture especially to “[the] American vices of drinking, part ying, sexuality and dating” through American schools and the American media (S heth, 2001, p. 55). Often, both translate into more restrictions being placed on their movement and sexuality as opposed to those of second generation men (Dugsin, 2001; Shet h, 2001; Srinivasan, 2001; Warikoo, 2005). Second generation men, for the most part, are raised in a traditi on where they are not expected to assist in household labor, but are expected to continue the tradition of being the primary wage earner (Rangaswamy, 2000; Segal, 2002). Second generation Indians, most especially women, are reacting to these gender arrangements within which they are reared and in the process are attempting to create gender systems that enable them to express th eir identity as both Americans and Indians. They feel constrained by the restrictive ge nder prescriptions imposed on them and dislike the rigid old-world gender roles that are upheld in their families (Dasgupta, 1998). Some are uncomfortable with the family structures within which they are raised wherein they perceive their “mothers [as] subservient to their fathers [and] forever compromising for them” (Khandelwal, 2002, p. 159; Kallivayalil, 2004). Negotiating between the demands of their individuality and those of family obligation is especially hard for second generation women as there is an expectation, on


33 the part of the first generation, that they will embrace the “age-old standards of [femininity] and ‘housewifely’ behavior over their independence and careers (Rangaswamy, 2000, p. 182; Srinivasan, 2001) . For themselves, second generation women want gender arrangement s characterized by egalitar ian relationships between their partners (most often their husbands) a nd themselves, where they have the freedom to be professionals, wives and mothers and domes tic labor is shared. It is hard to state whether second generation Indian men desire such egalitarian gender arrangements. They may view such arrangements as necessary modifications to the American milieu or may balk against them. Accustomed to their centr ality in families and communities, men could be uncomfortable with women having interest s outside them (men) and their families and may feel threatened by egalitarian relati onships (Lessinger, 1995; Khandelwal 2002). The dating and courtship; engagement and marriage patterns among the second generation are influenced si gnificantly by the familial and gender arrangements upheld by the first generation, into which the second ge neration is socialized and to which they react. Apart from creating opportunities for and obstacles against dating and marriage among the second generation, these arrangements establish norms, criteria and ideals that the second generation deals with as they negotiate union formation decisions. Dating And Courtship: The Generational Perspective Dating and courtship as patt erns of behavior are intim ately tied to notions of Indian-ness, family and gender arrangement s among Indians in the United States. First generation Indians are ambivalent on the issue of dating among th e second generation. Their perceptions of dating are colored by their definition and understanding of the behavior. For the most part, the first genera tion allude to dating as behavior that is “against Indian culture” and therefore some thing American (Kallivayalil, 2004; p. 548).


34 More importantly, they equate dating with sexual activity and their fears of secondgeneration sexual activity cause them to view dating with gr eat alarm and horror (Wakil, Siddique & Wakil, 1981; Helweg & He lweg, 1990; Leonard, 1997; DasGupta & Dasgupta, 1998; Dasgupta, 1998; Rangaswamy, 2000; Srinivasan, 2001). In this situation, they are less amenable to the s econd generation dating. However, a growing number of first generation Indians are be ginning to look upon dating more favorably only if it is in the context of a “committed . . . [and] permanent relationship” namely marriage, wherein dating assumes the mantle of c ourtship (Vaidyanathan & Naidoo, 1990, p. 45; Dugsin, 2001). But even in this situation, there are caveats that have been worked in. While dating is acceptable in the context of ma rriage, the parents opine that dating should begin only when the second generation is re ady to marry and should not be undertaken during schooling years especially during high school as “it is seen to interf ere with the primary goal [of their children] of obtaining an education and caree r” (Dugsin, 2001; p. 238; Kallivayalil, 2004). Parents, who do let their children date w ith the above mentioned purpose in mind, admit to maintaining separate standards fo r their sons and daughters (Dasgupta, 1998). Second generation men are “allowed more leeway in dating and ‘out of house activities’” with little or no parental supervision, but th e same freedom is not accorded to second generation women (Wakil, Siddique & Wakil, 1981; Khandelwal, 2002; p. 152; Srinivasan, 2001). With the onset of puberty, the first generation monitor with growing stringency the movements and friendships of second generation women (Lessinger, 1995). Dating or going out in mixed gender company is virtually impossible and/or strictly forbidden to a significant proportion of second generation women, while for some


35 these activities are possible under strict parent al supervision wherein parents are able to maintain constant contact with their daughters over cell phones (Lessinger, 1995; Dasgupta, 1998; Khandelwal, 2002; Kallivay alil, 2004). The reasons for this “double standard” revolve around an ideology that prizes sexual chastity of women and idealizes marriage and motherhood as th e goal for women (Dasgupta, 1998; Khandelwal, 2002; p. 152). First generation Indians who subscribe to th is ideology maintain that the strictness involved in their daughters’ upbringing as opposed to that of their sons, serves to “socialize them [their daughters] most appropriately for later roles as wife and mother” (Khandelwal, 2002, p. 152). Given this, they greatly fear that their daughters’ premarital relationships (through dating) w ith males “‘will je opardize their marriag e prospects’ or ‘ruin the marriage prospects of the younger sist ers, and thus the name of the family’” (Mukhi, 2000; Khandelwal, 2002, p. 153; Kallivay alil, 2004). Added to this mix, is the construction of women, among the Indian community in the United States, as the “keepers of culture” and upholde rs of the family honor or izzat and the perception of dating as an American, not I ndian, behavioral pattern (D asGupta & Dasgupta, 1998, p. 113; Kallivayalil, 2004). A ccordingly, parents attempt to inculcate among second generation women the ideal of Indian womanhood which “consis ts of rejecting dating and accepting the traditional practice of arranged ma rriage by presenting the latter as essential to ‘Indian’ ways” (Menon, 1989; DasGupta & Dasgupta, 1998, p. 113;). “Any move toward independent sexual choicesis labe led ‘Americanization’” and viewed as potentially damaging to the family’s re putation in the community (DasGupta & Dasgupta, 1998, p. 153; Kallivayalil, 2004) . DasGupta and Dasgupta (1998) thus


36 conclude, “by linking the burdens of sexual chastity and cultural tradition, and placing both on the Indian-American daughter’s s houlders, the Indian immigrant community protects itself from mainstream th reats of assimilation (p. 124-125). For second generation women and men, dati ng is a “hot button” issue which causes intergenerational conflic t. With age, the second generation is able to empathize with their parents’ concerns with dating, but this does not preclude their resentment of and frustration with their parents’ narrow concep tualization of dating or of the restrictions placed on them (Wakil, Siddique & Wakil, 1981; Leonard, 1997). This is especially the case for second generation women who deep ly resent the “‘double standard’ which restricts them far more seve rely than it does their brot hers” (Lessinger, 1995, p. 114, Srinivasan, 2001). For the most part, the seco nd generation conceptualizes dating as a healthy practice which involves “a range of act ivities . . . [which] provides experiences that help people learn about th emselves as well as how to in teract with members of the opposite sex” (Vaidyanathan & Naidoo, 1990; Leonard, 1997; p. 158). In most Indian American families, there is a lack of intergenerational communication on the issues of dating and sexuality save to explicitly forbid the second generation from exploring either (Lessinge r, 1995; Kallivayalil, 2004). Second generation women and men have thus developed and em ploy “elaborate modes of secrecy” in their dating behavior (Rangaswamy, 2000; Kalliv ayalil, 2004, p. 548). Dating by the second generation is done on the sly and involves them lying about it to thei r parents (Lessinger, 1995; Mukhi, 2000; Dugsin, 2001; Kallivayalil, 2 004). Lying about the fact that they are dating is often perceived as th e only solution to an untenable situation wherein the first generation is unable to trust the second genera tion’s sense of morality (Leonard, 1997). It


37 also serves to circumvent intergenerational conflict stemming from parental disappointment in the failure of the second generation in upholding the expectation that they not date (Rangaswamy, 2000; Dugsi n, 2001). While widely employed by the second generation, lying to their pare nts is not an easy decision and is often painful for the second generation. However, employing such a st rategy is a reflection of their continuous negotiation between their Ameri can and Indian identities an d their commitment to their individuality. Lying as a st rategy is aided by the fact th at the second generation, most especially second generation women, wait until they are in college and “able to exercise a certain degree of freedom they did not enjoy living at home” to begin to date in earnest (Lessinger, 1995; Rangaswamy, 200 0; Kallivayalil, 2004, p. 550). An interesting development in the dating sc ene is the first generations’ response to dating by the second generation and the resu lting adaptation the first generation has developed. Supposedly unaware of the situat ion, but cognizant of the fact that their children are dating (largely through gossip in the community), the first generation is beginning to allow and even encourage the second generation to date so long as they date people from within the ethnic gr oup. In this manner, the first generation is able to retain some modicum of control over the choices of the second generation as well as to stem miscegenation should it occur (Wakil, Si ddique & Wakil, 1981; DasGupta & Dasgupta, 1998). Thus, by utilizing the religious and cultural institutions and organizations established by them in the United States, the first generation provide opportunities through cultural/religious gather ings and eventsfor Indian youth to mix with others of their own cultural community (Rangaswamy, 2000).


38 Thus, the conceptualizations of dating and the accompa nying behaviors adopted by the first and second generation are products of their on going attempts to function effectively in the two cultures they live in – an expression of their bi-cultural identity. The continued expression of this identity is al so evident in conceptualizations of marriage and marital practices among Indi ans in the United States. Engagement And Marriage: Snapshot Of Two Generations Understanding engagement and marriage among Indians in the United States requires a brief mention of the ideol ogy surrounding marriage which most Indians (whether in the United States or in India) ar e socialized into. Marriage is pivotal in the life of an Indian and is considered a rite of passage with great social significance (Lessinger, 1995; Rangaswamy, 2000; Khande lwal, 2002; Kallivayalil, 2004). It plays a critical role in ensuring not just the continuity of the family, but also of the ethnic group and in maintaining the social framework of “ dharma ” which defines male and female roles and responsibilities (Khandelwal, 2002, p. 118). First and sec ond generation Indians in the United States agre e with and subscribe to th is ideology although their interpretations of it and the resultant marital practices differ between the generations. In doing so, the practice of marriage they embrace is a reflection of their fused Indian and American identities. Similar to dating, gender inte rsects with marriage creati ng separate standards and norms for women as opposed to men. First ge neration Indians consid er marriage to be critical in a woman’s life and construct divorce as a “ta boo and . . . a sure sign of Americanization” (Khandelwal , 2002, p. 138). Some continue to subscribe to the idea a woman will leave her own parents’ home and join her husband’s family –which not only involves physical movement from one family to another but also a sy mbolic change from


39 her family name to her married name (K handelwal, 2002). These gendered notions of marriage are one of the many reasons for the first generation’s support of the practice of arranged marriage (for the s econd generation) even in the American context. The first generation is especially desirous of a rranged marriages for their daughters who are considered vulnerable to th e sexual freedom in America which could be damaging to their reputations (Srinivasan, 2001). In addition, the first generation consider arranged marriage to be a viable option for the second generation as it prevents the latt er from marrying the ‘wrong kind’ of person that could potentially be damaging to the tr ansmission of Indian culture to the future generations (Mukhi, 2000; Sr inivasan, 2001). As explaine d by Mukhi (2000) arranged marriage is “believed to preserve the cultu re from dilution, insuring the reproduction of Indian progeny and the repr oduction of Indian culture” (p. 164). A preference for arranged marriage by the first generation also stems from an Indian tradition wherein marriage involves not only the joining of a c ouple but also of their families (Lessinger, 1995). Moreover, marriage is constructed by the first generation to be a “life long commitment” and divorce to be a “shameful tragedy” (Lessinger, 1995, p. 121). Thus, to the first generation, arranged marriage seems to be a practical method by which the above mentioned expectations can be realized. By en suring, for instance, that the elders in the family search out and invest igate individual personalities and family backgrounds of potential spouses, divorce can be mitigated and family unity and co-operation ensured along with happiness, stability and success in the marital life of their children (Vaidyanathan & Naidoo, 1990; Lessinger, 1995). Juxtaposed to an arranged marriage is a marriage by choice or love a form of marriage that the fi rst generation is ambivalent


40 about. They tend to regard thes e marriages as unreliable, wi th lower rates of success and shorter longevity as compared to arra nged marriages (Khandelwal, 2002). The high divorce rate in America, which is understo od to be co-related to love marriage, contributes to their distrust of the practice (Leonard, 1997). While arranged marriage is the preferred choice of the first generation for their children, there is also a growing cognizance among them that implementing an arranged marriage in the lives of their American bor n children is difficult. Accordingly, the practice of arranged marriage has undergone modifications in the American context. It has shifted away from it being one arranged by parents without the consent of the couple, to one arranged with the consent of the c ouple and with taking the couples’ choices into consideration (Waki, Siddique & Wakil, 1981; Vaidyanathan & Naidoo, 1990; Lessinger, 1995; Rangaswamy, 2000). This adaptation of a rranged marriage to Western life has been termed by Lessinger (1995) as a “semi-a rranged” marriage (p.122) and by Bellafante (2005) as “assisted” marriage ( p.1). In this form of marriag e, pre-screened women and men are introduced to each other and then “allowed a courtship period” during which to decide whether or not they are suitably matched for ma rriage (Lessinger, 1995, p. 122). A semi-arranged marriage facilitates the simultane ous retention of pare ntal control in the choice of their children’s spouses and accomm odation of the second generation’s desire for love and courtship (Lessinger, 1995). In doing so, the first generation succeeds in combining the best elements of both syst ems of marriage, “balancing attraction, sensibilities, and family guidance, to stre ngthen their families in the West” (Leonard, 1997, p. 168). It should however be noted that th e system of assisted or semi-arranged marriage is reflective of social change in pr esent day India, where this form of marriage


41 is popular among the educated, urban middl e class (Khandelwal, 2002). The embracing of the semi-arranged form of marriage in the United States serves the dual purpose of honoring the choice and ideals of the second gene ration and of fulfilling the desire of the first generation to preserve In dian cultural identity, partic ularly “class, religious and regional identities” in the face of potential decrement rooted in emigration and acculturation (Mukhi, 2000; Bellafante, 2005, p. 1). In orchestrating a semi-arranged marriage, the first generation relies heavily on informal networks in the Indian community. “An all-points bulletin is broadcast through the network of family and friends” in the co mmunity in seeking potential spouses for the second generation of marriageable age (Lessi nger, 1995, p. 121). This method is by far the most popular with the first generation. In ad dition, just like in the case of dating, the first generation also makes use of community and extended family gatherings and events to circulate information on eligible marriage pa rtners and to bring eligible couples into contact with each other (Rangaswamy, 2000; Khandelwal, 2002). Matrimonial advertisements, posted in American and Indian ethnic newspapers and on internet websites devoted to ‘arranging marriages’, are another method by which the first generation seeks out eligible marriage partne rs for the younger gene ration – the latter, a method that is especially popular with the second generation themselves (Rangaswamy, 2000; Khandelwal, 2002). The arranging of a marriage, even a semi -arranged one, presupposes that certain criteria are developed to judge the eligibility and suitability of an individual as a spouse. First generation Indians appear to be more concerned with two important criteria – religion and caste (Vaidyanathan & Naidoo, 1990; Khandelwal, 2002). Vaidyanathan and


42 Naidoo (1990) in their study on arranged marriage among Indi ans in Western countries conclude that the first genera tion is especially desirous th at the younger generation select partners from within the “same religion” and note that only 31.8 percent of the first generation in their study endorse the alternative to the above (p. 42). Caste is a trickier issue. Today a number of matrimonial advert isements in the United States have the disclaimer “Caste no bar” to indicate that cas te is not a criterion in judging the suitability of the person as a prospective spous e (Lessinger, 1995; Rangaswamy, 2000. p. 37). However, the fact of the matter is that the one aspect of life where caste continues to be an overriding concern is marriage and the “v ery fact that the disclaimer is deemed necessary is a measure of the importance of caste in marriag e” (Rangaswamy, 2002, p. 37). For the first generation, a caste empha sis has been noted wherein a significant proportion of them would like for their children to choose spouses from within the same caste while some are willing to “accept partners of a ny Hindu caste” (Vaidyanathan & Naidoo, 1990, p. 43). Apart from these two criteria, the first generation also stresses the appearance, “character” and “proper conduct” of a pros pective spouse –though the latter are usually nebulously defined (Vaidyana than & Naidoo 1990, p. 43; Le ssinger, 1995). Educational and occupational background are also emphasized as the first generation attempts to pair up couples who appear to be compatible in these areas (Jain, 1989; Le ssinger, 1995). Scholars in the area have noted an intere sting development in criteria for partner selection. In tune with the et hos of the society they live in and into which their children have been born, and in attempting to cater to the expectations of the younger generation, the first generation is now including criteria such as “personality and interests – such as a


43 sense of humor or an interest in physical fitness” alongsid e the more traditional criteria (Lessinger, 1995, p. 121). With these criteria gui ding the search, the first generation seeks out prospective partners for their children from either Indians in the United States within their ethnic group or from India. The deci sion of whether a prospective spouse is American or Indian is based on the preference of second generation women and men as conveyed to their parents. Second generation Indians greet a traditio nal arranged marriage, wherein their choices are not accounted for, with horror for its businesslike veneer. Their views of marriage reflect that part of their identity which is American. “For them, marriage concern[s] first their own indi vidual existence (as distinct from social existence), and they [want] it to be their decision” (Dugsin, 2001; Khandelwal, 2002, p. 152). Shunning the traditional idea that “‘love will grow after marriage’”, second generation women and men are actively emphasizing choice and love in their marriages (Wakil, Siddique & Wakil, 1981, p. 937; Khandelwal, 2002). Accord ingly, while some of them would like to choose their own spouses in a love marriag e context, a significant proportion of them accede to the middle ground of a semi-arranged or assisted marriag e wherein parental views are considered and their consent s ought, but the ultimate decision on choosing a spouse will be theirs (Vaidyanathan & Naidoo, 1990; Rangaswamy, 2000). Indian Americans do not mind being introdu ced to a person who has been screened by their parents regarding family b ackground, educational level, personal reputation, but would like to exercise their privilege of having the final say, and ‘the freedom to get to know the person and take the relationship from that point’. (Mukhi, 2000, p. 165) Gender intersects quite interestingly with the practice of marriage in the case of second generation women and men. Khandelwal (2002) in her study of Indians in New York City notes that second generation men more than women are desirous of a semi-


44 arranged marriage and consider it to be a seri ous option. This is not to say that second generation women reject a semi-arranged marriag e, but that they find it difficult to reconcile with the orchestrating of an arrang ed marriage, even a semi-arranged one. They often feel “humiliated at being shorn of thei r individualityand [being] ‘displayed’ as a ‘show piece’ in the market of marriage” (K handelwal, 2002, p. 153). Accordingly, some of them do prefer the option of a love marri age. That notwithsta nding, second generation women have expectations of more egalit arian relationships with their husbands irrespective of the type of marriage pattern they choose. Influenced by American society and American values, second generation women expect and to some extent demand that their prospective spouses discar d their “traditional authoritarian attitudes and accept them as equal partners in the marriage” (Wakil, Siddique & Wakil, 1981, p. 937). Moreover, desiring independence and prof essional careers, second generation women refuse to subordinate themselves to their husbands or assume a traditionally subservient or compromising role much like they perceive their mothers doing. This often proves to be problematic as these women tend to be labe led as “Americanized” (Khandelwal, 2002, p. 153) by second generation men who seek more traditional wives, “m odeled more after their own traditional minded mothers” (Rangaswamy, 2000, p. 182) It is in the preference for a spouse from India or from America that gendered behavior and expectations of second gene ration women and men are manifested. While Indian American men consider marital candida tes from U.S. raised Indian women, some show a decided preference for “‘made in India’” wives (Mukhi, 2000, p. 203; Khandelwal, 2002). Scholars examining this pr ocess note that faced with losing their traditional foothold and stronghold in the open, sexually egalitarian American society,


45 IndianAmerican men seek to maintain a semblance of their power through an arranged marriage with a “‘real Indian wife’ who will be quiet, humble and certifiably ‘pure’ and who will cater to them as their mothers [do]” (Lessinger, 1995, p. 123; Mukhi, 2000). The men who endorse this thinking charac terize U.S. raised Indian women as “Americanized . . . careerist, aggressive and individualistic” (K handelwal, 2002, p. 154). They are willing to date U.S raised women, but not to marry them (Khandelwal, 2002). Indian-American women by contrast, prefer the “greater freedom of choice in the ‘open’ society of the U.S. . . . ” in choosing th eir husbands (Mukhi, 2000, p. 183). Accordingly, majority of them prefer to choose their spouses from among U.S. raised Indian men in the hope that their U.S. raised husba nds will be “more li beral and less patriarchal” facilitating the establishment of more egalitarian marital relationships as compared to those established with men raised in Indi a (Lessinger, 1995; Sheth, 2001, p. 153). In the selection of a prospective spous e, the second and first generation have arrived at a compromise about the criteria th at guide the selection process. The second generation, in their choice, stresses the indi vidual attributes, physic al attractiveness of and compatibility with potential spouse as be ing critically important. Interestingly, the more traditional criteria listed by the firs t generation such as re ligion and caste are important to the second generation and figure in their decision not just for their personal satisfaction but also to fulfill parental expectations about appropriate spouses (Vaidyanathan & Naidoo, 1990; Khandelw al, 2002). Accordingly, most second generation women and men seek to marry anothe r Indian – one either from India or from the United States, and most probably from their own cultural community – perceiving


46 this decision as integral to preserving their ethnic culture and ethnic identity (Rangaswamy, 2000). While semi-arranged marriage is popular w ith the second generation, some of them prefer to choose their spouses with little or no parental involvement – a form of marriage termed as love-marriage . Attention should however be drawn to the fact that in doing so, parental expectations are nonetheless taken in to consideration. Thus, even while looking to fall in love and get married, second gene ration women and men who make this choice are careful to adhere to the criteria list ed above (Khandelwal, 2002). Desiring parental approval and community acceptance of thei r marriage, second generation women and men look to fall in love, if that is possible, with someone from within their own religion, regional group and perhaps caste (Mukhi, 2000; Khandelw al, 2002). If they choose otherwise, they risk parental disappointment and loss of contact and communication with family members (Khandelwal, 2002). Thus, the union formation processes embraced by first and second generation Indians in the United States is a manifestati on of their segmented acculturation into or bicultural functioning in American society and ev inces the expression of their bi-cultural identity. Reflecting constructions of gender a nd marriage in Indian and/or ethnic culture and American culture, union formation among Indians in the United States takes on a modified form, that comprises among other th ings, secrecy in dating and a semi-arranged marriage pattern. Critique Of The Literature In concluding the overview of the literature, it is important to highlight the gaps in the existing research which the current study se eks to redress. To being with, my review of the existing literature reveals that the storie s of Indian experiences in the United States


47 have been largely narrated in the voices of the first generation. In these studies, the second generation has not been ignored, but neit her have they been the focus of the work. This study does the opposite. It gives primacy to the narratives of the second generation in the context of their identity construc tion and the union formation processes they uphold. More importantly, the study offers an oppor tunity to explore th eir interpretations of the Gujarati/Patel culture and community that they are a part of, their experiences with union formation and of their parents’ experien ces, standards and practices in the arena of union formation. Thus, the story of union fo rmation is being narrated by the second generation who bring to the disc ussion their interpreta tions of their parents’ expectations, behaviors and responses to union formation in the United States. In this manner, this study can enter the growing ranks of recent research [such as Mukhi (2000), Dasgupta (1998), Kallivayalil (2004), Wa rikoo (2005) etc] that concen trates on second generation lives in the United States As mentioned in the rationale of this st udy (chapter one) and throughout this thesis, the body of research on the Indians in the Unite d States appears to homogenize the reality of the Indian experience in the United States . This does not mean that specific Indian ethnic communities are not represented in the re search, because they are, but that there is a relative dearth of the la tter when compared to the a bundance of research on “Indians” in the United States. By this I mean that the story is told from the perspective of “Indians” rather than from that of “Gujaratis or Patels” fo r instance. While I recognize the relative ease in the adoption of the former strategy, I also argue that by making generalizations about the Indian experience, the unique experiences of specific ethnic groups of Indians such as th e Gujaratis and Patels are unde rdeveloped or neglected. For


48 instance, the marriage conventi ons organized by the Patel community are an intrinsic part of mate selection among the second generati on in the United States. However, this phenomenon receives passing mention in most of the literature referred to in this study, save that about the Gujarati community in particular. In an effort to augment the underdevelope d areas in the knowledge about Indians in the United States, this study explores the uni on formation process among an Indian ethnic group in the United States – the Patels. As mentioned earlier in this chapter and demonstrated in the following analysis base d chapters, ethnic Indi an culture does not radically differ from the pan-Indian culture. However, by concentrating attention on the Patels, it is possible to give voice to thei r unique interpretations of pan-Indian union formation process and to perhaps make gene ralizations about union formation among the Patels, which in my opinion will be more relevant than those about Indians as a whole. This desire to represent the heterogeneity of the Indian experience in the United States also draws attention to flaws in the segmented assimilation and bi-cultural identity argument which are of relevance to this study. Portes and Zhou (1993), and Zhou and Xiong (2005) in their segmented assimilation model, sufficiently account for the inherent heterogeneity in American society (host so ciety) by maintaining that ethnic groups can acculturate into any segment of American society, rather than only the white, middleclass Protestant core as explained by Go rdon (1964). However, segmented assimilation theory does not acknowledge heterogeneity within ethnic groups (such as Indians). Segmented assimilation thus assumes that the entire ethnic group or i ndividuals from that ethnic group acculturate into particular segments of American society based on the context of their exit and reception in the United States.


49 Zhou (1999), and Zhou and Xiong’s (2005) ack nowledgement of the interaction of individual factors such as la nguage ability, age of arrival an d contextual factors such as racial and ethnic systems and social cla ss as determining acculturation should not be construed in my opinion as accounting for heterogeneity within ethnic groups. The heterogeneity I am referring to involves varieg ated cultural expression s; practices, beliefs and behavior patterns that ex ist within an ethnic group (such as the Indians) and which are critical determinants of acculturation. I be lieve it is safe to say that most post-1965 Indians in the United States and their American born children identify with and seek to acculturate into white, middle-class Ameri can society. However, influenced by the inherent heterogeneity within Indians, not onl y does the extent of acculturation into this segment of American society vary between the different ethnic gr oups, but also the methods of bi-cultural functioning adopted vary . Thus, the study of the Patels as an ethnic group enables an assessment of the extent of their acculturation to American society in the context of union formation and the mech anisms they employ in navigating their acculturation. As mentioned earlier in this chapter, Indi ans tend to adopt the path of acculturation that is termed as bi-cultural functioning which enables them to function simultaneously and often successfully in the two cultures that they are a part of and as a result they construct and embrace bi-cultural identities. Bi-cultural identity is presented in the literature as having both an American and an ethnic identity and performing one or the other identity depending on the context within which one is located. This is definitely true of the first generation and to some exte nt in the second generation as well. However, the second generation also performs a more flui d type of bi-cultural identity which cannot


50 be sufficiently accounted for by existing theory. This lacuna is the spring-board for the current study which seeks to explore bi-cu ltural identity formation and performance among second generation Patels. As demonstr ated in the followi ng chapters, second generation Patel women and men have created fo r themselves and identity that is a blend of the American and the Indian, which I con ceptualize as one fuse d or hybrid identity with American and Indian traits. This identity is performed in all contexts and is especially manifested in union formation be haviors and choices. Fo r instance, their bicultural identity enables the second generatio n to determine the contexts within which they accept a semi-arranged marriage and the lim its they set for themselves in the making of a love marriage (explained in greater detail in chapter six). This draws attention to one important vari able that is missing from the segmented assimilation and bi-culturalism arguments – human agency. Segmented assimilation and bi-culturalism talk of acculturation being me diated by contextual factors of exit and reception as well as by indivi dual level factors such as la nguage ability, education level etc. The assumption in these arguments appear s to be of ethnic groups and members of these groups being acted upon by contextual and structural factors which influence their acculturation. In doing so, these arguments fa il to acknowledge that ethnic groups and individuals are engaging these contexts and structures and shaping their own acculturation and bi-cultural identity. The presen t study seeks to redress this lacuna in the research by examining bi-cultural identity and functioning as de scribed by second generation Patels. As illust rated in the succeeding chapte rs, second generation Patel women and men are active participants in th eir acculturation into American society and in the consequent construction and performa nce of bi-cultural id entity. For instance,


51 second generation Patel women and men decide for themselves the aspects of ethnic and American identity they want to perform in the arena of dating where their American-ness encourages them to date (even without their parents knowledge), but their Indian-ness results in them restricting th eir dating behavior to having a steady partner for a long while (unlike the multiple partners over time as in the case of Americans) and their dating as having a purpose – that is mate select ion – rather than for recreation. Bi-culturalism accounts for gender by noti ng that women tend to face greater problems in navigating this process especially when there are substantial differences in status and treatment of wome n in the two (or more) cultures they belong to that could cause conflict (Berry, 1997). However, the more intricate intersections of gender and acculturation are neglected in the above ar gument namely the generation effect and human agency – both of which have been ad equately explored in the present study. Second generation women and men are challengi ng these gendered patterns of bi-cultural functioning. Although they socialized into a gender ideology that places the onus of maintaining ethnic identity on women and th at both women and me n are engaging this ideology and socialization when acculturating. They are demanding and achieving egalitarian relationships in th eir personal lives and in thei r union formation decisions. In the area of union formation among Indi ans in the United States, the existing body of knowledge tends to conceptualize the three processes of dating, engagement and marriage as being disparate categories, follo wing linearly from dating to marriage. This conceptualization does not account for the mo re processual nature of union formation processes. I believe this flaw in the literature is because of the primacy of the first generation in research on Indians. In addres sing this flaw by researching the second


52 generation, the current study portrays the comple xity in union formation processes. The processes of dating, engagement and marriag e cannot be conceptualized as disparate processes but a more fluid one where a marriage and betrothal decision may precede dating or where dating takes the form of courts hip. However, it should be noted, that for ease this disparate categ orization has been utilized to pr esent the findings of this study. The processual nature of union formation ha s been explored in greater detail in my discussions presented in chapter seven. Summary This chapter contextualizes the project in terms of the major themes underscored in the literature. Indians immigrated to the Unit ed States in three ma in, documented waves. As they settle in the United States, they adopt a path of segmented assimilation that enables them to simultaneously embrace thei r new country, her culture and values and maintain their allegiance to their ethnic valu es by re-creating a sense of India in America through their language usage, their food, dress, religion and cultural celebrations. In the process, a sense of Indian-ness or Indian iden tity is inculcated in the second generation. The second generation, products of both Ameri ca and India, actively participate in the process of identity construction, creating fo r themselves and the Indian community, an identity that blends the two worlds th ey inhabit – a bi-c ultural identity. Bi-cultural functioning is most evident in gender and familial arrangements among Indians in the United States. Indian families cont inue to stress traditional Indian values as juxtaposed to American values which center on individuality and autonomy. In families, this is often manifested as segregated gende r responsibilities. Gende r is constructed such that women are perceived to be the keep ers of Indian culture and tradition which translates into strict monitoring of their sexuality and behavior. While second generation


53 women and men are responding by negotiating with these arrangements, such that they can establish more egalitarian families and relationships, the familial and gender structures established by the first generation still play a critical role in the different aspects of union formation. Dating is often a “hot button” issue betw een first and second generation Indians. For the first and second gene ration, notions about dating an d the resultant behaviors are manifestations of their bi-cultural iden tity. For the first generation, who define themselves as essentially Indian, dating is perceived as something foreign from which they must protect their childre n, especially their daughters. In fluenced by the construction of gender in Indian culture, second generati on women face greater restrictions in dating than do their male counterparts. By contrast , the second generation who are American but aware of their Indian origins, conceptualize dating more in terms of a part of maturation which enables them to acquire the skills to interact with members of the opposite sex. Interestingly, both have formulated adaptatio ns which enable each to fulfill their own expectations. The first generation, in their desi re to stem miscegenat ion and retain some control over the partners the younger genera tion choose, are encouraging the second generation to date people from within thei r own ethnic group. For their part, the second generation who is dating has devised modes of secrecy which involves them waiting until they are in college to begin to date in earn est and concealing from their parents the fact that they are dating. In the United States, the semi-arranged or assisted marriage has evolved as a modification of the traditional arranged ma rriage and is popular with both first and second generation Indians. The semi-arrange d marriage facilitates the younger generation


54 choosing their spouses with pa rental involvement and advice rather than their spouses being chosen for them by their parents. In formal networks in the community are the primary method by which prospective spouses are sought, although other methods such as matrimonial advertisements are also in use. Criteria such as relig ion, caste, educational and occupational background continue to importa nt in judging the suitability of a spouse for both the first and second generation. However, impacted by American values, second generation Indians are also stressing indivi dual attributes, interests and compatibility. Gender plays a critical role in marriage deci sions. Second generation women desire more egalitarian relationships with their spouses a nd thus choosing to marry U.S raised Indians as opposed to second generation men, some of whom in their desire for a submissive, quiet wife who will cater to them as their mothers do, sometimes prefer Indian raised wife.


55 CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY This chapter explains the methods guiding th e study. The chapter is divided into the following sections (a) research design, (b) sample, sampling method and recruitment of participants for the study, (c) data collection, (d) analysis strategy, and (e) reflexivity. Research Design A qualitative research design guides th e exploration of the interconnected influences of bi-cultural functioning, ethnic culture an d gender in shaping union formation among second generation Patels in Flor ida. Qualitative research is appropriate when “one is interested in the respondents’ own interpretation and wording with respect to their behavior, their motives, emotions a nd experiences in the past and the present” (Heyink & Tymstra, 1993, p. 300). Further, it f acilitates the collecti on of data in “close proximity to a specific situat ion or context” (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p.10). The Patels are an understudied group in social resear ch contributing to a paucity of knowledge on their union formation processe s. Given this, the use of a qualitative research design enables me to examine how second generation Pa tels themselves talk about, interpret and understand their bi-cultural id entity and union formation in their community. Through the study, I seek to better understand union fo rmation among second generation Patels proximally and generate rich and holistic data, with “thick descriptions” and illustrations of the life experiences of the participants (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p.10). More importantly, I hope to give a voice to the “liv ed experiences” of s econd generation Patels – to understand the meanings th ey assign to various aspe cts of union formation, their


56 emotions, experiences and motives with refere nce to union formation in their lives (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p.10). Qualitative research is also suitable when the issue under study is perceived to be sensitive by the participants and the res earcher (Heyink & Tymstra, 1993). Drawing upon my own Indian identity, I am cognizant that discussions of family and union formation (particularly dating) are considered personal a nd sensitive subjects. Indians, regardless of ethnic origin or domicile are wary about analyzing these i ssues and many prefer to let sleeping dogs lie. Thus , this research design enables my participants to explore union formation only to the extent they were comfortable and respond accordingly. Sample, Sampling Method And Recruitment Sample Of The Study The sample for the study is made up of single, engaged/betrothed and/or married second generation Patel women and men aged 18 -28 years or married for 2 years or less from the state of Florida. On commenci ng the study, I had anticipated a sample of sufficient numbers of women and men acr oss the three phases of union formation processes to ensure the reliabili ty and credibility of the result s i.e. theoretical saturation to be achieved and that the findings would be representative of the Patel community in Florida. Additionally, the expectation that the unique perspectives of people at the different stages of union formation would provide a fuller understa nding of the process guided the adoption of the above mentioned marital categories in sampling. This goal generated six categories of partic ipants (as highlighted in Tabl e 1) with the expectation of interviewing 15 female and 15 male, with fi ve participants in each marital category resulting in a total sample size of 30 participants.


57 That being said, I now explain my rationale for selecting my sample and the sample characteristics. The choice of including couples who had been married for 2 years or less rested on a desire to ensure that the couples have more than a hazy recollection of their dating and courtship experiences. The 18-28 age range was chosen primarily because this is the stage in life when most Indian men a nd women, whether in Amer ica or India, begin to think of marriage more critically, actually contemplate marriage, or are in the process of getting married. Not only are they thinki ng about it themselves, but many cases, families begin to bring up the issue and begin th e search for a suitable partner if that is the preferred marriage style. The latter years of this age range also represent the time when most Indian-American men and women are expected to have completed their education and so marriage becomes a preo ccupation (if not for the younger generation, then for their parents). The decision to study the Patel community in Florida was initially made for two reasons. One is the logistical ease in data colle ction given that I am based in Florida. The second is the absence of research data on the Patel community in Florida. While my study has been successful in documenting the union formation processes of second generation Patels in Florida, it is important to note the experiences of Flor idian Patels are not significantly different or unique as compared to Patels in other parts of the United States. Although I had anticipated this to some extent , I initially sought the unique attributes of the Floridian Patel community by opening my interviews with a question on the description of the Patel commun ity in Florida. In responding to the question, most of my participants described the Patel community in the United States with the disclaimer that the one in Florida was part of the larger w hole and not all that di fferent from it. Also


58 noteworthy is the fact that while my data co llection was largely conf ined to Gainesville, Florida, most of my participants have migrated to Gainesville from ot her parts of Florida mainly central Florida, commonly to attend th e University of Florida. Given this, I am confident that my findings are representa tive of the second generation among the Patel community in Florida. While the above appeared readily ach ievable on paper and in theory, the recruitment experience quickly disabused me of that notion. Throughout the period of recruitment and data collection, I had difficulty in recruiting participants (men and women) in the engaged/betrothed and married categories. One reason for this difficulty was my confinement to Gainesville, Florida an d its environs, due to logistical problems and the dearth of recently married Patel coupl es I could access in the area. The other and perhaps more important reason was an unwillin gness on the part of some engaged and/or married men and women to participate in the study. Five potential participants (men and women who were engaged and/ or married) declined to participate on my contacting them. Some stated the lack of time while ot hers a disinterest in participating as the reasons for declining. While I had anticipated some difficulty in the recruitment of engaged and/or married participants, given the private nature of the topic, I had not foreseen the existence of a small pool of such partic ipants I could draw from. In ot her words, I had expected that those who did participate would know at least a few engaged and/or married Patels whose participation I could request. This however was not the case. Most of my participants, whether single, engaged/betrot hed and/or married knew of more single Patels than engaged and/or married ones. Therefore, part way through data co llection, I decided to


59 combine the engaged/betrothed and married categories into a single category and the single Patel category emerged as the base of my study. The difficulty in recruiting adequate numbers of participants in the engaged and/or married categories resulted in a pool of 18 participants, th e majority of whom were single. However, it should be observed that theoretical saturation has been accomplished credibly reflective of the second genera tion in the Patel community in Florida Importantly, while commonalities have been acc ounted for, so have the unique stories of the participants. Table 1: Quota sampling matrix – sex by marital status Single Engaged/Married Men 7 3 Women 7 1 N= 18 Following is a tabular presentation of the demographic information of participants in the study. The information in this table has been gleaned from questioning second generation Patel women and men about their families. Explanations about terminology used in the table are required. The category titled ‘age on entry into the United States’ applies to those second generation Pate l women and men who were not born in the United States. Statistical age intervals have not been used to present the data, but an arbitrary interval has been created based on the responses of th e participants. The definition of nuclear family used in this ta bular presentation is a household made up of parents, children and grandparents. The presen ce of grandparents wh ich often constitutes an extended family, is classifi ed here as a nuclear family for two reasons – first, some participants made mention of the fact that only one (survi ving) grandparent lived with them and thus does not constitute an extende d family; and second, in the case of some


60 participants, their households comprised of their grandparents and their divorced mother which I classified as a nuclear family. By contrast, the extended family classification refers to those households which are made up several brothers and their families living in one household and shared income and propert y (Falk, 1995). The pr ofessions listed for the first generation in documenting occupa tional patterns have emerged from the responses of the second generation. Lastly, th e findings necessitated the inclusion of the category of ‘mother’s occupation –homemaker’ b ecause of the existence of this reality in the lives of some participants. Two tables have been presented – the demographic characteristics of the sample and the cultural characteristics of the sample (divided into two tables for formatting reasons).


61 Table 2: Demographic char acteristics of sample Women Men Demographic characteristics Marital Status Single 7 7 Engaged/Betrothed 1 1 Married 2 Total8 10 Age Median age 22 years 20.5 years Range 18-25 years 18-27 years Occupation Student (undergradua te and graduate level students largely attending the University of Florida) 7 8 Professional 1 2 Total8 10 Table 3: Cultural characteristics of sample Women Men Cultural Characteristics Place of Birth United States 4 5 NonUnited States 4 5 Total8 10 Age on entry into the United States (for those not born in the U.S.) 1-4 years 1 2 8-9 years 1 1 14 years 1 2


62 Table 3 Continued Women Men Cultural Characteristics Family in the United States Presence of grandparents in the U.S. 2 5 Absence of grandparents in the U.S. 6 5 Nuclear family residence pattern in the U.S. 7 9 Extended family residence pattern in the U.S. 1 1 Family engaged in business (owning hotel, motel, convenience and/or liquor stores) in the U.S 4 8 Parents are professionals (doctors, pharmacists, bankers, accountants, lawyers, computer engineers, state employee) in the U.S. 4 2 Mother’s occupation – homemaker (although she oversees and manages the family business as well) 5 4 Sampling Method Participants were recruited using a combined quota and snowball sampling method. Although the population of the Patel co mmunity in Florida is large enough to construct a “sampling frame”, I had antici pated difficulty in accessing participants especially as I am not a Patel and do not have contacts in the co mmunity (Bernard, 2000, p. 147). Snowball sampling is appropriate when attempting to access “difficult-to-find” populations (Bernard, 2000, p. 179) . It involves identifying “key informant[s]” in the community through whom potential participants can be recruited for the study (Bernard, 2000; Esterberg, 2002, p. 93). Influenced by the literature and anecdotal evidence which suggests that the Patel community in the United States is close-knit, I chose to adopt the above mentioned sampling method. In order to examine the workings of union formation processes between the sexes and marital cate gories, quota sampling was also included.


63 Bernard (2000) notes that quota sampling involves identi fying the “subpopulations of interest” and on the “proportions of those subpop ulations in the final sample” (p. 175). In this study, the “subpopulations of interest” in cludes second generation Patel women and men who are single, engaged/ betrothed and/or married. Recruitment Of Participants Over the course of data collection, I util ized a number of me thods for recruiting study participants, some successf ul and others less so. My first foray into recruiting participants occurred through the Indian Cultural and Edu cation Center (ICEC) located in Gainesville, Florida. The faculty advisor of th e Indian Students’ Association (ISA) at the University of Florida introduced me to two ke y informants in the Patel community during the Annual Independence Day Celebrations hos ted by ICEC. Denzin and Lincoln (2003) argue that the key informant should be a memb er of the group under study and be willing to be “an informant and act as a guide and a translator of cultural mores and, at times, jargon or language” (p. 77). My informants were middle aged, Patel women – the first generation who had children and other family members eligible to participate in my study. They were willing to introduce me to th ese potential particip ants and indeed did so. Being an Indian myself, with Gujarati friends, and familiar enough with the language to be able to comprehend it, I did not requi re an interpretation of cultural mores or language. More over, the focus of my study was the second generation’s understanding and interpretation of union formation a nd not that of the first generation. However, one of my informants drew my attention to the narrow scope of my initial definition of second ge neration as ‘born and brought up in the United States’. As mentioned earlier (in chapter one), Patels tend to migrate to the United States after sojourning as immigrants in another country or under family reunification clauses. Thus,


64 a significant proportion of the s econd generation is born in countries outside the US and immigrates to the United States as children a nd are classified as th e .5 generation – i.e immigrants who came to the United States before age twelve” (Warikoo, 2005, p. 809). It was with her insight that I widened my definition of second generation to include Patel women and men who are born and brought up in the United States or came to the United States before their 10th birthday. I chose this particular cut-off point to ensure an authentic representation of Patel culture rooted in Patel families and the community, before the former can be significantly altered by increased exposure to American peers in school. It should also be noted here that two of my participants admitted to immigrating to the United States when they were 14 years of age. My difficulty in recruiting participants in fluenced by decision to include them in the study as I did not want to eliminate t hose who volunteered an d were agreeable to participate in the study. While th e two participants who emigra ted to the United States at age 14 did evince a more realistic accounting of Patel life in India, it is not my opinion that the inclusion of the 1.5 ge neration has had an adverse e ffect on the validity of my findings. Both, the second and the 1.5 generati on manifested similar expressions of bicultural identity and understandings of dating and marriage. In reviewing the transcripts of their responses, it is hard to distinguish one from the other without being informed by their demographic information. My informants introduced me to three second generation Pa tels who par ticipated in my study and through whom my snowball sampling began. Given the limited success of this method, I attended another ICEC event the Ganpati Puja (prayer). This event was


65 hosted entirely by second genera tion Indians and with the assi stance of a friend of mine who is a second generation I ndian; I was able to recrui t additional participants. Apart from attending events hosted by the I ndian community in Gainesville, I also sent out e-mails requesting participation in my study on the ISA list serve and on the Patel group list serve on a popula r college website called face It is these efforts that I would classify as failures as I did not recruit a single part icipant through these means. I learned, through the exercise, that Indians do not respond well to blanket calls for participation especially in social science research that does not involve any compensation and involves discussing personal subjects. One Patel I met at the Ganpati Puja told me he saw the e-mail but thought it wa s a waste of time and so did not respond. While this may seem callous, it should be noted that this is a reaction I was expecting and am familiar with. There is not much respect for the liberal arts among Indians whether in India or America and often it is considered a last resort wh en one is not smart enough to qualify for medical, engineering, health science, and law or business school. Accordingly, there is a tendency to consider social sc ience research frivolous , an opinion I have encountered quite frequently in my career. To continue, my first experi ences with recruiting participants revealed a technique that seemed to work and I adopted it as my modus operandi for the most part. On completion of an interview, I checked with my participants whet her they knew of any other Patels (in the quota matrix) who they t hought would be willing to participate in the study. I then requested them to contact thes e persons first, following which I would contact the potential participants either by phon e or by e-mail. I learned essential skills as I got more confident with recruiting. In my very first contact, I scared a potential


66 participant off as I came across, I believe, as being too eager and so came on too strong. He admitted his discomfort about talking about an issue he has never discussed with his parents and declined to participate. I believe that through him, I lost access to a larger pool of male participants to whom he adm itted having access. Therefore, in my later attempts at recruiting, I took a softer appr oach. Often, I would briefly outline the purpose of the study on the phone with a potential participan t highlighting that I wanted to learn about union formation among the second genera tion in general and not just in their personal lives and that confid entiality would be maintained throughout the process. It was only after this, that I checked th eir willingness to participate. Another method I used to recr uit participants wa s to request faculty members in the department of sociology who are teaching undergraduate courses to make an announcement in their classes soliciting partic ipation of second generation Patels. This method surprisingly, proved to be the most successful and I was able to recruit a significant number of participan ts. In hindsight the only reason I can think of for this success is the fact that those w ho chose to participate in my study had also chosen to take sociology courses and so were interested in or saw the novelty in social science research. The recruitment of participants was not an easy step in the research project although I grew more proficient at it with experience . It actually began with a slew of participants who were interested in the study following which it slowed to a trickle. Male participants in all categories were more diffi cult to recruit than female participants. This could have been for a variety of reasons some of which I would hazard are a disinterest in social science research; the priv ate nature of the topic under discussion; a lack of time (as purported by some potential male participants who declined to participate) and perhaps a


67 lack of critical thinking on the issue of union formation am ong men that translated into their discomfort to be put on the spot in an interview (as suggested by a few potential male participants who declined to participate). Data Collection Gubrium and Holstein (1998) describe th e interview as means of contemporary story telling, where persons divulge life accounts in response to interview questions . Given that the goal of this study is to exam ine the stories and pe rspectives of second generation Patel women and men with refere nce to union formation, I decided on the interview as my data collection method. Semi -structured in-depth interviews are my preferred choice of interviewing styles. This type of interview facilitates the exploration of a topic more openly than a structured interview (Esterberg, 2002). Importantly, it enables the researcher to remain in control of the interview, while allowing the participants the flexibility to express their perspectives on the topi c in a non-structured manner, elaborate to the greate st possible extent, and it faci litates the investigation of leads and topics as they emerge in the cour se of the interview (Bernard, 2000; Esterberg, 2002). The majority of the interviews I conducted were face-to-face interviews. However, due to logistical reasons and in order to access participants in other parts of Florida, I conducted three telephone interviews. All the interviews whether face-to-face or telephonic, ranged from 60 minutes to 75 mi nutes long and were au dio-taped. All the face-to-face interviews took place in my offi ce where I could be assured of privacy so that confidentiality would not be compromi sed (Esterberg, 2002). Telephone interviews were a little more challenging as I could not see the participants. With the telephonic interviews, more so than w ith the face-to-face interviews , I was concerned about the


68 duration of the interview as it is uncomfortable to be on the phone for long. While the interviews did not follow a rigid guideline, I used an interview guide with broad areas for questioning and probing. I designed the interv iew guide such that the questions were open-ended so as to stimulate reflection a nd discussion and elicit detailed information about union formation (Berna rd, 2000; Esterberg, 2002). Over the course of data collection, I deve loped a pattern in interviewing (both faceto-face and telephonic interviews) which proved to be effective. My first task before I actually began interviewing and turned on the tape recorder was to attempt to establish a rapport with the participants so they would feel comforta ble enough during the interview (Bernard, 2000, Esterberg, 2002; Denzin & Lincoln, 2003). I began the interview experience, with small conversat ion and by thanking the particip ants, right off the bat, for taking the time to participate in the interview. I then requested them to read and sign the informed consent form. Following this, I brie fly introduced the study to them focusing on why I am studying the Patel community in part icular, why the second generation and why union formation (although these areas were br iefly covered on the phone or e-mail when I was recruiting them) and asked them if they had any questions before we began. One part of this warming up which proved to be an ice-breaker was my requesting them to think of a pseudonym for the record. For some reason all of my participan ts found this to be hilarious and laughed as they took th e time to think up a suitable name. It was only after this that I turned on the record, with the pa rticipants’ permission, and proceeded with the interview. The questioning style I honed was to proceed from the general to the specific (as evident in the interview guideAppendix) wherein I questioned them about the broad subject areas such as identity, dating, marri age, gender in the


69 context of the Patel community and then aske d them how these issues were negotiated in their lives. This proved to be an effective me thod for two reasons. One, I believe that they felt comfortable talking about the community in general and so were less defensive when I questioned them about their lives. Second, of ten, in describing the pattern in the Patel community, they would use their life stories as illustrations, which provided opportunities to probe. On no occasion did any of my partic ipants decline to talk about their lives (although I gave them that option prior to asking any pers onal questions). In most interviews, I did not follow the order of questions noted in the interview guide. As stated above, often the issu e of marriage would be brought up by the participants at the start of interview (when it is the last area of questioning in the guide) and my subsequent questioning would follow their lead. The interviews proceeded as conversations to which both the participants and I contributed. This often took the form of me playing ‘devil’s advocate’ while we discussed certain issu es. In employing this strategy, I utilized Holstein and Gubrium’s ( 1995) technique of the active interview. Holstein and Gubrium (1995) explain that in the conven tional view of interviewing, the participants are conceptualized as “ vessels of answers for experimental questions put to the respondents by interviewers” and the task of the interviewer is to formulate questions that elicit the desi red answers (p. 7-8). In this method, the interviewer is cautioned to be a neutral party in the inte rviewing process and th e participant is not encouraged to engage in the production of knowledge by interpretati on. By contrast, the active interview, the participant is conceptua lized as “not only hold[ ing] facts and details of experience but, in the very process of offering them up for re sponse, constructively adds to, takes away from and transforms the facts and details” (Holstein & Gubrium,


70 1995, p. 8). Thus, the active interview seek s to “activate[e], stimulat[e] and cultivat[e]the subject’s interpretive capabilities” during the course of the interview (Hostein & Gubrium, 1995, p.17). In order to do this, the intervie wer is required to converse with the participants in such a wa y that “alternative considerations are brought into play” and an environment is created that is conducive to the participant exploring a wide range of interpre tations and meanings when addressi ng relevant issues (Holstein & Gubrium, 1995, p. 17). The active interviewer “ activates narrative production .intentionally, concertedly provoke s responses by indicating – even suggestingnarrative positions, resources, orie ntations, and precedents for the respondent to engage in addressing th e research questions under c onsideration” (Holstein & Gubrium, 1995, p. 39). It is this technique that I call playing the ‘devil’s advocate’ in my study. In the course of my study, often, this tech nique enabled the participants to think more critically about the issu e under discussion and to refi ne their responses. Prior to concluding the interview, I always took a mome nt to consult with the interview guide to ensure that I had covered the main subject ar eas. Often this lull in the conversation would motivate the participants to continue to disc uss a point mentioned earlier or bring up a new one. I concluded the interview by acknowle dging that I was learni ng about the Patel community through data collection and reques ting them to think of areas that they thought would improve my questioning. While mo st were not forthcoming, claiming that the questioning was comprehensive, in those cases where it was efficacious, the question generated a greater elaboration of a point that the participants thought to be of significance to the discussion; though not generating new ar eas to be included in the


71 questioning. On concluding the interview, and turning off the tape, I asked my participants for feedback on the interview, checking with them whether it was too intrusive, personal or difficult. All those who participated in the interview replied in the negative with some even noting their ease to th e extent that they ha d lost track of time and discovered their views on issues they had ne ver really critically thought off before. As I have had experience in interviewing participants for research purposes, the process was not unduly difficult for me. However, I was cognizant of the need to expend a greater effort when interviewing some of my male participants. This was particularly so during our discussions on gender. I noticed that some of my male participants were unable to conceptualize some of the issues under discussion. In response to this, I used the tactic of asking them to compare their lif e situations with those of their sisters or cousin sisters. Often, this enabled them to better perceived gender in the context of union formation. Analysis Strategy The interviews have been analyzed qualitatively identifying themes that emerged from the data a process termed as c oding which is the “heart and soul of whole-text analysis ” (Denzin & Lincoln, 2003, p. 274). My first step in analyzing the interviews involved developing a contact su mmary sheet which summarizes the main theoretical and methodological themes that emerged durin g the interview on completion of each interview (Miles & Huberman, 1994). This re flection on each interview was my first foray into coding the data as I identified, from memory, critical themes that emerged during each interview, noting whether the themes were unique to that interview or whether they had emerged in earlier interviews as well. As suggested by Denzin and Lincoln (2003) the next step was the identification of a “ corpus of texts, and [the


72 selection of] the units of analysis within the texts ” (p. 274). I randomly selected five interviews (three women and five men) of the 18 interviews and identified “thematic units – chunks of text that reflect a single theme” as th e unit of analysis (Denzin & Lincoln, 2003, p. 275). It should be noted that prior to beginning the coding process, guided by the interview guide and the goals of study, I developed five main categories within which I developed sub-categories. These main categories are description of the Patel community in the United States, iden tity, gender, dating, and engagement and marriage. The “thematic units” identified in the sample of texts guided the search for similar or contradictory themes in the remaining interviews. I decided on the adoption of a coding met hod that is “partway between a priori and inductive coding” to discover themes in the data (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p.61; Bernard, 2000). In this method, coding begins w ith some general themes derived from the reading of the literature with the addition of more themes and sub-themes as the analysis progresses (Miles & Huberman, 1994). I reviewed the transcri pts of the interviews in chunks rather than line by lin e, developing descriptive code s i.e codes describing the characteristics of the themes – as they em erged from the data (Miles & Huberman, 1994). For greater ease in the process, I color coor dinated the codes across all the interviews. Following the coding of the interviews, I examined how the emergent themes are linked to one another and developed analytic subcategories within each of the five main categories and then proceeded to investig ate how the sub-categories and the main categories are linked together – a process termed as “building conceptual models” (Bernard, 2000; Denzin & Lincoln, 2003, p. 277 ). While examining the linkages between sub-categories and categories, I maintained memos. Bernard (2000) notes that memoing


73 is “a widely used method for recording relations among themes. [it involves] continually [writing] down your thoughts about what you ar e reading” (p. 450). The memos I developed elucidated the interconnections between the themes as they emerged from the data, my preliminary thoughts on th e data bolstered by my observations of nonverbal behavior during the in terviews. My memos focused primarily on three levels of comparison that emerged from the data – Indian versus American; second generation versus first generation; women versus men. These comparisons served as lenses through which I examined the emergent themes. Once a conceptual model on dating, engagement and marriage as the two aspects of union formation under study emerged from the data, I searched for negative cases – cases that do not fit the m odel – and thus suggest new c onnections that need to be accommodated (Bernard, 2000; Denzin & Lincoln, 2003). On the successful rendering of all these steps, theoretical saturation was ach ieved, wherein no furthe r relationships from the data were forthcoming. This is when I considered the analysis to be complete. The next challenge was in presenting the analysis in a coherent, inte resting narrative form. Accordingly, I selected key quotes as exempl ars of emergent themes and have liberally peppered the narrative w ith them (Bernard, 2000; Denzin & Lincoln, 2003). Reflexivity: Being Indian While Researching Indians I write this section contemplating four fr ames of reference of my identity as an Indian namely being Indian; being Indian but non-Gujarati and nonPatel; being Indian and female; and being Indian from an urban a nd liberal family in India. Each of these frames of reference influences me as a soci ologist and a researcher and so influence my work.


74 Being Indian I am an Indian, born and brought up in I ndia. I have been an immigrant in the United States for the past 18 months, and in the context of the study, one might call me first generation except for the fact that I am not sure I want to make America my home. Being Indian has been fortuitous in my resear ch as it enables me to better understand the intricacies of union formation in the Indian co ntext. Right from the start, my Indian-ness makes me cognizant of the f act that dating, engagement and marriage are personal subjects that most Indians are not comforta ble discussing with strangers. Holstein and Gubrium (1995) explained that the intervie wer’s background knowledge of the context within which the interviews are embedded can be a “valuable resource for assisting respondents to explore and desc ribe their circumstance, ac tions and feelings” (p. 45). Armed with this understanding, I posed que stions in a non-th reatening manner and always allowed my participan ts the option of declining to reply before a question I considered to be particularly personal or private (such as descri bing their experiences with dating or marriage). Being Indian also implies that there is a “‘sharedness of meaning’” between my participants and myself, where we are both aw are of the contextual nature of specific references to union formation (Denzi n & Lincoln, 2003, p. 86). This common understanding acts like a mnemonic device wh erein certain terms convey certain ideas which most Indians are aware of. For inst ance, when discussing criteria for mate selection, some of the most frequently voi ced criteria we re ‘good family background’ and that ‘women should be cultured’ (the latte r as explained by men). Although I did request my participants to elaborate on the meanings of these concepts for the record, I was able to decipher what was meant by them. ‘Good family background’ implies a respectability


75 of the family in the community wherein the family has a reputation of being upstanding. ‘Cultured woman’ on the other hand is a popular euphemism for women who are well versed in the religious and cultural practices of their ethnic community as well being well mannered and respectful. The advantage of being Indian was also evident when participants would discuss festivals celebrate d in the Patel community such as Diwali, Holi, Navratri, Karva-Chauth etc – festivals th at I am familiar with as an Indian and therefore require no explanation. Knowledge of the language – Gujarati and Hind i – is also part of the advantages of being Indian while researching Indians. Of ten, while explaining some aspects of union formation or identity, my participants woul d lapse into speaking some terms in either Gujarati or Hindi. It should be noted here, that this practice of moving between two or more languages is very common among Indians and I myself indulge in it often – using Hindi words in an English sentence – and thus its utilization by my participants was not unexpected. These shifts in language occurr ed often when participants brought up religion and food as forms of identity constr uction and when they attempted to explain their families to me. Words such as puja ( prayer), mandir ( temple) , maharaj (priest) , dalbhat ( rice and pulses) , sabzi (vegetables) , roti (wheat bread) , gams (villages) , Ba (grandmother), Maama (Uncle) , Maami (aunt) peppered the convers ation and it is only in hindsight that I realize how be neficial it was not to ask for a translation every time a nonEnglish word was used. Being Indian also meant that I had some preparation to accept without prejudice some of the more conservative gender view s expressed by my participants. Personally, it boggles my mind that some of these perspectiv es have traveled acro ss time and seas and


76 have planted themselves among the second gene ration in the United States. Most of these views were expressed in the purview of da ting and marriage. For instance, women were often portrayed as belonging in their marital homes and not really being members of their natal homes. This was one of the main reasons cited for marriage as an issue being brought up earlier for women. Co ncern with women’s reputation and the desire for a woman with an unblemished reputation wa s another view expressed. These are perceptions I have studied about as a soci ologist in India and given their continued prevalence in India, am fairly familiar w ith them. While I would not say that I was anticipating these views among the second gene ration, it was no surpri se to hear them and I believe because of this, I did not come across as aghast and bothered. Do not get me wrong, I personally find these vi ews abhorrent and do not subscribe to them, but I have learned enough to know where and when to voi ce them and during an interview is not an opportune time to do so. Being Indian also has its disadvantages. Du e to my familiarity with the culture and the views being expressed, I often fail to be sufficiently critical of them. Additionally, having arrived in America only 18 months ago, I am still battling my preconceptions and prejudices about Americans and their union form ation patterns. During the course of this study my knowledge of union formation in Amer ica has deepened to some extent, but it is far from thorough (partly as this was not the focus of my study). Accordingly, in my discussions about my findings with Americans, the latter raised interesting counterpoints which I failed to account for in my initial anal ysis. To resolve the problem, I decided to develop my analysis sub-categor ies in collaboration with an American (the chair of my


77 thesis committee) more so that the latter can draw my attention to contrasts and the similarities between Indian and Amer ican processes of union formation. Being Indian, But Non-Gujarati And Non-Patel Being a non-Gujarati and non-Patel has its plusses a nd minuses. One the plus side, being a non-Patel implied that I do not have connections to the Patel community in Gainesville and so the possibi lity of information reaching back to the community is relatively slim. This I believe made my participants a lot more comfortable in revealing their personal experiences w ith dating, engagement and marri age. Some did check that the information they were giving me w ould not reach their parents and only on confirmation of the fact did th ey reveal the information to me. Being non-Patel also in my opinion assisted in equalizing the power dyna mic underscoring an interview. Given my limited knowledge of the inner workings of the Patel community, I always presented myself as a student – one who is learning about the Patel community as I conduct the research. Thus, I asked participants to expl ain in detail processes of union formation in the Patel community, often playing ‘devil’s ad vocate’ with what another participant had told me. Far from revealing the name of the participant whose arguments I was referring to, I would couch it in terms of ‘my interviews so far have revealed that.’, a strategy that proved especially effective in teasing out the negative cases. Holstein and Gubrium (1995) call this strategy “i nformation ‘spillage’”: information and sentiments that particular respondents present can serve as the basis for concretely relati ng to the experience of ot her respondents.and form a growing stockpile of background informati on knowledge that th e interviewer [can use] to pose concrete questions and explor e facets of respondents’ circumstances that would not otherwise be probed”. (p. 46) It is important to mention here that while the Gujarati/Patel ethnic culture has its unique characteristics and traits; it is not vastly different from the larger Indian culture


78 within which it is located. For instance, ge nder norms influencing dating and marriage as constructed by the larger Indian culture are played out in the Patel community with their unique interpretations of the same. Accordingl y, my Indian-ness helped. Given that the larger Indian culture is a milieu I have stud ied and have grown up in, and the fact that I have some close friends in India hailing from the Gujarati ethnic community, I am familiar to some extent, at least anecdotal ly with the workings of the community. The biggest disadvantage of not being a Gu jarati or a Patel lies in my limited success at recruiting Patels. As I am not a me mber of the community, I am not aware of the common places where Patels meet or the ac tivities they are likely to indulge in and they had no reason to trust me. This was manifested in my failure to recruit any Patels through their online list serve on despite one of my Patel participants posting my call for participants on the site hersel f. I am not part of the in group so as to speak and although I did attend some ICEC gatherings, I was not accepted enough for a lot of them to volunteer to participate. Being Indian And Female This frame of reference is probably the most difficult for me to analyze objectively. As I write this, I am still uncertain as to wh ether my interpretations of being an Indian female researcher are valid or no t. It is hard to think of it in terms of clear advantages and disadvantages as to me it takes the form of a medley. Personally, I was very aware of my gender during the interviews. While I will not go so far as to say th at I played down my gender, I did not however espou se radical or inflammatory views during the interview. I did argue with my participants and did draw th eir attention to what I believe to be flaws in their arguments and in do ing so did draw upon our shared culture as Indians. My contestatations with my female participants were more spirited th an with their male


79 counterparts. To a large extent, this was because the women were more aware of the double standards they are caught in, have b een responding and reacting to it for a while and are often frustrated and angered by it. The latter was often manifested in the interview and their opinions and frustrations are those I can relate to, share and agree with. Being an Indian woman also means I am sensitive to gender disparate arguments (some rooted in Indian culture) in union fo rmation especially t hose voiced by men. While these arguments have never been employed in my personal case, I have grown up hearing them with reference to my close friends and family. I was very awar e of this bias during my interviews with men and took the precau tion of not attacking their opinions when they voiced them. I believe it is safe for me to say that I do not think that any of my participants came to an interview with a preconceived notion of what an Indian woman should be like. Based on the data emerging from my intervie ws, I hazard that these notions of ideal Indian womanhood only arise in the context of ma te selection, if at all. However, I will admit that some of my male participants were not as comfortable in the interview as the female participants. This was evident in thei r responses which at times tended to be made in monosyllables. I am unable to ascertain whet her this discomfort st emmed from the fact that I was a female researcher or from th e topic under discussion although I think it was the combination of both. Some mentioned that the topics under discussion were some that they had never voiced in public and they were surprised themselves at some of the views they espoused. Others refrained from detaile d responses and I was unable to encourage greater elaboration. I think my age was a factor that intersec ted with my identity as an Indian female. Most of my participants were of my age gr oup with a significant


80 proportion of them younger than me. I would h azard that to some extent, this enabled them to perceive me as a peer who is also the intricacies of ne gotiating union formation and so facilitated their greater ease in responding to questions. Being Indian From An Urban, Liberal Family In India It is only right that I admit to my pr ejudices stemming from my background as urbanite from a liberal family. The two variab les –urban and liberal – have influenced my understanding of union formati on processes and it is these biases that I bring to the research. One of the first issues I confronted in data collection was the idealizing of India and Indian culture by the second generation. As mentioned in the literature review, immigrants in a foreign country tend to idea lize the culture of origin and often these idealized notions are transmitted to the second generation. Some of my participants have never been to India, while others have visite d the country once or tw ice. Therefore, while they are cognizant of social change occurrin g in India, they have not absorbed the essence of these changes. Thus, some of th eir arguments were difficult for me to accept without a rebuttal a nd in doing so, my biases may have been manifested. One of the many changes in urban India in recent decades ha s been the growing acceptance of dating by both men and women; socializing of the younger generation in public locales such as bars, pubs etc; the prevalence of pre-marital sex; the growing preference for a love-marriage and/or a se mi-arranged marriage; the increased prevalence of inter-ethnic community and inter-religious marriages; the significant increase in women’s professional work both prior to and after marriage etc. A lot of us who are raised in urban India re alize that we are not representati ve of India as a whole, but we nonetheless espouse and are an embodiment of the above mentioned changes. These changes are not abstract or theoretical but are part of our lives and we are negotiating


81 them every day. Thus, I found it difficult to rest rain myself when some of my participants (mostly men) would discuss idealized notions of women from India as preferred spouses when discussing mate selection. Some of th e very common themes brought up in this regard was that women from India are more cultured (in the sense explained earlier in this section) than their American counterpar ts, are more committed to families rather than their careers and are less likely to be tolera nt of divorce. These opi nions provided me the fodder to play ‘devil’s advocate’, if for no ot her purpose than to draw their attention to the fact that Indian women are not as they may appear to Indian-Americans. Divorce is becoming widely prevalent with women’s in creased employment and earning power and Indian women (albeit urban women) are no le ss committed to their careers than IndianAmerican ones. Coming from a liberal family in India that has worked to ameliorate rigid gender arrangements in the family, I sometimes found it hard to accept some of the more conservative views on gender, union form ation and family espoused by the second generation. My prejudice also stems from the f act that I had expected that by virtue of being American, a lot of second generation I ndians would have at the minimum thought about and perhaps reworked traditional gender arrangements in their lives. I myself am a product of an inter-religious and inter-ethn ic community marriage. Given this, I have never given any thought to choos ing a mate from a particular ethnic community focusing more on the individual qualities of the potential mate. This often translates into some difficulty in envisaging intra-ethnic community marriage to the extent described by my participants wherein some prefer that their s pouses be Patels from the desired village of origin (an important criterion), while for ot hers another Gujarati was acceptable. While I


82 am able to empathize with the reasons for such marriages the primary being preservation of the Patel/Gujarati culture and traditions for the succeeding generations, I am still not able to digest that some of them seek to fall in love with only those who do meet the criteria. In sum, I want to reiterate that on the w hole, I believe my identity as an Indian facilitated my data collection and the su ccessful completion of the study. However, throughout the process I was very aware of my inherent biases as an Indian, and particularly as an Indian female from a lib eral, urban family. I do not believe that these biases significantly detracted from the authentic ity of my findings, but it is important that I am cognizant of them and that the reader is aware of the frames of reference from which I approached this study. In conclusion, I believe that the methods espoused in this study have ensured that the findings are reliable and are credibly representative of union formation among second generation Patels in Florida. While the argument can be made that the more traditional and conservative Patel women and men (w ho were engaged/married) declined to participate in the study, and th e more liberal agreed, it woul d not be mine. To begin with, it is not my contention that attitude – liberalism or conservatism – influenced participation but rather a skepticism of social science research and perhaps a discomfort with discussing issues that are essentially private for most Indi ans. Interestingly, some of my single participants were self defined conservatives or would fall into my definition of conservative by the opinions they expressed on union formation which were similar to some expressed by the engaged/married me n and women, thus arguing against the liberal-conservative explanation.


83 Interestingly, the assumption that I had ma de about the unique perspectives of the different marital categories on union formati on processes did not emerge from the data. Patels from within the different marita l categories expressed analogous ideas and understanding of union formation, although the experiences contrasted dramatically between the sexes. I would hazard this is becau se of the relative hom ogeneity in the Patel community in Florida. This doe s not negate the fact that di stinctions exist among Patels – distinctions that assume great significance in marriage as ela borated later in this paper – but only that the commonality of Patel culture that they are socialized into, embrace and desire to maintaining create a more common liv ed experience than a more divergent one. The analysis sections recounting the lived experiences of second generation Patel women and men that follow this chapter ar e a product of the decisions and changes undertaken in the research methodology guiding this study.


84 CHAPTER 4 COCONUT OR COCKTAIL: IDENTITY CONSTRUCTION AMONG SECOND GENERATION PATELS This section portrays the explorations of s econd generation Patels with reference to the construction of their identity as Indians, Patels and Americans. These explorations of identity construction reveals three broad areas emerging fr om the interviews and around which this chapter has been organized, namely (a) sources of identity construction, (b) features of identity, and (c) the dynamic nature of their identity.1 The coconut-cocktail metaphor is often symbolically invoked by scholars when attempting to understand identity among Indian s in America, most especially in the context of the second generation who have b een born and brought up in the United States. In terms of identity, the coconut is symbolic of being “brown on the outside and white on the inside, with some natural water of I ndian culture remaining within”, while the cocktail entails being “‘neither wholly India n, nor wholly American – but partially both’” (Mukhi, 2000, p. 172; Sheth, 2001, p. 80). While both metaphors are evocative of biculturalism as an acculturation strategy and its consequent bi-cultural identity, the coconut metaphor often signifies a more pr onounced orientation toward the Americanness rather than Indian-ness. Indian identity or Indian-ness is often considered the foundation of bi-cultural identity and fearing its loss to Americ an-ness; Indian identity is stressed and consciously constr ucted among the second generation. 1 To uphold the confidentiality of the participants, double precautionary measures have been taken. In addition to requiring participants to select a pseu donymn for the interview, I have assigned them an alternate pseudonym when qualifying their responses in all the analysis chapters (chapters four, five and six). This ensures that only I am aware of the true identity of the participants.


85 Sources Of Identity Construction Farver, Narang and Bhadha (2002) observe that through the process of enculturation or ethnic socializ ation, Indians in the United States create and maintain ethnic culture and identity in the newer generations who are born and brought up in the United States. In their commitment to main taining Indian-ness among their generation and developing it among their children, first generation Indians ca ll upon a variety of resources at their disposal. These resources exist not just within individuals and their families, but also within thei r ethnic communities of origin and those that they belong to in the United States. Rangaswamy (2000) describes the proces s as “retrieving a repository of knowledge accumulated not only du ring their own lifetim es but generations past. drawing upon myths and legends, folklo re and history [of their communities and their families]” (p. 217). The Patel community in the United States is an exemplar of this process of identity construction. Patel families, the Patel co mmunity and the larger Gujarati community within which it is embedded are principal in th e construction of both a pan-Indian identity and Gujarati identity among the second gene ration. Second generation Patel women and men, who participated in the study, intimated that the distinction between a Patel and Gujarati identity is not as well-defined as I had anticipated at the start of the study. Consequently, their expression s of their identity construction involves and interwoven pan-Indian – Gujarati-American identity. Patel Families Families constitute the private arena within which children are socialized into the Indian way of life (Jain, 1989; Mukhi, 2000; Khandelwal, 2002). Second generation Patels report that their families were and are still critical of their identity as Indians and


86 Gujaratis. Parents and grandpa rents play an impor tant role in intr oducing the second generation to Gujarati culture and society a nd encouraging them to participate in it. Parents Second generation Patel men and women ac knowledge that their parents made a concentrated effort to raise them in the Guja rati culture at home a nd to involve them in the local Gujarati/Patel community which they were a part of . I guess if you’re part of that culture from the beginninglike my personal case is that I was part of that [Guj arati] culture, my parents raised me in that atmosphere, you know . . . (Anil , 21, single male, ) This is undertaken through adhe rence to symbols of Indian a nd Gujarati identity such as language, religion, food and values as well as through their active involvement in the community. They explain that their pare nts ensured, and at times demanded their participation at Gujarati cultural events, relig ious and festive gather ings, weddings and at informal gatherings at the homes of other Gujaratis. The second gene ration believes that this involvement and participation on their part, was efficacious in introducing them to the culture and the community from which they originate. Also parents enable them to acknowledge and be cons ciously aware of their roots, wh ich ensures the transmission of Gujarati culture not just to them, but also th rough them to the succeeding generations of Patels. I think . . . I think a big part of how they [the parents] do it [identity construction] is to get your kids involved in things. I know that my parents, like . . . no matter how old I am now, they still make me go to, you know[to] all kinds of Indian practices, religious this . . . any kind of events that . . . you know . . . gets them [second generation] involved, let them [s econd generation] know what they were brought up . . . like you know where they come from. I am now allowed to just be like ‘Oh! I want to stay at home’. You know my parents are like, ‘No you have to come . . .’ So you know if you reinforce it to your kids . . . they’re not going to forget where they come from . . . I guess a lo t of parents just want to make sure that the [Gujarati] culture gets passed on . . . you know, [from] generation to generation


87 to generation. So they are goi ng to try and put it in as much as they can in us, so that we give our kids as well . . . (Priya, 20, single female). I guess the best way they [parents] do it [construction of Gujarati/Indian identity] is you know . . . obviously from the upbringing inside the house. So depending on how the parents mend it togeth er . . . it’s the parents who I believe want this [Gujarati] tradition to go on . . . then th ey’ll be very strong about making sure that their children learn about where they’re from, where their family comes from, because that’s a big part of being a Patel. (Vishal, 27, married male) Discussions about India and Indian culture shared between pare nts and the second generation are also mechanisms of identity c onstruction. The majority of the participants in the study admit to having never or having ra rely visited India. Discussions about India and Indian-ness are thus their only source of first hand knowledge about India, her people and culture. Some speak of their parents disc ussing recent political and social events in India, and others of stories about their families and communities there. . . . Like my dad will come in and tell me a little bit [of the] news about India or whatever . . . try to get us involved in what’s going on... and just discussions about stuff like that . . . (Janvi, 25, engaged female) . . . I am very curious . . . [want to know] how my pare nts were raised and what they went through . . . so I ask a lot of que stions about how they were raised, what did they go through when they . . . you know . . . being brought up and compared to what we’re doing now. So I’m able to understand what they’ve had to go through (Vishal, 27, married male). Monica and Reema, second generation Patel women brought up the issue of exposure to American society, both reporting divergent experiences. In the case of Monica, her parents’ conservati sm translated into a curtaile d exposure to the symbols of American culture such as music, food or English movies. . . . it depends on the parents. A lot of pare nts are . . . like themselves very Western. My parents are not . . . [and so] there’s a lot of constriction on . . . like viewing, maybe . . . like movies and stuff like that. Like in our house, for example, I didn’t listen to American music until middle schoo l. I only knew Indian . . . Hindi songs and stuff like that . . . I just watched Indi an movies . . . (Monica, 22, single female)


88 For Reema, her parents’ ease with American society expressed itself in the freedom she received to explore and learn about Ameri can life which she notes as important to the construction of her identity as a Gujarati. I think my mom, and my grandmother and grandfather made sure, I knew . . . like all the traditions, all the culture and everything. But then I was given the freedom to know about like the American stu ff too. (Reema, 22, single female) Grandparents For a significant number of participants , their grandparents constituted another familial source of identity construction. Most of the participants who spoke of their grandparents, resided with their latter while growing up, which accounts for their influence. Grandparents, especi ally grandmothers, have been especially influential in socializing second generation women and men in to the Gujarati culture. Grandmothers are a fount of religious mythol ogy, stories about India, Indian culture and their life in India, which connects their grandchildren not onl y to a distant land, but also to the culture that traveled with immigr ants. More importantly, Pate l women and men acknowledge that their grandmothers taught them the religiou s rituals and prayers of their faith as well as spoke to them in their ethnic language – Gujarati. Well like I had my grandmother, I had th e best of East and West, you know. She made sure she did her pujas [worship] every morning . . . we had the Indian foods. But then they [grandparents] also . . . you know . . . I was brought up in the American stuff . . . she values education and that so . . . (Reema, 22, single female). Patel And Gujarati Community The ethnic community is another important source of identity construction for second generation Patels. The community constitutes the public domain within which identity is constructed thr ough the organizing of cultural ev ents, religious and social gatherings (Rangaswamy, 2000). Second gene ration Patel men and women brought up

PAGE 100

89 their ethnic communities with great alacri ty when questioned about their identity construction. They explained that more often than not, the Gujarati and/or Patel communities in their domiciliary areas were organized into dues paying associations called Samaj (societies). There are Gujarati and Patidar (Patel) Samaj (s) as well as societies consisting of certain segments of the Patel community base d on their village of origin in India such as the Charotar Samaj or the Surati Samaj. Based on their explanations, I gathered that while all the associations were open to all Gujaratis, the Patidar Samaj was largely populated by Patels, and similarly the Charotar and Surati Samaj by members from these sub-groups. We have Samaj (s) all throughout Florida . . . you have to be a member of it . . . they [ Samaj ] would run because they’re funded basically by the community and it’s all volunteer based . . . (A nil, 21, single male) The Patidar has their own Samaj culture, Suratis has their own cultural center. The Panch Gams [fifth village –a village of origin] have their own culture center, so if you are brought up in an environment like that, then you hold onto . . . traditional Indian customs. (Sahil, 27, married male) The primary goal of these community associations, as elucidated by the second generation, is to organize re gular community events and programs such as religious gatherings, bhajans (prayer meetings), picnics, vo lley-ball games on Sundays, dinners and festive gatherings and celebrations for Di wali, Navratri and other festivals. In doing so, the Samaj facilitates great er interaction and contac t among members and their families, assists in transmitting and maintaining Gujarati culture to the newer generations and enabling the latter’s c ognizance of their roots. The Gujarati Samaj . . . every once in a while just kind of you know . . . everyone gets together, it’s a social event just to ge t people together. They organize . . . like I know the Gujarati Samaj of Tampa Bay they organize an Indian show every year – India fest – which everyone goe s to. (Janvi, 25, engaged female)

PAGE 101

90 I think it’s almost like . . . you don’t want to come here and just lose all of that [Indian/Gujarati identity] because that is a bi g part of who you are, So I think that . . . almost . . . they [ Samaj ] do it [organize events] because . . . just you know to keep in touch with that cu ltural side and you know . . . ki nd of make sure that you know that you haven’t forgotten where we come from . . . so I think they [ Samaj ] do it for the second generation. (Priya, 20, single female) However, Karan, a 24 year old single male also indicated that the Samaj and the events it hosts served another purpose of showing off potentials and talents of children before the community. I’d say [the community organizes these ev ents] to show off their children and you know . . . show the community what their children are capable of doing . . . you know make sure they community sees what the family is doing and you know . . . and . . . a little bit of showing off. A few Patel women and men brought up an inte resting variable in the context of the influence of the community – geography. Th ey noted the somewhat contradictory influences of a small town and large city on the Gujarati community. Anil, a 21 year old single male studying at the University of Florida believes that a small town limits extraneous cultural influences, thus emphasizing Indian-ness. When you live in a small town I feel, that you don’t have like other culture’ influences around you. Like I would go to sc hool, yes . . . I would interact with everyone there, all other race s and ethnicities, which is great . . . but when I came home, you know . . . I guess [I was] Indian at home. Sahil, a 27 year old married male and doctoral candidate at the University of Florida, however expresses a contradictory opini on in that a large city facilitates a more vibrant Gujarati Samaj and a greater exposure to Gujarati culture I think it all starts with the community itself . . . [and] it depends on the community that you are brought up in. If you have a lot of Indian influence around you, you are going to keep with the Indian community, with the Patel culture. But if you’re brought up in a really small town, where you are the only Indian family in thatI think there’s more pressure for you to assimilate to American customs than it is for you to keep with what you’re doing.

PAGE 102

91 Features Of Bi-cultural Identity Families and ethnic communities invoke the outward symbols of Indian-ness namely language, food and dress, festive celebrations and the inner, mental symbols such as morality, religion and family values as a means of creating and expressing Indian identity (Mukhi, 2000) . These symbols constitute the featur es of their identity and have been so acknowledged by second generation Pa tel women and men. While the symbols of their identity as Gujaratis, Indians and Americ ans is rooted in thei r expression of Indianness, adaptations to and modifications of th e Indian-ness are born and thrive in these domains as well. To a large extent, these adaptations are being spearheaded by second generation Indians in th eir attempt to reconcile elements of their American and Indian identities. In this manner, the identity they perform is “‘neither wholly Indian, nor wholly American – but partially both . . . [and it ex ists] within Indian Americans’” (Mukhi, 2000, p.172). Guided by the interview guide, Patel women and men who participated in the study, elaborated on the following features of their identity – la nguage; the external symbols of identity namely food, and festive celebrations; and the internal symbols of identity namely religion and family values. Th ey also listed what they considered to be the features of their Ameri can identity. Each of these has been presented here. Language Indian immigrants’ fluency in English is a reflection of the colonial past of the country and of class structures in India that are carried over to the United States with emigration. The post-1965 immigrants, a signi ficant proportion of whom hailed from the middle and upper classes, were comfortabl e with English, a skill which aided their adaptation in America (Khandelwal, 2002). Th e resultant class homogeneity in America served to submerge their na tive languages and emphasize English as the main language

PAGE 103

92 of communication among Indians both within and outside their homes (Khandelwal, 2002, Rangaswamy, 2000). The growing numbers of immigrants and the widening range of socio-economic classes of the 1980s, resu lted in the emergence of “a more complex range of language –use pattern s” – an indication of the gr owing ethnic diversity among Indians in the United States, wherein ethnic languages charact eristic to the variegated Indian ethnic groups gained in prominence (Khandelwal, 2002, p. 47). English began to be perceived as a professional language, re quired for work and school and Indian languages regained their primacy in the home and community. Families strongly emphasize the Indian tradition of speaking ones’ native tongue/ethnic language at home. Parents encour age the second generation to learn their mother tongue at home, speak it at home and in some cases teach them to read and write in the language. This is esp ecially the case with the lowincome group, where parents are not conversant in English. Speaking in the mother tongue is bolstered by a lively immigrant and ethnic media. Newspapers, ma gazines and movies in the mother-tongue are now easily available a nd accessible to both the fi rst and second generation (Rangaswamy, 2000; Khandelwal, 2002; Kallivaya lil, 2004). Consequently, an array of ethnic languages and language a ssociations flourish in the United States, assisting in the creation of narrower, ethnic identities among Indians. This has indeed been the case with the ethnic language of the Gujarati and the Patel community – Gujarati. Most second genera tion Patel women and men acknowledge that they are fluent in spoken Gujarati and convers e in the language at home. They elaborated that their parents made a conc erted effort to teach them th e language at home largely by

PAGE 104

93 insisting that they converse only in Gujarati within the house and in some cases, forbidding parlance in English at home. My parents they were worried [that I won’ t speak Gujarati] and they didn’t speak English that well . . . so they always spoke Gujarati at home, so I was always around that language . . . (Anil, 21, single male) I definitely have to speak Gujarati at home . . . you can’t speak English . . . it was [forbidden to] speak English . . . if I sp eak in English, they won’t reply to me (Rahul, 18, single male) I know that when we were younger, we spoke Gujarati all the time at home . . . and I know that my parents . . . I mean we were grounded if we didn’ t talk in Gujarati, you know . . . (smiles) (Janvi, 25, engaged female) The presence of grandparents also assists in the learning of Gujarati. Participants claim that the necessity of conversing with their grandparents only in Gujarati (often because the latter are not conversant in English) facilitated their ease with the language. . . . Because the grandparents don’t speak English . . . so they communicate with the kids in Gujarati . . . and it’s basical ly the grandparents teaching them what they know . . . (Kavita, 24, single female) For the most part, Patel women and men interpret this insistence to speak in Gujarati in the home as a mode of cultural transmission. Parents, realizing that English will be learned in school and employed in public settings, attempt to stem the loss of Gujarati culture by ensuring the continued us e of Gujarati in the home. In addition, Gujarati and Patel friends and peers constitute another mode of language facility as some discuss the use of Gujarati with friends. . . . they [parents] really wanted us to keep our language up and keep talking in Gujarati. A big point of th eirs was that, you know when you get married and when you kids, then you know . . . the language is going to disappear here if you don’t talk [Gujarati]. (Janvi, 25, engaged female) . . . with my Gujarati friends it’s like mixed English and Gujarati (Poonam, 19, single female)

PAGE 105

94 Interestingly, the issue of dialects and accents in language usage was also brought up. As I am made to understand, dialects of Gujarati exist within the Patel community based on the village of origin in India. Thus, th ose hailing of particular villages of origin such as Surat, speak the language with a pa rticular accent not used by those hailing from another village like Charottar, an accent that is easily identifiable to each other. As Ritu and Poonam explain, these accents and dialects are also learned at home and are part of learning Gujarati. . . . and Gujarati people, they have thei r own [dialects] separately, and within different gams (villages of origin in India) . . . is different dialects or pronunciations (Ritu, 22, single female) I get made fun of for the way I speak Guja rati because there’s like the Surat people and then there’s the other people. And th e Surati’s like . . . we speak Surati Gujarati, so their Gujarati is different in the sense that they’re like . . . in actual proper Gujarati is like “ Soo care chae” or “ Soo chalee chae” and then the way I speak is like “ hoo chalee se” because the Sss change to Huhhs . . . [so] all my Gujarati [friends] who mostly speak with the Sss they make fun of me (laughs). (Poonam, 19, single female) Thus the Patel women and men who participated in the study not only admitted to being fluent in spoken Gujarati themselves, but also acknowledge that this is the case for a significant number of thei r contemporaries and in some cases for the members of the newer generations like their nieces and nephe ws. However, they also drew attention to the fact that in their opin ion, Gujarati language usage is declining among Patels. This appears contradictory to the previous statem ent largely because Patel men and women are not able to state conc lusively whether Gujarati use is indeed declining or not. A few of them note that conversing in Gujarati is not emphasized in their homes and that they have always spoken in English both within and outside the home. Patel women and men believe that this is a rising trend and porte nd the loss of the language or the reduced usage of the language for the newer generations.

PAGE 106

95 My parents are not very big on speaking Guja rati. Like with my grandmother, they make me speak in Gujarati, because that’s just disrespectful [if you don’t]. But with them, and my sister, I speak English mostly . . . my parents don’ t really care that much. (Monica, 22, single female) I know friends that don’t speak Gujarati . . . when their parents don’t really even try to make them . . . make th eir kids understand Gujarati . . . (Anil, 21, single male) Rangaswamy (2000) in her in her survey of Indians in Chic ago acknowledges this loss in ethnic language skills among the second generation. Scholars in the field note that to a large extent, this process is connected to second generation’s dislike for the narrow, ethnic identities that their parents are attempti ng to create in them and their determination that their own Indian-ness wi ll be “nonreligious and nonsectarian in nature” (Wakil, Siddique & Wakil, 1981; Rangaswamy, 2000, p. 106; Khandelwal, 2002). This process is also fueled by the widening social circle of second generation I ndians. Unlike their parents who socialize largely with othe r Indians (or others from their ethnic communities), the social circle of the second generation includes people from a variety of racial and ethnic groups (Wakil, Siddique & Wakil, 1981; Sheth, 2001; Khandelwal, 2002). In these encounters, the second generation becomes c ognizant of the limited utility of parlaying in their mother tongue as opposed to English. They thus choose either to reject usage of the native language complete ly or to confine its usage to the home (Rangaswamy, 2000). External Symbols Of Identity Food Like all ethnic groups, Indians define themse lves partly by their cu isine. Food is an expression of their Indian and their ethnic identity. “Eating Indian food is like ingesting Indianness, being nourished by it, having it flow in one’s veins. . . . . [it] makes the Indian feel that he or she is still part of the homeland or of Indi an culture, at least!” (Mukhi,

PAGE 107

96 2000, p. 83). First generation Indians, irrespec tive of class, prefer home-cooked Indian meals. Analogous to the concept of Indian-ness, the generic “ ‘Indian’ cuisine . . . [is] the articulation of regional a nd ethnic cuisines” (Mukhi, 2000, p.82; Khandelwal, 2002). Accordingly, while the food cooked in the hous e embodies the myriad flavors of India, more often than not it reflects the unique ethnic tastes and ha bits of the family. The usage of food as a means of identity construction is greatly aided by the mushrooming of Indian spice and grocery stores that supply the raw materials es sential for the creation of authentic Indian food, reminiscent of Indi a on foreign soil (Lessinger, 1995; Leonard, 1997; Khandelwal, 2002). Second generation Patel women and men con cede that this was the tradition that they were reared in. For the majority, at home, on a daily basis, their mothers prepare Gujarati food, intermittently interspersed with the cuisine of other Indian ethnic groups cooked perhaps once a week. Gujarati food is vegetarian food, often devoid of onions and garlic, rich in lentils, vegetables an d home made Indian bread and rice. When I first came here, they didn’t give me any American food at all. I was just fed IndianGujarati food all the time. . . . On e of major requirements was that I never eat meat, never eat eggs, never eat on ion or garlic(Rahul, 18, single male) . . . Gujarati food . . . I guess . . . on a daily basis, but th en like . . . I mean Punjabi food or like . . . you know . . . south Indian food or something . . . I guess every once in a while . . . (Medha, 18, single female) . . . the food is still very traditional Gujarati . . . vegetarian, rice, beans, potatoes, soy and so forth . . . (Sahil,27, married male) The importance of a home cooked meal was identified by bot h Patel women and men, noting that at least one meal a day is a home cooked one. . . . like I think most Indian people woul d cook food at home, like you know at least one meal a day like dinner or somethi ng . . . and you learn . . . I guess you’re learning the culture through food . . .

PAGE 108

97 The occurrence of eating outside th e home was also brought up during the conversation. A few commented on the fact that Indian restaurants we re the most likely choice when eating out, mainly to enjoy other Indian cuisine that is no t usually cooked in Patel families – such as Punjabi or South Indian cuisine. It was mainly Gujarati food [at home] . . . other Indian food like Mattar Paneer (cottage cheese with peas) and stuff like th at . . . we went to restaurants, we don’t cook it often. So, stuff that you can find at the restaurants, we usually just go eat it there. (Poonam, 19, single female) . . . even when we go out . . . I think [it’s for] Indian food in general, I mean . . . everyone pretty much likes it . . . and th ere’s no one who doesn’t like it so . . . (Janvi, 25, engaged female) Mukhi (2000) explains that second generati on Indians, by virtue of their location in America, develop a taste for other cuisines. This is often construed, as a sign of Americanization or westernization by the first generation, although the second generation understands it as becoming cosmopolitan. A ccordingly, the second generation prefers “the youthful pizza and burgers . . . [and ac knowledges the ease in eating] a soup, salad or sandwich for lunch [as opposed to an I ndian meal] while at work” (Mukhi, 2000, p. 84). To cater to these preferen ces, non-Indian food may be pr epared at home a couple of days a week or is indulged in by family meals at non-Indian dining places (Wakil, Siddique & Wakil, 1981; Lessinger, 1995; Leonard, 1997; Mukhi, 2000; Sheth, 2001). This was confirmed by second ge neration Patel women and men. They acknowledge that while they love Gujarati cuisine, they have also developed a gustatory fondness for American cuisine. Some admitted that while their pare nts continued to be vegetarian, they themselves were comforta ble eating meat. A few acknowledged that the cooking of meat at home or tolerating its c onsumption by their generation is symbolic of the changes being undertaken by the community in order to survive and thrive in the

PAGE 109

98 United States. However, for the most part, Amer ican staple foods like burgers, pizzas etc were consumed outside the home, or at home on an occasional basis You know my mom was a very st rict vegetarian. I do eat meat . . . I have eaten [it] for such a long time now . . . but it all st arted outside of the house. My mom said ‘OK as long as you don’t bring it inside the house’. But then she slowly accepted it that we ate meat, so she started cooking meat for us even though she might not eat it. But it wouldn’t be a daily thing . . . m eat is like a special occasion like maybe once a month (Sahil, 27, married male) . . . I am allowed to eat [American food] outside, like pizzas and stuff . . . (Rahul, 18, single male) Kavita, a 24 year old single female, however had a contradictory opinion. She believes that a growing proportion of sec ond generation Patels di slikes Gujarati and Indian cuisine discounting it as oily and greasy. She hazards that this is because their parents are giving them a choice between I ndian and American food at home, wherein they are not compelled to eat Gujarati food cooked at home, but can consume take out American food instead. Food . . . most of them [second generation Patels] don’t like Indian food because they think it’s greasy and oily . . . a nd they don’t know . . . most of them don’t know all about it. Most of their parents gi ve them options . . . like OK they’ll cook something . . . they still cook Indian [Guj arati] food [at home], but order pizza for the kids . . . Of course the kids are not going to adopt it [G ujarati cuisine]. Thus, a significant number of participants reiterated their love for Gujarati and Indian cuisine noting that they continued to cook the same cuisine in their own homes set up apart from that of their parents. In this manner, they are cognizant of the cultural transmission occurring through food practices. Festive celebrations The celebration of festivals is a public expr ession of Indian identity in America. The festivals celebrate the not just the re ligious diversity of Indians but also the variegated expressions of that diversity. That is to say not only do Indians celebrate the

PAGE 110

99 important festivals of their religion, but they do so in accordance with the ethnic traditions of their ancestral state/regi on/community in India (Lessinger, 1995; Rangaswamy, 2000;). For both first and sec ond generation Indians, celebration of festivals is an opportunity to “eat, dress and ta lk exactly the way they do back in India. They can do it in a public forum that comprises other Indians and without necessarily exposing themselves to the la rger American public eye to whom their ways may seem strange” (Rangaswamy, 2000, p. 231). They are thus simultaneously able to create a sense of community and celebra te their ethnic identity. The Gujarati community is an especially visible Indian community when it comes to celebration of festivals. This is particular ly so during the celebra tion of Navratri – the nine nights of the Goddesswith the traditional raas-garba (traditional folk dance) in which both first and second generation Gujaratis enthusiastically pa rticipate. Gujarati associations in different parts of the Un ited States organize large or small events (depending on the size of the population in the area) which draw large numbers of participants (Leonard, 1997; Mukhi, 2000; Rangaswamy, 2000; Khandelwal, 2002). Second generation Patel women and men r ecounted their experiences of attending and participating in festive celebrations as a feature of their identity. They highlighted three festivals that are of particular im portance to the Gujarati community – Diwali, Navratri and Holi –which are celebrated th rough events organized by the Gujarati/Patel Samaj. They spoke especially of the garba-raas and dandia celebrations that are organized on a fairly large scal e during the festival of Navrat ri. They perceive three main purposes for these festive celeb rations – facilitati ng greater interaction and contact among

PAGE 111

100 Patels; ensuring cultural continuity, main tenance and transmission; and celebrating Indian-ness. . . . [festivals] like Navratri, Diwali or Holi. They [the Patel community] have like big functions usually . . . depending on th e festival you have different events, or different like activities or something. [The pur pose] I guess . . . to just like . . . keep the culture alive. . . . also I think a big part of it is just to meet like other Patels or other Gujaratis in general . . . (Medha, 18, single female) . . . my family is part of this [Pat el] community in Orlando. Whenever these festivals happen, they’re [the community] the ones that gets all the Patels together and then from donations, they rent out a hall, and like Garba . . . they keep [organize] something special. (Jay, 20, single male) . . . I think the purpose [of organizing ev ents during these festivals], more than anything else is to keep our roots aliv e, and make sure that we [the second generation] understand where we came from an d at the same time, to enjoy . . . you know . . . because . . . you know these are th e festivals [during wh ich] we are able to get away . . . sort of . . . from the work environment and everything else and relax . . . (Vishal, 27, married male) Interestingly, Patel women and men al so acknowledged adaptations in their families and communities in celebrating festivals. A number of participants spoke of celebrating American festivals and holidays in their families. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Easter are celebrated at home, with Patel women and men and their families observing the symbolic practices of the festival rather than the religious ones. They interpret these adaptations are necessary to survival in America and to their identity as Americans. . . . culturally they’ve [Patel families] assimilated . . . they’ve taken on the cultures of the United States – Christmas, Thanks giving, things like that. They’ve brought on these traditions upon their families. Because I remember when I was a kid, we celebrated Christmas, not for the religion itse lf, but just the fact that we received presents just so that way, we’d [the s econd generation] fit in with the community [larger American society] in ge neral. (Sahil, 27, married male) Wakil, Siddique and Wakil (1981) and Shet h (2001) have observed the occurrence of this adaptation in their rese arch. They maintain that in the last two decades, under the

PAGE 112

101 influence of the second generation, some Indian families and communities observe American holidays and festivals such as East er, Thanksgiving, Halloween and Christmas. While families do not embrace the religious traditions that accompany these festivals, they partake in the more symbolic observances such as decorating Christmas tress and coloring of Easter eggs. Internal Symbols Of Identity Religion Indians in the United States have to ma ke a conscious effort to imbibe their religious traditions unlike in I ndia where “religion is ‘in the air’. . . , a living, breathing tradition (Rangaswamy, 2000, p.246). The first ge neration attempts to transplant their religious heritage in America through pers onal worship, the construction of houses of worship and the organization of religious ga therings (both formal and informal) where they feel comfortable to follow their ritual s and practices (Lessinge r, 1995; Rangaswamy, 2000; Sheth, 2001; Khandelwal, 2002). Religion and religious houses of worship play a key role in the constructi on of Indian-ness. They not only acquaint the younger generation with their faith, r ituals and rites, scriptures and mythology but also introduce them to a way of life comprising of behavi ors and values upheld by that religion and community. For both first and second generati on Indians, religious centers emerge as avenues to widen their Indian social netw ork and to meet like minded people (Sheth, 2001). The second generation is initiated into the religious traditions of their family and ethnic community both in the private sphere (f or instance, having a small ‘prayer’ area in the home and traditions of family worship) a nd in the public sphere (by regular visits to places of worship, attending formal religious events and prayer gatherings etc)

PAGE 113

102 (Kalliyavalil, 2004). This was confirmed by Patel women and men. They explained that their religious socialization was guided by thei r parents, especially their mothers and/or their grandparents, especially their grandm others. The practice of their religion was fostered through its practice in their homes. In some cases, their parents consciously taught them prayers and rituals such as aartis (propitiating God with waving sacred lamelit artifact) and pujas (worship), while in others, religious worship was so integral a part of their upbringing that they observed th eir religion without any enforcement. Religion is also a big thing in my family. It’s not really like enforced to where I have to do it . . . but I just . . . you know as . . . when you shadow someone for so long, when you see someone do it [practice religion] for so l ong, you kind of follow in their footsteps. So . . . I think that I kind of take over [from] my mom . . . like . . . you know get up do your puja (worship) every morning . . . (Priya, 20, single female) . . . religion was a big part [of my upbri nging]. My grandmother . . . she . . . every day, after her shower, you know she did her prayers and puja and everything . . . like . . . that’s what I grew up watching, you know I learned the aartis (propitiating God with waving sacred lame-lit arti fact) like at home . . . I mean my Ba (grandmother)you knowI would sit next to her and after you have heard it enough time, you learn it. They [the first generation] tell you . . . you know . . . like you learn the days . . . like you know amas (no moon) is bad and that purnima (full moon) is good and everything . . . you learn all that . . . (Reema, 22, single female) Patel women and men also spoke of their regular attendance at temple, bhajan (devotional songs) gatherings and at religious organizations and acknowledge that this assists in the creation of their iden tity as Gujaratis and Indians. . . . I was influenced very much [in th e practice of religion] by my parents. I remember they used to attend temple . . . [and] I always used to go with them . . . (Jay, 20, single male) When I was brought up, my mom force fed by bhajans (devotional songs) . . . I was force fed them and when you are force fed anything, you cannot like it. (we both laugh). Now I am older, I enjoy it more [ bhajans ], I started playing the tabla (musical instrument) and singing [and joining in bhajans ]. (Sahil, 27, married male)

PAGE 114

103 Sheth (2001), and Khandelwal (2002) not e that parents encourage the regular attendance of the second generation at temple, bhajans, and religious organizations in the hope of fostering Indian culture in their children. For instance, Sheth (2001), and Khandelwal (2002) explain that bhajan gatherings are made up of people from different Indian ethnic groups singing the songs relating to major gods and goddesses popular in their ethnic group. Second generation who at tend these programs are sub-consciously introduced and familiarized with the pa ntheon of deities in their religion. It is important to note that the practice of religion among Indians, both in India and the United States varies based on the ethnic gr oup they originate fr om, often taking the form of a sect or an “ethico -cultural movement or mission” (Sheth, 2001, p. 168). This is especially true in the Gujarati community. On e such movements or sects require mention especially in the light of my conversations with participants – the Swadhyaya movement. The Swadhyaya movement in the United States is largely concentrated in those parts of the country where there an agglomeration of Gu jaratis. Swadhyaya is variously translated as “study, self-study or discovery of the self” (Sheth, 2002, p. 200). Swadhyaya seeks to tackle the materialism of the western world by asserting the “essential spiritual quality of human nature” (Sheth, 2001, p. 199). The most im portant concern of th e movement is the retention of Indian-ness of the newer ge nerations and “exposing them to the finer elements of Indian culture and tradition” (Sheth, 2001, p. 203). To this effect, the Swadhyaya movement organizes Bal Sanskar Kendras (centers of cultural learning for children) where children learn their culture and religion. Some Patel women and men spoke of th eir participation in the Swadhyaya movement. They recount the movement as being important to their knowledge of

PAGE 115

104 Gujarati culture, the Gujarati language and thei r religion and scriptures, all of which were gained through the movement. In this manner, they perceive the Swadhyaya movement as essential to their identity as Gujaratis and Indians. . . . well we attended Swadhyaya Kendras . . . it’s like a type of organization where we learn scriptures and what not . . . and it was someth ing parents took you to when you were children. (Nikhil, 18, single male) I used to attend Bal Kendras (children’s centers) every week. It’s a weekly meeting . . . basically to learn about Indian culture . . . meeti ng other Indian children and learning different aspects of Indian culture , whether it’d be yoga or religion or any other cultural aspect . . . why we celeb rate Diwali and such(Karan, 24, single male) It should be noted here, that Patels both in the United States and in India are also devotees of the Swaminarayan religious moveme nt which has its roots in Gujarat (Sheth, 2001). The failure to capture the participa tion of second generati on Patels in this movement in the United States (which is highly probable) was a result of my weak probing on the issue of religious practice in their lives. Ritu, a 22 year old single female stude nt, however brought up the issue of the gradual decline in religious maintenance or iginating with second generation Patels. She observes that second generation Patels, in spite of their religious upbringing and socialization do not maintain their religious heri tage to the extent th at the first generation do. She also acknowledges that second genera tion Patels know less about their religion than their parents know and th at the third generation in tu rn, will know less than the second generation. Thus, she foresees a gradua l erosion of their re ligious heritage over time. She was however, unable to state conclu sively the reasons why she believed this process was occurring, stating only that these were her observations of the community. . . . and religion . . . you [second generati on Patels] don’t maintain as much of it, because you know less than your parents who knew less than their parents knew and you live in a different country . . . [whi ch] makes it even more less. So in that

PAGE 116

105 sense you . . . kind of . . . do get away form that. Usually [we] have little Mandirs (temples) in our homes where you pray and thin gs like that . . . but it is still not the same . . . Khandelwal (2002), and Kallivayalil (2004) however echo similar sentiments when they note that process of transmitting and lear ning the religion is easy for the first and second generations. On their part, the parents fi nd it a challenge to soci alize their children into a religion and are c onstantly battling a lack of intere st of the second generation. The second generation by contrast, may either be overwhelmed by the plethora of beliefs, knowledge and rituals of their religion or perceive religion as intimately connected to their Indian heritage and thei r identity as Indians. Some are confused about the actual purpose of their religion and religious structures (like temples/mosques etc) in America. Khandelwal (2002) illustrates this in her book, with a letter by a young Indian American to an Indian newspaper, wherein he/she que stioned whether the real or primary purpose of building temples is to foster religious education or to transmit Indian culture and whether or not the two are “ ‘so entwined that they cannot be separated’” (p.79). Accordingly, the second generation’s particip ation in religious worship is considerably less than their parents although this varies considerably by family and by adherence to religious sects or philoso phies (Khandelwal, 2002). Family values Second generation Patel women and men stre ssed the notion of family values when describing features of their identity. They ex plained that their pare nts instilled Indian values in them as a juxtaposition to the American values that are readily observable around them. They conceive that the focus on Indian values was a means of reinforcing their culture and heritage in the hope that th is enables their continued participation and ease with the Indian culture and community and their cognizance of their roots. This is

PAGE 117

106 confirmed by scholars in the field who explai n that Indian values are inculcated and encouraged by the first generation as a mean s of counteracting the effect of American culture (Mukhi, 2000; Shet h, 2001; Khandelwal, 2002). Dugsin (2001), Farver, Narang and Bhadha (2002), Khandelwal (2002), and Segal (2002) elaborate on some of th e values that are especially emphasized by most Indian families, both in India and in the United Stat es. Filial piety involving respect, honor and obedience extended by children to their parents is of particular importance as is a respect for the elders of the family and the commun ity. Accompanying these, are the values of upholding the family honor and reputation in th e community which is undertaken through appropriate behavior by the family member s and the achievement of success. Excelling academically, professionally, monetarily and so cially is also stre ssed – much more in Indian culture than in its North American counterpart (Dugsin, 2001). Second generation Patel women and men’s responses were consistent with the above mentioned findings. A significant pr oportion identified the importance of education and academic achievement as stre ssed by their parents in their community. Often, excellence in education was one of the first values that discussed in the conversation. This emphasis on education, I believe, is fueled by the desire of the first generation that their children achieve a degree of social mobility and success in American society that eluded them. This often translates into the privileging of certain occupations and disciplines of study (for instance, business, medicine, pharmacy, engineering, biological sciences) over others and channeli ng their children in th e pursuit of them. . . . well they’re [parents] are always like . . . really big on . . . like education, like studies . . . study, study, study . . . that’s like your [second gene ration Patels] first priority . . . (Medha, 18, single female)

PAGE 118

107 . . . when I was growing up, my parents mo stly always focused on school. Like . . . you should be studying, studying, studying . . . (Monica, 22, single female) Filial piety and obedience to parents; re specting elders by employing particular styles of speech, behavior and address; ma intaining of family honor and reputation and general moral values such as telling the truth and avoiding criminal activity were also mentioned. . . . like you know . . . some American kids might argue with their parents. You [second generation Patels] can’t do that. You never argue with your parents, that’s just the bottom line . . . you never argue w ith your parents! (Rahul, 18, single male) I think more than anything else, the Golden Rule was a very big thing in our house . . . you know treat everybody with respect and how you know you would like to be treated . . . to treat the elders with re spect no matter what. You know . . . never to speak louder to elders, no matter how much you think . . . you di sagree or whatever . . . you have a way of speaking to elders . . . (Vishal, 27, married male) Features Of American Identity In attempting to define coherently for th e record, what they considered to be American-ness of their American identit y, Patel women and men made mention of symbols of American-ness. The ability to be comfortable with and relate to what they considered the uniquely American traits of watching football, going to bars, eating meat, and participating in extra-cu rricular activities in school was noted by some Patel women and men. I went to school here, so I am more invol ved with . . . like American cultures, you know like main stream American culture and everything. . . . you know American things like kids participate in sports and activities, and things which is not really what Indians do. Indians focus more on education and studying. So . . . I likedanced ever since I was li ttle, and I played sports, I played the piano . . . I did ballet and jazz . . . (Reema, 22, single female) Being American . . . is like being able to go to a bar and watch sports, which is the American thing to do . . . you know . . . A nd I think most kids who have . . . you know . . . been raised here are bale to do that very well . . . (Vishal, 27, married male)

PAGE 119

108 More importantly, American-ness for them also implied the freedom of choice and opinion especially the freedom in determining their lives as well as increased opportunity. . . . I mean like the perks of it [American-ness]. You are not as controlled. I mean you have more freedom as far as what your parents . . . I mean they have to accept it too and they do, because you have more freedom that other people may have that are your same culture but living in India. You . . . I mean it’s a great country in the sense that there are so many opportunities for you . . . so (Ritu, 22, single female) Karan, a 24 year old single male, however opi ned that in contrast to Indian-ness which was warm and personal, American-ness was the embodiment of impersonality and detachment. I think that Indian culture is a lot more personal, a lot more caring or loving or whatever you wishHere in America I think it’s a little more detached, more . . . you know . . . more impersonal . . . try to keep you at a distan ce, understand . . . that’s the difference I can notice. The bi-cultural identity embraced by sec ond generation Patels not only comprises of the features delineated above, but the latt er also serve to reinforce the former among the second generation. They invoke these featur es while being bi-cultu ral and the result is a dynamism in their iden tity performance. The Dynamic Nature Of Bi-cultural Identity Conversations with second generation Pate l women and men revealed that their identity is “processual, c onstantly transforming, emerging [and] incomplete (Mukhi, 2000, p. 147). It is this dynamism of their identi ty, that they face their greatest challenges and successes as Indian-Americans. Thre e broad themes that emerged in our conversations about their identity are – a trajec tory in bi-cultural id entity formation; the public-private dynamic in iden tity performance; and nego tiating the borders of their identity: Indian, American or both.

PAGE 120

109 Trajectory In Bi-Cultural Identity Formation Leonard (1997), and Sheth ( 2001) in their respective res earch studies have noted a visible trajectory in the formation of ethni c identity among second generation Indians in the United States. They note that second ge neration Indians go through a cycle of early identification with Indian culture, us ually in childhood a nd a product of ethnic socialization in families and communities; fo llowed by a period of identification with American culture produced by greater interactio n with school and peers. This period is often accompanied by a discomfort with Indian -ness and with expressing Indian identity. In later adolescence or young a dulthood, there is “an emotiona l return to the ancestral country” coupled with an inclination to be more Indian American (Leonard, 1997, p. 155). Patel women and men also displayed this trajectory in their conversations about their identity. Two trajectories, influenced by very different factors are identifiable from the interviews – a trajectory influenced by birth in India and emigration to the United States at a later age; a nd a trajectory influenced by age and maturation. Birth in India and emigration to the United States A few participants immigrated to the United States around their 10th birthday and/or a couple of years later than that. They spoke of this experience as influencing their identity formation. They explained that give n their later emigration to the United States, they had already had an opportunity in In dia to develop Indian-ness and to be comfortable with it. They believed it was thus easier for them to resolve the issues they faced as Indian-Americans as their id entity negotiation was not difficult. You know I was actually born in India, and I came over (to the United States) when I was 14 . . . so I got to see sort of you know two parts [of identity] . . . I was fairly

PAGE 121

110 old when I came here, so it [identity negot iation] was not that big a deal for me. (Vishal, 27, married male) Age and Maturation Majority of the participants spoke of this trajectory in the formation of their bicultural identity. They el ucidated that when they were younger, most especially in middle and high school, they found themselves di sliking, being uncomfortable with, and occasionally being ashamed of their Indian and Gujarati identities. They did not understand difference (racial and ethnic differen ce) and neither did their peers, but when others were less accepting of th em and their way of life, they became aware of that they were different and no longer fe lt comfortable expressing th eir Indian-ness. Moreover, their parents were less accepting and understa nding of American-ness when they were younger and so were stricter with them, a ttempting to limit American activities and pursuits. This often transl ated into second generation Patel women and men feeling isolated and set apart from others. Thus, in th eir desire to be accepted and to fit in with the multi-ethnic friends, they often refrained from expressing their Indian-ness outside of the familial and communitarian settings. I think when you are growing up and when you’ re in high school . . .whatever . . . I think that’s when it really kind of hits you [that you are different]. Because you’re trying to be accepted, you know . . . have frie nds, and have the best kind of friends . . . and I think at that age, you’re trying to be with th e good crowd, or whatever . . . and usually that crowd for whatever reas on . . . to me . . . it seems like less accepting, you know. Everyone is kind of stuck in a little bubble, and to make it into that bubble sometimes you may feel . . . like you have to let go of your culture. (Janvi, 25, engaged female) . . . because the high school I went to . . . it was [a] very small school. It was only 168 people. Because it was a boarding school, and there wereand I think including me . . . there were about 3 I ndians there. So whenever I would do something, or say somethingI’d be listening to my music, or like . . . just talking to my parents . . . and I could feel that . . . they would all just be looking at me. And I would kind of feel weird doing puja (worship) aarti (propitiating God with

PAGE 122

111 waving sacred lame-lit artifact) and all that because I could tell that they were like, “what’s se doing?” (Poonam, 19, single female) With age and maturity, they admit to having gained a great deal of ease and comfort with their Indian id entity and with expressing it. Most recount this occurring when they went to college or university. Universities facilitated th eir increased interaction with not only othe r Indians on campus, but also other Gujaratis and Patels. Moreover, their non-Indian peers were no long er ignorant about Indian-ness, but were interested in it and accepting of it. Coupled together, these forces enabled them to rediscover their Indian-ness a nd to take pride in their Indi an and Gujarati identities. When you are growing up, you know, you want to be like your friends, and you don’t want to be like that one that people always talk about. And so, I didn’t care too much about the customs, traditions and things like that. And . . . but as I grew older, like I said . . . I wanted to hold onto what I knew was good for me, and my family and my future . . . (Sahil, 27, married male) When I was in high school and middle sc hool, I did feel that way [uncomfortable with expressing my Gujarati identity]. But once I got to college, especially university . . . there are so many Indians around you that the majority of my friends are Indian . . . so I don’t feel that anymore. But before I did! (Poonam, 19, single female) . . . at the university level . . . because there are so many Indians and more people are not as ignorant . . . but when you are younger, little kids don’t understand as much and you don’t understand much about yourself so you f eel kind of like set apart in a lot of was because you don’t understand why your American friends can do something and you can’t. (Monica, 22, single female) The Public-Private Dynamic In Identity Performance As is evident from their discussions about the features of th eir identity, a publicprivate dynamic is at play in the perfor mance of identity. Zhou’s (1999) idea of segmented assimilation hints at this dynamic. Zhou explains that segmented assimilation, depending on the resources available to ethnic communities, entails economic assimilation into the larger society while pres erving the ethnic culture and values. In the

PAGE 123

112 context of American society, this can be in terpreted to mean that in their public (economic) lives, ethnic groups may display American-ness while upholding their ethnic identity in their pr ivate ones. Wakil, Siddique and Wakil (1981), Patel, Power and Bhavnagri (1996), and Rangaswamy (2000, p. 168) have also noted that a dynamic exists wherein Indian-Americans are expected to be “‘American’ at sc hool and ‘Indian’ at home”. Patel women and men report that in the pr ivate spheres i.e la rgely within their homes and ethnic communities, they are Indi an and Gujarati. They eat Gujarati food, speak in Gujarati and behave respectfully and in the way circumscribed by the family. It is in the public sphere, largel y comprising of school and thei r experiences outside of their families and ethnic communities that they ex press their American identity. School facilitates their greater interaction with Am ericans, their parlance in English and their exposure to American culture. Outside the home, they adopt American traits of eating non-vegetarian foods, frequenting bars and pub s etc. In the perfor mance of their bicultural identity , some acknowledged that the transi tion between the private and the public spheres is difficult and confusing. I think it’s really hard because when you are school, you are . . . or you are expected to be a certain way, but when you are at home, you’re expected to be another way. It’s like completely different. Like at school, it’s E nglish . . . and such and such . . . like you have to be social and everything like that . . . at home you . . . it’s like you have to speak Gujarati or you have to eat certain foods . . . Like at home, I am more outgoing, more like myselfb ut it’s more like respectable or like you . . . like it’s more organized I guess I can say. It’s not as free spirited [as in public]. (Monica, 22, single female) Negotiating The Borders Of Iden tity: Indian, American Or Both Lessinger (1995, p. 97), and Rangaswamy (2000) note that se cond generation Indians often have the sensation of bei ng “‘the in-betweens’” and the process of

PAGE 124

113 attempting to define whether they are either Indian or American is rife with contradictions and paradoxes. They some times operate from an “Indian ‘base’, sometimes from an American one, depending on their particular situ ation, and they want to accept both as equally valid” (Ra ngswamy, 2000, p. 170). Patel women and men discussed their attempts at negotiating the borders of their iden tity bringing up the following issues – the sensation of existing between two cultures; labeling of self; conflicts and challenges in negotiating ident ity; and outcomes of identity negotiation. Between two cultures Confirming Lessinger (1995) Farver, Nara ng & Bhadha (1996), and Rangaswamy’s (2000) observations, a signifi cant proportion of Patel wo men and men admitted to existing between two cultures. They explained that the sensation was akin to existing in two cultures or living two lives – one co mpletely different from the other. I don’t know about being caught in between but it is definitely living two lives. You know . . . so it’s something that’s co mpletely different in school or with friends, compared to how we are at home. (Vishal, 27, married male) Some noted their discomfort and difficulty in juggling their two identities and the two cultures they are part of, citing their conf usion, their feelings of being outsiders due to the difficulty others have in accepting them , and some embarrassment at being Indian. Others commented on their nascent ease in juggling their identities, largely due to the growing awareness in American so ciety about Indian culture. It’s confusing in the sense . . . because you don’t really like . . . everyone asks you like where you are from . . . like . . . wh at do you say? You’re from America? Or you’re Indian? Like . . . it’s a little awkward . . . I guess . . . but it’s not that bad just because you now there are so many other people around you and I guess the [Indian] culture has spread a lot more in America. (Medha, 18, single female) Sometimes you feel like an ou tsiderbut then I mean . . . I don’t know . . . I guess since I’ve lived here, been born here, I don’t really see myself as different . . . I mean we do have . . . we have differen t cultures and the different ways . . . and

PAGE 125

114 some people see [difference] . . . but I mean I don’t really see myself as too different than [them]. (Reema, 22, single female) A few deliberately avoided the use of the terminology ‘caught between two cultures’ explaining that they existed within two cultures, but were not necessarily caught between them. They believe this is because , in their experience they feel no undue pressure to choose between their identitie s and Indian culture has become more accessible to non-Indians and the latter are now aware of it, interested and curious about it. I think it’s really great b ecause it’s kind of [a] mesh of two cultures. You get to take the best from both basica lly. I don’t think it’s restrictive. Like . . . I don’t feel pressure personally to fit into any sort of American style moldlike I don’t feel pressured to have a girlfriend or like pa rticipate in nay activities I don’t feel particularly comfortable wit h. And [it’s the] same way with Indian things. I don’t feel I necessarily have to a ttend Indian cultural events or what not. I attend them . . . because . . . I’ll maybe learn something a bout my culture and it’s like great that I want to. But I don’t feel like I’m caught in between . . . (Nikh il, 18, single male) Labeling of self Sheth (2001), and Khandelwal (2002) expl ain that second generation Indians in the United States identify as Americans of Indi an ancestry, unlike first generation Indians whose essential identity is that of being I ndian. For the second generation, India is not their home, but that of their ancestors a nd the source of their heritage. Their birth, upbringing, education, life style and careers mark them as Americans. This however was not confirmed by second generation Patel wo men and men. A significant proportion of them when asked to self-identify, identified as being Indian first and then American, and thus Indian-American. I’m Indian first before I’m anything else. And that’s why I’m Indian-American, and not American-Indian (laughs). (Sahil, 27, married male) I would consider myself Indian first a nd foremostgrowing up in America . . . so I’m Indian first and American s econd. (Nikhil, 18, single male)

PAGE 126

115 A few of them identified only as Indian ci ting that they do not have a love for America and so do not feel American. To tell you the truth, it doesn’t . . . it doesn’t really feel like I’m an American. I have a lot of pride . . . I have a lot of admiration for India. I have a strong attachment toward India. I don’t really feel as if I belong here in America. I mean I live in America, so in that respect, [by] living in America, [I am] an American, but I don’t feel like I belong in America. I don’ t have any love for this country. I have great respect for this country (United States ), their values and what they believe in and I just don’t feel like I could . . . you know . . . stand up for this country . . . if it was America versus India, I think woul d be on the other [Indian] side. (Karan, 24, single male) Nikhil, an 18 year old, single male stude nt however, was of the opinion that the above mentioned labeling was difficult to generalize to all second generation Patel women and men. He believed that the community was divided half-way, wherein half the second generation Patel women and men identified as Indian first and then American, while the remainder identified as Am erican first and then Indian. I’m Indian first and American second, [but] I don’t think [this is true of all second generation Patels]. I think . . . I’d say it’s probably half and half . . . some consider themselves American first. Conflicts and challenges in negotiating identity Negotiating the borders of identity is not without its challenges and conflicts. As pointed out by Patel women and men and c onfirmed by observers of the process, conflicts and challenges are multi-pronged – some occur between generations (between parents/grandparents and the sec ond generation), others occur in the context of the larger American society. Intergenerational conflict. Conflict between generations often arises because of differential rates of acculturation between parents and children, with children who are born and reared in the United States acculturatin g more rapidly than their parents (Farver, Narang & Bhadha, 1996). Rangaswamy (2000, p. 177) , and Dugsin (2001) explain that

PAGE 127

116 this translates into differential perceptions of India and America and “what constitutes ‘Indian’ or ‘American’ collide in the lives ofIndian Americans and become important value-laden concepts when used to define wh at’s ‘good’ and ‘bad’. . . [turning] homes of Indian immigrants with grown up children . . . into virt ual cauldrons of conflict”. Some of the most intensely felt issues between generations are those related to gender, sexuality, relationships a nd dating (Lessinger, 1995). Patel women and men reported that relatio nships and dating are one of the main areas of conflicts between the generations. Both women and men complain of not being able to date openly as Ameri cans do, as their parents are not likely to accept it. They talk of being able to go out in groups (preferably of Indians of Gujaratis), but not of being able to socialize as a couple. Patel women brought up this issue more forcefully than their male counterparts probably because they feel th at they face greater re strictions in dating and relationships than Patel men do. The only experience [of a conf lict] I’ve had . . . that is with dating. Like all my white friends, they date . . . are like just hanging out . . . even if it ’s not dating, just hanging out. It’s OK for a group of Ameri cans to have girls and guys hanging out and just be friends. Whereas in the Indian community, you can’t do that! It looks . . . they look down upon you. If they see a girl ta lking to a guy, or if they see a couple of girls talking to a couple of guys, they assume that they’re going . . . or there’s something going on between them, They can’t accept the fact that they’re just friends, It’s really hard for them to accept . . . [and] I think it exists more for women than it exists for men. (Poonam, 19, single female) Attending the prom is anothe r issue that is noted by a lot of Patel women and men. Their parents (or in some cases grandparents who are in residence) discourage and often disallow them from attending the prom, cons truing it as a couple goi ng on a date instead of friends socializing together. This some times makes it uncomfortable for the second generation to fit in.

PAGE 128

117 I wanted actually to go to my prommy high school prom . . . and I wanted to go with an American girl. My grandparents go so upset . . . my gr andfather didn’t talk to me for 2 months after I did actually go. I wanted to borrow hi s car, he didn’t let me. I had to borrow my uncle’s car to take the girl to the pr om(Rahul, 18, single male) . . . and I remember, when I went to th e prom, you know . . . obviously you go with someone . . . even if it’s a friend. But it’s this whole big ordeal . . . you know . . . my mom figured it out that it wasn’t like you know . . . it ’s just friends that were going together . . . but I guess it ’s still . . . it’s still like a difference of opinions . . . [and] I think it’s harder for girls. I had some Indian friends in high school, and the guys it didn’t seem like their parents even cared. I mean it was like . . . here’s the money, do what you want to do . . . (Reema, 22, single female) Apart from relationships, another area of conflict between generations is the restrictions their parents place on them particip ating in American activities and traditions. Patel women more than men (for the same r easons mentioned previously), spoke of not being allowed to play sports, attend partie s, attend football games and the like. They believe that their male counter parts have a lot more freedom to indulge in these activities than they do. . . . but then I still had more restrictions than . . . like my American friends . . . I have a lot of [Patel/Gujarat i] friends that went through the same thing, especially the girlslike guys have more freedom. . . . [Freedom] to go to these parties, maybe staywhereas girls, you know . . . I had a cell phone because my mom wanted to be able to . . . you know call me . . . [to check] you know . . . ‘Where are you going? Who are you going with? When w ill you be back?’ And there are times when I hated my mom ‘coz I wanted to go to the party . . . (Reema, 22, single female) Most Patel women and men attribute the occurrence of these conflicts to their parents’ misunderstanding about American cult ure and their parents’ continued emotional existence in India, a sentiment echoed by Ra ngaswamy (2000). They also note that their second generation often faces the brunt of th e conflict because they are caught between adhering to their parents’ wish es and more Indian oriented pe rspective as opposed to their own more American or hybridized one.

PAGE 129

118 . . . the conflict arises when we have . . . I would say when you have someone of Indian origin that has a lot of American culture [the second generation] and . . . but their parents are pretty traditional and when you have that kind of mix . . . they [the second generation] feel like ‘a lright my friends are . . . you know . . . they have the American culture, they’re doing certain things . . . why am I not being able to do certain things . . . I’m living in the same space they’re living, I’m living in the same country, I’m going to the same school, I have all the same you know . . . interaction they do, [then] why am I not ab le to do certain thi ngs they are?”(Anil, 21, single male) Gender related conflict between generations is an issue brought up only by Patel women. Patel men, I hazard, because of the posi tionality of privilege in their families and communities are not as readily aw are of these restrictions a lthough they often apply in the case of their sisters and cousins. Patel wome n spoke of a number of restrictions being employed in their particular situations, esp ecially when they we re younger. The most talked of restriction was thei r inability to speak to boys and the curtailing of phone calls from boys. . . . something simple as having a boy call you on the phone . . . is like . . . for the boy who’s calling me . . . it’s not a big deal . But for me, it’s like . . . I would be scolded or like get in tr ouble for something so small . . . (Monica, 22, single female) Apart from that, they were disallowed fr om sleep-overs at friends’ houses unless those friends were Indian; had an early curfew, earlier than th eir brothers; couldn’t attend parties; and had to wear modest clothing implying that short skirts and shorts were frowned upon. . . . like sleep overs. My parents would never let me sleep over [at] a person’s house unless they were Indian . . . and it didn’t make sense to me, and I don’t agree with it, but I just had to abide by their rules . . . or like having a curfew. Like some people are allowed to have such a late curfew, well I have a very early curfew. (Monica, 22, single female) They [parents] kind of discouraged me wear shorts and skirts an stuff . . . They didn’t particularly like me going out with my friends as much . . . [with] Indian friends they didn’t mind too much . . . but if I was going with a group of white

PAGE 130

119 friends or something, because they didn’t know them or didn’t know their parents, they were a little skeptical about it . . . (Poonam, 19, single female) Janvi, a 25 year old engaged female also s poke of being expected to live at home during college when Patel men are not expected to do the same. Patel kids are more likely to stay at home and go to college . . . and I think [it is] especially [so] if you’re a gi rl. A lot of boys seem to have apartments of their own even if they’re Patels. Jay, a 20 year old, single female, brought up the difference in gustatory practices which sometimes causes discomfort between th e generations. He spoke of the difficulty some members of the first generation have in accepting the consumption of nonvegetarian food by the second generation, whil e the second generati on have developed a growing comfort in it. . . . just a little bit [ of challenge] like es pecially this meat part . . . you know . . . Some people [first generation] think it’ s extremely wrong, and then some people [second generation], they . . . find it OK . . . fi nd it . . . that in colleges what else are you going to eat if you [don’t eat meat]? Due to these conflicts between parents a nd their children, Kavita, a 24 year old female participant opined that most sec ond generation Patel wome n and men do not get along with their parents. . . . what I’ve seen so far . . . is that they [the sec ond generation] don’t fit in . . . they don’t . . . most of them just don’ t know much about he Indian culture, and most of them don’t get al ong with their parents. This idea was not shared by the majority of participants, who infact spoke of the strong relationships between most Pate l parents and the second generation. These findings are consistent with the literature. Rangaswamy (2000) notes that parents, while goading their children to excel academically, attempt to counteract American influences at school especially dancing and dating. Parents automatically associate ‘American culture’ with promis cuity and frown upon the free socializing

PAGE 131

120 between the sexes especially dur ing adolescence. Dugsin (20 0, p. 237) holds that in their desire to create an “ideal womanhood, which involves uphold ing the Indian morals and values” the first generation place greater rest rictions on the movement and behavior of second generation women than they do on that of second generation men. Conflict in the context of larger American society. Patel women and men also delineated challenges they face in performing bi-cultural identity in American society. Most spoke of attempting to explain diffe rences to Americans as being the main challenge. One area requiring ex planation, which received a lot of mention is food practices. As mentioned earlier, Patels are vegetarian. Patel women and men narrate the challenges they face in attempting to explain to the American friends/colleagues that they do not consume meat especially in a more public setting like a restaurant or in a group. Some are accepting of their vegetarianism, while others treat them differently. They also noted that the practice of arra nged marriage and parental rule s often required explanation to Americans who are unab le to understand them. . . . well part of being Gujarati to me, mean that you are probably vegetarian and I think that’s another thing that immediately sets us apart form Americans . . . that’s one of the differences. (Karan, 24, single male) . . . maybe just to explain I think . . . explanations of certain beliefs . . . you knowlike I think the food aspect. It’s something small, but people don’t understand why you’re vegeta rian. You try to explai n. . . . Some people are accepting of it, some people are like . . . look at you like you’re crazy, you knowbecause they don’t understand why anyone would believe in such a thing. Or the belief in arranged marriages. . . . That’s another issue that always hits somewhere. People always ask you about it all the time. (Janvi, 25, engaged female) . . . I guess having to deal with our parent s’ rules, which are very different from American peoples’ rules. Because a lo t of times, people [Americans] find it irrational, what my parents are saying, but I can’t . . . I have no way of arguing against them because they are my parents. (Monica, 22, single female)

PAGE 132

121 Interestingly, both Patel women and men brought up the issue of positive stereotyping they face both as Patels and Gujaratis. They comment that they are stereotyped as being smart becau se all Indians are smart. . . . if anything . . . it’s like positive ster eotypes like people will think that because you’re Indian, you’re going to be smart or you’re going to be well educated, or you’re going to be a doctor, or you’re . . . I don’t know . . . things like that. I guess they stereotype professions and like education . . . (N ikhil, 18, single male) This speaks to the “‘successful immigrant’ image” that has become attached to all Indians, firmly entrenching the “model-minor ity” myth (Lessinger, 1995; Khandelwal, 2002, p. 91). A few also spoke of the racial disc rimination they faced by virtue of their ethnicity and skin color. . . . coming across some pe ople who are not ever [ going to] accept you, just because you are a different race . . . physically . . . I mean the color of my sk in . . . that’ the firs t thing that sets me apart [from Americans]. And I think that’s the first thing everyone else sees without even knowing me . . . (Karan, 24, single male) Khandelwal (2002, p. 150) notes that race evaded first generation Indians who identified with the “nation of India or thei r religion”. However, there is a heightened consciousness of race among the second generati on by virtue of their growing up in the United States and note that some struggl e with the “dominant majority’s colordetermined exclusion of them” (p. 150). A few participants however, intimated that they faced no conflict or challenges in negotiating their identity. They held that one created the challenge for oneself as none really existed. They attributed the same to the growing open-ness and interest of the larger American society to Indian identity a nd culture as well as to their ability to move smoothly between their two identities.

PAGE 133

122 . . . for me it hasn’t really [been a challeng e or a conflict]. Honestly, for me it hasn’t been a problem. I don’t know [why] . . . I guess I’m pretty open to everything, I mean . . . (Gaurav, 19, single male) . . . I think there’s confusion if you let confusion be. I think if you’re an honest person, and you are able to communicate with your parents, and be able to you know . . . and it’s the hardest thing to do is to be able to be honest and do whatever you’re doing openly . . . (Vishal, 27, married male) I don’t face any challenges because I can mix both cultures at appropriate times, when I need to. Yeh, like . . . whenever . . . like if we have some festival or some, just like some gathering here, like some meeting and it is all American people, it’s just for proper attire and everything, I w ould wear a suit, and tie, speak English and I’ll be perfectly fine. If there’s Navratri, I’ll be dressed up in I ndian clothes [ and be OK with it] (Jay, 20, single male) Outcomes of bi-cultura l identity negotiation Attempting to tease out the outcomes of the bi-cultural identity negotiation of second generation Patels was trickier than I ha d anticipated as the participants oscillated between their own outcomes and their impr essions about those for second generation Patels as a whole. This is apparent in th eir responses documented here. Patel women and men acknowledged (inspite of lack of conflic t, challenge and confusion in some cases) that bi-cultural identity negotiation is diffi cult and its resolution even more so. They identify two main outcomes of this negotia tion for themselves and for most second generation Patels – the selecting of one identity over the other; and the successful creation of a hybrid identity – a cocktail. Selecting one identi ty over the other. When selecting one iden tity over the other, Patel women and men note that there is a growing trend among second generation Patels to choose their American identity and reject their Indian – what they term as becoming more “Americanized”. They elaborate that th ese Patels lack a Gujarati and an Indian identity, consider themselves to be American and do not want to identify as Indians or Patels.

PAGE 134

123 I think most of the second generation [Pat els] have assimilated so completely within American society . . . they have become “Americanized” . . . they want to blend into [American] society so much, they ’ll do anything possibl e to be part of that society . . . even if it means disasso ciate or to abandon their cultural roots and adopt a new culture, then that’s what th ey’ll do to become accepted within the society. This is definitely happening [with second generation Patels] to a very large extent. (Karan, 24, single male) I think the situation for some second genera tion Patels that were born here [United States] is are like completely Americani zed, you know . . . completely! They don’t go to any [Gujarati] religious activities or anything . . . they don’t even know about their own religion. They don’t even speak their language [Gujarati], that their parents speak . . . they consider themselves to be American. Moreover, they express their preferen ce superficially by adopting American apparel, attending parties, and absentin g themselves from Gujarati and Indian cultural/festive gatherings and events. . . . [they are trying to be American in a very supe rficial way. You knowthe look of what they’re wearing is more American ized, and also trying to shy away from like going to Indian functions . . . or even participating in a lot of the Indian things (Janvi, 25, engaged female) For the most part, Patel women and men attribute this preference for Americanness to their basal exposure to Gujarati in fluences. The latter is the product of many factors – the reduced emphasis of Gujarati identity by parents; the lack of a vibrant Gujarati or Indian community in their domic iliary area; a peer circle comprising largely of Americans or Americanized Indians; a nd a desire by individual Patel women and men to blend into American society even at the co st of their Indian-ne ss. Consequently, their detachment from their Gujarati roots and Indi an identity, results in their whole-hearted embrace of their American one. . . . I think some have swayed towards the American side of it . . . like they’ve not dropped totally the Indian customs, but b ecause they have lived . . . where they were brought up . . . whether or not th ere was an Indian community, they’ve adapted to that community, and like . . . if it was a large Indian community, I think they hold onto the customs a little bit mo re than if they were the only Indians

PAGE 135

124 surrounded by a lot of white houses. Also th ey may have faced outside pressure from friends . . . (Sahil, 27, married male) . . . I’ve seen amongst my friends . . . if they have a lot of Indian friends from the get go, then they’re going to be surrounded by that culture . . . they’re going to have other Indians influence them in their decisi ons. I know friends that are totally . . . I guess . . . they’re not anti-immune, but they don’t know much of the values, and not much of the tradition, and they have all Am erican friends here, and that’s perfectly fineit’s just that they’re not. . . . they haven’t been influenced enough [by Indian/Gujarati] culture . . . (Anil, 21, single male) It’s just the way the person is! Like I know a lot of people, even though they’re second generation Patels, they don’t know a nything about our culture. So I think, it depends a lot on the person and their parents. Like . . . if their parents don’t enforce it upon them, I don’t think . . . they won’t learn. Since their parents didn’t enforce it, they didn’t learn as a child, and now that they’re grown up, I don’t think they care enough to learn. (Poonam, 19, single female) Interestingly, Karan, a 24 year old single ma le, noted that in attempting to become American, second generation Patel women and men identify with particular ethnic groups in the United States. Patel women and men, he reports identity with the black community and adopt black slang and hip-hop as symbol s of their American-n ess when rejecting Indian-ness. . . . you can tell immediately by the way that they speak, that they have a certain . . . whatever they might think is cool , you know depending on which group they belong to [acculturate into] American society. Like there’s a certain slang associated with Black people or music . . . you know . . . hip-hop or rap music . . . then you speak sort of the way they [rappers] speak. This reminds us of Horenczyk’s (1997) cr itique that bi-cu lturalism tends to conceptualize the host society, in this case the United States, as a monolithic structure, ignoring the internal heteroge neous groups in a society, which immigrants may use as reference groups to acculturate into. Medha, an 18 year old single female, however , also drew attention to the fact that some second generation Patel women and me n may also have a decided preference for

PAGE 136

125 their Indian identity, to the extent that they have only Indian friends and are closeminded. I think they just for the most part like . . . I think they try to pick one [identity] over the other. The ones [who pick] Indianlike [are] completely Indian, like . . . they’ll have a whole group of Indian friends and be like [with] that whole crowd. And they just won’t . . . like . . . they’re also cl ose minded because they won’t open up to like the rest of the community. Creating a hybrid identity – A cocktail. A significant proportion of Patel women and men claimed some second generation Pate ls are successful in creating a hybrid identity – what they call a “blend” and bei ng comfortable with it – illustrating it with their own cases. They explain that this i nvolves being neither completely Indian nor American – but a “blend” or a “mixture” of both. . . . I mean there’s always going to be a mixture of bothyou’re not completely Indian, and you’re not comple tely American, you are a mi xture of both and both of them require less of the other. (Ritu, 22, single female) They admit to taking great pride in being bi -cultural, being comf ortable with it, and find this method of identity performance to be interesting. Being bi-cultural is unique as it facilitates their existence in two cultures, two world and their living of two separate, simultaneous lives. I think I feel a lot of pride. In a wa y because I have a very unique background because of...being Indian, but at the same time keeping the American culture alive within me (Vishal, 27, married male) I love it [bi-cultural identity]! I think it’s great! But I take bo th sides . . . like . . . the good of both sides, I think. I love doing Indi an stuff. I’m not embarrassed about it or whatever. I think that it’s good. I like goi ng to like . . . I ndian functions, you know going to Diwali shows, I love doing that stuff . . . I like going to Indian movies, I like doing . . . I like wearing my Indian clot hes, you know . . . On the other aspect, I also like doing all the . . . you know . . . normal American thingsyou know . . . I love football, I love going to the games, I love that whole side of it. And I think that’s great! (Janvi, 25, engaged female) I love it [being bi-cultural]! I think it’s great . . . not many people are fortunate enough to be able to have like . . . two separa te lives at the same time. Like . . . how

PAGE 137

126 many people could . . . you know . . . just say that you know . . . they talk one language at home and everything else outs ide the home. We have two different cultures. I am fond of my American as we ll as my Indian cultu re . . . it’s kind of two in one person. (Gaurav, 19, single male) However, some Patel women and men reitera te that irrespective of their ease and comfort with their bi-culturalism, their Indian identity prevails before their American one and that being Indian (and Gujarati) comes foremost. As I conclude, I ask myself whether the coconut-cocktail metaphor can be resolved in the case of second generation Patel wome n and men. Deliberate, conscious efforts are being undertaken by Patel families and the Patel community to construct within the second generation a bi-cultural id entity rooted in Indian-ness or in this case the Gujarati culture. Their bi-cultural identity is dynamic and its facets are expressed in varying contexts. Negotiating a bi-cultural identity, as explained by Patel women and men, while difficult, is also a rewarding experience if they ar e able to create a successful blend. Based on my conversations with second generati on Patels I encountered in the course of this study, I feel confident in classifying a si gnificant proportion of th em as “cocktails” – those who have successfully merged their Indian and American identities an operate from a “cocktail” base.

PAGE 138

127 CHAPTER 5 “SSHHH . . . ! DON’T TELL MY PARENTS”: DATING AMONG SECOND GENERATION PATELS The narratives of second generation Pate l women and men about dating and their dating experiences are portrayed in this chapter. Patel women and men, not only conversed about dating in th eir personal lives, but they also commented on how they believed dating occurred amongst second genera tion Patels in general. The findings below thus oscillate between their personal stories as well as stories of the Patel community. As mentioned in the methodology, the three comparative lenses emergent from the data – Indian versus American; female versus male; second generation versus first generation and through which I examine themes are observable in the context of dating. Five broad analytical areas emerged from our convers ations – (a) definitions of dating, (b) rules and norms related to dating, (c) dating behaviors, (d) first generation reactions to dating amongst the second genera tion, and (e) and the dating experiences of second generation Patel women and men. Definitions Of Dating When asked to explain what they thought dating meant in the Patel community in the United States, Patel women and men delineated distinct definitions for the first generation comprising their parent (at occasiona lly their grandparents especially in those instances when grandparents are in residen ce) and for the second generation comprising themselves.

PAGE 139

128 Defining Dating: The First Generation To begin with, some participants i nvoked the idea of a demarcated Patel community in the United States. They spoke of the more liberal vein of the community in opposition to the more traditional one. Parent s who fell into the former category, are more likely to and infact do accept dating by the second generation, understand it as going out as a couple with someone you like an d do not place restrictions on both Patel women and men. The more traditional vein of the community forbids dating among both Patel women and men and understands it as so mething wrong. However, the participants acknowledge that these views tend to be the extremes. I think you have two different Patel commun ities. . . . You have the other Patel community that is free and open-minded, that is similar to th e US customs, who allow for their sons and daughters to date openly without havi ng any restrictions upon who they can date, or even if they can date . . . at least they allow them to date, whereas in the real conservative, r eal traditional Patel community . . . [they] do not allow their [kids] to date what soever until marriage is being proposed. (Sahil, 27, married male) Most parents, I don’t think they understand . . . they understand that it’s just like . . . the kids are doing something wrong . . . you know . . . (Jay, 20, single male) A majority of the participants spoke of a more middle of the road understanding of dating by the first generation and believed that a significant proportion of the first generation abided by this perspective. Patel women and men outlined two significant definitions of dating as embraced by first generation Patels – dating as American behavior; and dating as courtship an d thus a precursor to marriage. Dating as American behavior Patel women remarked that parents create an Indian – American binary by defining dating as American behavior which should not be indulged in by the Indian children. Patel women note that this conception, on the part of their parents, of dating as something

PAGE 140

129 foreign to Indian culture comes into play espe cially in their cases and is translated into dating being restricted or forbidden to them, a behavior they are no t expected to indulge in. Second generation Patel women believe that this is because parents’ equate dating with pre-marital sex which worries them esp ecially in the case of their daughters. . . . you’re just expected not to do it [dat e]. Being a girl, you’re just expected not to date . . . (Poonam, 19, single female) . . . the main thing [reason for the restri ction women face in dating] is sex before marriage, it’s obviously forbidden, and so . . . if you’re dating someone . . . as opposed to the courtship kind of dating . . . [parents think that ] you are more likely to do something that they [parents] woul dn’t want you to do. And [parents think] the longer you date w ithout some sort of commitment, the more likely you are to do something . . . and that’s why its’ forbidden [for women] (Ritu, 22, single female) Scholars in the field have made si milar observations, reporting the first generation’s tendency to contex tualize dating as “against Indi an culture” and to equate with pre-marital sex and the resultant loss of se xual chastity. This results in them viewing dating with alarm especially in the cas e of second generation women (DasGupta & Dasgupta, 1998; Dasgupta, 1998; Rangasw amy, 2000; Kallivayalil, 2004, p. 548). Dating as courtship and a precursor to marriage. Vaidyanathan and Naidoo (1990), Rangasw amy (2000), and Dugsin (2001) observe a gradual transformation among first genera tion on the issue of dating. Parents are beginning to look upon dating more favorably, a nd are accepting of it, if it is the context of marriage, wherein dating takes on the ma ntle of courtship. This was confirmed by a significant proportion of both Patel women an d men. They observed that their parents were now beginning to perceive dating as courtship and a precursor to marriage and in this context it is more acceptable. . . . they [parents] see it . . . well this could lead [to] like marriage or a permanent thing . . . that’s how they have to see it to accept it . . . I think. They can’t just see it as a casual dating. (Reema, 22, single female)

PAGE 141

130 I think it’s becoming accepted now . . . I thi nk parents think of dating . . . they think of just the whole process of going toward marriage like th at . . . ‘They’re [second generation] talking to this person, maybe it will work out, maybe they’ll get married. If it doesn’t work out, they’ll go on to the next . . . (Sahil, 27, married male) They elaborated that dating as a means to make a marital decision, that is, to get to know a potential spouse and talk about potentially marrying one another is accepted by parents. I think you [second generation] can date to find out [about the person]. It kind of depends on how it happens. If you’re doi ng it on your own [met the person on your own], I think that they [parents] really want you to have a mindset of marriage already in mind. But I think, if they [p arents] arrange it themselves, they don’t mind you just talking to that person, because for some reason they’re comfortable because they did it, you know . . . So it’ s OK to just kind of see, you know . . . (Janvi, 25, engaged female) Ritu, a 22 year old female and Janvi, a 25 year old engaged female however, had contradictory opinions when th ey explained that dating wa s not understood as courtship by the first generation, because it was forbidde n until such time that the couple either got formally engaged or arrived at an understa nding and a marriage was definitely in the making. Dating is not long like it is here [United States] . . . like 2 or 3 or even 4 years before you decide you want to marry so meone. Dating is you think you’re going to marry him, so you’re dating for all of 3-6 months or a year maybe at the longest before you get married . . . there’s not just dating to date and then you’re going to dump him and move on . . . (Ritu, 22, single female) The parents . . . it means thatyou know . . . you’re not social dating, what you’re doing is that you’ve found this person and you are going to marry him! (Janvi, 25, engaged female) A few participants brought up another variable into the mix – age. They opined that parents’ understanding of dating differed according to the age of their children. When their children were younger, the first genera tion conceived of dating as an unnecessary distraction from education and thus forbade their children to date. On attainment of

PAGE 142

131 marriageable age by their children, parents’ ar e more accepting of dating given that they conceive of it as courtship, sometimes even encouraging the second generation to date so they can find a mate. . . . And I think there’s an age [factor] . . . you know . . . as you get a little bit older, I think if an 18 year old came home and was ta lking about [dating], even if it was a Patel or Gujarati, I think her pare nts are going to be nervous. Whereas if she’s like 22, 23, then it’s good because sh e’s finding her firstI then by then the parents are like . . . ‘Well it’s good you know . . . . she’s more mature, and you know she’s meeting people’ and that’sI thinkin the parents’ head if they see it . . . well this could lead [to] like . . . marriage or a permanent thing . . . (Reema, 22, single female) I guess that [parents’ unders tanding of dating] depends on what age you [second generation] are as well. Like if you’re younge r, then I think they [parents] might . . . like you knowif they found out about it or something . . . they maybe . . . they die or something. But if they [second gene ration] are older, then they [parents] might think . . . like you knowyou [second generation] might end up marrying this person or something . . . (Medha, 18, single female) Lastly, a few male participants’ views nega te the above mentioned ideas. They hold that most first generation Patels do not ha ve any conception of dating or of what it entails. This is because they do not have any experience with dating themselves and so for them, the word does not exist in their vocabulary. The first generation . . . I think didn’t really have th at . . . dating in their vocabulary. (Anil, 21, single male) I think for a large part . . . the first generation . . . I think they don’t have any concept of what dating is. I don’t think th ey know what it is. They’ve never heard of it, they’ve never done it. They just don’t understand any part of it. They don’t even contemplate it . . . I don’t think that it’s something that you know . . . that word does not exist in their voc abulary. (Karan, 24,single male) Defining Dating: The Second Generation Second generation Patel women and men disc ussed what they believed to be the definitions and understanding of dating embraced by their generation. The most frequently voiced perception was that sec ond generation Patels in the United States

PAGE 143

132 defined dating was the same manner as Americans did. They themselves listed some of these definitions on record. Dating as understood by second generati on Patel women and men and Americans, is a fun activity that involv es getting together with someone you liked not always with marriage in mind. I think the second generation is trying to generally adopt like the more American style of dating where you ask somebody out . . . you know you don’t necessarily know them really well . . . it’s more lik e an initial attraction. You go out, you do the individual type datinggoing out to dinner whatever, wh atever. And if it doesn’t work out, you break up and you may have . . . however many more relationships . . . (Janvi, 25, engaged female) . . . I guess like . . . I would say it’s [dating] is pretty much the same as dating would be in an American culture (Medha, 19, single female) It includes getting to know someone closely and te sting out the potential for a relationship which could but need not necessarily culminate in marriage. I think it’s [dating] it’s just like a girl and guy trying to get to know each other with some kind of interest and they’re both havi ng fun and just trying to become like . . . like getting to know each other cl osely. It’s [dating] is seen as . . . maybe like . . . seen as a potential for a relationship. So more serious, but no t necessarily marriage . . . (Monica, 22, single female) When we [second generation Patels] say we’re dating somebody, I would say that it’s pretty much the same way that Ameri can people would say it. I consider dating like . . . preliminary to becoming a girlfrie nd. Like . . . before she’s your girlfriend, you date her a couple of time, get to know her better . . . to just . . . testing things out, see how you get along . . . (Gaurav, 19, single male) It’s [dating] just basically trying to meet someone that you think will eventually be with you, happy with you. And for me, eventua lly happy with my family . . . [So] you have to get to know a person completelyso that’ how most [second generation Patels] view it [dating]. (Jay, 20, single male) A few participants also mentioned the nome nclature involved in dating explaining that dating implies having or bei ng a boyfriend or girlfriend. Second generation define it just the way a typical American would define it – have a boyfriend, girlfriend. . . . Dating . . . I think dating means what dating means in

PAGE 144

133 general. You just go out . . . boyfriend, girlfri end . . . dating is ju st the general term that’s defining the relationship, and now you have a boyfriend, girlfriend, go out on dates once in a while . . . (Sahil, 27, married male) . . . [dating] is just going out with a fr iend that you like . . . like girlfriend or boyfriend . . . (Rahul, 18, single male) Reema, the 22 year old single student, noted that dating can be a synthesis of a fun activity of meeting interesting people as well a means to meet potential spouses. I think they’re [second generati on Patels] dating to find peopl e. I think that’s their . . . I mean they’re dating for fun . . . but I th ink the ultimate goal in their head is also like to find . . . you know . . . maybe this will be the person . . . maybe not. Especially with the guys, they have their fun and that . . . but if they have a longterm relationship, I think they won’t admit it probably, but it is to see, well maybe this is the right girl . . . A few Patel women and men also brought up th e issue of age. They explained that their conceptions of dating altered with their age – wh en younger, dating was perceived as a fun activity and when older, as a more serious activity involving either being in a relationship with your potential spouse or seeking a spouse. . . . I think when you are young . . . that’s [dating] just fun! But ultimately, I think you just growand you’re ready to settle dow n . . . so it starts as fun and then finally starts to get serious. (Sahil, 27, married male) . . . I think in the beginning, it’s [dating ] [is] kind of . . . because you want to be in a relationship and you like someone . . . or you know . . . you’re just attracted to that person. . . . and I think af ter a certain age . . . it’s lik e . . . ‘OK let’s date this guy I’m going to marry’ kind of thing . . . (Priya, 20, single female) However, a few participants expressed a slightly contradictory opinion. They conceptualized dating as a behavior that al ways requires the long-term goal of marriage to guide it rather than the more short-term purpose of a fun or recreational activity. They believed that dating involves looking for qualities in people that one desires in a spouse and meeting someone you would want to ma rry. They perceived a futility to dating without the end result of a perm anent relationship like marriage.

PAGE 145

134 Well if you have Patels dating, I think they’re going . . . my personal opinion is that I think they’re going forsomething that’s a little bit more long term . . . maybe not necessarily marriage, but marriage . . . they don’t ignore that option . . . (Anil, 21, single male) I think you should always date with a goal of marriage . . . I don’t think you should date for the sake of dating . . . So I thi nk you should always have that [marriage] in the back of your mind. Like trying to look for a good person . . . (Gaurav, 19, single male) I wouldn’t want to just date someone that I had not intention of ever marrying. I think this is also . . . probably a differe nce between girls and guys . . . because guys like to do a lot of things just for fun, while a lot more girls I would think are . . . more wanting to date somebody because they want to marry them, or just to date them to see if they would want to marry them. (Ritu, 22, single female) It is thus evident from their responses that second generation Patel women and men are a lot more comfortable with dating than th eir parents’ are. Far from perceiving it as something foreign, they are at tempting to re-conceptualize it in the context of their biculturalism. Rules And Norms Related To Dating In our conversations about dating second generation Patel women and men identified practices that infl uence their dating behavior whic h I labeled rules and norms. It should be understood the labeling rules an d norms is generic as it is hard to state conclusively whether they exist in reality as norms in the Patel community (they were not so defined by the participants). Also worthy of mention, is that these rules and norms are defined and upheld by the Patel community at large and by first generation Patels. They are conveyed to the second generation either implicitly or explicitly by the first generation and often translate into the barriers the former face in dating. Second generation Patel women and men identified two broad categories of dating related rules and norms – gender based rules and norms ; and non-gender based rules and norms.

PAGE 146

135 Gender Based Rules and Norms First generation Indians in the United Stat es embrace differential standards between their sons and daughters in th e arena of dating. Sons are a llowed more leeway in dating as well as in “‘out of house act ivities’” with little or no parental supe rvision, but the same freedom is not accorded to their daughters (Wakil, Siddique & Wakil, 1981; Khandelwal, 2002, p. 152). Lessinger (1995), Dasgupta ( 1998), Khandelwal (2002, p. 152), and Kallivayalil (2004) note that dating is a virtua l impossibility for s econd generation Indian women and that the “double standard” employed by the first generation is reflective of an ideology that prizes sexual chas tity of women until marriage. As reported by second generation Patel women and men, the gender based rules and norms in dating often take the form of rest rictions in the practi ce of dating especially then they are younger and not yet considered eligible for marriag e. While there was consensus between Patel women and men in listing the gender based rules and norms invoked in the arena of dating, Patel women app eared more cognizant of the restrictions they face. Often Patel men were unable to high light the differential standards that exist in the community unless they were asked to verify whether their dating behaviors and experiences were similar to that of their sist ers, cousins and female friends. Rather than interpreting this inability as reduced restric tions in their families; I would attribute it, based on my conversations with them, to a lack of true awareness of the actual restrictions women face once again rooted in their positi ons of privilege in their community and families. I begin by listing the rules and norms pertaining to women followed by those pertaining to men, as explained by Patel women and men.

PAGE 147

136 Rules and norms pertaining to women. Most Patel men and an overwhelming major ity of Patel women spoke of the fact that dating by women is not encouraged (by parents and the Patel community) and that they face more restrictions than their male counterparts do, making it harder for them to date. This is true even if she were to date another Patel who is eminently more suitable than a non-Gujarati Indian or an American. I think there’s still . . . harder on the women than they [parents] are on the men about dating . . . I’d say they [women] are not [allowed to date by parents] (laughs) (Gaurav, 19, single male) They [parents] don’t allow their girls to date. Guys it’s OK, they can do whatever they want. But girls NO! It’s not acceptabl e . . . you just don’t date! (Kavita, 24, single female) . . . like if my brother were to date a girl, I don’t think my parents would mind as much as [with] me if I were to date a guy . . . even if he was Patel guy . . .(Poonam, 19, single female) . . . [second generation] women are not [allo wed to date] . . . I don’t think [even is she was dating a Patel] . . . not in the Patel community. (Sah il, 27, married male) Some of the restrictions th at Patel women face involve th eir inability to go out at night, attend parties, and go to bars – activiti es that most men are free to indulge in. Additionally, their movement is closely monito red with strict oversight of the public locations they can frequent and the curfew they can maintain. I think girls are still treated, or mistreated in a way I think. . . . but I think there’s still a huge gap between what a guy can do and what a girl can do. For instance, dating . . . I mean some guys in the Patel community ar e completely OK with going out and you know the parents are OK with it, you know . . . stay [out until] whenever you want, however long you want But the girl has to be home at a certain time, and where they can go and how they can do it is monitored. [Whether or not they can date] . . . it’s on the fa mily . . . like the one I was talking to you about . . . she cannot get away from the hous e, she can’t even attend some of those high school plays you know . . . she’s definite ly not allowed to date either . . . (Vishal, 27, married male)

PAGE 148

137 A variety of reasons were cited by both Pa tel women and men for these restrictions and it is in this reasoning that gender differe nces are very evident. Parental fear that dating would cast a blemish on their daughters’ reputation and on the family honor with the Patel community was one of the most fr equently cited reasons by Patel women, more so than by Patel men. This is connected to parental conception of dating as pre-marital sex. . . . the main problem is sex before marri age, it’s obviously forbidden . . . it’s more of a problem for a female because your name would get spoiled[therefore] there’s more of a concern if it’s a female versus a man . . . (Ritu, 22, single female) . . . the first generation doesn’t want their daughters to date . . . [because] I think it’s just a stereotype that occurs. They [p arents] don’t want . . . I don’t want to say whore or anything like that . . . but they don’t want the na mereputation being brought down in the community . . . ‘Oh! I saw her with this white guy sitting in the corner or’ of whatever you know . . . (Sahil, 27, married male) In turn, this was perceived as affecting th e marriage prospects and the eligibility of second generation Patel women for marriage. They [parents] think you’re going to ru in it [marriage]. They think nobody’s going to marry you because you knowyou’ve b een dating guys, and they think you’re used basically . . . (Kavita, 24, single female) . . . the fear . . . if your child’s name goes bad . . . then who’s ever going to marry her kind of thing . . . (Ritu, 22, single female) Another oft cited reason, more so by Pate l women than by men was parental worry about gossip in the Patel commun ity, especially in th e case of their da ughters, about the fact that they were dating, which can also result in damaged reputations. They [parents] think about what other people are going to say. That OK, you know other people are going to say . . . ‘Oh! Look at their daughter , you know she’s been talking to guys and she’s been going on dates, what kind of . . . values does she have?’ She’s been talking to guys, that’s not good, it’s bad’ . . . (Kavita, 24, single female)

PAGE 149

138 Janvi, the 25 year old engaged female, not ed that although the fear of damaged reputations and honor existed to some extent in the case of second generation Patel men, it was the women and their families who bore the brunt of the consequences. This is largely because second generation Patel women are representative of the family and of tradition. . . . they [parents] don’t want you, . . . th e whole idea of sex before marriage. You know they [parents] don’t wantobviously they don’t . . . neither does the guy’s family . . . but I think the consequences obviously just in general is less for men than it’s for women. The chances of anythi ng happening with girls, in the sense of pregnancy or whatever, I thi nk that’s . . . they [parents] won’t say it, but I think that’s a big part of it. I th ink they are afraid of people talking . . . for some reason that seems to affect the girl’s family more than it does the guy’s family . . . ‘What are other people going to say?’(Janvi, 25, engaged female) I think the women are looked upon as the picture of what the family is supposed to by like. [So for instance] if you see a daughter going out and getting drunk every Friday night, you know they see that family as a drunken family, or they see that family as a broken family . . . (Sahil, 27, married male) Protectiveness of daughters was a reason ci ted by more Patel men and disdainfully acknowledged by Patel women. As Monica, a 22 year old single female commented, parents’ perception of women as the weaker sex unable to protect themselves result in a parental attempt at protecti on by restricting their dating. . . . for a female, there’s so many things th at they think of the worst. Like them getting raped or them getti ng pregnant or something like that. They [parents] think of the worst case scenario or also like th e weaker sex (laughs), so they don’t let us [second generation Patel women] do enough st uff and they are more like watch out for that guy, or they don’t trust the guy . . . boys are supposed to be able to take care of themselves . . . so they have more leeway. On the other hand, Patel men who cited this reason appeared to genuinely believe that apart from being protective of their da ughters and fearing rape , there were no other plausible reasons for the stricter contro ls Patel women encounter in dating. I think they’re [parents] defi nitely less allowing of th eir daughters dating than of their sons. I think [this is because] they’re just more protective of their daughters. I

PAGE 150

139 think they feel that maybe their daught ers might get taken advantage of or something of that sort . . . (Nikhil, 18, single male) They’re [parents] more cautious about wo men [dating] because obviously they [parents] feel that women aren’t able to, you know . . . I guess . . . basically go out by themselves because you know certain things like rape . . . [or] you have certain things that might pressure women more so than men . . . So I guess the first generation parents’ view [is] that men have a better chance of still being able to go out and still being able to hold their va lues, you know . . . more so than women. (Anil, 21, single male) These findings echo those cited by observers dating among Indians in the United States. They note that the double standards employed by fi rst generation Indians in dating is rooted in their construc tion of women as the “keepers of culture” and upholders of family honor and their consequent fear that dating is the route to jeopardized marriage prospects, loss of Indian-ness in favor of American-ness and the ruination of family honor (DasGupta & Dasgupta, 1998, p. 113; Muhki, 2000; Khandelwal, 2002; Kallivayalil, 2004). A male participant however expressed a vi ew contradictory to the ones mentioned above. He claimed that excluding the fact that dating is harder for women, he did not believe that women had less freedom to date than men as technically neither are “allowed” to date by their parents. . . . well no . . . I think no [men don’ t have more freedom to date than women]they [parents] don’t want anyone to date. [But] I think [men] get away with it easier. They [parents] are harder on women . . . it is just harder for them [Patel women] to get away without thei r parents finding out . . . (Karan, 24, single male) Rules and norms pertaining to men. With reference to second generation Pate l men there is an overwhelming consensus by both Patel women and men that that while me n are not encouraged to date, they have the freedom to do so with few if any parental reprisals and that they find it easier than

PAGE 151

140 Patel women to get away with. Patel women al so add that Patel men have the freedom to date anyone, not necessarily a Patel, a Gujarati or an Indian – a view not shared by all Patel men. That’s when the double standard comes into pl ay. I think guys . . . it’s a little easier for them to get away with it [dati ng] . . . (Priya, 20, single female) I think men have more freedom . . . to date non-Gujaratis or non-Patels or nonIndians even. Like . . . my Maama (uncle) he’s young . . . he grew up here too . . . and he went through a phase [in] high school and ever ything, he was dating all white girls and Spanish girls and nobody said anything. All his Indian friends . . . you know . . . of the same age group, they a ll dated everybody, I mean . . . I’m sure if I went through all that, it would be like . . . I’d probably be locked up . . . (Reema, 22, single female) I don’t think parents are OK with guys da ting American women. I was brought up [with the understanding that ] you want to stay within your community . . . when you’re ready to date, ready to get married, [it’s] goi ng to be Indian only (laughs) (Sahil, 27, married male) Additionally, both women and men confirm that second generation Patel men have more leeway and freedom not only in dating, but also in going out an d staying out as long as they desire, frequenting bars and getting dr unk. Parents justify this behavior as that which is normal to men and what they do. I think guys have more freedom to do ju st about anything when it comes to men versus women in the community. Going out . . . like just going out to the bar or whatever . . . guys it’s OK for us to do th at, but if the girls do that, it looks bad upon the family. If you see the guy going off for a drink on a Friday night, getting drunk . . . well that’s just want guys do . . . (Sahil, 27, married male) The reasons for these more lenient contro ls were furnished largely by Patel women who appeared, at least during the interviews, to be more cognizant of them than their male counterparts who largely replied with “I don’t knows”. Lack of parental strictness with sons was one of the most frequently cited reasons with Patel women claiming that even when parents know about their sons dating, they do not attempt to put a stop to it as they would dating amongst their daughters. Moreover, in their opi nion, second generation

PAGE 152

141 Patel men do not face the same harsh repercussions from the Patel community and from their families as women do. . . . I know a lot of guys actually who . . . Patel guys who date, but they likethey’ll tell their parents, or you know at lest their parents know that something is going on, and they [parents ] don’t say anything. But I know at the same time . . . like if you’re a girl and that were happening, that they [parents] would get mad at you or they would definitely bring it up at least just to know what is going on so they could like . . . control it . . . I guess. (Medha, 18, single female) . . . if they [Patel men] were to date, th ey wouldn’t . . . our parents wouldn’t be as scared . . . or they [parents] are not as like . . . strict with them. So even if it wasn’t like datingeven if they were going out as a group of friends . . . like . . . they would be able to go out with a lot of girl s. While if I was to go with a lot of guys, my parents would not allow it. (Monica, 22, single female) Priya a 20 year old single female, in co mparing herself to her male counterparts acknowledged that parental belief in the grea ter capability of men to protect themselves translates into less fear of and greater freedom in dating. I think it’s easier for guys to date . . . it’s just like the double standard from generations back.. . . . it’s just kind of[ we] have been brought up [thinking] that guys can take care of themselves, and girls . . . you know need someone . . . not just financially, but security wise as well. . . . [so] men are always a little bit more . . . you know . . . able to accomplish thin gs women are not [like dating]. Poonam, a 19 year old female student, also explained that in some cases, parents may conceptualize dating by second generation Patel men as fun, joking with them about their dating experiences and checking with them whether they have girlfriends. For guys, it’s OK if they’re dating, like their parents will joke around with them and be like . . . my parents joke around w ith my brother all the time about him dating or him having a girlfriend, and with me , they’re just like . . . ‘You better not have a boyfriend!’ there’s no joking around. As mentioned at the start of this secti on, these findings are c onsistent with those reported by Wakil, Siddique and Wakil ( 1981), Lessinger, (1995), Dasgupta (1998), and Khandelwal (2002) that second generation me n enjoy greater freedom to indulge in dating and other activities wit hout fear of damaging family honor and their reputations.

PAGE 153

142 Non-Gender Based Rules And Norms In addition to gender based rules and nor ms, Patel women and men discussed two other issues which I have termed non-gender. These are – age and partner selection. Age. Both Patel women and men brought up the fact that is forbidden by their parents when they are still in middle and high sc hool. However, once they are old enough – which they define as being 20 years and olde r – they experience some freedom in dating. This may appear to contradict the above me ntioned findings, except for the fact that parents define this period as a marriageable age, and in their zeal to get their children married, encourage them to date. . . . I think it [dating] also depends on ag e. Like if you’re older then maybe it would be alright because eventually like . . . ideally I guess, they [parents] want you to grow up and marry a Patel anyway. So . . . I guess, it [dating] wouldn’t be such a bad thing if you’re like in college or something . . . (Medha, 18, single female) I think it [dating] depends on age. If right now . . . I’m 22, so my parents want me to date, but when I was in high school, they would like . . . not want me to date . . . (Monica, 22, single female) You know . . . after a certain age, after you finish high school, you’re in college now, because you’re away from your pa rents and you have more freedom. Even after that, as you get older and older and then your parents have less and less control over you and less say in what you do and so at that point you have more flexibility and more leeway in being able to date and so rt of being out on your own now . . . (Karan, 24, single male) Partner selection. Patel women and men noted that there is a parental preference for another Patel, Gujarati or Indian, in that order, as thei r children’s partner. I think the first priority [is to date another Patel] . . . I’m sure their [parents] first priority is that [second ge neration date] a Patel . . . (Gaurav, 19, single male) I think parents are conservative about keepi ng the culture within ourselves, so most of the time they like to have . . . I guess their son or daughter date someone that is

PAGE 154

143 Indian. Sometimes, you [parents] get more specific where they’re [partners] the same religion, have the sameyou know . . . I guess the same values. . . . so . . . some [parents] would like them to date so meone that’s Indian . . . (Anil, 21, single male) Given this, second generation Patel women and men admit that dating another Patel or Gujarati increases the probability of pa rental acceptance of the relationship which is the reason why some made a conscious effort to date only other Patels. I think it [dating] would be more accepted if it was a Patel versus a non-Patel . . . (Ritu, 22, single female) . . . although I think the punishment would come down harder if they found out it was not a Gujarati person . . . [Parents] pa rticularly [prefer] a Patel, but I think Gujarati . . . it’s fairly safe . . . [if not] the punishmentfor both men and women would be more strict. (Karan, 24, single male) A non-Indian partner is, in theory unacceptable for both Patel women and men. However, both Patel women and men acknowledge , that in reality Patel men have more freedom to date anyone irrespec tive of race, nationality or et hnicity. Thus, for instance, it is easier for Patel men to have non-Indian partners than it is for Patel women. . . . I think men have more freedom, to date non-Gujaratis, or non-Patels or nonIndians even (Reema, 22, single female) Oh! They [second generation Patel men] can date anybody . . . anybody! They can date Patels, non-Patel, American, African -American, Chinese . . . they can date anybody they want to, it won’t be a problem. As long as they don’t get married [to a non-Indian] . . . (Kavita, 24, single female) . . . I think it would be easier to OK a guy dating a non-P atel, non-Indian type of girljust because I guess they’re [parents] are more protective of girls. Indian guys, Patel guys are somehow . . . like . . . more safe. (Nikhil, 18, single male) Anil, a 21 year old single male student fact ored in another vari able –disclosure to parents. He explained that the choice of partners depended on whether second generation Patels planned on disclosing thei r relationships to their parent s. If disclosure was not an issue then, whether or not they dated a Pa tel, Gujarati or Indian was irrelevant.

PAGE 155

144 I think before they [second generation Patels ] decide who they da te, a lot of Patels really consider. . . . ‘Alright, what are my parents going to think about this?’ If they choseif they made the decision. . . . ‘My parents are never goi ng to find out about this,’ then they can choose whoever they want to [dat e], but then again,, if they choose that decision, then they’re not thinking [in] marriage terms. Rangaswamy (2000) in her study of Indians in Chicago, notes the above mentioned dynamic in that second generati on Indians prefer to date nonIndians and marry Indians, pointing out however that th is is more prevalent among men than it is among women largely due to the prizing of sexua l chastity, reputation and honor. The rules and norms underlying dating am ong the second generation, as identified and upheld by their parents and the Patel comm unity have a direct consequence on the dating behaviors that the second generation embrace. Dating Behaviors In attempting to describe dating among the second generation in the Patel community, Patel women and men identified four broad issues which I term dating behaviors. These behaviors are applicable not only in their individual cases, but also in their opinion in the case of second generation Patels as a whole. These behaviors are – discussion about dating; onset and occurrence of dating; secrecy in dating; semantics of dating; and distinctions between Americ an and Patel (Indian) dating behavior. Discussion About Dating Lessinger (1995), and Kallivayalil (2004) note in their research that dating, sex and sexuality are topics rarely discussed in families between first and second generation Indians – a fact that is often hard for the second generation to accept. They often yearn for the open communication on the topics as they imagine occurs in other American families. This was the case with second generation Patel women and men. Patel women

PAGE 156

145 and men reported that dating was a topic that was rarely or never discussed openly in their families. It’s [dating] just somethingthat’s an unwritten rule, you just don’t talk to your parents about dating(Kavita, 24, single female) Definitely not . . . no! Unless it comes up because they have found outit [dating] would never be discussedit would ne ver . . . (Karan, 24, single male) . . . No! not most of them . . . Most families, they don’t talk about that [dating] at all . . . (Jay, 20, single male) . . . I don’t think the topic [dating] arises that much. They [parents] don’t reallythey always say just find a good gi rl, but they’re not going to . . . they never really just sit down and [discuss] the topic of dating. (Gaurav, 19, single male) In those instances when dating was talked a bout in their families, it took the form of warnings not to do something regretful or the form of precautions with regard to whom you date, where you go out and that it should be disc reet so that gossip in the community is not sparked – the latter applying only to Patel women. Anecdotally, I can opine that gossip in the community (especially about a young woman) can damage her reputation and the honor of the family. Thus, gossip in the community often acts as a mechanism of social control, regulating and monito ring the behavior of the younger generation. . . . I’ve never been told that it’s [dati ng] is expressly forbi dden, but there’s been obvious . . . like . . . I guess moral guidelin es put in you know . . . like you know . . . you need to be careful, you know . . . [w ith whom] you go out with and where you go. A lot of it has to do with the whole societ y thing . . . [parents tell you that ] you [second] don’t want to date too many people, [because] then . . . you know . . . ‘Oh! You’ve been going around too much.’ As a girl . . . yeh, li ke you’ve been around too much, but then I mean, like I said my Maama (uncle) he must have dated, he didn’t get married until he was like 30 something. And it didn’t matter, I know he’s had lots of girlfriendsnon-Indian ones and nobody ever said anything to him so (Reema, 22, single female) . . . No, not really [discussed at home]. It [discussion on dating] comes up in special situations . . . I think usua lly you hear about somebody else dating, or your parents hear, and they ask you about it and then it usually comes up. They [parents] kind of just ask you in like . . . a funny way . . . ‘Y ou know . . . so I heard this blah..blah . .

PAGE 157

146 .blah . . .’. And it’s not really about the ot her person, it just kind of brings things up and they [parents] kind of want to ask you [second genera tion] . . . ‘So what are you doing?’(Janvi, 25, engaged female) Some parents do [discuss dating] some don’t. My parents have talked to me about sex . . . like my dad hasn’t but my mom ha s. So my mom’s just like . . . ‘Don’t do it’ . . . like she won’t tell me straight upbut she’ll be like . . . ‘Don’t do anything you’re going to regret later and it’s ju st really indiscrete ’. (Poonam, 19, single female) However, the idea that dating is forbidde n is conveyed to them by their parents. This is undertaken either exp licitly by telling them not to date without citing reasons why they should not; or implicitly by alluding to the dating experi ences of others and warning them not to emulate them. . . . not directly told [t hat it is something you should not do], but like . . . pretty much implied. Like . . . I mean you al ways hear storie s about like you know somehow somebody’s parents found out abou t something, and so like . . . you know . . . your parents will come home and they’ll be talking about it or something and they’ll be like . . . they’ll just . . . they’ ll talk about like . . . that person in a like . . . negative sense, and so you kind of get the feeling th at you’re not supposed to do it [date] you know . . . (Medha, 18, single female) . . . Like they do bring it in every now and then or if we’re watching a movie, they’d be like . . . ‘Oh! Look at himOh ! Look at her . . . how dare [they date] don’t you do that !’ (Poonam, 19, single female) Yeh! . . . when I was brought up yeh! [I was told] ‘You shouldn’t date . . . don’t get involved with girls until you are ready to settle down’. (Sahil, 27, married male) . . . it’s usually been told [dating shouldn’ t be done] . . . like . . . ‘Don’t be like [those] guys or you know . . . don’t go out wi th girls’ and stuff like that . . . (Vishal, 27, married male) Patel women, noted that this was especially true in their cases and not so much in those of their brothers. Priya, a 20 year ol d single female participant elaborated that parents joked with their sons about having gi rlfriends, but did not do the same with their daughters, expecting them not to date until they were older.

PAGE 158

147 . . . guys it’s [dating] is kind like . . . not really talked about, but you know . . . their parents will joke abou t it, like . . . ‘Oh! Do you have a girlfriend?’ [and] this and that you know . . . especially the dads . . . Once again Patel women and men brought up the age variable, noting that after they attain a particular age – usually adulthood – their parents are more willing to discuss dating openly in the home. . . . [in the case] of girls. . . I think it’s [dating] is talked about around the age of 21 . . . you know. . . 21 that you’ve gotten to that adult stage in your life, which in America, you’ve already reached that adult stage at 18, but I think to your parents . . . at 21 . . . (Priya, 22, single female) When I was younger, it was basically set in stone . . . like you’re not allowed to have a boyfriend! They [parents] basically said no boyfriend! But now . . . I guess as [I am] an older person, my parents are telling me to date and stuff like that (Monica, 22, single female) However, the issue of marri age enters discussions in adulthood. Patel women and men note that after they attain a particular age, their parents begin to talk of dating in the context of marriage impressing on them th e need for marriage which dating could facilitate either as a means of finding a s pouse or to become more cognizant of their requirements of a spouse. No . . . I don’t think so [t hat dating is discussed openly] . Not in my experience. Not until the point where you are ready to settle down. Then . . . [parents say] you are at such and such an age, you’ve got to star t looking for someone to marry . . . (Sahil, 27, married male) Maybe a little bit [of discussion on dating] . . . especially when they [parents] start talking about marriage and things like that . . . they’ll [parents ] be like . . . ‘You [second generation] can date them . . . (Ritu, 22, single female) Onset And Occurrence Of Dating Second generation Patel women and men unequivocally confirm that they are dating inpsite of the restrictions they have to contend with. They [second generation Patel women and me n] are [dating]. I would say about 80 percent are dating . . . (Kajal, 24, single female)

PAGE 159

148 Yeh! I think it [dating] is more comm on with this generation. They [second generation Patels] might keep it a little quiet , but it’s [dating] definitely done . . . like . . . everybody I think takes part in it , in one way or the other. (Reema, 22, single female) The onset of dating has been observed di fferently by Patel women and men. Most Patel men remarked that in their cases, th e onset of dating occurr ed in high school and usually took the form of attendance as a couple at high school dances, meetings and events. . . . [dating occurs] in high school pr obably, then college(Jay, 20, single male) . . . yes, in high school or probably ear lier depending on . . . you know . . . how strict or relaxed your parents are or how much you get away with it. Basically if you are in the same high school, you know . . . you approach the person of the opposite sex . . . engage in a relationship . . . it’s a meeting at school you know each day and then if possible trying to get out side of the house without their parents’ knowledge . . . (Karan, 24, single male) Patel women on the other hand, acknowledged that dating in high school could perhaps be possible; however, dating most lik ely began when they were in college away from the restrictions and the watchful eye of their families. This observation was not made in a derogatory manner, but was merely a fact of their lives as they noted that being away at college aided the secrecy involved in dating and limited possible exposure and gossip in the community. They also noted that this stage in life is also marked by more open relationships with parents. . . . I think the bigger thing is in college se ttings . . . university settings . . . I think that’s a big thing ‘coz you meet people. And I think you’re aw ay from home, so you don’t have the restrictions of like . . . somebody watching you all the time, so you canI guess “date” . . . (Reema, 22, single female) . . . the girls . . . I think [they date] in co llege. At this stage, a lot of people have open relationships with their pare nts . . . (Monica, 22, single female)

PAGE 160

149 This later onset of dating in the case of Patel women is a direct consequence of the double-standard employed by Patel families and the community that more severely restricts their actions as opposed to those of their male counterparts. While the delayed onset of dating for women is consistent with Dugsin (2001), and Kallivayalil’s (2004) findings that parent s forbid dating during schooling years construing it as a distraction, the responses of Patel men are contradictory to it. Secrecy In Dating Second generation women and men who date employ “elaborate modes of secrecy” in their dating behavior (Kallivayalil, 2004, p. 548). This involves dating without the knowledge of their parents and ly ing to their parent s about the fact th at they are dating (Lessinger, 1995; Mukhi, 2000; Dugsin, 2001). Leonard (1997), Rangaswamy (2000), and Dugsin (2001) maintain that lying as a strategy in the contex t of dating is often employed as a means of circumventing interg enerational conflict rooted in differential conceptualizing of dating and the expecta tion of the first gene ration that the second generation not indulge in dating. Second generation Patel women and men c onfirmed this with their observations that they date behind closed doors without th eir parents’ knowledge – acknowledging that they are lying to their parents. I think all dating that occurs within the second generation occurs behind closed doors . . . as in like . . . our friends might know about it, but we’re not going to leak the truth to our parents. (Sahil, 27, married male) . . . and if you date, keep it on the down low . . . make sure no one else knows (laughs) . . . (Poonam, 19, single female)

PAGE 161

150 Majority explain that their parents’ are informed about their dating behavior only when they perceive a permanence in the relationship and are anticipating its culmination in marriage. Only if it is something serious. . . . Like if you think that the girl is going to be the one, then you tell your parents . . . if you don’t think so . . . if I don’t think that the girl will supposedly be the one . . . then I don’t even tell my pa rents. I don’t have a reason [for this]. I just think that my parent s are going to worry that . . . I’m not . . . like you know . . . I’m not paying atten tion to school, and then I’m [going to] get hurt and all this. (Jay, 20, single male) Usually not . . . unless it’s [r elationship] is serious to the point where you’re going to marry them . . . you think you’re go ing to marry them, you don’t tell them [parents]. (Ritu, 22, single female) Both Patel women and men have listed a va riety of reasons for this secrecy. The most commonly cited reason is that there is a lack of ope n communication on the issue of dating between their parents and themselves. Coupled with their pa rents’ tendency to conceive of dating as foreign to Indian culture, there is a great fear that their parents will not understand or accept their dating. It’s [dating] is not a traditional form of Indian culture . . . [and so] you don’t want your parents to be disappointed(Sahil, 27, married male) . . . [lying occurs] because they [parents] wouldn’t understand . . . they [parents] are not very accepting of changing their belief system. (Karan, 24, single male) More importantly, they fear parental re actions and repercu ssions on discovering their dating – reactions such as disappointment , anger, and repercussions such as further restrictions on their behavior and loss of privileges and an attempt to prevent their continued dating. Additionally, the loss of parent al trust is a big fear and one most Patel women and men do not wish to experience. If they are dating, then the parents don’t know about it . . . I don’t know . . . it’s just . . . they [second generation Patels] don’t want to tell their parent s . . . there’s just this fear . . . they think if their parents fi nd out, they’ll basically just take all their

PAGE 162

151 privileges away . . . you know . . . not [b eing able] to go out, stay at home, study all that stuff . . . (Kavita, 24, single female) I think a lot of Gujarati parents are really like . . . set on like . . . you know . . . the old ways on how you can’t . . . you can’t go out with someone . . . you know . . . you can’t do anything with a guy, or if you’re a guy with a girl a nd stuff . . . so it’s just kind of like they [parents] would be ups et or they would pr obably try to stop it, so just like . . . to avoid the drama you just wouldn’t say anything. (Medha, 18, single female) Fear . . . they [second generation Patels] feel like . . . well . . . there’s fear that their parents are going to get upset and there ar e repercussions that might occur because of that. You don’t want your parents to be disappointed first and foremost and then you don’t want repercussions that are goi ng to occur. (Sahil, 27, married male) You don’t want to . . . you’re not supposed to disappoint your parents or go against them . . . and so you can’t just . . . you’re supposed to respect the fact that they brought you up for all this time . . . (Ritu, 22, single female) They also worry that should parents’ di scover them dating, they (parents) will immediately assume the relationship to be a serious one and construe marriage. As explained by one Patel man, the second generati on desires to determin e the seriousness of their relationship freely for themselves wit hout feeling pressured by their parents’ who may make big deal of the rela tionship right off the bat. I think most of the time it [dating] is [done without parental knowledge] . . . just because . . . sometimes the mentality . . . th ey [parents] think it’s either one or two things like . . . that once your parents find out that you’ re dating somebody, they’re going to think marriage right away. And the ot her thing is it’s . . . the fact that if your parents are going to be comfortable with it or not . . . and you don’t want to make a big deal out of nothing right off the bat. (Gaurav, 19, single male) Interestingly, Patel women and men acknow ledged that inspite of the modes of secrecy they employed, they were willing to hazard that parents’ were cognizant of the occurrence of dating. However, inspite of this, the subject is never alluded to publicly, with the second generation claiming that parent s’ prefer to pretend ignorance or at the most hint about it indirectly in conversation. This does not take away from the fact that some Patel women and men are aware of more severe parental repercussions on

PAGE 163

152 discovery of dating – some which has occurre d within their own extended families or within those of their friends – and more ofte n than not only in the case of Patel women. I’m sure they’re [parents] going to know it somehow, but just that they’re in denial. So . . . most parents are not that stupid. They’re the parents! If you’re dating somebody, they’re going to knowthey’re ju st in denial. (Kavita, 24, single female) Parents aren’t stupid . . . I think they know what’s going on. But it’s kind of like . . . everybody turns a blind eye to it. Like . . . if you don’t talk about it, it’s not there. And as long as everything’s going OK, a nd there’s no problem, then . . . they [parents] kind of leave it alone . (Reema, 22, single female) As noted by Lessinger (1995) lying to their parents abou t the fact that they are dating is not as easy as it may appear. Second generation Patel women and men are uncomfortable lying to their parents and do not enjoy that aspect of dating. However, they are unable to derive an alternative solution to what they think is an untenable situation. It [dating] is really tough and I don’t like it because I hate lying to my parents, and I feel like I’m lying to them all the time. My parent s don’t ask me about it, ‘coz I guess I don’t like it as much . . . because my parents have this blind trust over me, and they know I won’t do anything . . . and I feel like, whenever, I’m talking to a guy or something . . . I feel like I’m breaki ng their trust by doing that . . . but at the same time, like you can’t help who you like. . . . So I don’t know . . . (Poonam, 19, single female) Semantics Of Dating One interesting theme which emerged from my conversations with second generation Patel women and men was that of the semantics employed in dating behavior. Patel women and men both acknowledged the us e of the word “friends” in place of “partner/boyfriend/girlfriend”. This usage allo ws them the freedom to bring up their dates or partners in their conversati ons with their parents, allude to shared activities, and even to introduce their partners to their parents without fear of discovery.

PAGE 164

153 I’m very close to my mombut I won’t ever be like. . . . well this is my boyfriend, or this is somebody I’m seeing. It’s just like this barrier that you justyou don’t say it. Like . . . [you] pretty much te ll them everything you do, you know . . . ‘Oh, I went out with so and so and this and th at’. You’re basically telling them, but you just won’t say the words of like . . . yes, I am dating this pe rson. (Reema, 22, single female) You can’t like . . . you can be friends with them [your partner]. You could just say that . . . that you’re just friends with th em . . . I mean just friends . . . [and] it wouldn’t be considered dating . . . (Ritu, 22, single female) . . . after maybe a year of dating or so, you could still go out [together in public] . . . maybe go out as friends. Your parents w on’t know you’re dating . . . but your date is your friend . . . this is ve ry common. (Gaurav, 19, single male) Distinctions Between American And Patel (Indian) Dating Behavior Interestingly, second generation Patel wo men and men identify with alacrity the extent to which their conceptions of dating and their resultant dating behaviors diverge from those of Americans. Patel women and me n note that while their definitions of dating are pretty similar to what they think Americans unders tand it to be, they (the Patels) do not participate in it the same way. They opine that Americans largely date with no end goal (such as marriage or a permanent relations hip) in mind, but just for fun. Patels (and Indians) they believe, even in a dating relati onship, assess their comfort with their partner in a potentially long-term relationship. They believe that Americans do not consciously undertake this. . . . I think Americans date fo r the hell of it. . . . like fo r fun. I mean maybe it might last, but I don’t think they go into a relations hip thinking. . . . well . . . is this person [the one] that I might marry? Whereas I th ink Indians go into it that way. (Reema, 22, single female) The multiplicity of partners, at different periods of time, and pre-marital sex are other features of American dating, that Pate ls are not comfortable with. Patel women and men explained that while the rapid succession of partners in American dating, rather than a steady partner, is something not echoed in dating among Patels, th ey did not elaborate

PAGE 165

154 on pre-marital sex only stating that Patels do not take their dating beha vior to ‘extremes’ (an Indian euphemism for sexual activity often understood by most Indians). The way American culture understands relati onships or deals with relationships is pretty different from how I ndians . . . deal with it. Th e difference would be here [United States] . . . it [dating] can last a day even, [or] maybe it can last years too. But you don’t really see a lot of Indian s dating from you know . . . one person to another to another and I guess . . . just going into all the like sexual relationships that occurs more in American culture, wher e that doesn’t occur so much in Indian culture . . . at least that’s what I understand (Anil, 21, single male) . . . It’s [dating] not as extreme as say a lot of the American society, like . . . of dating so many people before you get marri ed. I think it’s [dating among Patels] kind of in between where you, I think the ki ds realize that they ’re not going to be able to do that[so] they’re not going to be like jumping from one to another . . . (Janvi, 25, engaged female) They also commented on the pressure that Americans face to be in relationships and date; a pressure they admit to not feeling. An additional difference, as noted by Patel women and men, between American and Patel da ting behaviors is the secrecy involved in the dating of the latter. Well . . . if you have Patels dating, I thi nk they’re going . . . my personal opinion is that I think they’re going for more some thing that’s a little more long term. Whereas in American culture, I guess they’re sometimes pressured into having a boyfriend . . . so they’ll jump at the first ti me . . . first chance . . . (Anil, 21, single male) . . . I guess I would say it’s [dating] is pret ty much the same as dating would be in an American culture, except it would be without telling your parents (laughs) (Medha, 18, single female) First Generation Reactions To Dati ng Amongst The Second Generation Patel men and women conclude by attempting to discern parental reaction to their dating and to dating among the second generation. They spoke of three broad areas of reactions – awareness of dating; ambivale nce about dating; and acceptance of dating.

PAGE 166

155 Awareness Of Dating There is no consensus among Patel wome n and men as to whether the first generation is aware that the second generation is dating insp ite of the lying. Some note that parents are genuinely igno rant of the existe nce of dating, while others opine that there is a growing awareness. Interestingly, a significant proportion of those who believe parents are aware of it, believe that inspite of their knowledge, parents desire to continue to act oblivious rather than directly discussing it with the second generation. Others believe that parents’ reticence, in some cas es, lies in their inabil ity to do prevent if especially after a particular age. . . . Like they know at some point . . . lik e they don’t really ha ve much control and they’re like . . . they are . . . I don’t thi nk they’d be happy about it . . . but they’ll just kind of like . . . accept it. I don’t think they’d want to talk about it and know about it or anything like that . . . but they ’re just like . . . you know . . . just let it happen behind their back sort of. Just . . . in a sense ignoring it . . . because there is not much they can do about it, after a certain degree. (Medha, 18, single female) . . . but I think my parents have an idea [t hat I am dating] because they pay for my cell phone bill, so they know I talk to him a lot. So my mom asks me . . . like ‘is anything going on?’ I’m sure my parents have an idea, and they haven’t really said anything to me, so until they say someth ing to me, I’m just not going to say anything. (Poonam, 19, single female) However, they also acknowledged that especially in the case of Patel women, once aware, parents retaliate by restricting further dating. They’ll [parents] will try to stop it . . . I th ink usually if it’s a girl, they’ll try to stop it, rather than if it’s a guy (c huckles) (Medha, 18, single female) Some [parents] find out and retaliate . . . they’ll make sure their son or daughter cease dating and that they’ll never do it again . . . (Karan, 24, single male)

PAGE 167

156 Ambivalence About Dating Second generation Patel women and men spoke of two main themes which I classified as their ambivalence with re ference to dating. These are – lack of understanding about dating; and discomfort with dating. Lack of understanding about dating. Echoing their earlier responses about thei r parents’ understanding of dating, Patel women and men reiterate that their parents are unable to perceive dating in the same manner as second generation Patels do. Th e first generation, they explain, still understands dating as a distraction from school and as a fun activity involving a noncommitted, pre-marital relationship. . . . [Parents think dating] is you’re ar ound each other too much . . . together too much, and if nothing comes of it, well that what are people going to say?(Reema, 22, single female) It’s like, if they’re [second generation] dating, [parents think] they’re probably doing things that they shouldn’t be doing or that would be badand they’re always dating someone . . . going from . . . that’s their opinion . . . going from one girl to the next [every] other day . . . something lik e that and it’s not seen as a way to get marriedjust for fun. (Ritu, 22, single female) . . . that [dating] will af fect your studying and that’s so mething that’s very, very important to first generation Patels. And so that’s anothe r thing . . . they don’t want you to get carried away and that they feel that dating and re lationships are a distraction from your school work, which is your number one pr iority. (Karan, 24, single male) The second generation believes this contribut es to their ambivalence on the issue of dating. The first generation know that their children are American and so understand dating, but their own lack of understanding a ffects their acceptance and/or condoning of the behavior in any other c ontext outside of marriage.

PAGE 168

157 Discomfort with dating. Patel women and men, once again drawing on their parents’ conceptualization of dating report that the first generation is uncomfo rtable with dating as they believe it to be foreign to the Indian /Patel tradition. I think . . . just I think the way they ’ve [parents] been brought up, dating was always kind of looked down upon . . . it’ s always some kind of harrowing problem (Janvi, 25, engaged female) From the way they [parents] were raised . . . I don’t think they can understand it that quickly. They come from India and . . . your [parents’] beliefs and your ways are already set, you’ve never been exposed to dating and you probably thought that it was a taboo . . . . So you come to Amer ica at 25, 26 years and you see what . . . what Americans are doing here, and you feel a resentment against them for it . . . and you sort of block this out of your mind and you feel asif your kids ever brought it up to you, you wouldn’t know how to react, you’ve never done it . . . you don’t’ know what’s going on . . . you’ve sort of . . . just been pushed into this . . . pushed into this pool you know(Karan, 24m single male) Surprisingly, a number of Patel women and men empathetic about this, explaining that changing belief systems established in India are difficult for parents and their consequent incompetence in dealing with dating frustrates an d frightens them. Yeh! It is . . . to them [parents] it’s [da ting] is very different . . . it’s difficult for them because they have a different view point, which was similar to their parents in the sense that they were not able to date and [had to] just marry someone . . . and so for them it’s harder to accept . . . I do realize that (R itu, 22, single female) Acceptance Of Dating Reiterating issues mentioned throughout our conversations on dating, Patel women and men acknowledge a growing acceptance among first generation Patels for dating among the second generation. However, caveats do exist. Dating is more accepted if the partner is another Patel, Gujarati or Indian in that order, if marriageable age has been attained and/or dating is taking the form of courtship and is assured of culminating in marriage.

PAGE 169

158 . . . I don’t think they [parents] like it [dating among the second generation] very much but so long as it’s a Gujarati boy, I think right now, they would be OK with it. (Monica, 22, single female) The first generation [parents]I don’t think they would allow . . . they wouldn’t be too happy with the second generation going around . . . like dati ng for fun. If it had a purpose to it, I’m sure they wouldn’t mi nd as much, but if it was for fun, I don’t think they’d accept it. (Poonam, 19, single female) A significant number of Patel women and me n also discussed pa rental acceptance in terms of a lack of alterna tives but acceptance on the part of parents. They observed that a growing realization by parents of the imprac ticality of the traditional arranged marriage among the second generation, accompanied by the increasing open-mindedness of the first generation, is assisting the latter to encourage the second generation to find their own spouses – an undertaking that necessitates dating. I think it’s [first generation’s perception of dating] changing . . . the thing is . . . you have to . . . you can’t just likemeet so mebody and be like OK . . . well everything matches, let’s get married. I mean, you have to date people, and especially now . . . girls are getting married later, they’re getting more and more educated and you have to give them a chance to see like if it will work out and everything. (Reema, 22, single female) So they [parents] realize that they can’ t expect the younger gene ration to just marry someone without knowing . . . so to an exte nt . . . they [parents] accept that they [second generation] are going to have to date for at least a littl e bit. I guess they accept it because they have to . . . they f eel that they don’t have a choice because we’re [second generation] just not going to go and marry someone that we’ve never met . . . (Ritu, 22, single female) Because they [parents] realize that a rranged marriages are not going to work anymore, and they’re like . . . ‘Just fi nd someone by yourselves but make sure that [she/se] would fit in the fam ily’ . . . (Jay, 20, single male) Interestingly, consistent with the litera ture Patel women and men also mentioned their parents’ adaptations to dating. Wak il, Siddique and Wak il (1981), DasGupta and Dasgupta (1998), and Rangaswamy (2000) explain that first generation Indians, in their attempt to cater to the children’s desire to date and to their own desire to stem

PAGE 170

159 miscegenation and maintain culture, are cr eating opportunities for the second generation to find partners from within their own ethnic community. One tactic used by parents is that of group dating wherein Patel women and men are allowed to go out in groups of other Patels/Gujaratis or I ndians, rather than going out alone as a couple – a strategy commente d upon by Rangaswamy (2000) in her study of Indians in Chicago. . . . you can have . . . you can go out in groups of friends, but you can never like go on your own . . . (Reema, 22, single female) And . . . it’s group dating . . . kind of like . . . when you go out with that person, you’re going to go out with a bunch of peopl e . . . preferably other Indian friends, and not only with that person . . . just as long as you’re not going out alone with that person. (Janvi, 25, engaged female) Patel women and men also spoke of what they termed “parent-style dating” involving the first generati on introducing their children to potential partners at Patidar/Gujarati Samaj gatherings and events. I mean they [parents] do the whole thing of like . . . you know . . . they try to have people meet their kids . . . they try to promote like going to social functions and things, so . . . they’re tryi ng to steer you to make sure [about] who you choose. So I think they’re still trying to put a little bit of control in . . . (Reema, 22, single female) But there’s always the influence [of parent s] . . . of ‘OK you ar e at such and such an age, you’ve got to start looking for some one to marry and if that’s when . . . “parent-type dating” starts coming into influence . . . (Sahil, 27, married male) Needless to say, in all the accommodations and adaptations made by parents to the “American” practice of dating, they are anticipa ting the emergence of serious relationship with marital potential with the people they ar e bringing their children into contact with. Even with these adaptive strategies, they are not tolerant of their children in a noncommitted relationship where dating is for fun.

PAGE 171

160 Second generation Patel women and men, until this point, have largely explored dating in the larger context of second generation Patels. They were then asked to apply their explorations to their personal lives a nd to explore the occurr ence of dating in their personal lives. Dating Experiences Of Patel Women And Men It is impossible in this document to do ju stice to the unique dating experiences of all the participants of the study. Additionally , there is not sufficient space to document each of their experiences in its totality. In most cases, Patel women and men spoke of their current relationships, sometimes alludi ng to their previous dating relationships. Accordingly, I have attempted to weave their pasts and presents in the narration of their dating experiences. I have summarized their dating experiences around key themes that emerged from our conversations. These themes are as follows –onset of dating and dating partners; dating behaviors; and pare ntal reactions to their dating. Onset of Dating And Dating Partners Except for two participants – one male and one female – second generation Patel women and men noted that they are dating and have been doing so since high school in the case of Patel men and college in the case of Patel women. My experience with dating. Like . . . I mea n, I’ve done it before and it . . . I mean, I think dating has . . . just like finding pe ople who are, who are finding qualities you want in the opposite sex . . . (Nikhil, 18, single male) It wasn’t like I was scoring on dates like . . . every weekend or whatever. I was still in high school and didn’t have a car . . . it was more or less one of those school flings . . . we’d go out to dances and whatever, but you were boyfriend and girlfriend . . . it was mostly during high school. (Sahil, 27, married male) . . . my relationship was . . . I was still in high school at the time, so it wasn’t something where like wow . . . you want to make sure that you know she’s this type of girl and that type of girl you know . . . (Anil, 21, single male)

PAGE 172

161 The female participant who does not date explained that dating implies a dilemma involving partner selection which contri butes to her desire not to date. Not really [I don’t date]. Just because I’v e always had that dilemma with the people I’m allowed to date versus the people I’d wa nt to date . . . so I’ve never really gone [on a date] (Ritu, 22, single female) The male participant however, noted that the decision not to date was a personal choice on his part and did to wish to comment on his reasons for the same. Oh! I haven’t dated. I believe it’s been a pe rsonal choice. I believe there have been instances where I could have taken the ne xt step, but I haven’t (Krishna, 18, single male) With reference to partner selection in dating, majority of Patel women spoke of their partners being Patel. . . . I’ve dated . . . I’ve dated lots of guys . . . And I’ve dated Patels and non-Patels (Kavita, 24, single female) I have actually dated three guys . . . all three of them Patel. The first one was from Panchgam (fifth village of origin) . . . the second guy from Chagam (sixth village or origin)and the guy that I’m recently seeing is also Patel (Priya, 20, single female) Patel men however, reflecting the gender dynamic so evident in dating, spoke of their partners being both Patel and non-Pate l and in some cases even nonIndian. . . . Yeh! Yeh! I’ve dated Hawaiians, wh ich is predominantly Japanese, Mexican, white . . . (Sahil, 27, married male) . . . none of them [my partners] have been Patel women but one of them was Gujarati, one was half-Indian and the ot her was North Indian. (Karan, 24, single male) The person that I dated was a Patel. But I di dn’t feel that alright it had to be a Patel . . . it just happened that way . . . (Anil, 21, single male) Dating Behaviors In narrating their dating experiences, most Patel women and men recount the manner in which they met their partners. In mo st cases, this occurred in high school or

PAGE 173

162 college. Additionally, they also noted that in some cases, they met at Gujarati religious organizations like Swadhayaya events or at Gujarati Samaj events. In these cases, they admit that it is very likely for their fam ilies to know each other, although families may not be aware of the fact that they are dati ng. Being introduced to each other by friends is another way by which Patel women and men met their partners. I met him through . . . actually through the religious . . . Swadhayaya . . . (Medha, 18, single female) I actually met him on my own, but my parent s told me . . . because we went to the same boarding school, my parents told me about him . . . ‘coz we actually know his family for a while. His parents . . . my parents have known his parents for a long time. (Poonam, 19, single female) Yes . . . I met them on my own – one was in high school and the other two [I met] in college. (Karan, 24, single male) We live in a place where we had . . . like football games and such and dances and whatever . . . so just through friends we met. (Anil, 21, single male) . . . I met him on my own. And like . . . actually through friends . . . (Reema, 22, single female) Interestingly, a number of Patel women not ed being friends with their partners for some time prior to them becoming a couple and dating. In general . . . I was friends with him [my fi ance] for years . . . so it was a different situation and differentwe knew each other way before [we started dating]. (Janvi, 25, engaged female) . . . the guy I’m recently dating . . . he’s al so Patel, and I was actually friends with him for seven yearsand so then starte d dating . . . (Priya, 20, single female) I’ve known him since childhood . . . because we are the same kind of Patel. But I met him on my own and developed my ow n interest. (Monica, 22, single female) Lying to their parents about the fact th at they were dating was the main dating behavior noted by both Patel women and me n. However, more Patel women than men commented on this behavior. There is however a complicated dynamic at work in their personal lives when it comes to lying to th eir parents about their dating. As explained

PAGE 174

163 previously, Patel women and men who lie to th eir parents explain that they do so because they are fearful of parental reactions and do not desire to upset or di sappoint their parents. Additionally, they are not sure that parents would accept the fact that they were dating and may construe it as a distraction from school. Right now they don’t [know that I am dating] . I’m . . . the thing with my parents is that I want . . . want my parents to feel th at my education is secure when I tell them. They know I’m focusing on med school, so I wa nt to tell my parents that I’m dating someone after I get into med school. I don’t wa nt them to think that because I have a girlfriend it’s going to conflict with my education which is not true because I wouldn’t have gotten into med school if that was th e case. (Gaurav, 19, single male) Well my parent’s don’t know . . . well actua lly my boyfriend lives in Virginia [and so] it’s not hard keeping it from my parent s just because he lives so far away. I’m scared [of telling my parents] just because my parents . . . I’m the oldest in the family and so I guess in a sense, they’ve ne ver really had to deal with it . . . so I don’t know what their reaction would be like . . . (Medha, 18, single female) No I didn’t [tell my parents]. I just didn’t want to tell them because I wasn’t sure about the guy. I didn’t want them to thi nk . . . ‘OK you know she was dating this guy like a year ago, and now she’s dati ng somebody else and somebody else . . . (Kavita, 24, single female) Patel men proved to be more interesting. So me noted that they had the freedom to date and that they dated with the full cons ent of their parents having informed them openly about their desire to explore the potenti al of a relationship with their partner. Yeh! I talk to my parents a lot. Like . . . even if I think that . . . I don’t know [about the future of the relationship] I’ll make sure . . . like my mom is extremely close to me . . . [so] if I’m attracted to this gi rl, I tell her [my mom] straight up. (Jay, 20 single male) Yes . . . I have dated before. I asked my parent s first. I talked to them . . . I’m like . . . ‘I’m kind of getting close to this person, you know . . . I don’t know if it’s anything serious or not, but I’m just letting you know I might want to like . . . go out sometimes and you know . . . we mi ght do something together’. And my parents are really . . . I’ve been very fortunate that my parents really trust me . . . (Anil, 21, single male) I think . . . I mean I was pretty much fr ee to do whatever I wanted. I know my mom always knew about it [my dating]. And my da d, I think just had a . . . as I said, I

PAGE 175

164 think he knew all along but he’s never re ally . . . you know . . . never really verbalized it . . . (V ishal, 27, married male) Karan, a 24 year old single male, explai ned that he lied about his previous relationships to his parents, but no longer doe s so as he is older making dating is more acceptable. Yes . . . [my parents] are fully aware that I am dating. I think the first two experiences [of my dating] sort of . . . prep ared them . . . or made them more aware of the situation. And so now . . . that th e third one [relations hip] has come along and sort of . . . they understand it now as I’ve become older and am about to graduate so . . . Parental Reactions To Their Dating Patel women and men described an array of parental reactions to dating in their personal cases. Rather than summarizing thes e reactions, I have documented the parental reactions (and in one case gra ndparental reactions) of five pa rticipants – three female and two male – in their own words. It [dating] wasn’t like . . . forbidden! But it was known that it wasn’t going to happen . . . like especially like in high school and stuff. And when I got to college, my mom was open . . . she’s like . . . ‘If you find somebody in college then that’s good’. But my mom . . . knows pretty much [t hat I am dating] . . . like . . . even lately, she’s kind of hinted towards like . . . ‘Oh! If you’re going to get married to him and stuff’ (laughs) . . . (Reema, 22, single female) . . . but eventually my parents kind of h eard [that I was dating] you know. . . . My mom kind of heard and we found out that he was Surati (a village of origin) . . . and not directly telling me, because she didn’t really know . . . but a lot of conversation came up about why we don’t date Suratis and why it was not the right thing to do and all that stuff. (Ja nvi, 25, engaged female) And I told my parents this is what I was doing [dating]and they weren’t happy in that they’re like . . . ‘You are still in school, you should be focusing on your education’. But they did not get mad at me as if I was dating like . . . someone of another race or something like th at . . . (Monica, 22, single female) The only experience I had with dating . . . like after I went to the prom . . . with an American girl . . . I started liking her. Afte r that I think I went out with her about 2 or 3 times. I actually didn’t tell my gra ndparents where I was going . . . I just told them I was going over to a friend’s house for studying or something. And after the

PAGE 176

165 third date, I think I just kind of [got] tired of this lying to them and hiding it, so I actually told them about it that I’ve been goin g on dates with an American girl. And they actually got frustrated . . . rea lly . . . really frustrated and again, my grandfather didn’t talk to me for a while at that time. So then I myself just decided that it’s not going to work . . . and you know . . . I live with my grandparents. . . . They have supported me through all my life, so I just told them I won’t date at least until I’m done with college. (Rahul, 18, single male) . . . so when I actually told them [that I wa nt to date] they’re like yeh! just so long as it doesn’t affect your studies or doesn’t affect what your goals are in life, you can. . . . you know I guess have fun a little bit if you want to . . . (Anil, 21, single male) In conclusion, the emergent themes in the context of dating evince a continuous and on-going negotiation by second generation Pate ls as well as their parents of their dual identities as Gujaratis and Americans. In attempting to embrace a bi-cultural identity, the second generation has modified the essentially we stern behavior of dati ng into a mode of behavior they are comfortable employing as Indian-Americans. Some of the strategies they employ in dating such as secrecy and semantics are illustrative of their commitment to their American identities that stress indi viduality and autonomy and to their Gujarati ones that emphasize the primacy of the family. On their part, the fi rst generation through their growing acceptance of dati ng and their cautious adapta tions to it through parentstyle dating are demonstrating their dedication to not only th eir bi-culturalism, but also that of their children.

PAGE 177

166 CHAPTER 6 “DON’T MARRY A B (BLACK) M (MUSLIM) W (WHITE)!”: MATE SELECTION, ENGAGEMENT AND MARRIAGE AMON G SECOND GENERATION PATELS Mate selection, engagement and marriage among second generation Patels has been explored in this chapter. Give n that a significant majority of the participants in the study are single Patels, their narrations encompass st ories of mate selection, engagement and marriage in the Patel community as a whole, in their extended families and among their friends and in some cases, in their own pers onal lives. As in the previous chapter a triumvirate of analytical lenses shape the findings namely – Indian versus American; women versus men and second ge neration versus first genera tion. Five broad analytical themes emerged in the course of the interv iews and have been presented here – (a) conceptualizing marriage, (b) mate selection, (c) rite of marriage, (d) marriage visions and expectations, and (e) parents’ stories: the generation effect. Conceptualizing Marriage Assisted by the interview guide, second gene ration Patel were asked to describe the most prevalent form of marriage among s econd generation Patels. They responded by conceptualizing marriage in terms of two main types – the semi-arranged marriage and the love marriage; and commented on the prevalence of each. Semi-Arranged Marriage Wakil, Siddique and Wakil (1981) define ‘semi-arranged marriage’ as “one where the parents would arrange the marriage with th e consent of their children” as opposed to the traditional arranged marriage where the c onsent of the couple was not usually sought

PAGE 178

167 when a marriage was being arranged (p. 935) . The semi-arranged marriage has emerged in the United States in response to a gr owing awareness among Indian parents that arranging a marriage in the traditional form is difficult in the case of their American born children (Vaidyanathan & Naidoo, 1990). Additionally, second generation Indians approach the idea of a traditional arra nged marriage, wherein their choices are unaccounted with horror (Dugs in, 2001; Khandelwal, 2002). The semi-arranged marriage thus, facilitates the retention of “parental control while accommodating the youthful yearning for romantic love” (Lessinger, 1995, p. 122). As explained by Lessinger (1995) in this form of marriage, pre-screened e ligible men and women are introduced to one another, the allowed a courtship period duri ng which time they decide whether or not they would like to be married. This was corroborated by Patel women and men, one of whom titled this form of marriage a “pseudo-arranged marriage”. With the attainment of marriag eable age, second generation Patel women and men were introduced to eligible partners by their parents. This introduction is followed by a period of courtship – although some families do not allow for this wherein the couple is allowed to date and talk to one another and decide for themselves whether or not they would like to be married. I think the most prevalent type of marri age would probably be when the parents like . . . introduce their children . . . and th en their children evaluate their parents’ choices and then make a choice out of that . . . (Monica, 22, single female) Like you know . . . your parents will introduce you to someone . . . and then they won’t be like . . . you have to marry th em or anything, but you know . . . you guys [second generation] will end up talking and then . . . it’s implied like your parents want you to marry each other, but it’s not like you’re forced into it. It’s like your own choice. (Medha, 18, single female) Interestingly, a number of Patel men te rmed this form of marriage as “love marriage” explaining that the semi-arranged marriage did not require them to marry their

PAGE 179

168 partners because their parents desire it. Rath er, family and parental intervention ceased with the first introduction, allowing the couple time to get to know each other and perhaps fall in love. I think the most typical way is now to be able to know someone that knows someone that introduced someone and it goe s one from there . . . I don’t think I’d call it a semi-arranged marriage, because in my mind, when it [was an] arranged marriage, it was more . . . [ like] this is who you marry. I think [it’s love marriage] because I mean family intervention is stopped at . . . ‘Well here is his or her biodata, here is her picture a nd this is her phone number or e-mail address’ you know . . . It is [then] up to you [second genera tion] now to communicate with [each other] . . . (Vishal, 27, married male) [The] semi-arranged [marriage] isthat’s kind of like love too . . . you know . . . because the guy and the girl knew each othe r and fell in love . . . (Jay, 20, single male) Love marriage I think is pretty common now . . . but I think the other ones [semiarranged marriages] should also be considered love marriage because it’s not like you are going to marry her just because your parents showed you that girl. But there will also be like . . . I mean becau se you get to know her first and then over time . . . they probably do end up loving ea ch other that way. (Gaurav, 19, single male) As opposed to the strict arranged marriage, where your parents decide and it’s done. I consider a love marriage, like . . . “love marriage” is one where you find the persona and there’s no . . . like . . . while you’re parents might have like suggested the girl; they’re not like holdi ng you to that girl. You meet her enough and you get to know her well enough to say th at this is the person that I want to marry. (Nikhil, 18, single male) A few Patel women were unable to separate their reactions to the practice of semiarranged marriage from an explanation of the practice. They he ld that they found it annoying as their parents were c onstantly talking a bout the need to find a suitable spouse for them and often introducing them to eligible men. The kind of marriages still . . . there are still arranged marriages. . . . basically, I’m going through that right now, which is very annoying. . . . It’s just very annoying because I’ve been going to my cousins’ weddi ngs lately . . . it’s like very annoying because everywhere I go, it’s like my aunts and my mom and everybody in my family . . . are like . . . OK look at this guy, we’ve been talking to him about you . .

PAGE 180

169 . OK look at this guy. Every six months I go, there’s a different guy! I just find it very annoying (Kavita, 24, single female) Love Marriage As juxtaposed to a semi-arranged marriage, a love marriage, as explained by Patel women and men involves finding a spous e on your own without any parental involvement. This form of marriage, by defa ult involves a courtshi p period during which the couple decides upon marriage. Love marriage is basically the guy and girl start dating way before. Now let’s say a year or two . . . and then they tell th eir parents about it. (Jay, 20, single male) The love marriage works in that the guy and the girl find each other and they start liking each other and then they probably have their own rela tionship for how many amount of years, and then th ey tell their parents, and then their parents hopefully approve of this union and then they ge t married. (Monica, 22, single female) Disclosure of the relationship to pare nts may take varied forms. One male participant explained that parent s are told of the relationship only when the decision to be married has been made by the couple. Now you find somebody yourself to date th en you . . . kind of build a strong relationship and [then] you tell your parent s that I want to marry her. (Gaurav, 19, single male) However, others maintained that in a love marriage, parent al approval of the relationship can become a point of contenti on. Thus seeking parental approval of the relationship as soon as possible is critic al. This reduces the chances of parental disapproval with the marriage. Additionally, as Anil, noted, th is saves parents from being compelled to grant false approval to the relationship in order to maintain a harmonious relationship with their children. If I choose someone to date, I would obvi ously try to get the approval of my parents first. Try to know [the girl] enough where I can kind of get the girl’s religion, I can kind of get you know what cas te she’s from, and kind of cover those big issues, and introduce those issue to my parents and . . . be like. . . . ‘Yeh! I’m

PAGE 181

170 interested in this girl, this is her religion, this is her caste, what her major is . . . I kind of know a little about her family, this is wh at it is . . . .’ If my parents are like . . . ‘OK that seems good’ then I’ve covered that aspect, and then I can move into like you know . . . getting to know the person. (Anil, 21, single male) . . . because I don’t want to feel like when it comes to making a decisions of whether or not this is the person I need to marry . . . I don’t want it to come upon my parents and . . . and [for them to] have that burden . . . ‘Oh my God! You know my son is going to marry this person, [and] I don’t approve of her, but he really likes her [and] I don’t know what to do’. I don ’t want my parents to ever thing that . . .. That being said, Patel wome n and men had varied respons es to love marriage as a form of marriage. Ritu, a 22 year old single fe male, explained that parents are more likely to accept a love marriage if the spouse is a nother Patel. This caveat, she noted, places limits on a love marriage as the second generati on is not free to love whoever they want, but only those who are acceptable to parents. There is [love marriage] but if you can’t . . . it’s like . . . it’s not completely open, they [parents] think that you know . . . you know my parents would accept a love marriage, but it still has to be to a Patel, so you can’t . . . you ’re not free to love whoever you come across that you could love . It’s still . . . you have to love who we [parents] want for you . . . A few Patel women also brought up the issu e of divorce, explai ning that in their opinion a lot of love marriages ended in divorce which was the main reason for parental preference for semi-arranged marriages. That [love marriage] happens . . . but it ’s funny because most love marriages end up in divorce. So that’s why parents ar e more pushing toward arranged marriages still . . . (Kavita, 24, single female) But yeh! Most love marriages usually e nd in a divorce . . . most of them . . . (Poonam, 19, single female) This is consistent with Kh andelwal’s (2002) claim that parents are distrustful of marriage by choice or love as unreliable and s hort-lived and contrastingly of the arranged marriage as “a permanent tie [with] no consid eration of a divorce or a separation”, a

PAGE 182

171 sentiment not shared by the second genera tion themselves (Vaidyanathan & Naidoo, 1990, p. 38) Jay, a 20 year old single male, opined that love marriage may be better than semiarranged marriage because it offers couples the chance to get to know each other. I think love marriage is better than someone being arranged because . . . if it’s an arranged marriage then the girl doesn’t even know anything [about the guy] and the guy doesn’t know anything about her. Rahul, an 18 year old single male, brought to light an interes ting gender dynamic in conceptualizing marriage. He explained th at parental preferred marriage choice for second generation women is the semi-arranged marriage, while that for second generation men is a love marriage. He however was not able to elaborate on the reasons for this preference. There are definitely certain bi ases like girls can definite ly not date. If my mom had a girl, she’d be like strict , really strict about it a nd she [the daughter] would definitely have to have an arranged ma rriage [organized] by my mom. She [Mom] would never let her [daughter] have a love marriage. Definitely not! Yeh! because I am a guy [I can have a love marriage] . . . Interestingly, both Patel women and men not ed that there is a gradual but growing acceptance of the love marriage by their parents. They explai n that parents are realizing the infeasibility of arranged marriages and ar e beginning to believe that love marriages will work. This acceptance of love marriages on the part of parents has been corroborated by Vaidyanathan and Naidoo (1990) who elabor ate that while the marriages of parents were arranged, they are beginning to conceive of love marriage as a viable option for their children and are “more willing to grant some degree of freedom to their children regarding marriage” (p. 27). I think that they [parents] unde rstand . . . I think that th ey’re having a harder time trying to find . . . doing the arranged marriage thing here [United States]. Not only that, not just having a hard ti me, but also realizing that th ey . . . that it might not be

PAGE 183

172 the best thing for their kids. I think they [parents] understand that if you find somebody on your own, and you did your be st to find what they [parents] are looking for, but if you find somebody on your ow n . . . that in general it tends to be a happier situation all the way ar ound. (Janvi, 25, engaged female) Yeh! they’re [parents] accepting it happily, like . . . they like it better that the arranged marriage because they know for a fact that it is going to work (Jay, 20, single male) Prevalent Marriage Type Among Second Generation Patels There was consensus among Patel women and men about the fact that the community is divided half-way in terms of marriage preference, with a preference for the semi-arranged marriage by one half and a pr eference of love ma rriage by the other . I think it’s 50-50 right now. I think if you find somebody it’s pretty much that you do it yourself, but I know a lot of people st ill doing the arranged marriage thing. (Janvi, 25, engaged female) However, a significant number of Patel women and men claim that while the semiarranged form of marriage is still the preval ent type among second generation Patels, they are observing a slow, but definite growth in th e occurrence of love marriages leading to a cautious claim that the latter is increasing in prevalence. Most of them [marriages] are still arrange d . . . like where they [second generation] are introducedthey talk for six months, a year or something and get married . . . (Poonam, 19, single female) Second generation . . . I mean I guess maybe I’m biased. I don’t know what’s generally going on, but from my friends a nd from what [I’ve seen] . . . generally, people I know it’s not been arranged. It’s been more . . . most people I know it’s been love marriage. Yeh! I think so . . . th at [it is becoming more prevalent]. (Janvi, 25, engaged female) I think the whole mentality is changing now from the arranged marriage to . . . the transition is occurring from the arranged marriage to a love marriage, and I think we’re kind of caught at the point where I think we’re just about to go over the hump to the love marriage pa rt. (Sahil, 27, married male) I’d say love marriage is starting to get more prevalent. . . . Right now, for my generation, I think love marriages are mo re common nowadays. (Rahul, 18, single male)

PAGE 184

173 Interestingly, one female participant i nvoked the wider definiti on of love marriage – as synonymous with the semi-arranged ma rriage where the coupl e is introduced by parents, but fall in love prio r to marriage – while making the above claim of the growing prevalence of love marriage among second generation Patels. Yeh! Like . . . love marriage is defini tely more common, because you’re finding your own person and that . . . and I mean in a way even if you’re parents are kind of helping you [find a spouse]. Y ou’re still making your . . . you’re still dating them, making your own choice. So I mean . . . but it ’ still . . . parents are still there to . . . they still facilitate it. (Reema, 22, single female) Mate Selection In our conversations about marriage, Patel women and men delineated a number of themes which I collectively collated as mate selection. Just as in the case of dating, Patel women and men spoke of marriage among s econd generation Patel women and men in general as well as in their own personal lives. Th e narratives of second generation Patel women and men can be classified into th e following areas – marriage conversations, finding a spouse, and breaking the rules: responding to out-ma rriage among second generation Patels. Marriage Conversations: Raising The Issue Of Marriage And Marriage Pressure In what I call marriage conve rsations, Patel women and me n raised the topics about the issue of marriage being raised in their fa milies and the pressure that encounter to marry. As explained by Lessinger (1995), Ranga swamy (2000), Khandelwal, (2002) and Kallivayalil (2004) marriage is pivotal in the li ves of an Indian and is a right of passage of great social significance. Given this, ra ising the issue of marri age, or discussing marriage in the home is an important way by which parents ensure that the second generation begins to entertai n the notion of marriage and pe rhaps seriously undertake the

PAGE 185

174 search for a suitable spouse. Both Patel women and men acknowledge that differential gender standards exist in the raising of the issue of marriage as a topic of discussion between parents and the second generation. There was wholehearted consensus by both Pa tel women and men that the issue of marriage is raised earlier in th e case of second generation wome n than it is for their male counterparts. Concomitantly, although bot h second generation women and men face pressure from their families to marry by a particular age, there was agreement that second generation Patel women encounter greater pre ssure to marry. Urged to put a distinct number on it, Patel women and men noted that for women, the issue of marriage is raised when they are between 21 and 25 years old – what is considered the marriageable age while in the case of men the issue, is usually ra ised when they are 25 or 26 years or older. As explained by Patel women, when the issue is raised it often takes the form of questions as to when they are planning on getting married or the form of urgings to begin the process of seeking out a spouse as they ha ve approached the stage in their lives for marriage. For girls, it is like re ally early. Like we get constan tly . . . get like funny remarks or something like that. Like once you start . . . like once you start college and stuff, they [parents] automatically start doing that , or like every time at a wedding like . . . ‘when are you going to get married, or we ’re going to have to find you a nice boy, blah . . . blah . . . blah. . . .’ For guys, I don ’t think that they rea lly get picked on . . . .I don’t think they get the serious talk until they’re like 35 years . . . like really old. (Monica, 22, single female) I’m sure . . . I’m pretty sure women face more [pressure to marry] ‘coz especially now . . . women have become more inde pendent and they want to complete everything they’re doing before they get married. And I’m sure those women . . . I’m sure are always being pressured by thei r parents to be like . . . ‘When are you getting married . . . when are you getting married?’ (Poonam, 19, single female) Issue of marriage is like ri ght nowthey’re [parents] ar e not telling me anything about marriage, but I think it will be brought up once I turn 25. . . . I think it would

PAGE 186

175 be earlier for women . . . I’d say for me 26 years, but for women . . . [when they are] 24, 23 [years old]. (Rahul, 18, single male) Yeh! They [second generation women and men] face the same pressure at different ages. Like . . . I guess the women are exp ected to marry earlier, while guys it’s OK if they wait a few years. Like . . . I know . . . I think girls are more pressured into getting married than guys . . . at least they’re [second generation women] pressured at an earlier age . . . (Medha, 18, single female) Additionally, women were also advised on the suitability of a prospective spouse and cautioned to find a suitable spouse by a pa rticular age, failing which parents take on the task of doing the same. For instance, Ja nvi, a 25 year old engaged female and Medha an 18 year old single female, explained that they were advised to find a doctor for a husband and to consider the family backgr ound of the man when deciding whom to marry. [Parents tell you] . . . ‘You know the importance of finding the right family, because you’re going to go into that family and even if you may not live with them, you know . . . ’ the importance of understand ing that family is stressed. (Janvi, 25, engaged female) They’re always like . . . ‘F ind a doctor!’ (laughs). Or like doctor is like . . . the number one [preferred spouse] in the Pa tel community. If a guy’s a doctor, marry him. (laughs) They’re also like you know . . . ‘You have to look at his family, you have to look at his personalit y . . . ’ (Medha, 18, single female) . . . [Parents] are always sa ying . . . ‘By a certain age you have to make sure you have somebody [to marry]’. But you know . . . like I am going to law school [and my mom] is like . . . ‘Oh! By your last year of law school if you know there isn’t [anyone you want to marry, then] we [par ents] [will] start looking . . . (Reema, 22, single female) Both Patel women and men were able to el aborate upon what they thought to be the reasons for marriage being raised earlier in the lives of second generation women, often drawing upon their own experiences, which in some cases they were living as they participated in the study. Patel women explained that parents fear that as they get older –

PAGE 187

176 defined by parents as older than 25 years – there in a diminished probability of them getting married as they are considered too old and so not a preferable candidate. . . . but if it’s a woman!! And she’s 28 a nd she’s not married . . . ‘Oh my God! What’s going to happen to her? How’s she going to find a spouse?’ (Kavita, 24, single female) . . . but once you start getti ng to 25 [years old] it starts cutting close, they’ll [parents] think that . . . ‘You need to find somebody soon otherwise you knowyou’re getting to become too old and there are not many people. Because as you get older and older, it [pool of elig ible spouses] gets smaller and smaller (Gaurav, 19, single male) A few explained that an unmarried, ol der woman elicits suspicion from the community of something being wrong with her and/or her family which is construed as the only explicable reasons for her unmarried state . Additionally, parent s worry that their physical attractiveness will reduce with their increased age. I just think that it [unmarried state] doesn’t look good uponor something might be wrong with her or her family if she’ s not married at a younger age versus an older age. If she marries at an older age, [it is perceive that] something may be wrong with her personality, something might be wrong with her family, and so she goes she hasn’t married until 29 or 30 y ears . . . something might be wrong with her. . . . what my mom tells is . . . ‘You know find a guy [before] you are too old.’ And then she’s like . . . ‘You [w ill] loose your beauty by the time you’re 28 years old . . .’ (Priya, 20, single female) . . . ‘So you’re 24 right? Yes, Oh! My god! That’s the right age to get married . . . Yes you have to get married right now because [when] you hit 25, 26 you’re going to lose the looks, then all the guys are going to be off the market, and all the good guys are going to be gone’ and all th at . . . (Kavita, 24, single female) Differential marriage pressure and discourse exerted on women and men is fueled by parents’ apprehensions of adverse communi ty reactions to unwed daughters as well as an ideology that dictates that marriage entails the woman being given up by her natal family and become part of their marital families while the man continues to be part of

PAGE 188

177 that family. Accordingly, marriage was a ma jor endeavor in the lives of women which accounted for its discourse earlier in the lives of second generation women. I think girls are pushed a little bit more than guys because of the way . . . in society it’s a bad if the girl is s till sitting at home at a certa in age [and not married] . . . (Priya, 20, single female) I guess if a girl’s ge tting married, it’s . . . I think it ’s a lot more serious than the man getting married . . . more so because in the Indian community it’s seen as you’re [parents] as giving up the girl, wher eas in the [case of] men, they are still part of the family [natal family] you know . . . (Anil, 21, single male) Well, I think it’s traditionally . . . like a girl being married is like the girl “leaving a family” [natal family] . . . and coming into the [marital] family. So I mean, that’s I guess . . . that plays into w hy girls are married earlier . . . (Nikhil, 18, single male) Parents are also concerned about the fact that arranging a marriage – especially a semi-arranged oneis a time consuming activity a nd so desire an early start to the process so as to ensure a successful outcome. Some women also brought up the issue that their parents do not want them to forfeit their edu cation in favor of marriage. However, parents would like second generation women to have met someone and perhaps decided upon marriage prior to completing their educati on. The wedding can take place on completion of education. And I mean . . . like in your second year of college, they’re [parents] like . . . you know. . . start looking . . . but they don’t want you to ge t married until like after you’ve finished your education. Like that’s a big thing . . . like . . . you know . . . study and then get married. (Medha, 18, single female) You know I think that nowadays generations . . . like . . . girls that are going further into education . . . you know . . . they’re becoming doctors; they’re going to law school. You know they don’t get finish ed until they’re 28 years old. And so like . . . I’m going to med schoolI want to apply to med school, and so obviously I’m not going to be finished until I am 28 years old. [My mom tells me to] find someone [and] get engaged by 23 and you know . . . she’s like . . . ‘You don’t have to get married you know . . . just to be settled with that person . . . ’ (Priya, 20, single female)

PAGE 189

178 A few men also commented on a discourse I ha ve heard in India but did not want to believe existed in the United States as well. They explained that parents feel their daughters are a burden and do not want to sp end a lot of money on their education. They do however; want to marry her off as soon as socially possible. It’s just that, I’d sa y Patels don’t want to focus a lot of their m oney and resources to put in the girl’s education . . . the main part of . . . I think Patel families would be . . . like . . . the girl does some normal college and then gets married. . . . It’s not that common [in the United States] but I would sa y in my family it is. Like . . . all my girl cousins, I would say . . . I don’t have many, but the two or three of them, they are expected to go to college for four y ears and after that ge t married. (Rahul, 18, single male) Women . . . I guess you know the parents f eel that the women are the burden that they have to . . . .I mean . . . you know . . . if it’s going to be a traditional marriage, they’re [parents of the woma n] are going to have to pay for the marriage itself. . . . Money and the event soyou know . . . they have this price tag and this worry that their daughter will never get married unle ss they start right aw ay. (Karan, 24, single male) Some Patel women however, s poke of marriage being allude d to in their lives even when they were little taking the form of so cialization into the domestic arts or semiserious discussions on marriage. Like for girls, they’re [parents] are always alluding to marriage . . . you know what I mean? Like . . . even when you’re like . . . when I was little, when I was cooking and stuff like that, they’re [parents] are like . . . ‘If you do this wrong then your husband is going to be like . . . (Monica, 22, single female) My dad brought it [marriage] up when I wa s about 10 years old (l aughs) . . . like he made me . . . my dad made me promise ev ery year since I was 10 years old, that I’ll marry the guy he wants me to marry. It’s like . . . ‘You have to promise me’ . . . so I have been promising my dad that sinc e I was 10 . . . (Poonam, 19, single female) Both Patel women and men explain that the issue of marriage is raised later in the lives of men, because they are perceived by th eir parents to be the primary providers of their families. Thus, parents wait until second generation men finish their education, enter

PAGE 190

179 professional life and are capable of supporting a family before they bring up the issue of marriage. I think maybe around 26 years [the issue of marriage is raised for men]. I think maybe that’s because of the whole . . . you know . . . guys have to support the family and by that time, you knowhopefully they have a job . . . they have money to support a family, so I think maybe that’s why the 26 is pushed for them [second generation men] instead of earlier. (Priya, 20, single female) In guys . . . men are still looked upon to be like the primary breadwinners for the Patel family. So oftentimes, Patel [men] are going to be doing professional careers that require more than one degree so they ’re well on the way to having that second degree, and they can start thinking about getting married for . . . or atleast the parents can start thinking about [the son’s] marriage. (Nikhil, 18, single male) Wellthey [parents] would need . . . they [parents] would want to make sure that the man is established you know . . . that he has some savings . . . that he has been working for a little while be fore they [parents] start l ooking [for a spouse] for him. (Karan, 24, single male) Kavita, a 24 year old singl e female however, was of the opinion that discourse about marriage is not an issue for most sec ond generation Patel me n, even if they are older than the above mentioned ages because parents are infused with the confidence that they will be able to find a partner. [Issue of marriage brought up] at 21 years . . . just for wo men. Men it is just not an issue. It doesn’t matter. If he’s 28 and he ’s not married, he’ll get married . . . it’s not a problem. (Kav ita, 24, single female) As is observable in the conversations about marriage, second generation Patel women and men are not only expected to marry, but are also advised by the first generation on the suitability of marriage candi dates and the process of finding a spouse. Finding A Spouse Among second generation Patel women and men, finding a spouse involves responding to two main questions which have been elaborated below – whom should I marry? The criteria for mate selection; a nd how and where do I find a spouse? The spaces

PAGE 191

180 of making marriages. An addendum to the latt er question is adaptations to the United States: creating spaces for making marriag es. Patel women and men demonstrate the centrality of these questions in the making of both semi-arranged and love marriages. Whom should I marry? the criteria for mate selection Mukhi (2000) elucidates that marrying the “‘wrong kind’ of Indian . . . [generates] tension[among the first generation Indians] arising from the fear of losing one’sIndian-ness” (p. 164). Thus for the firs t generation, “marrying the ‘right kind’ of Indian is believed to preser ve the culture from dilution, insuring the reproduction of Indian progeny and the re-production of Indian culture (Mukhi, 2000, p. 164). There is therefore a criteria at play when selecting the ‘right kind’ of I ndian as a spouse. Patel women and men listed for the record th e criteria that are important to the first generation – their parents – when seeking s pouses for the second generation. While some did comment on the importance of the listed criteria to the second generation themselves, most elaborated on their desi red spouse when talking about their marriage visions and expectations. Thus to avoid re petition, their preferences will be elucidated later in this chapter and not in this section. Patel and/or Gujarati. An overwhelming majority of second generation women and men spoke of parental preference that their spouse be a Patel, Gujarati or an Indian in that order. I’m sure a lot of parents, and a lot of kids want [to marry] like Gujarati Patel . . . at least Gujarati if not Patel. (Reema, 22, single female) Like it goes from like . . . a Patel . . . we can move on to Gujarati and if the girl really starts getting old, a nd it’s like any Indian will do . . . you know . . . (laughs). (Janvi, 25, engaged female) My dad . . . he doesn’t really care as long as the person is Gujarati . . . he would like a Patel, but he is OK with someone th at’s Gujarati. And he just doesn’t want

PAGE 192

181 anhone that’s BMW – Black, Muslim or Whitemy dad is a little creative sometimes . . . (Poonam, 19, single female) The most important explanati on of this preference lies in parental desire for the continuity of Gujarati culture in future ge nerations. Additionally, parents envisage that endogamous marriages are happier ones b ecause customs, trad itions, language and community are shared by and familiar to bot h spouses. Religion is another variable that concerns parents and their preference for anot her Patel or Gujarati ensures that their children marry only Hindus. I think it’s [marrying another Patel] very im portant just because . . . in our parents mind . . . they want to keep the culture going forward. They don’t want it to stop here in the United States. (Sahil, 27, married male) . . . it [marrying another Patel] makes it easier, you know . . . fitting in and doing everything elseand you have the same cu stoms, traditions, and language and everything . . . Indian families are huge and if you have to put two families together that can’t even speak the same language, you have a lot of problems. (Reema, 22, single female) Obviously marrying another Patel, that kind of says that religion is kind of going to be the same, you know . . . (Anil, 21, single male) Jay, a 20 year old single male, also drew attention to another important reason – shared language. He opined that parents’ in adequacy with the English language resulted in a preference for a daughter/son –in-law capable of conversing with them in Gujarati – thus, their preference for a Patel or Gujarati. I mean . . . to tell you the truth, my pare nts won’t like it [ma rrying a non-Gujarati Indian] Because, you’re completely . . . it’s going to be a clash of cultures, someone has to give in . . . my parents are going to have to . . . even talking to their [daughter-in-law] . . . it’s not the same language to being with. . . . Their [my parents] English is not that strong, you know . . . because they moved here at a later age, so that’s going to cause another probl em . . . so I would rather have another Gujarati in the family . . . Second generation Patel women and men hazard the reactions of their contemporaries to this criterion. They noted that for the most part, marriage to another

PAGE 193

182 Patel or Gujarati by their generation was more important to their pa rents than it was to them. I think it’s really important for my parent s . . . my dad really wants it [that I marry another Patel] (laughs). So . . . I thin k it’s important. (Poonam, 19, single female) For the second generation NO! [marrying another Patel not important]. For first generation Patels that have an impact on second generation Patels, it might me yes . . . (Anil, 21, single male) However, a few Patel wome n noted that some second generation Patels have bought into this parental preference and have ma de it their own, while others abide with it although it may not be thei r preferred choice. . . . I feel like there are a lot of Patels especially people that are a little bit older than me, like five years or 10 years older, w ho still think that way [prefer to marry another Patel] in the sense that they also themselves . . . and not something that their parents necessarily want for them . . . it’s almost like they’ve been fed this all their lives and they also feel the same way. Like they themselves want to do it, they themselves would prefer to marry a Patel as opposed to anyone else because they want . . . you know . . . the culture and religion to stay . . . (Ritu, 22, single female) Priya, a 20 year old single female, not ed that marriage to another Patel was especially important in the case of women as they are perceived as entering a new family upon marriage and thus the concern with main taining the culture and not losing it upon marriage. . . . and I think there’s a big double standard when it comes to guys and girls. Like. . . girls a lot like . . . pare nts are a lot . . . I think ma ybe stricter and maybe more picky [about marrying another Patel] . . . [a s] girls [are] marrying into families and guys bring the girl home and she basically becomes of their family. So for us, we are going into the family . . . so I think that’s why its bigger like you know . . . [to marry] another Patel Vaidyanathan and Naidoo (1990), Le ssinger (1995), Rangaswamy (2000), and Khandelwal (2004) have reiterated some of the ideas expressed above. Out-marriage is a concern to most first generation Indians of ten resulting in a decided preference for marriage endogamy – that is marriage with in one’s ethnic group and religion.

PAGE 194

183 Caste and/or gam (village or origin). Vaidyanathan and Naidoo (1990), and Rangaswamy (2000) observe that the one area of life where caste continues to be of importance, especially to the first generation, is in mate selection. Despite claims to the contrary in matrimonial advertisements, Ranga swamy (2000) argues that the very need to contradict the importance of caste evince s its importance in marriage. “Generally speaking, Indians try to ensure marriage wi thin the same caste because it ensures perpetuation of religious, cultural, and family traditions” (Rangaswamy, 2000, p. 37). This was not however whole heartedly corroborated by Patel women and men. The majority were of the opinion that caste wa s no longer an important criterion in mate selection not only amongst thei r generation but also among th at of their parents. A few however reiterated the importance of caste as a criterion with one pa rticipant noting that the conservative branch of the Patel/Gujar ati community adhered to it more rigidly. And nowadays, not many are doing the caste thing. But you know still in some families you see it . . . they try to stick with it [caste criterion] but is usually unsuccessful . . . (Janvi, 25, engaged female) Oh! Your caste. I don’t think so . . . like . . . I don’t think it is a big [criterion] . . . like not in America at least. (Medha, 18, single female) I think it’s [caste] is not pl aying as big of a role as it used to. I mean maybe you might find random people here and there that the families are like . . . really want this [caste as a criterion]. But in general, it’s more like [is the person] suited to my son or daughter . . . are they going to be happy? (Reema, 22, single female) If they’re [parents] like little conservative, they’re going to try to stick to most of their own religion and caste [when searching for eligible spouses for their children]. (Anil, 21, single male) Rather than caste, second genera tion Patel women and men spoke of gams (village of origin) as being an important criterion in mate selection. As mentioned throughout the thesis, the Patel community is organized aroun d villages of origin, with members of a particular village being concep tualized as family relations . Pocock (1972), Jain (1989),

PAGE 195

184 and Assar (2000) explain that among the Patels marriag es are arranged with the place of origin as the point of refere nce. Patels practice marriage exogamy that is they seek spouses from villages of origin other than th eir own, but only from those villages that are considered acceptable given their village of origin. Parents desire that the second gene ration marry within the acceptable gams and not outside of them. . . . but as far as likemarriage comes along . . . my parents are really . . . my mom especially is really big on you know . . . ‘You have to marry in a Chagam ’ (sixth village) type of deal . . . she pr efers it. (Priya, 20, single female) One of the major things about marriage, th at you know . . . you are supposed to get married within certain gams. And they [parents] don’t approve of certain gams and [if you ] get married to [women] in those gams it’s not acceptable that much. (Rahul, 18, single male) However, second generation Patel women and men acknowledge that the criterion is decreasing in importance today among the fi rst generation and deviations from it are being tolerated as long as the other criteria are met, most especia lly the one of marrying Gujarati. Like it’s a lot less strict th at it used to be back in the day or . .. people don’t care about the gam but they still care about . . .[spous e] must be a Patel or a Gujarati. (Ritu, 22, single female) . . . Yeh! the gams. I mean they’ll [parents] deviat e a little bit depending on the family background [of the prospective spouse]. (Vishal, 27, married male) Family background. This criterion is of partic ular importance among both first and second generation Patels in the mate sel ection process with both desiring their spouse to hail from the right and from a good family. The term family background is an umbrella term encompassing a variety of family charac teristics and is instin ctively understood by Indians without need for further elaborati on. However for the reco rd, Patel women and

PAGE 196

185 men elaborated on some of the constituents of family background as understood by their parents and themselves. Patel women and men note that the family of a marriage candidate encompasses not only their nuclear family in the United States, but their extended families in both India and the United States. Family is very huge definitely. If you’re traditional, you defi nitely look at the family . . . you look ateven pass the family . . . maybe even the family’s relatives and you talk to people in India, you might talk to . . .the family [that] is still in India . . . you kind of like maybe . . . basically l ook at alright. . . . ‘How is the person that my son is going to marry . . . like how has she been influenced by her family?’ (Anil, 21, single male) Family background involves asse ssing the respectability of the family in the Patel community on issues such as alcoholism, dome stic violence, treatment of women in the family, and illegal behavior. When assessing the suitability of women as prospective wives, their reputation in the community is cons idered as this is of ten perceived as being a reflection of the families they belong t o. A suitable candidate is a second generation woman who has a good reputation in the Patel co mmunity and is not known for being fast or someone who goes out often in the company of unrelated men. He [prospective husband] has to come from a good background. You know my cousin [was told] . . . ‘Oh! This guy’s really good, you know . . . his parents are doctors and his sister is a dentist. You have to marry him because he comes from a really good family . . .(Kavita, 24, single female) He [prospective husband] has to be from a good family . . . like they’re not alcoholics or they’re not . . . they don’t’ have a history of like . . . violence or anything. Like they’re not going to beat th eir wife or something . . . (Monica, 22, single female) The girl [has to be] from a good bac kground . . . she can’t be someone whoyou know . . . going out a lot or any of that stuff . . . I mean . . . they still . . . like no matter if you are a boy or a girl, they st ill do a background check, like . . . ask people that you know . . . (Ritu, 22,single female)

PAGE 197

186 . . . like . . . if you’re a girl , I guess your reputation in a sense. Like . . . I the sense like you don’t want somebody whose know to be like . . . you know what I am saying, like . . . [someone] who gets around, you know or something . . . (chuckles). (Medha, 18, single female) An assessment of the family background of a candidate involves a deliberate effort to find out about the family usually by cons ulting other Patel community members. This is an effort undertaken by the first generati on in the case of both the semi-arranged and the love marriage (in the latter, after they become aware of or are informed of the relationship). So like they [parents] look for like . . . you know . . . more qualities or like . . . you know . . what their [prospective husband] family seems like . . . and they ask like . . . other people they trust so they know the family and the parents . . . (Medha, 18, single female) Education. Patel women and men commented on the fact that a decent level of education was desired in a spouse (both husband and wife) such that intelligent conversation was possible between the couple. Parents often attempted to pair up couples who were matched in terms of education levels, believing that it facilitated intellectual compatibility and thus a stronger marriage. I think for an educated son, though, like . . . if the son is a professional, they [parents] tend to look for a gi rl that is also a profe ssional. (Janvi, 25, engaged female) . . . whether you have a good education [i s an important criterion]you [parents] don’t want your son or daughter marrying a deadbeat, so you want to make sure that the person has an education. But I see . . . often times like marry like. If you’re a doctor/pharmacist, you’re go ing to marry a doctor/phar macist. If you’re a school teacher/educator, you are going to marry so mebody similar to that. . . . (Sahil, 27, married male) . . . she [prospective wife] should be d ecently educated, you know . . . maybe not like . . . [she does not] have to be a brain surgeon or something . . .but you [prospective wife] has to be decently edu cated, because the guy is. So you want to have that kind of level where you are able to communicate on an intellectual level with the person . . . that’s a big criterion

PAGE 198

187 They also made mention of a gender dynami c in play when judging the suitability of the education. Both Patel women and men not ed that for men, their level of education and the consequent professions they embraced are linked to their prestige and to their roles as bread-winners. Thus, parents of s econd generation women ev aluate the education level of a prospective husband in terms of his abili ty to provide for and support a family. Accordingly, two Patel women report that certa in professions are espe cially targeted in the Patel community, when seeking a suitable husband – namely doctors and engineers. I think for a husband, they [parents] look fo r a guy who’s educated, definitely . . . because they definitely want someone for their daughter who is going to be making some money or whatever . . . (Janvi, 25, engaged female) I think definitely education . . . is a huge thing like . . . what kind of job they’re going to have . . . what kind of securi ty they’re going to provide [to the wife](Nikhil, 18, single male) . . . [The good guys to marry] are doctors and you know . . . basically . . . mainly all doctors, you know . . . (K avita, 24, single female) . . . the guy should be a docto r or an engineer, computer engineer or something . . . (laughs). (Medha, 18, single female) Additionally, Patel women observed that th e education level of a second generation woman is judged in comparison to that of a second generation man. That is to say, the families of men, do not consider a woman who is more highly educated than the man as a suitable candidate as it makes the latter appear less capable. The guys usually need to be educated and usually the guy’ s family doesn’t want the girl [to be] more educated that the guy . . . [because] I think it makes the guy look bad then. . . . So that seems to be, that seems to be a thing because I have a cousin . . . she’s a doctor, she just finished . . . she’s just finishing her things and like a lot of the guys they’ve talked to, it’s lik e you know well . . . they’re intimidated because then their wife would be more e ducated than they are. Even though they’re . . . they’re educated MBAs or whatever . . . (Reema, 22, single female) This is consistent with Le ssinger’s (1995) claims that parents are making attempts to seek mates for their children who are compatible in education and profession.

PAGE 199

188 However, men are still expected to have employment prospects sufficient to support a family. Spouse’s country of origin. This is a term I use to indicate from the desired domicile of a spouse – India or the Unite d States. Lessinger ( 1995), Mukhi (2000), and Khandelwal (2002) comment th at a preference for a spouse from either India or the United States is a manifestation of the ge nder expectations of second generation women and men. The most common trend in this rega rd, is for men to seek wives from India rather than the opposite. Some second genera tion men prefer “made in India” wives who they construct as pure and humble, in an attempt to retain some power in their marriages (Lessinger, 1995; Mukhi, 2000, p. 203). The me n who subscribe to this preference construct American born and raised Indian women as too “Americanized” which they define as being career-ori ented, individua listic and aggressive (Khandelwal, 2002, p. 153). It is however important to note here that this trend is rapidly declining with more Indian-American men choosing to marry Am erican raised Indian women. Second generation women by contrast, pref er to seek spouses from with in the United States in the hope that their American raised husbands will be “more liberal and less patriarchal” than their Indian raised counterparts (Shet h, 2001, p. 153). In doing so, Indian-American women hope to establish more egalitarian marital relati onships (Lessinger, 1995). Second generation Patel women and wome n reiterated these findings. The preference for a spouse from India or the Un ited States is a choice that the second generation make themselves. The majority explain that both second generation Patel women and men seek spouses from within the United States and not from India for a variety of reasons.

PAGE 200

189 I think you always start off the search in the United States . . . the kids [second generation women and men] are looking for marriage [partners] here in the United States. (Vishal, 27, married male) They [parents] try to look within the US , like for the second generation, who’ve been here, they try to look within the US. (Poonam, 19, single female) They acknowledge that styles of upbringi ng are different in India and the United States and the probability of compatibility in creases when the couple has been raised in the same culture and environment and share a similar comfort level with American life and life style. . . . [Spouses from] within [the United States]. It’s much easier that to just . . . like you know . . . get along, and understand the cu lture and they know how it works of them in America . . . (Jay, 20, single male) . . . because basically, men and women w ho were brought up in America, most of them don’t speak Gujarati, and people in India, most of them don’t speak English. So it’s hard to communicate. Plus there are differences. If you’re born and raised here, you are so much more open-minded than he guys and girls in India. So there are a lot of differences. So there are people who actually do that [find a spouse from India] but they have a really hard time getting on with their lives after marriage . . . (Kavita, 24, single female) . . . it’s just because . . . the mentality would be the same between the two people [from the U.S] whereas if some parents do go back to India and look for people, the mentality is a little different then . . . (Poonam, 19, single female) Additionally, Patel women confirm that most second generation Patel women desire more egalitarian relationships than they could have with men raised in India and so prefer American raised men. However, Priy a, a 20 year old single female, was of the opinion that some second generation women we re seeking educated spouses on India but did not further elaborate on this. I’ve recently . . . I think recently it’s getti ng . . . or maybe it’s just me that been surrounded by a lot of girls maybe that I hear of . . . that you know . . . that are going to India to get married, and you know . . . and you know . . . like they look for educated guys and bring them back . . . you know . . . like doctors and what not.

PAGE 201

190 Spouses from India are still sought by both second generation Patel women and men as a last resort when they are unable to find suitable candidates from within the United States. I’ve known a couple of them [second generation Patels] that have gone back to India to get married . . . to find a brideb ecause either they couldn’t find one here [United States] or they didn’ t . . . Yeh! Well . . . ultima tely because they couldn’t find one here. Because whether they didn’t like the ones th at were here or because . . . (Sahil, 27, married male) . . . but if they [second generation Pate ls] have to . . . they would go to Indiawhenever like . . . they feel that there’s no one right here [United States] . . . a lot of people I knowthe age is a big thing, so if you [second generation Patels] don’t get married by a certain age . . . then people don’t want to marry you. So they [second generation Patels] have no other option except to go to India, because Indian women would be willin g to marry you despite your age . . . (Poonam, 19, single female) Patel women and men acknowledge however, th at seeking a partne r from India is a declining trend and not very common anymore. I think it [seeking spouses from India] is a declining trend. As I was growing up, I heard more and more people going to Indi a to get married and then coming back just because their family want a traditional Indian bride. . . . Bu t that is dying down. . . (Sahil, 27, married male) . . . it’s [finding a spouse from India] not very common . . . you can find people here [United States] and usually if you’ve been raised here, and brought up here, and everything, you want somebody else [from the United States] too. (Reema, 22, single female) Patel women and men also corroborated the gender dynamic noted by the scholars in the field. They explain that it is more prevalent for second generation men to seek wives from India than it is for sec ond generation women to seek husbands. . . . and I would say it [seeking partners from India] is more prevalent among men than it is among women . . . (Sahil, 27, married male) I think it’s more . . . you’ll probably find more guys that go to India . . . to find them wives . . . than it is for a girl [who has] been raised and brought up and

PAGE 202

191 educated here [United States] to go to India to find a guy. (Reema, 22, single female) Emigration to the United States and power relations are intimately tied in explaining this trend. Should second genera tion men marry wives from India, it is socially acceptable for them (wiv es) to continue to live in India until they are granted an American visa which could take up to thre e years – and on immigrati ng, are expected to take on the role of home-makers rather than providers. By contrast, women who marry husbands from India are at a social disadvan tage as their husbands are unable to join them for a while and even on immigration may not find employment and thus are perceived as unable to support their wives and families. For husbands . . . I’d say definitely the US . . . I guess the whole notion of the girl going to India to get married and then likethey [second generation women] have to wait there for at least three years before he can come here [United States] and start supporting her . . . I guess Patels would find that weird.Whereas [with] wives [from India] . . . it’s . . . you can get married to her and then she can stay there a while because once she gets here [United States] . . . they [parents] want her to be a housewife. (Rahul, 18, single male) I think guys are very more open-minded to fi nding a wife in Indian that girls are to finding a husband in India. I don’t know . . . Like I think . . . it’s because . . . maybe because of the status thing. Like . . . a hus band is always going to have like a power . . . or they’re going to be the man of the house, so it doesn’t matter it is like . . . (Monica, 22, single female) Apart from this, Patel women also expl ain that second generation men perceive women raised in India as being more “cu ltured” – which they define as being knowledgeable about Indian culture – than their American raised counterparts. I think it’s usually wives [that are sought from India]probably because the Indian [from India] women . . . they’re probably more cultured . . . they’re just . . . they have more knowledge of the culture, so I’m su re they [parents] f eel they’d be able to keep both the in-laws and their son ha ppier in that sense. (Poonam, 19, single female)

PAGE 203

192 Physical appearance. Vaidyanathan and Naidoo (1990), and Lessinger (1995) note that the second generation, more than the first, stress physical appearance and partner attractiveness of a potential spouse es pecially in terms of height, weight and beauty. Some Patel women and men also ma de mention of physical appearance as a criterion explaining that they have to feel attracted to their potential spouse as well as look good together. They listed that candidates’ height and pigmentation (whether they are too dark or too light) ar e often taken into account. . . . like looks also matter, you have to look [good] together so that would also be a criterion for most parents I think . . . I know it would be for my parents. (Poonam, 19, single female) Height (laughs). I’ve always like . . . ‘Oh! She’s too short, she’s too small for me, or he’s too short, he’s too tall. Height, physical pigmentation . . . like . . . too dark, too light, you know . . . you don’t want like a dark and light person to mix. Physical appearance, I’d say . . . the first thing that we see when we’re introduced to somebody is whether that person is big or sm all or average, or the physicalness is probably the most important thing . . . (Sahil, 27, married male) Patel men however, brought to attention th e fact that the physical appearance of women receives more considera tion than that of men. I guess looks are still a big criterion for women, I don’t know if so much for men . . . For men I think, more so, their stature a nd prestige and what kind of job they have (Anil, 21, single male) Age. This was a criterion only Patel women made mention of. Reiterating themes they had discussed when conceptualizing marri age, they spoke of mate selection being more difficult for women once they had crossed a particular age. Often this resulted in a relaxation of other criteria so as to enla rge the pool of candidates. A couple where the woman is older than the man is not consid ered suitable and thus Patel women face pressure to marry relatively early. Additiona lly, a two year age gap between the couple is considered ideal, where the woman is tw o or more years younger than the man.

PAGE 204

193 Age is always kept in mind . . . like . . . you [parents] don’t’ wan the girl [to be] older than the guy, you know . . . so that’s why they push the girls [to get married early] . . . It’s a Gujarati thing . . . (Reema, 22, single female) When you [parents] are looki ng for a guy and a girl, I don’ t’ know for some reason . . . [a] standard two year difference [ in ages between the spouses in maintained]. Yeh! It always . . . it seems to be alwa ys two years or whatever or more you know . . . (Janvi, 25, engaged female) It is in the context of the semi-arranged marriage that the above mentioned criteria have been described. However, as acknowledged at the start of this s ection, these criteria are of importance even in the making of love marriages . Most Patel women and men report that they keep these criteria in mi nd while they seek spouses on their own and while they fall in love. This is to ensure that their parents will approve of their choice of spouse and accept the rela tionship without qualms I think to some degree you do [keep criteria in mind when seeking a spouse on your own]. Like . . . maybe like not consciousl y, but unconsciously, you’re just like . . . you know . . . you look at someone a nd like . . . you know you probably are attracted a lot of . . . like to a whole scope of people. But then when it comes to marrying, I think those qualitie s . . . you’re like looking more specifically for it [prescribed criteria]. (M edha, 18, single female) I mean . . . I think a lot of people . . . I have a friend . . . she was dating somebody . . . but right from the beginning . . . I mean she was like . . . ‘Oh! This is never going to work . . .’ [because] he’s some Caribbean Indian or somethingAnd she’s Gujarati Patel. . . . You know . . . like . . . but she knew right away in her head that . . . ‘Well his is never going to work’ I don’ t know if it’s partly probably because her parents . . . (Reema, 22, single female) I think so . . . because I mean I think when I’m meeting girls, I man I’m not going to say . . . ‘Oh! I’m not going to be your friend because you don’t fit these criteria. When I think about a girl who I might date or ask out, or whatever . . . It’s definitely something [the criteria] th at goes through my head because I mean there’s no point of like . . . starting some thing and then becomi ng serious and then something . . . in the end being somethi ng that your parents don’t approve of. It would put you, the girl and your families . . . both families through unnecessary heartache. (Nikhil, 18, single male) This speaks to Mukhi (2000), and Khandelw al’s (2002) arguments that the process of choosing one’s own life partner is fraught with fear of parental disapproval and

PAGE 205

194 community rejection. Parental reactions to l ove marriages can range from acceptance of the relationship if the spouse is from the same ethnic group or caste to outright rejection of it and disowning of children who remain in the relationship inspite of parental objections to it (Khandelwal, 2002). Lastly, Patel women and men also comment ed on whether the criteria for mate selection have changed from their parents’ ge neration. The majority no ted that the criteria had remained the same since their parents’ generation except for some distinctions. Gam (village of origin) are less significant toda y than it was in their parents’ cases and education has increased in importance as a criterion which was not the case with their parents. Interestingly, Patel women and men hol d that the important criteria of religion, family background, and caste have retained thei r significance even with their generation. . . . I’m sure it was still . . . having the religion and caste was [important] then and knowing the family also . . . so I’d say that those three values are still present. I’m not sure about how much of an impact physical looks had, but I think, physical looks might have a little bit more im pact now . . . (Anil, 21, single male) However, Janvi, a 25 year old engaged fe male, explained that while the criteria may still be the same across first and second generation Patels, it is less strictly enforced in their case than it was in that of their parents. I think it’s [criteria] is a little less st rict today. . . . They’re [parents] are notyou know looking for . . . you know the . . . like the girl is going to come home and take care of everyone and is going to cook and going to do this. I th ink the parents now really seem to realize that the girls have been studying also, the girls have been out doing the same thing, or whatever . . . they may not know how to cook yet, or they may not k now how to do everything yet . . . and they’re [parents] are pretty accepting and pretty . . . you know lenient on that. And also for the guys . . . I think they understand you know . . . in general that marriage is a little bit different now that it was back then.

PAGE 206

195 How and where should I find a spouse? The spaces of making marriages Armed with the above mentioned criteria for mate selection, second generation Patel women and men and their parents seek su itable partners (for the second generation) by accessing the spaces that are available to them in the Patel community for mate selection. The most important space for maki ng marriages lies in wh at I call ‘informal networking’ within the Patel community. The significance of this space has been alluded to be scholars in the field. Lessinger (1995), explains that “an all points bulletin is broadcast through the network of family and friends” in the ethnic community in seeking potential spouses for the s econd generation (p. 121). Addi tionally, parents make use community and family gatherings to circulate information about eligible marriage partners and to match couples togeth er (Rangaswamy, 2000; Khandelwal, 2002). All Patel women and men spoke of the im portance of informal networking within the Patel community in the sear ch for a suitable spouse. The actors in this process are their parents and members of the extended fam ily such as uncles, aunts and others. They attempted an in-depth explanation of the workings of informal networking in mate selection. When second generation Patel wome n and men reach a marriageable age, their parents and families begin to make it known in the Patel community that their child is seeking to get married. This is done by drawing upon family and extended family connections, making it known to Patel friends (who may know of eligible candidates), circulating the biographical information a bout their child in the community and the desired requirements in a spouse. In addi tion, given the tight-knit Patel community, parents are always aware of el igible candidates, even prior to seeking spouses for their own children.

PAGE 207

196 . . . what I describe as a big network. A nd usually I think the typical age right now for the girl in general . . . when parents start looking is like 22, 24 [years old] and basically . . . [they] just start calling and saying . . . you know . . . ‘I have a daughter and if you have anyone in mind or if you know anyone who’s looking for someone or whatever . . .’ and through that you know you usually find . . . find a guy (Janvi, 25, engaged female) . . . they [parents] have like a whole ne twork going on . . . like they know their second cousins and their first cousinsand th ey just call them up and [tell them] . . . you know . . . ‘He [second ge neration man] wants to ge t married so if you hear about a girl, tell me about it . . .’ (Rahul, 18, single male) I think . . .it’s mostly informal like this . . . I mean especially when a lot of Patel families are very large. And typically, your friends are going to have close . . . like . . . similar family backgrounds and similar e ducation to you . . . so they tend to be like a good match . . . (Nikhil, 18, single male) Usually they like . . . tell like everyone they know . . . and just . . . Indian peopleas a community we [Patels] are so connected, so people do talk like . . . ‘ Oh! There’s a boy of this age and there’s a da ughter of this age in this family . . . [and the family] is good, so let’s make an introduction. . . .’ (Monica, 22, single female) On identifying suitable candidates, parent s consciously obtain information about the candidate. Furnished with this info rmation, the second generation decides for themselves whether or not to pursue it further. Technically, the role of the first generation in arranging the marriage ends at this stage and all subsequent deci sions are taken by the couple themselves. Say you [parents] find a guysomeone calls you. . . [and says] . . . ‘This is the guyhe’s 26 [years old], he’s doing this . . .’ You [parents] find out general information about him . . .(Janvi, 25, engaged female) . . . my mom was to be like . . . ‘Oh! Y ou know . . . so and so’s son or I know somebody . . .’ and they [parents] get you like their [prospective spouse’s] information, name or e-mail . . . you know. . . . And you can . . . then it’s up to the kids [second generation] . . . the parents kind of stay out of it . . . it’s up to those two . . . like you know . . . if I want to e-ma il him or call him, and talk to him . . . (Reema, 22, single female) Parents then use a variety of methods of bringing the couple in contact with each other. A favorite method is to arrange a meeting with a candidate without the second

PAGE 208

197 generation being aware of it – for instance at a wedding or a Patel/Gujarti community event where the couple is casually introduced to one another without the knowledge that the meeting has been engineered by their parents. We’d be at a large function, like a marri age or a big celebration. . . . And my parents or her sisters of aunt s or my aunts or whatever might be . . . ‘Oh! Take a look at that girl, we want you to see who that girl, like . . . do you like her? Do you think she’s attractive?’ And I’d say . . . ‘Yeh! She doesn’t look too bad’ or ‘no I don’t find her [attractive],’ . . . or whatever . . . (Sahil, 27, married male) They [parents] arrange for us [second generation men and women] to meet. Sometimes they arrange it so we don’t know that it’s ar ranged . . . like in a wedding and they’ll casually introduce us . . . but it was already planned by them [parents] . . . but we [second generation] don’t know about it. (Kavita, 24, single female) Another very widely used practice is the exchange of eligible candidates’ “biodatas” and photographs which allows the coupl e to gauge each other’s interests, likes and physical attributes and decide accordingly whether or not they would like to either contact each other or meet. If the couple expresses an intere st in each other, parents arrange a formal meeting. . . . the bio-data [help second generation to decide whether or not they would like to meet a prospective spouse] . . . maybe th ey look to see what . . . where they’re from, what they do, their interests, a nd you know . . . all that . . . (Gaurav, 19, single male) . . . what they call bio-data . . . that ’s just general information about you or whatever . . . [that is exchanged by th e couple] and then there’s the two people [second generation couple] . . . who talk and if you are interested, then you meet. (Janvi, 25, engaged female) . . . ‘OK there’s this one gi rl’ and they like . . . tell him all the information about her. . . . And if the guy is interested, like . . . they’ll [second generation women and men] usually exchange a picture first. You might look at the picture and be like. . . . Oh! Wow! He’s pretty good looking or he looks like he’s a nice guy or something . . . and then if the guy or the girl is in terested, they [parents] arrange a meeting where the parents come along. (Poonam, 19, single female)

PAGE 209

198 Bellfante (2005) corroborates this when sh e notes that the “exchanging of the all important ‘bio-data’ [which is a] portfolio with the potential bride or groom’s profile” precedes any planned meeting (p. 1). Sometimes parents discuss the suitability of a candidate with their children as someone worth getting to know. This is of ten followed by the arranging of a formal meeting of the couple. The init ial, formal meeting between the couple usually occurs in the woman’s home, as per Indian tradition. Pa rents then allow the couple to congregate alone in a separate room encouraging them to talk to and get to know each other. In this case, after the initial meeting, should the couple consider a relationship and desire to court, they exchange each other’s contact information a nd are allowed to meet alone, outside the home – in other words to date. If they [parents] think they [the second ge neration couple] would be suitable, they [parents] just talk to the daughter about himit would just be like . . . ‘OK we want you . . . go spend time with this guy and see how it works out . . . ’ and then basically, if you don’t like him, then they’ll [parents] e nd it. But if you do, you just continue to get to know hi m, and then they can arra nge something. (Jay, 20, single male) And there are times when they [parents] just tell us . . . ‘ this is the guy that you know . . . your aunt told us [parents] a boutand we think you should meet him, so you know . . . whenever you are free you can arrange a meeting and talk to him and find out if you want to go out(Kavita, 24, single female) I’ve always heard of like the guy going to the girl’s house. . . . And thenyou knowyour parents are like . . . ‘Oh! I’ll [let] you guys talk in . . . like . . . one room or something’ and if they [second ge neration] decide they liked each other, they’ll meet again . . . (Medha, 18, single female) When you meet a guy for the first time and you are like . . . ‘OK! He seems like a nice guy, I might . . . you know . . . I want to get to know him better.’ So you are like . . . ‘OK! I’m going to give him a chan ce’ . . . so you tell your parents . . . ‘I’m not sure [but] I still want to talk to him and then I’ll tell you [if he is the one]’. (Kavita, 24, single female)

PAGE 210

199 A formal face-to-face meeting between the couples usually follows a period of email and telephonic exchanges between the couple . The decision to meet with an eligible candidate is made by second generation Pa tel women and men themselves and only if/when their hitherto fore email and telephonic inte ractions engender a de sire in them to do so and if they come to feel comfortable with each other through their exchanges. Wellthey usually may not even meet direct ly first . . . they would probably meet on e-mail or on the phone first and so they w ould probably do that for a little while until they wanted to meet. (Ritu, 22, single female) Probably e-mail [is] the first stage . . . to get the phone number . . . after [having learned] the phone number, [start communi cating] on the phone. I think after they get to know each other over the phone, then they’ll probably consider meeting each other. (Gaurav, 19, single male) Adaptations to the United States: C reating spaces for making marriages The Patel community has made some interesting adaptations to the United States in creating alternative spaces (other than info rmal networking) by wh ich eligible second generation women and men can meet one another. Patel wo men and men made mention of some of these spaces na mely – Patel conventions; onlin e matrimonials; Patel/Gujarati community events and activities. Patel conventions. Rangaswamy (2000) and Khande lwal (2002, p. 155), observe that the Gujarati community in the United States hosts annual “marriage conventions”. The goal of this event is to bring eligible sec ond generation women and men into contact with each other and to stem inter-racial ma rriages. This matrimonial convention creates opportunities for the second generation to “lea rn more about each other at ‘one-on-one matrimonial meets’.[Additionally] theme par ties for youth and lectures by adults[are organized] stress[ing] the impor tance of marriage within the Charotar (region in Gujarat, India) community (Rangaswam y, 2000, p. 180). The most recent Charotar Patidar Samaj

PAGE 211

200 (The Society of Patels from th e region of Charotar in Gujarat) Convention matrimonial convention was held during Thanksgiving weekend – from Novemember 24-26, 2005 at the Marriott Waterside Hotel in Norfolk, Vi rginia (Charotar Patidar Samaj, 2005). Patel women and men corroborated the fact that Patel conventions are key adaptations that the Patidar (Patel)/Gujarati community has made to the United States with reference to mate-selection. Some pa rticipants spoke from experience having attended a convention themselves, but most resorted to hearsay providing information they had garnered from family members or friends who had experienced the convention. They explained that the Patel convention is a national, annual event organized by the first generation Patels and is usually held on Th anksgiving weekend. The explicit and stated goal of the convention, as is evident on its we bsite, is to seek out a life partner. They’re [conventions] are usually held on the east coast . . . every Thanksgiving weekend is the Charotar one . . . (Reema, 22, single female) Patel convention . . . is basically . . . it’s like a marriage conve ntion trying to find people for their sons and da ughter’s and everything . . . (Reema, 22, single female) The goal [of the convention] is so single people can meet and like find someone who they can marrywho fits under the crit eria of the parents . . . (Nikhil, 18, single male) Second generation have to register a nd pay a registration fee to attend the convention. Eligible single Pa tel women and men who are seek ing a spouse, from all over the United States congregate in a designa ted hotel where the convention is being organized. All Patels from all over the country are . . . everywhere . . . California, New York, they all come to this convention . . . They are all Patels . . . they are all the same age . . . you know . . . 20 to 25 [years old] maybe 30 [years old] . . . all single looking to get married . . . (Kavita, 24, single female)

PAGE 212

201 Basically . . . you just sign up for it and you pa y . . . and then it’s in a big city and you just go to this hall . . . there’s about three days or two days . . . (Karan, 24, single male) It is not necessary for the first generati on to accompany their children, but they are free to do so. The convention organizers plan a number of activities and meetings to facilitate greater interaction amongs t second generation women and men. Family is optional . . . they don’t have to come with you. . . . They [convention organizers] make games or do like gather ings that they do where you can meet other people . . . it’s basically mingl ing . . . (Kavita, 24, single female) . . . they [convention organizers] organize small activities at the convention for you to meet other Indians . . . other Patels . . . (Karan, 24, single male) The convention website lists some such activities organized at the 2005 convention namely a garba night , a plethora of ice-breaking activities a nd games, and social gatherings. Activities are also organized fo r the parents who accompanied their children to the convention (Charota r Patidar Samaj, 2005). Reema, a 22 year old single female, and Kavita, a 24 year old single female, who had attended one matrimonial c onvention themselves elucidated their experiences for the record. It’s like a meat market! The girls are running around, the guys are running around. The parents are all trying to make conn ections. Like . . . they’re walking around with papers of all their kids’ information – the bio-data thingand like I just . . . it’s like a machine . . . (laughs). (Reema, 22, single female) So I’ve been to my very first convention when I was 21 [years old]. I wasn’t forced . . . I just wanted to see what it was all about and Yeh! I’ve had a couple of friends and of course my cousins who actually got married by going to this convention. It was just basically . . . meeting new people. My intentions weren’t to go there and look for a guy or anything. . . . I didn’t thi nk it was for me. I can’t just meet a guy in three days and decide that OK . . . you know . . . talk to him there and decide if he’s the right one for me . . . (Kavita, 24, single female) Two male participants described the e xperiences of their family members and friends who had attended the convention.

PAGE 213

202 You know . . . my sister actually met [her husband] at a matrimonial convention . . . and that one was one of her success stories. (Vishal, 27, married male) I’ve got cousins who have been there . . . (l aughs) . . . it’s just basically what I saida gathering of Indian Chagam kids . . . who are of marriageable age or who are looking for a spouse. And they basically put them together in a hotel and say likethey have a couple of meetings and then it’s like basically go and meet people. It’s just supposed to be to m eet people and maybe find somebody who you in the end will [want to marry] . . . (Nikhil, 18, single male) It is however also note worthy that separate marriage c onventions are also organized by particular villages of origin. There’s a Patel convention . . . there’s tw o. . . . There’s a Charotar convention and then there’s a Leva convention . . . so it even further divides li ke the Patels . . . Charotars are like one type [of Patel] and Levas are like [another type]. (Reema, 22, single female) . . . they [Patel community] have these Patel convention or Chagam (sixth village) conventions where you like[where you meet] people of the opposite sex of your age (laughs). (Nikhil, 18, single male) Patel/Gujarati community events and activities. Patel women and men explained that the Patel/Gujarati community also organi zed special activities and events with the express purpose of facilitating mate selec tion. A few Patel wome n made mention of picnics and camps organized for the second ge neration by the associations of the Patel community. First generation Patels organize camps where single Patel women and men congregate under the supervision of the first generation. It affords Patel women and men an opportunity to meet with one another and socialize in what parents’ deem to be a safe environment. Like . . . you know . . . like the Panchgam (fifth village) picnic or something like hat you knowand those are actually like meant to . . . I guess hook people up (laughs) . . . to get them together or whatever . . . (Medha, 18, single female) They’ve [first generation] been organizing camps . . . . Basically they’re Patel camps, or Pancgam (fifth village) camps. . . . They just get together and go to one place and just stay there for two to three days and that’s where you meet different people. . . . [To me] that’s basically da ting . . . you’re just basically meeting

PAGE 214

203 different people . . . in three days . . . I don’t know why that’s acceptable but dating is not . . . (Kavita, 24, single female) Medha, an 18 year old single fe male, noted that the annual garba also affords the same opportunity of interacting with c ontemporaries in an accepted environment although the garba is not organized with mate selection as its goal. . . . but like in the end . . . like you know . . . your parents are like meet people who you’re going to like . . . I guess meeting new guys or something like that . . . (laughs) To say like . . . I gue ss to meet other people your ag e, like in th e end. . . . I think that ‘s like what the bigger picture [of garba ] isYeh! I think you’re like on your own just like . . . in your own age group and stuff because like obviously when you’re doing like garba, you’re doing it around people your own age . . . so you meet a lot of people and like . . . I know a lot of people who actually found a lot of like . . . you know . . . they end up like having boyfriends and girlfriends . . . like they met them through garbas. Interestingly, Medha also spoke of an innovative space created by the first generation to encourage second generation Pa tel women and men to meet each other – cruises. . . . they have like Panchgam (fifth village) cruises or something and likeeveryone from like the fifth gam will go on it for like a week to like Cancun or something. Like . . . you know . . . and that entire like cruise, th ey’ll all like meet each other and it’s just basically like you know . . . ‘What’s your profile, this is mine’. Like . . . I know they have a lot of them from like New York, New Jersey and all that This speaks to Wakil, Siddique and Wakil’ s (1981), contention that in a effort to cater to the second generation’ s desire to date and choose their own spouse, the first generation is encouraging them to associat e with contemporaries within their ethnic group in the hope that they will find a partne r from within the community rather than from outside it. Online matrimonials. Patel women and men noted with great hilarity that the internet is a huge resource in mate selection and is a space that is growing in use and

PAGE 215

204 importance. Most participants spoke of one ma trimonial website that they believe is very popular with second generation Patels – ( . . . you know . . . . . . . Right! I’ve heard of it so much and you know it’s like funny . . . (laughs) I’ve actually ha d a really good friend of mine . . . he’s a lot older than me . . . he ’s actually getting engaged in October and he was on and he basically met a girl [through the website] and now they’re getting married. So I think is really like . . . I thi nk a lot of people . . . it has a really good success rate . (Priya, 20, single female) Oh! The internet is huge!! But there’s this website called “ ” that is huge in America these days! (Kavita, 24, single female) They explain that online matrimonials are not utilized by the first generation in their search for an e ligible spouse for their children. Ra ther, it is utilized largely by second generation women and men who register themselves on the website and post their profile highlighting their prefer ences in a spouse, their intere sts, likes and dislikes and their biographical information. which is where you [second generation women and men] just basically register yourself . . . you know . . . your favorites, what you like, what you don’t like, what you are looking for, what you are, what you are st udying. It’s basically your profile on the internet . . . and then you just basically just search for the other half. (Kavita, 24, single female) However, Patel women and men note that in formal networking continues to remain the most significant space for making marriages and that online matrimonials tend to be utilized only when the former do not yield any satisfactory results. . . . most of it [arranging of marriages] is just informal . . . but yeh! Online . . . no one in my family or no one I know has really done the online . . . internet stuff . . . (Poonam, 19, single female) That’s [online matrimonials] something that I don’t see many Patels who are . . . In my community itself, it’s more informal networking [in seeking a spouse] than it’s matrimonials like (Sahil, 27, married male) It is important to point out here that is not a matrimonial website that is indigenous to the United States, but it popular and frequently used in urban India

PAGE 216

205 and by the Indian diaspora in other countries as well. The we bsite prides itself in having a base of 5 million members and over 500,000 success st ories. It offers a huge data base of Indian men and women seeking spouses in India, the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and a host of other countries where the Indian diaspora is located. The database is classified according to religion and ethni c community, making it easier to search for a spouse.. Reema, a 22 year old single female, spoke of another website called She explained that Patel women and men post their profile and biographical information on the website and use it as a way of meeting people. And there’s this thing called “Friendster”. . . and it’s like this online thing . . . and you can post your picture and do whatever and it’s a lot like. . . [for] kids maybe [of] our age. You know. . . probably from 16 to like 25, 26 [years old] . . . and they post their pictures and you know a little information . . . I guess like their biographical information and everything . . . where they go to school, what they are doing and everything . . . that’s the way to meet people. . . . Oh! Yeh! [It’s being used by a lot of Patels]. I think it’s like overrun by the Indians . . . The escalated utilization of online matrimoni als and databases, especially since the 1990s, has been noted by Rangaswam y (2000) and Khandelwal (2002). The Patel community as a whole and first ge neration Patels in particular thus make a special effort to encourag e second generation women and me n to marry within the Patel community. However, out-marriage to people fr om outside the Patel community is also prevalent to some extent among the second generation. Breaking The Rules: Responding To Out-Marriage Among Second Generation Patels Out-marriage, as understood by most particip ants in the study can involve marrying a non-Patel, a non-Gujarati, or a non-Indian and responses to each may vary. Patel women and men noted three categories of res ponses – family reaction to out-marriage;

PAGE 217

206 Patel/Gujarati community reaction to out-ma rriage; and second generation reaction to out-marrriage. Although none of the partic ipants in the study had experienced outmarriage, they spoke with reference to the e xperiences of friends and family members. Family reaction to out-marriage Second generation Patel women and men repor ted that marrying outside the ethnic community impacts both their immediate and their extended families. They were unable to comment on parental reactions to out-ma rriage conclusively noting that there were different reactions depending on parents’ out look as well as on the context of outmarriage. They spoke of two reactions – pa rental shock and disappointment followed by gradual acceptance; and nonacceptance of marriage and disowning of children. Parental shock and disappointment followed by gradual acceptance. The majority of Patel women and men observed that parents’ initial reaction to out-marriage especially to a non-Gujarati was of shock, disappointment and anger coupled with a rejection of the marriage. I think your family . . . like . . . gets upset. Like . . . they’re . . . I don’t know . . . I don’t’ think they feel like they can conn ect with that type of person . . . like somebody outside it [Patel community]. (Medha, 18, single female) A lot of parents get angry with the child and a lot of parents cut ties with their child . . . not forever . . . Like for instance, fo r my cousin . . . she married a Jewish boy, and that’s like really bad or whatever. . . . So . . . her pa rents like got really angryno one went to her wedding . . . and she’s like the bad egg in our family. (Monica, 22, single female) There might initially be some . . . they [par ents] wouldn’t accept it at first, or they would get mad or get in arguments a nd stuff . . . (Gaurav, 19, single male) Parents’ greatest fear is that inter-raci al, inter-ethnic community or inter-religious marriages will spark a clash of cultures resulting in the loss of Gujarati culture and more importantly of religion, especi ally in the case of the child ren born into the marriage.

PAGE 218

207 There’s going to be a clash [of cultures] and no culture is going to meet, no religion going to be satisfied . . . (Jay, 20, single male) But I think . . . when you get married, it [re ligion] starts . . . the issue starts coming up of what are you going to teach your ch ildren . . . you know are they going to be Hindu or are they going to be like . . . Ca tholic . . . (Janvi, 25, engaged female) Additionally, in the Indian tradition, as explained by Patel women, marriages occur between families and not only between individuals. Given this, parents fear an inability on their part to feel comfortable, comm unicate, and bond with a person who does not belong to their ethnic commun ity or faith, and perhaps does not speak their language. . . . like . . . when you marry someone . . . in like the Gujarati [community] . . .I don’t think like . . . you and that person. It ’s like your family is like marrying each other, so in a sense, like you know . . . th ey [families] have to get along (chuckles) and they have to feel comfor table, and I don’t think they do unless it’s like another Patel . . . at least like another Indian or Gujarati . . . (Medha, 18, single female) Medha, an 18 year old singe female, and Ja nvi, a 25 year old e ngaged female, also reported that parents have difficulty accepting out-marriage because it is new phenomenon to them and they are unable to understand the motiva tion behind seeking a spouse from outside one’s ethn ic community when there are eligible spouses within the community. I don’t think parents ar e open to it [out-marriage] just because like they never had that option. . . . They were likethey knew they were going to end up marrying somebody that was Patel. Like there was no choice [for parents] . . . (Medha, 18, single female) . . . the older generation have a hard time with it [out-marri age]. Like . . . they don’t understandyou knowhow they see it . . . I think . . . [is that] there’s so many Indian women out there, so many just as accomplished . . . why would you go out [outside the community]? You know. . . . They [parents] don’t understand why you would even look in that area [outside th e community]. (Janvi, 25, engaged female) However, most Patel women and men explai ned that this init ial negative response to out-marriage changes over time when pare nts get to know th e spouse better and especially after the birth of their first grandchild.

PAGE 219

208 They [parents] just basically cut her off for a while . . . [and then] some families who will come around after the first kid [is born] . . . they’ll accept her within the family. (Kavita, 24, single female) They [parents] would accept it after a point . . . they initially . . . I think . . . they would be hurt and unhappy with it. (Monica, 22, single female) But I guess it depends on the parents . . . like . . . if your parents know that . . . ‘you know my son or daughter is going to be ha ppy with this person and that’s what’s matters to them [parents] then they’re going to be a little bit more . . . they’re going to be I guess . . . a little bit mad at first, but they’ll still . . . they’ll get over that and they’ll be fine. . . . (Anil, 21, single male) This is consistent with M ukhi’s (2000), findings that wh ile parents disapproval is a source of conflict about a marriage, some parents may ultimately agree to the choice made by their children although the process of acceptance is often emotionally charged and complicated. Non-acceptance of the marriage and disowning of children. Parental nonacceptance of a marriage comes especially in to play if second generation Patel women and men marry Americans. Patel women and men agree on the fact that marriage to another non-Gujarati Indian is eminently more acceptable to their parents than marriage to a non-Indian. This is because parents percei ve that the American spouse of their child will always be an outsider at Gujara ti community events and gatherings. I think it is definitely harder when you go outside the Indian community. If you go outside the race . . . I think it’s a lot ha rder than say if you married like a South Indian or whatever . . . or married . . . a Punjabi. . . . (Janvi, 25, engaged female) You know. . . it will hurt them [parents] . . . if you bring home and Indian . . . than if you bring home someone with a completely different culture than you . . . it will hurt them a lot more . . . (Priya, 20, single female) I’d say if it’s an Indian [spouse], the fam ily would be OK with it, but if it’s an American . . . a lot of the family members would not be OK with it. Some of them might be . . . but the majority of them . . . would not be OK with it. I guess they [older generation] just find it weird. Wh en you go . . . when you get together for Diwali programs would you bring your [A merican] husband with you? And if you

PAGE 220

209 do, what language is he going to talk in? . . . Because we usually talk in GujaratiSo he’s going to feel left out(Rahul, 18, single male) Interestingly, one female participant made mention of an impor tant variable in American society – race. She acknowledged that although parent s are usually nonaccepting of marriage to an Americ an, their ire is exacerbated if the spouse is black rather than white and the relationship may never be approved. I think . . . not to sound like racist or a nything . . . but I think they [parents] would be more accepting of a white person th an a black person . . . (Medha, 18, single female) Often non-acceptance of the marriage takes th e harsh manifestation of disowning of the second generation by parents. However, Patel women and men note that this occurs only in a minority of cases. Most of the time, an uneasy truce is arrived at between the second and first generations. Like my cousins actually ended up marry ing . . . both of my cousins ended up marrying white people . . . and her dad like disowned them. . . . So . . . they never talked to each other . . . (Medha, 18, single female) Some of the family members might be OK w ith it, but [others] may not. . . . They stop talking to them you know. . . . In my case, my Maasi (aunt) her father doesn’t talk to her . . . she even ha s a grandchild, he comes to he r [parental] home, he [the grandfather] never touches him or does anything . . . (Rahul, 18, single male) So . . . I think . . . unless it’s such a huge blow to th e heart or whatever, then you know they are not able to forgive . . . but that’s a very small amount of people that don’t forgive their kids for whatever . . . a nd especially for thi ngs like this . . . (Vishal, 27, married male) Interestingly, both Patel women and men refe rred to gender play evident in parental reactions to out-marriage. For the most part, those who raised the issue, held that men have more leeway in marrying outside the et hnic community or even a non-Indian largely because parents are unable to control th em. Thus, out-marriage by second generation men, while not condoned, is more easily accepted by parents. Second generation women

PAGE 221

210 by contrast faced harsher repercussions if they married outside the ethnic community or a non-Indian because it was perceived by pare nts are reflecting badly upon the family. Thus, parents were rarely accepting of their daughters’ out-marriage. Yeh! I think so [the repercussions are worse for women]. It’s looked badly, more badly upon the family [if the woman marries out], just because women are held to a higher standard I guess versus men . . . because boys will be boys and that’s the only thing they [parents] say. (laughs) Parents and the community looked more strictly upon women. (Sahil, 27, married male) I would say yes [it’s easier to accept if men out-marry]. I think if it was a girl marrying a non-Patel, that would be . . come as a larger shock . . . ( Nikhil, 18, single male) I think it’s a little bit more acceptable t hough to bring an American wife, than an American husband. . . . I think it’s a little bit easier for the guys to marry out than the girlsbecause it’s . . . well . . . it’s expected of the guys. It’s not expected of the girls (Reema, 22, single female) It is however important to note that tw o male participants contradicted the statements above by noting that parental reactions are the same whether second generation women or men out-marry – it is not likely to be accepted. No! it’s not even acceptable then [if men marry out] because the same thing [marriage ending in divorce] could happen to him and the kids even have to suffer. (Jay, 20, single male) No! I think it [shunning] would be the sa me [if a man or woman married out]. (Rahul, 18, single male) Rangaswamy (2000) and Khandelwal (2002), ob serve that parents often insist that their children choose spouses from within their ethnic community. Many Indian parents consider a marriage between a Hindu and a Mus lim an “absolute taboo” and even worse a transgression than marriage to a white American or a Hispanic (Khandelwal, 2002, p. 152). Rangaswamy (2000), notes that “marriage to a white American is less undesirable than marriage to an African-American” and so more acceptable to parents (p. 180). Some parents react by prohibiting the relationship, re stricting the movement of their children

PAGE 222

211 outside the house (especially so in the case of women), indulging in the silent treatment and disowning their children – “even after se veral years [after the marriage] her father still refused to talk to her; he told her mother that his daughter was dead as far as he was concerned” (Khandelwal, 2002, p. 154). Patel/Gujarati community reaction to out-marriage. The majority of Patel women and men noted that the most common reaction of the Patel/Gujarati community to out-marriage was gossip and talk about the marriage in the community. A few also noted that the couple and the family of the Patel partner is looked down upon in the community. Like . . . I know a lot of people [Patels] would end up talking about it and they’d be like . . . ‘Oh! You know . . . she’s marrying a white person’ or something like that (Medha, 18, single female) It’s [out-marriage] is re ally looked down upon [by the community] and they just start gossiping about it. And just like . . . feel bad for the parents and stuff like that. (Monica, 22, single female) The community is often Janus-faced, wher e they are accepting of the couple in public while gossiping about them and perceiving them as different in their absence. I think the community in general . . . no one was rude to that person [the Patel who married outside the community], but yet there was talk in the back . . . kind of . . . ‘you know she married an American . . .’(Janvi, 25, engaged female) The community itself? I think that on the outside, they will show that . . . that they are accepting [of the marriage] but I think they all have a lot to gossip about . . . ‘You know this gentleman or that lady is marrying outside.’ A nd it will be very hard for that personto be involved in the community. (Karan, 24, single male) There was however some contention between the participants as to whether the community ostracizes the couple with some pa rticipants maintaining that this happens especially in the case of marriage to a non-Indi an and others maintaining that it is a rare occurrence.

PAGE 223

212 The become outcasts [in the eyes of the Patel community]. Let’s say you marry outside a Patel, it’s hard for Patels to accept the guy . . . so imagine how would it be if you don’t marry an Indian?! You just don’t exist for them [Patel community]. [They will] pretend you are not thereit just doesn’t matter to them. (Kavita, 24, single female) Second generation reaction to out-marriage Most Patel women and men spoke of out -marriage being accepted by the second generation. Second generation Patels do not co nsider out-marriage to be wrong and are supportive of friends and fam ily members who choose it. The younger generation [second generation] is a lot more accepting of it [outmarriage] than the parents’ generation. Th ey would be like cool with it(Medha, 18, single female) My generation . . . we’d definitely be OK with itlike if I had friends who married Americans, I’d be fine with it . . . (Rahul, 18, single male) Selecting a suitable candidate and being intr oduced to them as described in this section is only the first step in the engagement and marriage process among second generation Patels. Following this, second gene ration Patel women and men are afforded opportunities to decide whethe r the candidate c ould become their spouse and then a courtship period so they can get to know one another prior to embarking on marriage, if they so decide. Rite Of Marriage Although Patel women did not delineate it fo r the record, their responses reveal observable stages in the pro cess leading up to their engage ment and their wedding day. It is these stages that I call the rite of marriag e. Most participants spoke of the rite of marriage in terms of the semi -arranged marriage and only spoke of the love marriage when questioned. Nonetheless, the following tw o broad areas will be explored in this section – rite of marriage: semi-arranged marriage context; rite of marriage: love

PAGE 224

213 marriage context. Once again it is important to reiterate here, since commencing this chapter, that most participants have not pers onally experienced these stages of marriage, but have done so vicariously through thei r extended family members and peers. Rite Of Marriage: Semi-Arranged Context Patel women and men elucidated on the process by which a suitable candidate becomes a betrothed and then a spouse and in doing so, revealed stages through which this process occurs. I identified four stages in this process that I have labelled – introduction and relationship assessment; bu ilding a relationship and making a choice: courtship; declaring your intentio ns: engagement; the wedding day. Introduction and relationship assessment As mentioned in the earlier section, Patel women and men are introduced to prospective spouse through the a variety of sp aces – such as informal networks, online matrimonials and conventions spaces among ot hers created by the Patel community in the United States for this express purpose. Emerging from these spaces is a barrage of bio-data, e-mail and telephonic exchanges that assists the couple in deciding on an eligible candidate as a poten tial partner, followed by a f ace-to-face meeting with the candidate. Patel women and men were unable to arrive at a consensus on the duration of the relationship assessment. Some Patel women e xplained that the couple was expected to make a decision as to whether or not they w ould like to pursue a re lationship with each other in the first meeting. Like . . . some of my cousins . . . they just looked at each other, and they talked for . . . seriously . . . th ey talked for 45 minutes and they said yes [to marriage]. (Poonam, 19, single female)

PAGE 225

214 I would say in that one meeting. . . ..Like . . . they don’t have to likenecessarily decide like you know . . . maybe you could be li ke . . . decide a few days later [that] I will want to go out with him. . . . (Medha, 18, single female) Two participants reacted to this stage in the rite of marriage. Ritu, a female participant, claimed that relationship asse ssment was difficult to accomplish within the confining environment within which the couple was expected to decide. Sahil, a male participant acknowledged somewhat matter-of-factly that often, it is the initial physical attraction that the couple feels (when they first meet) that determines the decision to pursue a relationship or not. I would think that you couldn’ t be yourself completely, probably impossible. You don’t know what he’s going to go tell his pare nts, or what you’re going to tell your parents. And so you can’t be completely yourselves. . . . (Ritu, 22, single female) And everything is based on the visual firs t . . . if you find that person physically attractive . . . then you get to know her . . . I think in most cases, if they find a physical attractiveness to each other . . . th ey might start dating. (Sahil, 27, married male) Building a relationship and making a choice: Courtship Once the couple expresses interest in pur suing a relationship, a courtship begins. The majority of Patel women and men noted th at most often, the couple is allowed to date openly with the consent and knowledge of their parents. They have the freedom to meet regularly with each othe r, go out to movies, dinner an d be seen as a couple. Patel women and men explain that this form of ‘d ating’as courtship is accepted by parents the relationship is constructed as being a serious one which could culminate in marriage. Given this, parents are keen to provide the second generatio n with opportunitie s to get to know each other before they make their choice. That [courting] is more accepted . . . if your parents arrange it or introduce you to someone, it’s a lot more accepted [to date]. But if you go out and find someone yourself, [dating] is not as accep ted. (Poonam, 19, single female)

PAGE 226

215 . . . they might start dating . . . I’d say so [ it’s acceptable to parents] if the ultimate goal is marriage. Yeh! I think parents don’t have a problem with that. I think they’re [parents] alright with the two goi ng out on their own . . . because nowadays they [parents] see . . . [it’s] the only wa y they [second generation] get to know each other. (Sahil, 27, married male) However, this is not always the case. Some Patel women and men observed that even when a couple is courting, parents prefer that they do not meet or date unsupervised, but always in someone else’s company, usually a sister, cousin or fri end or to only meet each other in the home. But they [parents] do prefer that likesome one go with [the couple]. . . . Like . . . when my cousin [was courting]. . . . me n and one of her really good friends, the two of us went with her and he [partner] came along as well . . . so I think parentsif it is a girl, they [parents] ki nd of want someone to go with her to make sure she’s OK . . . but for guys, I don’t thi nk it really matters if someone goes with them or not. (Poonam , 19, single female) When it is through these channels [arrang ed marriage channels], I mean I don’t really know. . . . I mean I don’t know if they [parents] would . . . it [courtship especially dating] still be s upervised or with a friend . . . take a friend with you or something. . . . Like if you met through your parents . . . you wouldn’t be allowed to meet them [prospective candidates] on your own . . . you’d have to be supervised . . . Like . . . parents would want to know what’s going on or what you guys are talking about . . . I mean . . . (Ritu, 22, single female) A couple of Patel women and men also noted that in some families, the courtship involves the couple talking on the phone to each other rather than da ting or meeting each other which occurs intermittently. It depends on the family. . . . Some families only allow you to talk over the phone, meet once or twice, like . . . not an ev eryday thinglike go out on a date. Some families don’t allow that . . . (Kavita, 24, single female) They [parents] allow them to spend some time with each other . . . or maybe not go out as much, but like talk on the phone maybe or just to . . . kind of get to know the person before actually making a huge decisi on of marriage. (Anil, 21, single male)

PAGE 227

216 Anil, a 21 year old single male, also remarked that in the more conservative Patel families, the couple would have to be informally engaged before they would be allowed to court. But I think, even now if it’s arranged, and both families have very traditional values . . . they [second generation] kind of have to stay in an [informal] engagement. You know it will be like . . . ‘OK, they’re engaged somewhat.’ Because the thing is with Indians, is like wo rd spreads . . . people talk . . . like . . . if they’re not engaged, and they’re seen, you know at the movies or something like that, they’re going to be . . . ‘Oh! She’s not even e ngaged and she’s out [with him].’ So, I guess they [first generation] kind of have to label it engagement, but even after an engagement or even during the process of engagement, they’re [second generation] talking . . . you know, the two are talking and they’re going out, trying to get to know each other, and then if they still feel that they shouldn’t get married, then they still are able to call it quits. Deciding upon marriage with th e person they are courting is a choice made only by the couple and not by their parents as repo rted by an overwhelming majority of Patel women and men. Once again ther e was no consensus among them as to the duration of the courtship before a decision regarding marri age needed to be made. Most Patel women and men noted that there is no fixed duration for courtship and that the couple can take their time before they decide on marriage – what they called a “comfort level”. When pressed to gauge an approximate duration in th is case, they fixed it at anywhere between a couple of days to two years, maintaining th at the greater the comf ort with each other, the quicker the decision. I know couples who have gone years wit hout saying anything and I know couples who [have] gone out and said it in the fi rst two days or whatever. There’s no set rule . . .it’s as comfortable as you feel, and I guess it goes how serious you feel it [relationship] is. (Nikhil, 18, single male) I guess it [deciding upon marriage] depends [ on] how well they hit off. I think that a lot of people like to talk it out for a long time. Like . . . my cousin got introduced actually through like a convention . . . and he talked to my sister-in-law for like around two years before they decided [to get married]. (Monica, 22, single female)

PAGE 228

217 However, a number of Patel women and me n did observe a time-limit to courtship usually set by parents. In most cases, they believed that courtshi p extended from a few months (two-three months) to a year befo re a decision about marriage was required. Some also noted that in some cases, the deci sion had to be taken either on the day the couple was introduced or within a few weeks or days of courting. I think it [deciding upon ma rriage] depends upon parents. Now I think they [second generation] get a little more leeway . . . I think a year [to decide] is usually acceptable to them [parents]. (Janvi, 25, engaged female) I’d say typicallyif not pressured sooner . . . but I think they [parents] want a definite answer within a y ear after the courtship star ts. (Sahil, 27, married male) For I think . . . a lot of people that ar e out there being introduced it’s more you know . . . for them . . . it’s a time line because they [parents] want to know either right away or within maybe two to four weeks . . . a nd sometimes less than that. (Vishal, 27, married male) A male participant introdu ced an interesting variable that has emerged throughout this study – age. He observes th at the duration of the courts hip depends on the age of the partners. If perceived to be younger than th e desired age by whic h second generation should be wed, the courtship can extend for even a year. This possibility shrinks rapidly, for instance to a month, if the pa rtners are perceived as older – that is nearing the age of marriage. Well . . . if they [first generation] start earlier, like at 22, then maybe you can wait like for a longer time, maybe even a year . . . but like . . . if they’re [second generation] are getting to a point when they’re getting older, then yeh! They [second generation] have to do it [decide on marriage] quickly. (Jay, 20, single male) Gender was an issue brought up by Patel women. They reported that second generation women have a lot more at stak e in the relationship than their male counterparts. Second generation women have to be sure of the re lationship, as in the

PAGE 229

218 Indian tradition, upon marriage th ey leave their natal homes while men continue to be part of theirs. A lot of things are at stake [for a woman] because she’s going to another person’s house. So I think that like . . . a woman ha s to look more closely when picking like . . . a husband . . . while a husband. . . . I f eel like he’s at an advantage because he’s still going to be in his own house . . . you know. . . . A lot of times, second generation wives have to stay with their in -laws and stuff like th at . . . (Monica, 22, single female) Another gendered facet of courtship is the reputation of second generation Patel women. Second generation women in a courting relationship are seen as “being with a guy” which could be deleterious to her and to her prospects of marriage if a protracted courtship ends fails to culminate in marriage. But you’re like under a lot of pressure from like both ways because then . . . like . . . your parents will be like . . . especially the girl’s parents will be likeyou know . . . like . . . they’ll be pressuring her to get married or someth ing to that person because then you now she’s already seen as “being with the guy”. . . . So then like in a sense . . . “she’s been taken” or something . . . like . . . she’s been branded. (Medha, 18, single female) Thus, women face more pressure from their parents to make a decision regarding marriage sooner. While men face some pressure, Patel women explain that it is just the pressure to get married and not the pressure induced by stigma. He does [get pressured], but I don’t think to the same degree. Like . . . I think they’ll [parents] be like . . . pressuring hi m to go for it. (laughs) . . . because you know . . . I mean they [parents] want them to be together, like . . . they introduced them . . . but I don’t think it will be like . . . you know . . . if you [second generation man] don’t you’re going to look bad or something like that. (Medha, 18, single female) Declaring your intentions: Engagement Following a courtship and the decision to marry, a formal engagement is the next step and proceeds quickly after the decision is made. Patel women and men highlighted engagement practices that their generati on indulges in. Becoming formally engaged

PAGE 230

219 involves a religious cere mony presided over by a maharaj (priest), with bhajans (prayers) and all the rituals. At this ceremony, the couple exchange s rings and the engagement is announced to the Patel community and forma lized. The engagement ceremony is a big event that is hosted by the man’s family as part of tradition. They’ll set a date for the engagement and you just exchange rings and it’s actually a really big event, it’s not small . . . it’s a fairly big event. (Poonam, 19, single female) The boy’s side [family] usually does the enga gement. . . . I just went to my friend’s and the boy does it . . . I mean they do the Vidi (religious ceremony), they give the ring and everything, and it’s like an I ndian party . . . .they have the Maharaj (priest) there. (Reema, 22, single female) I mean there is like . . . a Vedic or Indian ceremony . . . the Maharaj (priest) saying prathanas (prayers) and bhajans (prayer in song) and all that. (Nikhil,18, single male) Interestingly, second generation Patel wo men and men observed that there have been adaptations of engagement practices to the United States spearheaded by the second generation. Often, Patel men propose to thei r fiance’s with a ring prior to the engagement ceremony itself. Following the acceptance of his proposal, parents are informed about their decision and the formal ceremony is organized. This occurs in both in the case of semi-arranged and love marriages . This dual-step engagement process is a recent phenomenon and not a custom that the first generation indulged in. The guy asks the parents of the girl . . . but if they’re [second generation] are already allowed to date, the parents have said yes and they’re [parents] are not going to have a problem with it. So you know . . . then it kind of just the whole engagement like . . . proposing . . . you know like . . . that’s almost like an American culture . . . like the way they do it. . . . (Priya, 20, single female) I had a friend who got engaged last December . . . he took his girlfriend on a vacation and gave her the ringbut the real Indian engagement is not till this December. So I think kids are adopting th e American way . . . but then like the parents . . . they want the Indian thi ng [engagement]. . . . (Reema, 22, single female)

PAGE 231

220 Oh! They are definitely [adopting American practices] . . . proposing is definitely something that second generation have adopted. (Nikhil, 18, single male) In addition, some Patel men observed that other American customs such as serving of non-vegetarian food at engagement parties, cake-cutting and presenting of gifts have also been adopted by se cond generation Patels. They have cake cutting, they have a dance, you knowand a party and gifts and it’s sort of just like a wedding without [the actual wedding]. (Karan, 24, single male) Most of them serve non-vegetarian food . . . serve like chicken and that’s somewhat modernized. (Jay, 20, single female) It is important to note that most Pa tel women and men acknowledged that the couple decides for themselves how soon follow ing their engagement they would like to be married. Most Patel women and men agreed on the fact th at the duration of a typical engagement among second generation Patels is between six months to a year following the formal engagement, at which time the wedding takes place. This is largely because the planning of a Patel wedding w ith all the traditions and ritu als often takes about a year. I mean the engagement is usually quick and brief because the marriage usually follows very quickly. I would think that if you [got engaged to] someone, you’d probably be married to him within six mont hs to a year . . . probably a year. (Ritu, 22, single female) It takes a lot to plan a wedding, people a nd then a lot of mone y involved and they want to make sure they have the perfect hall and the perfect dress . . . [so the engagement for a year]. (Karan, 24, single male) Apart from this, it affords the couple time to continue the process commenced in courtship of getting to know each other and each other’s families. The duration of the engagement is also determined by the schedule s of the couple, especi ally so if they are studying. Often, the couple waits until they have completed their degrees prior to getting married.

PAGE 232

221 It just depends on what they are doing at the momentand th eir schedules . . . (Gaurav, 19, single male) I think it depends on educati on. I think they [parents] want both men and women to finish their degrees [befor e getting married]. I think that’s probably the most important thing that parents want . . . ‘I want my son or daughter to have their degree before marriage occurs. I want them to be able to fend for themselves’. (Sahil, 27, married male) The wedding day Leonard (1997), and Khandelwal (2002) ha ve documented to some extent the actual wedding day among Indians in the United States. The weddings are lavish, public and large and often a display of the families resources. The actual wedding spans several days with ceremonies, rituals and meals planned on each particular day of the celebrations and one day devoted to the re ligious ceremony consec rating the marriage. These ceremonies are gendered with some being performed only by women and others only men. During the ceremony, brides as well as the female guests wear traditional raiment in bright colors and elaborate jewelry. Often purchases for the wedding, especially ethnic garments and jewelry, ar e made in India al though Indian wedding providers in the United St ates are also sought. Patel women and men did not elaborate to a great extent on the actual wedding day as that was not integral to the survey. Th ey did however explain that a wedding in the Patel community is a two to three day event. It is usually hosted by the bride’s family, who shoulder a significant proportion of the we dding expenses, except in the event when they are unable to afford it, in which case expenses are shared by the bride’s and groom’s families. The traditional ceremonies and practices are held on the days leading up to the wedding such as the biti ceremony (cleansing the bride an d groom with turmeric paste; mehendi (painting the brides’ ha nds with henna) and the garba-raas (Gujarati folk

PAGE 233

222 dance). The wedding ceremony is religious and involves the saat pheras (seven circles) around the holy fire. The whole three day ceremony occurs . . . we have garba-raas , we still have the biti ceremony . . . where both the guy and the girl at their respective locations get cleansed with the turmeric bath . . . mehendi and things like that . . . (Sahil, 27, married male) I think it [wedding] involves two day [events] and it is usually . . . like you have to go to the place where the girl is originally from and it’s a long ceremony where they do the pheras (circles around the holy fire) and all that . . . and the bride’s parents pays for it . . . unless the bride’s pa rents can’t afford it, that’s when the guy tries to chip in probably . . . but it’s still e xpected from my parents that the girl pays for it. (Rahul, 18, single male) Rite Of Marriage: Love Marriage Context Patel women and men briefly elaborated on the process leadi ng up to engagement and the wedding in the case of love marriages . They explained that in the love marriage scenario, partners meet or are introduced to each other in school and by friends. Some also meet each other online, through the online marriage data-bases while others meet at Gujarati community events such as Diwali festivals. They explain that after the couple meet, they proceed with a regular courtship, except they date each other without their parents’ knowledge and consent. They get to know each other, fall in love and assess the potential of the relationship and decide upon marriage. Right now . . . for my generation, I think love marriages are more common. . . . I guess [they find their partners] just online or colleges or friend circles or programs like Diwali and stuff . . . (Rahul, 18, single male) A lot of them are finding their own spous e. Like I just had friends what got married, they went to school here, and they dated, [and] everything was on their own(Reema, 22, single female) [In a love marriage] I would meet the guy on my own. . . . I would be dating him for a while . . . and it would take . . . probably be long . . . I feel people try to date and be in a relationship for a long time be fore they decide to get engaged. And usually the children [second generation] w ill tell their parents about itand they would discuss it . . . (Monica, 22, single female)

PAGE 234

223 However Patel women and men note the compli cations and pitfalls inherent in love marriages especially parental reactions to the relationship. To facilitate ease in parental acceptance, a lot of second ge neration Patel women and men keep the mate selection criteria (especially those criteria important to parents) mentioned above in mind when choosing someone they could fall in love with. But the problem most of the time, I’ve seen with non-arranged [marriages] is that when it comes up to actually making the de cision for marriage, it’s a pretty big thing for parents. The son or daughter might want to marry . . . but parents don’t agree and that’s a huge th ing. (Anil, 21, single male) I think most of them [second generation] do [keep criteria in mind] because a lot of parents do disown their children or likeget angry with their kids and not like . . . approve of the marriage. . . . (Monica, 22, single female) Patel women and men also elaborated on when parents are informed of the couple’s decision to marry. Most explain that when th ey fall in love, prior to proposing marriage to their partner, they disclose the relationshi p to their parents and grandparents not only to gain their approval and acceptance for the ma rriage but also so the first generation can find out more about the partner’s family. T hose who subscribe to this view note that disclosing the relationship to parents prior to proposing marri age is crucial and parental reaction to the relationship will determine whether or not they actually get married. In the love marriage thing . . . say if I was 25 [years old] and I fell in love with someone, it would probably have to be a Patel . . . but I’d tell . . . first I’d definitely tell my mom’s parents about it, and you know they’d find [out] everything about her. I would first talk to my parents about it, and then if they say it’s OK, [then I will] go ahead and probably propose to her . . . (Rahul, 18, single male) This speaks to the contention made by Patel women and men that there are two reactions by the second genera tion to parental disapproval of the marriage. Some decide to get married to their partners despite pa rental disapproval of th e relationship. Others

PAGE 235

224 choose not to go ahead with the marriage becau se to do so would mean losing parents’ trust and support. To tell you the truth, if I were to fall in love with a guy that’s completely different than Patel, and I know how much that would hurt my mom . . . I wouldn’t go for it . . . Because I would leave that [relationship] and stick with my parents . . . (Priya, 20, single female) If you are serious about him, then there are people [s econd generation women] who actually go to their parents . . . and talked to their parents and see what they have to say. There are people who actua lly . . . there are parents w ho say flat out no! Just . . . ‘No! you can’t marry him’ even after m eeting the guy . . . basically the girl will run away, if not she’ll just you know say no to the guy and marry a guy that her parents will pick. (Kavita, 24, single female) However, they also note somewhat logical ly, that parents’ s hould not fear their choice of partner in a love marriage as the probabilities of knowing your partner better is greater in this type of marriage than it is in a semi-arranged marriage. My personal belief is that like . . . if you’ve met someone that you know for one, two, three years . . . even if it’s not an arranged marriage, you . . . are compatible with them. You know a lot more about them than you would like . . . [know] in the two, three month span of the engagement [i n an arranged marriage context]. So my personal opinion is that like . . . parents shoul dn’t be like . . . ‘Oh! Their family’s not good’ You’re past that level . . . . (Anil, 21, single male) Until this point in the chapter, most Patel women and men have spoken about engagement and marriage among the second ge neration in the Patel community. I then asked the single participants to elucidate for me, what they envisage d their marriages to be and how they envisaged the “making” of their marriages. The engaged and married participants were asked to narra te their marriage experiences. Marriage Visions And Expectations Single, engaged and married Patel women and men explored for the record their visions for and expectations of marriage and of their spouses. This was a portion of the interview that was greeted with the most laughter, clarity of thought or hesitation as Patel

PAGE 236

225 women and men thought through th eir visions. I have ela borated on their marriage visions and expectations around four main themes that emerged during our conversations – the choice to marry, timing of marriage, pref erred marriage type, and vision of spouse. Choice To Marry Lessinger (1995), and Khandelwal (2002) comm ent on the centrality of marriage in the lives of Indians both in In dia and the United States. It is a rite of passage of great social significance. It plays a crucial role not only in the continuity of the family and the ethnic community, but also in mainta ining the social framework of “ dharma ” which defines male and female roles and responsib ilities (Khandelwal, 2002, p. 118). This is an ideology that most second generation Indians are socialized into and embrace for themselves. However, both first and second ge neration Indians agree on the point that the second generation must marry and have children (Lessinger, 1995). Reflecting this ideology, all Patel women and men who participat ed in the study noted that they plan on getting married, if they have not already done so or are in the process of doing so. Timing Of Marriage Patel women and men were given the freedom to define the timing of marriage as they sought fit. Rather than being questioned on the age they would like to marry, they were asked about the stage of life at which they would like to marr y. Nonetheless, most participants affixed an age to their defin itions of timing. Patel women noted that they would like to get married when they were 2526 years old, while Patel men noted when they were between 26-28 years old. They c onnected their age with other factors that determine the timing of their marriage. Both Patel women and men spoke of wanting to marry after completing their entire education (p ost-graduate or profe ssional degrees) or at least the most difficult portion of their educati on. They maintained that they would like to

PAGE 237

226 accomplish this, but still not be too old to marr y, and to enjoy some time alone with their spouses before they had children which they are planning to do befo re they are 30 years old. This was also the justification for the age limit selected by those who defined timing in terms of their age. Yes . . . definitely. . . . I have an age deci ded. . . . By the age of 28, I definitely want to get married. 28 is my personal preference [as the age to get married] because I want to get to know the pers on . . . then at least by 30, decide whether I want to have kids with her or not(Rahul, 18, single male) I want to get married [by the] age of 25 because I want some time with my husband alone as well . . . and also because of the whole like . . . you should have children by a certain age for the health of the child to be optimal. So I kind of want to have a child before like 29 or something . . . (Monica, 22, single female) I think that [the age I want to get married ] would be a good point in my career and I would have had finished two or three year s of medical school, and I’d probably be going into my fourth year. Fourth year . . . is usually pretty easy and I also want to spend a good year of marriag e enjoying myself . . . because once I start residency, [the] timing will probably be off . . . and I’d like to have a good year . . . year and a half of marriage before [residency]. (Gaurav, 19, single male) Some Patel men noted that the timing of their marriage would be determined by their financial viability of support a family wh ich necessarily meant that they marry after they embark on a professional track. I plan on going on the professional track my self, so once I’m like financially able to start my own family . . . I think . . . [that’s] when I would actually start considering that [marriage] . (Nikhil, 18, single male) Two Patel women averred that they would like to embark on a professional life for a while after completing their educations and did not want to marry before they experienced that. Both did not mind getting engaged before she accomplished her goal, but did not want to marry before she did. I would like to get married probably clos e to when I’m going to be finishing school. Maybe not necessarily when I’m in the middle of school, because I just think that . . . that’ll be a big distraction in my life. Bu t I definitely would like to find a guy and be settle with that guy while I’m you know going through med

PAGE 238

227 school so that I know, you know like I don’t have that . . . I mean pressure . . . of like . . . ‘Find a guy, find a guy, find a guy !’ and you know . . . I know that once I get out of med school, and once I’m fi nishing up med school . . . then it’s [marriage] fine because you know I’m fini shing up, it’s fine then because I don’t have that pressure to stay focused you know actually ge tting through the 4 years, but I think about I guess [I’d be] 27 [and th at] is pretty late for my parents, but I think that’s around about time I would prob ably want to get married. (Priya, 20, single female) [I plan on getting married] at maybe 25, 26 [years old]. That’s when I’ll finish schoolaround 24 [years] and then I want to work for a year or two. And then get married. I don’t mind getting engaged before that, [but] I don’t wa nt to get married until then. (Poonam, 19, single female) Preferred Marriage Type When asked what was their preferred type of marriage – semi-arranged or love marriage – a significant proportion of Patel men and women chose in favor of love marriage or noted that their marriages were love marriages. This echoes claims by scholars that second generation Indians are no t willing to accept the traditional idea of love growing after marriage (Wakil, Siddique & Wakil, 1981; Vaidyanathan & Naidoo, 1990; Lessinger, 1995; Rangaswamy, 2000; Dugsin, 2001; Khande lwal, 2002). Having grown up in the United States, they are “cel ebrating” as Rangasw amy (2000) puts it, “choice as a birthright” and are demanding greater freedom in the choice of their marriage partners (p. 119). They believe that a love marriage woul d enable them to better know and be comfortable with the person they marry. Howeve r, almost all participants who spoke in favor of love marriage also identified a cavea t that parental accep tance and approval of their marriage was important to them. Thus, th ey would (or in some cases already had) followed the criteria for mate selection to ensure approval of the relationship. I definitely want to have a love marriage . . . I don’t want them [parents] picking a person for me. (Rahul, 18, single male)

PAGE 239

228 I think . . . [I would like] a love marriage . . . I think it’s [love marriage] gonna be really close to what my parents want and so . . . guideline wiseand I think they’ll accept it [love marriage]. I don’t think I’m goi ng to look beyond what their like . . . expectations are of me. . . . If they [parents] have a se rious problem with it [love marriage] I might have to think things, but I think for the most part, I’m going to go with what my parents want. . . . And es pecially my mom . . . because I know it [marrying a suitable partner] means so much to her (Priya, 20, single female) I’d rather find somebody on my own that I’v e like . . . spent time with and I can figure out like . . . is this really goi ng to work. (Reema, 22, single female) Most Patel women and men who spoke of the semi-arranged marriage as a preference, named it as an alternative option, if they are unable to find a suitable spouse on their own by the time they exceeded the ag e of marriage. One participant explained that the semi-arranged marriage as a preferred type was entertained more her parents than by her as they did not tr ust her ability to find a suitable spouse without th eir intervention. Another noted that despite her choice to have a love marriag e, her parents would continue to introduce her to eligible candidates, with whom she may fall in love. I mean it’s [semi-arranged marriage] not out of the question . . . but I really would try to avoid it . . . I mean . . . if it came down to the point of where you know . . . there wasn’t anybody. . . . I guess I’d be open-minded to my mo m maybe trying to findlikeintroduce me to people . . . like he lp me out . . . but I’d rather find [a spouse] on my own. (Reema, 22, single female) [I want a] love marriage. [But] Yeh! Arra nged marriage is an option in that like . . . my parents will like . . . show me someone and I’ll meet them and try to get to know them that way . . . . (Monica, 22, single female) It [semi-arranged marriage] is still an opti on . . . I’m sure they [parents] will . . . you know . . . they’ll start looking. I mean . . . I’m still 20 [years old] so they haven’t really started yetbut I’m sure they’ll look for guys and obviously I have the option to say no . . . you know. . . . .A nd if I have got a guy [by] then, you know . . . it will be like . . . ‘OK well this is who I have’(Priya, 20, single female) . . . because they [parents] don’t trust me . . . that I will find somebody . . . so they want to keep that [semi-arranged ma rriage] on the side too. If I don’t find somebody, then at least they’ll [parents] will have somebody to fall back on.. . . . I don’t mind arranged marriages. I find them irritating . . . but I want enough time to get to know the person before I get married. If they [parents] introduce me to a guy, if they [parents] give me enough time, about a year or two or something . . . and if I

PAGE 240

229 think that’ the right guythen I don’t mind [getting married to him]. (Kavita, 24, single female) There are however contradictory views e xpressed. Medha, an 18 year old single female explained that a semiarranged marri age was not even an option for her as she was uncomfortable with it. I mean if I wanted an option . . . I gue ss I would have it [semi-arranged marriage] but I don’t think I’d feel comfortabl e [with a semi-arranged marriage]. For two participants though, a semi-arranged marriage was their preferred type of marriage – a choice, not an option. One wo man explained that her parents know her better than she knows herself and so are be tter qualified to find a spouse who is her match. The male participant observed that an arranged marriage would enable him to get to better know the family of his spouse I’ve always wanted an arranged marriage . . . ‘coz I feel that my parents know me a lot better than I know myself . . . Like . . . they know what I would want, and they know what would make me happy. . . . I rea lly think my parents know me so well . . . both my parents, my mo m and my dad, they know me so well . . . so they know exactly what kind of guy would be good with me and I feel like they would do a better job at finding him than I would. . . . But recently . . . I’ve kind of wanted a mixture of both . . . where it would be arranged, but where I get to know the guy a lot better before I married him. (Poonam, 19, single female) I would like an arranged marriage, ju st because you can get to know about the familyIt is very important(Anil, 21, single male) This is consistent with Lessinger ( 1995), Rangaswamy (2000), and Khandelwal (2002) who note that second generation Indians are work ing towards a middle ground, anticipating and perhaps preferri ng that their pa rents introduce them to a potential spouse, but the ultimate choice and decision of whom to marry will be their own. Visions Of Spouse Patel women and men also elaborated of ten with great hilarity, confidence or hesitation their visions of their spouse. I have analyzed their visions around two main

PAGE 241

230 themes emerging from their responses – criter ia for mate selection, and qualities, roles and responsibilities of spouse. Criteria for mate selection As mentioned earlier in the chapter, a number of the criteria of mate selection listed were those held by the first and not the s econd generation. Here the Patel women and men delineated for the record the criteria of ma te selection that were important to them for their spouse. Patel/Gujarati. A large number of them spoke of their desire for a Patel or a Gujarati spouse. They believed that marri age within their ethnic community would prevent possible culture clashe s in the home and the conseque nt confounding of children born of the marriage. In additi on, they desire to maintain th e Gujarati culture with their children and bring them up in the community’s religious traditions which would provide continuity of tradition for children. More importantly, Patel women and men acknowledge that marriage with in the ethnic community w ould be easier, and more acceptable to parents. For me . . . [she] definitely [has to be a Patel] because I actually wa nt my whole family to support me when I get married, so for that to happen, I have to marry a Patel. (Rahul, 18, single male) I mean . . . [a] Gujarati [spouse] is a big th ing for me just because . . . like . . . I grew up with that culture and like . . . I want my kids to have that culture and like . . . I want to continue having it as well. . . . And someone . . . [of] the same religion because like . . .I would want my kids to be the same religion as me. . . . And like . . . it’d [marriage to a non-Gujarati] be just harder(Medha, 18, single female) Some Patel men also noted that they want ed their parents to reside with them. Given this, having a Gujarati wife, who speaks Gujarati, would facili tate greater ease in communication between their pare nts and wives and ensure that the language tradition is passed onto their children.

PAGE 242

231 Yeh! I would personally like th at [marry another Patel] because I want my parents to stay with me and . . . if we spoke the same language and have the same interests [it would be easier]. (G aurav, 19, single male) Reiterating ideas expressed earlier in the chapter, Karan, a 24 year old single male, claims that a non-Gujarati Indian wife would not be suitable because it would inevitably result in a clash of cultures for the children (as different Indian ethnic communities have their own ethnic traditions and culture) and he desires that his children have Gujarati cultural roots. It would be very difficult if there as a South Indian or North Indian [wife]. If I had a South Indian . . . or North Indian wife, it’ll make the childrenjust more confused. They wouldn’t really know . . . you k now . . . that if we were . . . if both husband and wife are Gujarati, then they ’ll [children] have a focus . . . you knowthey’ll have roots. I mean every part of India has a different culture . . . Education/Professional. While I am aware that these two criteria are not the same, I have collated them for ease as they overl ap substantially. Both Patel women and men are firm about wanting an educated spouse. [My wife] definitely . . . has to have an education. . . . That’s one of my life goals, if I get married to someone, she at leas t has to have a good college education beyond four years. . . . and not just the common four years. (Rahul, 18, single male) Someone [husband] that’s educated . . . obviously. I mean some people go to extremes when it comes to education and [spouses] have to be doctors of lie that. I don’t think my parents would care because I don’t care. . . . As long as you [prospective husband] has goals in life , it should be good e nough. (Ritu, 22, single female) Patel women explain that they want a husba nd educated to the sa me level or higher than her. Patel men elucidate that the criter ion would ensure them that their wives are intelligent and goal directed. I already have my bachelor’s and I’m goi ng to go for another bachelor’s and I’m applying for my master’s [degree] too. So I want somebody who is about the same level [of education] if not higher. (Kavita, 24, single female)

PAGE 243

232 A significant proportion of Patel men also ad mitted for the record that they want wives who are professionals a nd who work. Some explained th at this would ensure that should anything happen to them (men), thei r wives would be able to support their families. They however qualified this preferen ce for a professional, working wife when discussing the qualities, roles and respons ibilities they expect in a wife. . . . the main reasons I want this [edu cated, professional wife] is because if something were to happen to me, she could take care of the kids or my mother and her family. (Rahul, 18, single male) Family background. Some Patel women and men also spoke in terms of their spouses hailing from good family backgrounds . Rahul, an 18 year ol d single male also explained gender disparities in evaluating family background Yes . . . like definitely [family bac kground is important]if her parents are divorced . . . my family wouldn’t appr ove of that I mean my mother’s divorcedbut they don’t look at that. . . . If the girl’s parents are divorced, they’d [parents] be likeshe doesn’t come from a good family. They [parents] consider that . . . Age. Rahul, an 18 year old single male, brought up the criterion of age noting that he wanted his wife to either be younger than him (by about two years) or the same age as him, but not older, although he did not qualify the reason for this preference. She [wife] has definitely to be younger than me . . . or the same age, she can’t be older . . . [a] one or two year age differe nce [between us] but definitely not older, that is not accepted at all. Spouse’s country of origin. This was a criterion raised by only Anil, a 21 year old single male, who explained that he would like to marry a Pa tel from India and not from the United States. Rather than summarizing his reasons for this preference, I have allowed his words to provide the explanation. I would like to get someone [a wife] fr om India because I do value a lot of the traditional values that Indian girls in I ndia have. I’m not saying that the ones here [United States] do not, but it’s a lot harder to find the ones that do [have the values]

PAGE 244

233 here. It’s because the American culture ha s impacted them in such a way that you know that they have the freedom to do what ever they please, wh ich is a very good thing, but whereas the Indian girls in India they know that like alright . . . you know . . . marriage is one thing, it’s a sacred bond, it’s so mething that you know should not be broken, whereas the ones here [Unite d States] . . . divorce is heard a lot in America. In India you don’t really hear that word. . . . I’m looking for this kind of false hope that I have of India because I went to India last year, you know . . . I kind of saw what it is ther e, it’s completely changing. I guess the values that there guess they know . . . obviously girls in I ndia know how to speak Gujarati that you don’t find here. You don’t have girls that know how to read and write [Gujarati] . . . I don’t personally know how to read and write Gujarati . . . but I want my children to know how to . . . at l east know how to you know speak Gujarati. If I marry someone from here, I feel lik e I’m going to be limiting that in my children’s aspect. I feel that like . . . it’ s going to be more American talk going on in the family. If I have someone [a wife] from India, like . . . when I come back home from work . . . I’ll be talking more E nglish at work . . . but when I come back home, I’ll kind of be able to still switch gears being able to talk Gujarati and that my children will have an impact on them. Qualities, roles & respon sibilities of spouse Patel women and men identified a plethora of qualities they envisaged in their spouse. Patel women spoke of wanting husba nds they would get along and enjoy being with, who are funny, smart and caring, and who they could talk to. More importantly, they desired that their husb ands treat them well and be supportive of their goals. I’d want somebody that I can ta lk to . . . somebody who can be your best friend . . . I know that’s like [a] very clich thing to say. But somebody you [second generation woman] can talk to very ope nly . . . somebody who can make you laugh . . . I think that’s a really important th ing. Somebody that you just enjoy being with . . . spending time with . . . (Janvi, 25, engaged female) Patel men, in visualizing their wives, spoke of someone who is caring, loving, gentle, and easy going and who is fun to be with. Sahil, a 27 year old, married male participant spoke of wanting a wife w ho was “aggressive enough to know what she wanted and how to get it and enjoy it”, claiming that his wi fe is an embodiment of his expectations. I was just looking for a person whose . . . I like that type who’s aggressive, who’s . . . not aggressive to the poi nt of annoying, but aggressive to the point were they

PAGE 245

234 know what they want and know how they’re going to get it, and they’re going to enjoy it, and they’re going to reap the rewa rds of the hard work that they have put in for it. . . . [My wife] embodies it. She is the head of our household! Some Patel men however had more detail ed and succinct visions of a wife. A common preference is for a wife with a “good value system”. This term is a euphemism that refers to a range of qualities that ofte n do not need to be defined for most Indians who almost instinctively understand its meani ng. However, Patel men explained that the term implied a woman who is religious, know ledgeable about Gujarati/Indian culture – “had a good cultural sense”, who is simple a nd not absorbed in American culture to the extent that she is materialistic. She should have a good cultural sense. . . .You know . . . like to know a lot about who Gujarati’s are, a lot about the religion . . . I would want her to be a very simple person, not someone who has been absorbed in the American culture so much that she only focuses on money and looks. (Karan, 24, single male) Anil, a 21 year old single male, explained that he wanted his wife to be like his mother – someone who would be able to pass on traditions to his children. I’m looking for a wife like my mom . . . lik e now . . . it’s hard to find someone like you’re mom that has values. . . . She [my wi fe] might be able to teach prayers to my son, you knowbe able to you know . . . do whatever puja (prayers) that she has . . . Three areas of roles and responsibilities usually entered our conversations about marriage visions and expectati ons – professional work, domestic responsibilities, and responsibilities to the family. I have however, not separated their visi ons into these areas as they are interconnected and can better be appreciate d together. All Patel women expressed a desire to work professionally even after thei r marriage, a decision which most Patel men acknowledged that th ey accepted and were comfortable with . However, some men were definite about their wive s working until they had children. They

PAGE 246

235 explained that once children were born, they preferred that their wives either work parttime or not work at all, and could resu me work once the ch ildren grew up. Yeh! I think [I want her to work] until at least . . . until we have kids . . . I’d like for her to work, and theneven once we have kids . . . I would like . . . personally like . . . for her to be at home with the kids . . . [or she] can go work part-time maybea day or two a week and then . . . once th e kids are older, she can work again. (Gaurav, 19, single male) Yes, I’m OK with her working, but when we have kids, I’d say . . . for definitely the first five years, she’s gotta stay at home with the kids. (Rahul, 18, single male) A few Patel women believed that some Patel men still desired traditional wives – educated, “cultured” women who knew how to cook and clean and be good wives. A lot of guys do not want a professional wife . They want a girl who would want to stay at home and cook and clean and ta ke care of the kid(Monica, 22, single female) So on first hand . . . I’ve got a really good guy friend of mineand I know that he really wants someone [prosp ective wife] who is [an] e ducated girl, you know . . . she’s going to be able to take care of the family, you knowshe’s got the respectshe’s got the culture. . . . .And you [second generation women] are able to pass that [culture] on with your kids. . . . And they [second generation men] want the whole works. . . . (Priya, 20, single female) There are some guys [second generation Pa tel men] who actually just want a housewife. Even if . . . it doesn’t matter what she studies, where she comes from . . . they just want her to stay and home and take care of the family . . . (Kavita, 24, single female) It was interesting for me to note that wh ile this sentiment was not whole-heatedly embraced by Patel men; a few Patel men did prefer that their wives be home-makers. They explained that their preference was rooted in a desire that their children always have a parent at home while they were growing up. I’m OK with my wife working, but I would rather not have her work. I think it [the desire for a wife who is a home-maker] wa s more than anything else the way I was raised. I think . . . you know my mom worked for a long time and still we were . . . I think we were in the sixt h or seventh grade when she started her own business and so it s very important for me to know that you know . . . if sh e [my wife] wants to work then that’s her freedom, but I would rather not have her work because I want

PAGE 247

236 to have my kids have somebody at home at all times if we ca n. (Vishal, 27, married male) Patel women and men also spoke of great er equality in marital and familial relationships. Patel women wanted marriages of equals where their husbands did not expect them to shoulder domestic responsibil ities alone. This was a sentiment echoed by some Patel men who claimed to want to shar e in the raising of children and in domestic labor. Just someone [prospective husband] who is an equal partner, not someone who expects you [second generation woman] to do everything for them obviously. You’re [second generation women] also coming home from a long day at work, and you shouldn’t have to do everything just because [that is] wh at you’re expected to do back then . . . so he can cook sometimes, he can also clean . . . can also do laundry . . . (Ritu, 22, single female) . . . and then I think . . . you [second generation men] need to do some stuff around the house. Like . . . not just be one of those mommy’s boys that doesn’t know how to do anything . . . (Reema, 22, single female) I like to think that everything should be divvi ed. I like to think that I want to cook a couple time . . . I want to be able to cook th rough the week. . . . I want to be able to take care of my son or daughter th roughout the week. (An il, 21, single male) Responsibilities to the family, especially pa rents were one issue that was raised by both Patel women and men in envisioning thei r spouses. A few partic ipants elucidated that it was important for them that thei r spouses get along with their familes. I have a very big family and so family is a big, big thing for me. So I want him [husband] to be getting along with my whole family . . . that’s a very big thing for me(Priya, 20, single female) Parents’ Stories: The Generation Effect As mentioned in the methodology, one of the analytical lenses I use in my study is a generational one – the second generation ve rsus the first genera tion. While I believe that I have addressed this throughout the thesis, I have not elaborated on the first generation’s dating and marriage experiences as recounted by the second generation until

PAGE 248

237 this point. This was a conscious decision on my part as the analysis revealed a fine interweaving of first generati on dating and marriage experiences that is better narrated in tandem than separately. Parents’ stories of dating and marriage as recounted by the second generation, center around tw o themes that emerged from the interviews – stories of dating and marriage, and changes in the “m aking” of marriages from the first to the second generation. Stories Of Dating & Marriage Patel women and men recounted that thei r parents’ marriages were arranged and love marriage was not even an option for their parents. I guess like my parents were arranged by their parents. They met only once before they were married. Yes, all instances bar a couple of exceptions happened that way as far as I know . . . I’d say 80 percent to 90 percent of the marriages were arranged . . . (Nikhil, 18, single male) From what I have hearda rranged marriages were de finitely the normyou still had love marriages but it was a ra re case. (Anil, 21, single male) Only two participants explained that thei r parents had had a love marriage. In one case, the marriage had ended in divorce, which in and of itself was a judgment about the efficacy of love marriages. In the other case, the marriage was possible as the families of the couple were well known to each other and were of the same caste and religion. My mother actually got married as a love marriage . . . but it ended in divorce and that’s one of the main reasons my gra ndparents don’t want me to [have a love marriage]. (Rahul, 18, single male) If they [love marriages] likeworkedit wa s like that love marriage between the two . . . like both families were like really close, or you know . . . they kind of knew they had the same values, they had the same religion, they had the same casteso those were the ones that kind of work ed . . . (Anil, 21, single male) Second generation Patel women and men report that their parents’ had the traditional arranged marriage where, very often, their families decided whom they were

PAGE 249

238 going to marry and the first generation was rare ly given the option of the time to decide whether they wanted to marry the selected pe rson. In some cases, th e first generation may have been forced or pressured to agree to the marriage. [My parents had an] arranged marriage basi cally. . . . Basically the two families decided that my mom and dad were going to marry. And my parents . . . my mom saw my dad for like a day, and that ’s all . . . (Jay, 20, single male) My mom and dad had an arranged marriage, basically her [mom’s ] mom and dad told her that she was marrying this gen tleman, my dad and that’s what happened. That’s all . . . there was nothing said . . . she was told who she was going to marry and that was the end of it . . . (Karan, 24, single male) My parents’ generation . . . they had very li ttle time to decide whether or not they wanted to actually be with this person . . . (Anil, 21, single male) It was not goodbecause it [marriage] was almost forced like . . . you know . . . you’re meeting guys and there’s a lot of pre ssure from your family to finally meet someone and meet them quickly and just say yes to someone and so you know . . . (Ritu, 22, single female) Patel women and men explained that thei r parents had met only once – to decide upon the marriage – prior to ge tting married and were not allowed a courtship period after becoming betrothed. Given this, most of their parents did not get a chance to know their spouse before getting married. Well my parents told me that they didn’t m eet each other until the day before they got married . . . I heard that happened a lot . . . they [fi rst generation] met the day they were supposed to get married. (Sahil, 27, married male) I’m trying to remember if my parents actua lly got to see each other ‘coz my dad didn’t know my mom was a twin . . . and then so when my dad went to the wedding, my auntie was walking around and she . . . my dad thought . . . ‘What the heck is she [his mother] doing . . . she’ s supposed to be ready to go’. They may have seen each other once maybe . . . I m ean they saw each other for a while fore they made the decision [to marry]. (Vishal, 27, married male) I think once you’re [first generation] enga ged, you’re basically going to get married soon . . . Because they . . . it’s not like th ey [first generation] get to know each other that much before marriage anyway. (Monica, 22, single female)

PAGE 250

239 In a few cases, Patel women and men noted that their parents were introduced to more than one eligible candidate and allowe d to decide for themselves who they would like to marry. However, unlike the second gene ration, the first genera tion was not given an opportunity to get to know the candidate s better before they decided upon marriage, but had to decide within that first meeting itself. All of my mother’s generation were basica lly from India and th eir parents basically gave the girl like four or five choices . . . bio-datas, and she gets to pick the one she wants to marry . . . and that’s it . . . no dating at all . . . (Rahul, 18, single male) She [my mom] actually went to India from London and they were visitinglike her grandmother . . . and there were boys th ere . . . and she was at the right age I guess. She met the boys and the final decision was hers to makebut they [mother’s parents] were open to that . . . you know . . . to meeting people I guess . . . (Reema, 22, single female) However, Kavita, a 24 year old single female drew attention to the fact that in some cases, the first generation was allowed a semblance of courtship after they were formally engaged. My parents basically had an arranged marriage. . . . But after they met, they did not get married for six months. So they had si x months to you know. . . go out . . . and like each other and get to know each other better. . . . Not a lot though! I’m sure six months must have been a lot for my pa rents. . . . You don’ t go out, you basically talk and you knoweverything’s been pla nned. . . . Basically, you have to say yes the first time you see the guy and then you can go ahead and date . . . so the first time you see the guy . . . you’re engaged!! Changes In The “Making” Of Marriages Fr om The First To The Second Generation In narrating the experiences of their parents with dati ng and marriage, Patel women and men regularly distinguished between thei r parents’ experiences and their own. These distinctions are manifestati ons of the generational change s in union formation from the first generation – born and brought up in I ndia, to the second ge neration – born and brought up in the United States.

PAGE 251

240 Patel women and men explain that in their parents’ case, marriage was an obligation and not a choice, especially so for women, because it assured them of financial support and security. In their case t hough, second generation Patel women and men choose to get married and so the marriage is one of equals, wit hout one partner being dependent on the other. I guess I think before [for parents] marriage was more like an obligation rather than like a choice, where . . . like you know . . . you had to marry or if you didn’t it would be bad . . . and like . . . if you di dn’t you also wouldn’t have like financial security or whatever. Whereas like now . . . you now . . . you have like . . . even when you are married, like the husband works and the wife works, so it’s not like you’re dependent on each other. They’re mo re like, I would say more equal and so it’s more of like they’re together not beca use they have to be , but because they want to be.(Medha, 18, single female) Love marriage, although not easily accep ted, is more prevalent among the second generation and more accepte d than it was among their parents’ generation. I mean in terms of people my parents’ age it ’s all of one [love ma rriage] . . . [but] I know hundreds of instances where they were arranged. Now it’s pr obably the other way around . . . where there are hundred s of kids who are finding their own matches and that the occasional one . . . one in a hundred or two in a hundred that are arranged by parents. (Nikhil, 18, single male) The arranging of marriages has itself undergone transforma tions. Unlike their parents who were unable to communicate thei r spousal preferences to their parents, second generation Patel women and men enj oy adequately open communications with their parents on the issue of marriage. The second generation has the freedom to express their spousal preferences and choices to their parents prior to the latter embarking on the search for a spouse. More impor tantly, unlike their parents, the second generation decides upon marriage for themselves and parental involvement ceases after the couple is introduced. Because now . . . the kids [second generati on] are involved in the marriage thing. In my parents’ [case] they probably could not talk with their parents . . . my parents

PAGE 252

241 couldn’t talk to their parents freely about it [marriage] but we can now . . . (Jay, 20, single male) I think that’s the change with arranged marri ages . . . it’s like up to the kids [second generation]and if the kids start to like each other and things are going well . . . they can decide to bring in thei r families. (Reema, 22, single female) The introduction of the cour tship period is another majo r transformation in union formation since the time of the first generation. Patel women and men firmly highlight the opportunity they are afforded in getting to know their partner pr ior to deciding upon marriage, explaining that there is more “tal king” between the couple and extensive faceto-face interaction and meeting prior to deciding upon marriage. Interestingly, Patel women also drew attention to the fact that their marital/dating relationships are more egalitarian than their parents’. As one fema le participant noted, the first generation’s marital relationship does not involve much communication and mo st second generation women refuse to accept such a relationship. Courtship wasn’t really . . . like I said, they [my parents] met like the day before they got married So the courtship issue has been introduced [for the second generation] . . . (Sah il, 27, married male) I think . . . sometimes parents have a hard time talking to each other about a lot of things. You know there’s still a lot of di fference of opinion, and now necessarily . . . I think that if they talked about it, it would be fine . . . but I think th ey kind of hold back, and I think they like try to compromise so much because that’s what they’ve learned to do . . . especially the wome n, I think that they hold back and don’t always want to talk about everything. And I think our generation is a little bit more forward, especially the women, and in e ssence they don’t want to walk into something like that. (Janvi, 25, engaged female) In conclusion, mate-selection, engagement and marriage is a complex process among second generation Patels and the intersect ion of bi-cultural id entity with this process is often subtle and easily overlooked. The hybrid, bi-c ultural identity embraced by second generation Patel women and men enable s them to exert a si gnificant amount of agency in the “making” of their marriage. The intersection of bi-cultural identity and

PAGE 253

242 marriage in the context of the second genera tion is especially evident when contrasting between the “making” of their marriages and those of their parents. The transformations wrought in the mate-selection, engagement and marriage processes have been spearheaded by second generation Patel wome n and men performing their bi-cultural identity. Although, the prevalent marriage ideology in the Patel community dictates that all should marry, Patel women and men decide for themselves the timing of their marriage and who their spouse will be. In the process, Patel women and men are reconceptualizing love and marriage. Reflec ting their American-ness, Patel women and men desire marriages that are psychologically and emotionally fulfilling and not mere joining of families with similar backgrounds. They want to fall in love and form an emotional bond with their partne r prior to marriage and are unwilling to settle with the notion of love developing after marriage. To th is effect, they are willing to take the time and effort to build a bond through a courts hip period. In addition, their American-ness also enables them to adopt American marri age practices such as proposing to one’s partner, and presenting her with a ring an d in envisaging more egalitarian marital relationships than those shared by their parents. However, Patel women and men are also fi ercely loyal to their Indian-ness. While they do not want their marriages to be merger s between families, they are willing to, and infact desire to take their families’ pref erences into consideration when choosing a spouse. First generation Patels define criteria for mate-selection that are closely followed by the second generation in the hope that their marriages will be accepted. In addition, the criteria are also upheld because of the desi re of the second generation to maintain and

PAGE 254

243 continue ethnic culture and traditions within their own families. The latter is indeed manifested with their continue d usage of a combination of ethnic and American marriage practices in the making of their own marriag es. For their part, the adaptations of the mate-selection process to America by first generation Patels, evinces their continued dedication to bi-cultural identity – both their own and that of their children.

PAGE 255

244 CHAPTER 7 GATHERING THE THREADS: CONCLUSIONS AND DISCUSSION In this chapter, I conclude the thesis by summarizing key analytical themes that emerged from the interviews with second generation Patel women and men and contextualizing the same in a discussion. Th e discussion allows me an opportunity to elaborate on connections and intersections in analytical themes as well as attempt to construct a well-rounded na rrative about the union formation processes of second generation Patel women and men in the United St ates. Thus the two sub-sections of this chapter, quite logically are (a) summary and conclusions of findings and (b) discussion. Summary And Conclusions Of Findings A trio of analytical lenses , as mentioned in the chapte r three, has been employed when examining the narratives of second generation Patel women and men. The lenses are manifested as three levels of comparisons that emerged from the data namely, Indian versus American, second versus first gene ration, and women versus men. The gender and generational comparisons, in my opinion are mo re readily apparent in the analyses than that of the Indian versus American. However, all three work in concert to contextualize the union formation process among sec ond generation Patel women and men. As I have mentioned from the start of th is paper, union formation processes are not and should not be conceived of as disparate categories or pro cesses. The narratives of the second generation indicate a more fluid and complex interaction between the processes, sometimes so subtle that it may be overlooke d. I myself confessed to maintaining these disparate categories to facilitate the reporting of the analysis and as k further indulgence

PAGE 256

245 in this section as well as I summarize and conc lude the findings. The more fluid nature of union formation processes will be elaborated on in the discussion section that follows the summary and conclusions. Thus, in this section I summarize the findings in the three broad analytical categories de lineated in this thesis (a) identity (b) dating (c) mate selection, engagement and marriage among second generation Patel women and men. Identity The construction, adoption and performance of bi-cultural identity is critical to understanding the identity of second generati on Patel women and me n. This bi-cultural identity as defined by the second generation themselves is a blend of Indian-ness and American-ness and is, in my opinion, the core of their self-definition. It should be mentioned here, that the participants ut ilized the terms Indian/Gujarati identity synonymously thus implying that their bi-cultura l identity is a medley of their GujaratiIndian and American selves. The generational influence on bi-cultural id entity of second generation Patels is evident in the first generation’s conceptualizatio n of the bi-cultural identity as rooted in Indian identity or Indian-ness and the their conscious and deliberate efforts to construct this identity in th e second generation. To this effect, the first generation invokes the symbols of the Gujarati ethnic identity such as language, food, festivals, religion and Patel family values for the second generati on. In addition, the first generation invokes a gendered construction and perf ormance of bi-cultural identity wherein the onus of remaining true to the ethnic culture is often placed on second generation women. For their part, the second generation is ex ercising a significant amount of agency in adopting and performing their bi-cultural iden tity. Far from being passive acceptors of the identity they are sociali zed into, they are acting upon it and transforming it such that

PAGE 257

246 their identity is indeed a hybrid Gujarati-Indian and Amer ican one. The more apparent manifestations of this hybrid Indian-Ameri can identity is in the symbols of ethnic (Gujarati) identity which have been transfor med to include a more American flavor. For instance, the consuming of American foods , including non-vegetarian foods along with the staple Gujarati di et; the celebration of American holidays and festivals alongside the Gujarati/Indian ones; the increasing preeminence of education, academic and professional success and achievement abreast with filial pi ety and family honor, are transformations to bi-cultural identity spearheaded by second generation Patels. That being said, it is the more subtle mani festations of this agentic, hybrid IndianAmerican identity embraced by second generation Patels that are important to delineate. Second generation Patels are no t adopting and performing their bi-cultural identity in a vacuum. They operate and inter act with an ethnic society in the United States as well as the larger racialized an d stratified American society; the la tter that classifies them as an exotic ethnic group and in so doing creates a threshold to their mobility in American society. In navigating these influences and in responding to them, Patel women and men decide for themselves the timing of the perfor mance of this identity and the manner of negotiating the borders of their hybrid identities. They admit to the challe nge of existing between two cultures, although not necessarily of being caught be tween them; of intergenerat ional conflict over dating and participating in American milestones such as the prom; and of explaining their Indianness to ordinary Americans and being trea ted as different. More importantly, they acknowledge their pride in choosing not only to be Indian-American as the outcome of navigating through the structures and challenges they enc ounter; but also choosing to

PAGE 258

247 openly embrace and perform this identity at a stage in their lives when they feel comfortable to do so. The gendered nature of bi-cultural id entity is very evident among second generation women and men. The generation an alytical lens reveals that the first generation places a significant proportion of the responsibility of maintaining and transmitting ethnic identity on second gene ration Patel women. Given this, second generation Patel women admit to facing vigorous restrictions, more so than their male counterparts, to participating in what they c onsider an expression of the American traits of their bi-cultural identity – sleep-overs, going out in mi xed company, attending parties and football games etcbecause their parent s fear losing them to American society and culture. Patel women also reported being re primanded for other performances of bicultural identity such as addressing Gujarati el ders in English rather than Gujarati, and wearing non-Indian or immodest clothes at Patel/Gujarati soci al gatherings. In addition, the first generation upholds the traditional gend er roles of wife and mother in families socializing second generation Pa tel women into the feminine responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, household mainte nance; and obedience. Again, second generation Patel women are agentic actors who are reacting to the gender structures within which they are lo cated and which impinge on the performing of their bi-cultural identity. A str ong reactive vein lies in their frustration and anger with the “double-standard” with which they live; th eir embrace of the more egalitarian gender relationships they perceive in American society; and their determination to discontinue gendered practices with their own daughters.

PAGE 259

248 Dating Union formation is a key arena where this gendered bi-cultural identity, intersected by generational influences is performed. Da ting is a more complex process of union formation than has been delinea ted in the literature. It has to be understood in the context of the other union formation processes rather than a stand-alone. Dating as courtship, with the person one is most likely to marry, is the most commonly constructed definition of dating by the first generation and is the form of dating that is most acceptable to them. This is largely because first generation Pate ls invokes an Indian-American binary which allows them to classify dating as non-Indi an and as American. Thus dating by second generation Patels is construed by the first ge neration as being not on ly contrary to their ethnic culture, but also to th e core of bi-cultural identity namely Indian-ness. The gendered construction of bi-cultural identity facilitates the construction, by first generation Patels, of differential standard s and expectations and thus experiences of dating among the second generation. Second generation Patel wome n are expected by their parents that they not date; face restrict ed opportunities in dating, – such as not being allowed to go out at night in mixed company, or attend parties, or st rict curfew etc; and face strict repercussions for dating, more than their male counterparts. Second generation Patel men, while not encouraged to date are rarely reprimanded for doing so. In addition, parents’ criteria of the suitab ility of the partner are more st ringent in the case of second generation women than men wherein Patel men have the freedom to date a non-Indian or a non-Patel/Gujarati without fear of their reputation being ta rnished in the community or their marriage prospects being hampered. Se cond generation men al so have the added opportunity to discussing their dating behavior openly with their pare nts without fear of reprisals. While discussions on dating as an issue do not occur in most second generation

PAGE 260

249 Patel homes, it is more likely to occur in the case of second generation men than in that of second generation women. Similar to their negotiating of their iden tity as a hybrid bi-cultural one, second generation Patel women and men negotiate the intersection of their gendered, generationally influenced and agentic bi-cultura l identity with their dating behavior. The first manifestation of this intersection is in their re-conceptualizing American dating into a form that appeals to their identity as Indian-Americans. Accordingly, they acknowledge their dating as a means of getting to know someone and test out the potential for a relationship, and not necessarily with marriage in mind, although this goal figure prominently in assessing the relationship. Like their pare nts they invoke an IndianAmerican binary in their re-conceptualizi ng of dating by noting th at unlike dating among second generation Patels, Americans date for recreation and fun; have multiple relationships and partners at different points in time; and indulged in pre-marital sex in their dating relationships. In making this distinction between be ing Patel/Indian and American, second generation Patel women and me n draw attention to the fact that their bi-cultural identity facilitates their perf ormance of American behaviors on their own terms and in a manner that enables them to be faithful to both elements of their identity. In addition, it highlights their psychological interweaving of dating and marriage wherein one without the other would re nder the process meaningless. The second manifestation of their continue d negotiation lies in the dating behaviors they adopt. The gendered nature of bi-cultura l identity is especially evident in these behaviors. The onset of dating among second generation Patels, especially women, occurs when they enter college and move out of their homes. For second generation

PAGE 261

250 women, this stage is especially important as it frees them from the constant vigilance of their parents enabling them to date freely. However, their deep attachment to their parents and to their ethnic identity discourages them from emotionally hurti ng their parents with the knowledge that they are dating. In additi on, they fear parental reprisals on discovery of their dating – a greater worry for women than for men. This motivates most second generation Patel women and men to shroud thei r dating behavior in secrecy and lie to their parents and to adopt the euphemism “frie nd” rather than the explicit “boy/girlfriend” in conversations with their parents. These dua l strategies enable second generation Patels to perform their bi-cultural identities such that they can embrace and indulge in the western behavior of dating on their own terms, while remaining true to their ethnic roots. It is also important to note here that this negotiation between bi-cultural identity and dating is also undertaken by first gene ration Patels largely in reaction to the adaptations by the second gene ration. Despite the secrecy i nvolved in dating, they are aware that it is o ccurring among the second generation, a fact acknowledged by the latter, and their reactions to it range from a discomfo rt of the practice to an acceptance of it only if it is on their (first generation) terms. Th eir terms include dating as a means of mateselection, and preferably with other Patel, Gu jarati or Indian contemporaries. To the latter effect, the first generation has expended considerable effort in facilitating intra-ethnic community dating by encouraging group dating by the second generation and introducing the second generation to suitab le partners at Patel/Gujara ti community gatherings and events. These adaptations involve considerable modifications in the bi-cultural identity of first generation Patels. Rather than operating largely from th e Indian base of their bicultural identity (especially in their personal lives) as is their wont, I hazard that these

PAGE 262

251 adaptations are slowly enabling the first gene ration to perform a more hybrid bi-cultural identity like that performed by their child ren. Inspite of this , their allegiance psychologically and culturally, li es with India and Indian cultu re and even in expressing their hybrid bi-cultural identity, first generati on Patels will always be more informed by India rather than America. Mate Selection, Engagement And Marriage The continued interaction of bi-cultural identity and union formation is evident in mate-selection, engagement and marriage am ong second generation Patels. My analyses facilitate the conclusion on my part that un like the case of dating, th e interaction of bicultural identity and marriage is more subtle and thus often overlooked. The subtlety lies not as much in an Indian – American juxta position as in the adopti on of the mentality or psychological attributes of being American by second generation Patels. Individuality, independence and choice, preference, aban doning of traditional gender structures, personal achievement and success are illustrations of the American attributes espoused by second generation Patels. It is in navigating the confluence of this American framing of the world with their ethnic one that the inte rsections of bi-cultural identity, mate-selection and marriage are evident. The generational influence on marriage am ong second generation Patels in evinced in the emphasizing of ethnic identity mainte nance in mate-selecti on by first generation Patels. The latter’s continued preference for a modified version of the arranged marriage namely, the semi-arranged marriage; their di sapproval of exogamous marriages and their enumeration of the criteria for the selection of (what they consider) a suitable mate are manifestations of this. In the making of their marriages however, second generation

PAGE 263

252 Patels display not only the workings of their bi-cultural identity, but also that of their individual agency. Marriage is a serious undert aking for all second generati on Patels and one they are willing to take on without any hesitation. In addition, their allegi ance and emotional commitment to their parents and ethnic cultur e is especially prominent in the arena of marriage. All second generation Patels desire that their parents accep t their marriages and be comfortable with their spouses. They are however, not willing to compromise on their happiness in order to achieve these goals . Given this, they accept the semi-arranged marriage preferred by their parents (and which is indeed popul ar among the second generation) only on their own terms. They nego tiate with their parents such that their parents’ role in the marriage is limited to introducing them to potential spouses. The choice to marry is theirs (the second generation’s) and is based not only on their physical attraction to the person but also on their interactions wi th the person in during a formal courtship period which enables them to not onl y to gauge their compatibility and comfort with each other, but also to fall in love. In addition, a growing number of second generation Patels show a decided preference fo r a love marriage – wherein they find their spouses with no parental involvement – necessi tating a period of dating and courtship. In the making of the above mentioned ma rriages, the criteria for mate-selection enumerated by first generation Patels are espe cially important to the second generation. Their commitment to their natal families and ethn ic culture translates into a desire for the maintenance of ethnic culture in their mar ital families; the construction of an ethnic identity in their children; a nd for their parents to accept their marriages. To facilitate the achievement of all of the above, second gene ration Patels espouse mo st of the criteria

PAGE 264

253 listed by their parents especially t hose of marrying endogamously (another Patel/Gujarati); seeking a spouse with a desi rable family background; and an educated spouse. In addition, second generation Patels li st their own criteria, addendums to that of their parents, in select ing a mate. Desirable personality tr aits in potentia l spouses figured prominently in their criteria as did the pref erence for spouses who are professionals and the probability for egalitarian marital relationships. Performing bi-cultural identity also enab les second generation Patels to adopt the more American marriage practices such as prop osing to their fiances (often even in the case of the semi-arranged marriage); presenting her with an engagement ring; celebrating the engagement American styl e with large parties, western dance and music, and nonvegetarian repast. It also facilitates their in clusion of ethnic marriage practices such as a religious engagement ceremony and a traditiona l, religious wedding with all the fan-fare. Gender is a critical variable that intersect s with performing bi-cultural identity and marriage. In the making of their marriag es, second generation Pa tel women have to contend with a construction of womanhood by the first generation that makes greater demands on and has greater expectations of th em than of their male counterparts. They face greater pressure to marry and to marry earlier than their ma le counterparts; are expected to possess an unblemished reputation and a cultivated ethnic identity to transmit to their progeny; to be versatile enough to shoulder domestic and professional responsibilities in addition to being physically attractive. A dditionally, they are expected to adhere to the criteria for mate-selection mo re strictly than second generation men most especially the endogamous marriage criteria. Th ey experience more punitive responses to exogamy such as family disapproval and even disowning. The differential standards for

PAGE 265

254 women and men, I hazard are once again because of parental fear of the ethnic culture being lost to the newer gene rations in the event of increase in exogamy or major transformations of gender structures. In determining their marri ages, second genera tion Patel women perform not only their bi-cultural identity, but also exercise a significant amount of agency. Although they desire to marry and are willing to do so before their male counterparts, they refuse to be pressured into marriage. They are pursuing hi gher education and prof essional degrees and are unwilling to marry until they achieve their academic and/or professional goals. More importantly, they are demanding more egalitar ian marital relationships and are unwilling to settle for less than shared responsibilities of chil d-care and rearing and domestic work. Just as in the case of dating, first generation Patels are responding to the performance of bi-cultural identity in ma rriage by the second generation. Responding to their (first generation) desire to maintain ethnic identity and culture in the second generation and to cater to th e personal expectations and needs of the second generation, the Patel community organizes annual marri age conventions. These conventions enable eligible Patels from across the United States to congregate for a weekend and meet each other and in the process perhaps meet a pot ential spouse. Apart from this method, other events are organized such as camps and cruises where eligible Patels can meet each other. Thus, the connections between bi-cultural identity and union formation envisaged in the research questions that guide this st udy cannot be denied. As illustrated in this section, the bi-cultural identity performed by the second generation is a hybridized, gendered identity, influenced by generationa l factors, and this identity informs the breadth of their union formation processes.

PAGE 266

255 Discussion In this section, I pu ll through analytical themes across the breadth of the thesis. In addition, I also demonstrate how the present stud y has addressed the gaps in the literature on Indians in the United States delineated in chapter two. Unlike the existing body of research on Indians in the United States which classifies dating, engagement and marriage as disparate proc esses in union formation, the Patels have demonstrated the more processual nature union formati on. The three stages of union formation – dating, engagement and marri age – cannot be understood in isolation, but have to be conceptualized as entwined with each other in the case of second generation Patels. Dating, as perceived by second generation Patels is more than experimenting with American behavior or ha ving fun. It is conceive d as a method of reconceptualizing love and marriage. Their bi-cul tural identity facilitates their espousing of the American contextualization of marriag e as motivated by love and a compatible relationship between spouses. Accordingly, ma rriage for second generation Patels entails psychological gratification and emotional co mmitment and is more than a partnership between families as it was in the case of thei r parents. Given this, they are unwilling to marry for the sake of their families and wit hout their personal desires being taken into account. While they desire that their marriages be based on love, they are skeptical of their parents’ ideas of love developing after marri age. Rather, Patel women and men desire to find love and emotional commitment before they marry and are amenable to expend considerable efforts in finding and keepi ng it. Thus, dating is the process by which second generation Patels learn about love an d romantic relationships, in addition to learning about themselves and their expect ations of a romantic relationship. More

PAGE 267

256 importantly, in the mantle of courtship, dating offers second generation Patels a mechanism to fall in love (even with a pe rson introduced to th em by their parents), develop psychological and emotional compatibility with each other and assess the potential longevity of their relationshi p should it culminate in marriage. The processual nature of union formation is also evident in more practical issues namely the ordering of the stages of uni on formation. Dating necessarily precedes marriage, but it can take two paths. One path involves dating by second generation Patels to learn how to do romantic relationships a nd not necessarily with marriage in mind. In the other, dating is courtship with a person one is most likely to marry and with whom one is trying to establish an emotional commit ment. This subtle distin ction is important to highlight as it embodies the perf ormance of the ethnic traits of their bi-cultural identity. The first path of dating is often cloaked in secrecy as the criteria of mate-selection are often not upheld in choosing dating partners and so this form of dating is less acceptable to the first generation. In contrast, the second path of dating as courtship, in most cases, involves a romantic relationshi p with a spousal candidate an d thus automatically suitable for parental approval and thus has no need to be secret. Even in the love-marriage scenario (as opposed to the semi-arranged when suitability factors are already factored in) second generation Patels expend special efforts to fall in love and court with only those who are suitable (according to the criteria) an d thus acceptable to pa rents. Thus the idea of marriage is never distant fr om the process of dating. Dating serves as a tool to perform the re-conceptualized notions of marriage as an intimate, psychologically fulfilling partnership between the couple rather than the fa milies; and of love as central rather than peripheral to the marital relationship.

PAGE 268

257 The intersection of gender, bi-cultural identity and union formation is apparent in all segments of this narrative and addresses the lacuna in the theo rizing of acculturation and bi-cultural identity by the scholars in the field. Gende r structures and ideology in the Patel community in the United States are constructed by firs t generation immigrants such that they are a reflection of those in Gujarat and India. The difficulty with this lies in the fact that gender structures in Gujarat and I ndia have been and conti nue to be transformed since the emigration of the first generation to the United States. Thus, the constructs in India are outdated at best and exploitative and discriminatory at worst. Far from being an abstract construct, gender is very visible and tangible in the lives of second generation Patels as it determines the Gujarati/Indian and American traits they choose to incorporate in their identities. In addition, it defines the opportunities or obstacles they encounter in performing bi-cultural identity in union form ation such as restricted opportunities for Patel women to date as opposed to Patel men; stricter implementation of mate-selection criteria in the case of women as opposed to men; and stringent reprisals for dating and exogamous marriages by Patel women. Thes e have been sufficiently expounded upon in the earlier sections of this chapter and so will not be repeated here. Rather, it is important to highlight is that these gender structures create positions of privilege and disadvantage within which second genera tion Patel women and men perform bi-cultural identity and negotiate union formation. The experiences of Patel women and men are thus subtly different as they operate from one or the other positionalities listed above. Second generation Patel women are more cognizant of the gender structures and ideol ogy within which they functio n and more importantly, are capable of explaining these structures, the reas ons for their continued existence, and their

PAGE 269

258 navigating through them, with clarity. In doing so, the centrality of gender in their lives, most especially as they perf orm their bi-cultural identity in the arena of union formation is highlighted. Second generation Patel men for the most part, operate from a position of privilege in their families and community and so appear less cognizant of the visible and tangible workings of gender in their lives or in those of their female relatives. Contradictorily, almost all second generati on Patel men spoke of desiring egalitarian relationships while simultaneously not only desiring wives who are well-versed in the domestic arts and take the primary role in child-care and rearing, but also by being uncritical of the gender arrangements that fu rnish their privilege. The conceptualization of union formation necessitates an examination of the intersection of gendered bi-cultural identity. The bi-cultural identi ty performed by second generation Patels is more complex and fluid than has been accounted for in the existing body of knowledge. Second generation Patels appear to perform a hybrid bi -cultural identity whic h I conceptualize as essentially one identity with a blend of Gujara ti/Indian and American traits as opposed to two identities – one Gujarati/Indian and the ot her American as conceived in the literature. Thus for instance, their desire that th eir marriage fulfill them emotionally and psychologically as well as transmit ethnic culture – American and Indian traits respectively causes them to reconfigure union formation processes such that they are able to fall in love with another Gujarati/Patel before they marry. The possession of this bi-cultural identity however necessitates their existence in two cultures and can generate conflict and discomfort in their lives. Among others, second generation Patels admit to a public-pri vate dichotomy in identity performance

PAGE 270

259 wherein they are Gujarati/Indian at hom e and American outside the home. This admission speaks to two identities enshrined in the literature . However, a deeper insight into the data reveals a more complex dynamic th an the one explained above at work. It is essential to employ a life-course lens in examining this complexity. The public/private binary is in my opinion constructed by first generation Patels as a means of performing their bi-cultural identity. Sec ond generation Patels are socia lized into this binary and uncritically perform it when younger. As they grow older, second generation Patels chose their own method of bi-cultural performance different from that of their parents – in that, they create a blended identity that they perform in all contexts whether private or public. The support for this conclusion lies in th e deep-rooted intersection of bi-cultural identity performance and union formation – one of the most private spheres in an Indian’s life – wherein their expectations and desires, decisions and behavior s with reference to dating, engagement and marriage are not guide d solely by their ethnic identity, but by their identity as Indian-Americans. This leads into another cr itical element of the bi-c ultural identity of second generation Patels – the fact that they se lf-identify, almost unanimously as IndianAmerican and not American. Second generati on Patels are not denying their Americanness with this self-identification; indeed they are very cognizant of the fact that they are American and that America and not India is their home. However, they are re-working what it means to be American on their terms. India, albeit an ethereal India constructed for the second generation by their parents a nd through Indian film and media, is perceived by second generation Patels as a source of their ethnic culture, heritage and identity and to this effect their allegiance to India is to maintain ethnic culture and

PAGE 271

260 identity. To achieve this purpose and be American simu ltaneously, second generation Patels have embraced an Indian-American identity – a blend of both worldswhich they distinguish very sharply from ‘American’ iden tity. For instance, they distinguish between their dating behaviors which have an Indian -American flavor to them and that of Americans which involve pre-marital sex, da ting for fun and multiple relationships at different periods in time. Thus, second gene ration Patels have not only constructed a psychological boundary between being Indian-A merican and being American, but they are firmly in the former camp whic h is evident in union formation. The narratives of second generation Patels with reference to their bi-cultural identity and union formation processes evince a life-course perspective in acculturation, bi-cultural identity construction and performa nce, and union formation that has not been explored sufficiently in the existing literature . The life-course lens draws attention to the fact that their age is important to understa nding the construction a nd performance of bicultural identity and union formation am ong second generation Patels. Shifting perceptions of self acr oss the life course enables sec ond generation Patels, who in their childhood and youth were embarrassed to perf orm Indian-ness in public (although the latter was being actively constructed in fam ilies), to enjoy performing it in public as adults and to incorporate it consciously and willingly into their iden tities. In addition, operating from different stages of the life-co urse creates opportunities or obstacles for them in union formation. For instance, dati ng is forbidden among the second generation when they are in school as they are consid ered to be young and easily distracted. When they grow older, especially on attaining marriageable able, first generation Patels actively encourage their children to date to find a spous e. Marriage is a mile stone in the adult life

PAGE 272

261 of all Indians and second generation Patels f ace increasing pressure to ‘settle down’ in marriage as they grow older, more so in th e case of second generation women than men. To this effect, if second generation Patels have progressed in the life-course to reach middle adulthood without being married, severa l of the formerly rigidly upheld mateselection criteria are relaxed so a marriag e can take place. C ontextualizing union formation and bi-cultural iden tity performance through a lifecourse lens offers subtle patterns in the working of both processes which would not otherwise be showcased. One key element has manifested itself in the discussions so far – human agency exercised by second generation Patels in navigating between gender, generation, bicultural identity and union formation. In my critique of both acculturation and bi-cultural theory and literature about the Indian community in the United States, I drew attention to the glaring absence of agency in the body of kno wledge. This lacuna has been rectified in the current study. As is eviden t in their narratives, second generation Patels exercise considerable agency in negotiating between bi -cultural identity and union formation. This process has been elaborated in the earlier se ctions of this chapter and so will not be repeated here. It is however necessary to bring to mind that the bi-cultural identity embraced and performed by second generation Patels – an id entity that involves being Indian-American – is a product of the considerable agency they exercise in defining themselves. They choose to operate in two cultures and for the most part, not get ca ught between them as the literature suggests. Instead, they resh ape both their ethnic culture and American culture into the form that they are comfortable performing and which will enable them to be true to their dual heritages. The exercise of agency is especially evident in union

PAGE 273

262 formation in the choices that second gene ration Patels make for themselves – for instance, to date but without the knowledge of their parents; to assent to a semi-arranged marriage only when there is love involved; to marry another Patel/Gujarati to ensure not only cultural continuity but also compatibility in their families and acceptance of the marriage by their parents; to adopt American marriage behaviors while retaining ethnic ones. Integral to understanding th e human agency second genera tion Patels exercise is their desire to maintain ethnic culture and identity in their own lives and their choice to respect and honor the preferences of their pa rents. This form of agency is usually exercised later in the life-cour se (usually middle to late a dulthood) and is not motivated by a sense of obligation they feel toward th eir families, parents of the Patel community. Rather, their deep affection and commitment to their families and ethnic community this form of agency performance. This is manifest ed in their desire to speak Gujarati with friends (outside the home) rather than only with family members, to prefer Gujarati/Indian cuisine even when entertai ning American friends and some level of comfort in explaining the intricacies of thei r culture to Americans. Additionally, their choice to marry endogamously speaks not only to their desire to retain their ethnic heritage, but also to their em otional commitment to their parents which discourage them from disappointing the latter in the choice of their spouse. In our conversations, as they moved aw ay from narratives of childhood and youth, second generation Patels spoke more in terms of ‘this is what I want in my life’ rather than what their parents wanted for and of th em. This is especially the case when they discuss the continuity of et hnic culture in their children , although perhaps differently

PAGE 274

263 from how their parents undertook it – a choice on their part motivated by their comfort with being performing their Indian-ness. Base d on my discussions with second generation Patels, I would hazard that the exercise of agency is unconscious ly undertaken and may be misconstrued as being part of their American-ness as it us ually involves them performing their individuality, expressing th eir opinions and their choices. American culture and values and social networks may influence second generation Patels, but the choice to adopt them or not, to construct a hyb rid identity for themselves, to perform that identity in a particular manner in the contex t of union formation, is a choice that is selfmotivated and in the process it empowers th em to be Gujarati/Indian and American and undertake union formation on their own terms. Lastly, I want to briefly reiterate the rationale for selecting the Patels and the second generation for my study. I sought that th e study represent the heterogeneity in the Indian experience in the United States and that the second generation would accentuate hitherto fore unknown patterns in bi-cultural identity and union formation. I believe the analytical themes and connections explored above have so been revealed because the study gave voice to the stories of the second generation. In th e existing body of literature, save a few, second generation Indians are not th e focus of the study, a nd the intricacies of their lives in the United States such as thei r construction of a hybrid bi-cultural identity, their performance of this identity in all contex ts of their lives, the life-course perspective that is embedded in their iden tity and union formation experi ences, and the agency they are constantly exercising in determini ng their lives have been precluded. While it may be argued that the Patel co mmunity does not diverge radically from the larger Indian community in the United Stat es thus devaluing the necessity of focusing

PAGE 275

264 on a particular Indian ethnic group, I would be cautious in making it. This study on the Patels has revealed essential details about th is community such as their commitment to ethnic culture preservation; their prefer ence for endogamous marriages and the widespread prevalence of this form of marriag e and the ingenious adaptations of the Patel community to achieve this end ; the modificati ons of the bi-cultural identity of the first generation as they re spond to identity pe rformance by the second generation; and the deep emotional commitment and attachment of the second generation to the ethnic culture and community and to their families. As I conclude this thesis, I attempt to l ook to the future to envisage bi-cultural identity construction and pe rformance and union formati on among the third generation – the children of my participants. My thoughts take the form of a multitude of questions known of which I am able to answer definitiv ely – will the third generation perform bicultural identity or will they choose to be Am erican? Will they feel the same attachment to ethnic culture as their parents do? Will they date in secret or more openly than their parents do? Will be assent to the modified semi-arranged marriage (that their parents’ consented to) or will they prefer a love marriage? Will they take into account their parents’ preferences with respect to their marriage partners etc? I would hazard, based on our conversations and admissi ons on the part of the second generation, that every effort will be unde rtaken to create an ethnic identity among the third generation. If current efforts of the Patel community in the United States are a standard of what the future holds, ethnic cu lture will be maintained within the third generation as well. I am fairly confident that third generation will have more open relationships with their parent s unlike those of the second ge neration with the first. The

PAGE 276

265 second generation is keen that dating and se x be openly discussed in their families and their children not date on the sly. Given this, dating may be easier for both second generation women and men although the entwini ng of the stages of union formation will still continue. Gender arrangements, especial ly in the families of second generation women will definitely be transformed into more egalitarian arrangements privileging both third generation women and men. These ar e the contexts within which the third generation will be located. They will respond to these contexts and exercise agency in determining their lives and their union formati on decisions just as their parents did. I am unable to speak of behalf of the third ge neration, but am optimistic for the future. This study examined the working of bi-cultu ral identity, it’s in teraction with gender and generational influences in influenci ng union formation processes among second generation Patels. In privileging the narrative s of the second generation an Indian-ethnic group, this study revealed intricacies in union formation which would not have otherwise been apparent. Future research into the lives of Indians in the United States should pay increased attention to their inherent heterogene ity not only in terms of ethnicity, but also in terms of cohort which crea te diverse experiences that should be accounted for.

PAGE 277

266 APPENDIX INTERVIEW GUIDE The interview guide consists of a listing a questions that guided my conversations with Patel women and men. Th e bulleted questions work as direct questions and as probes that are used only when no responses are forthcoming, or when the participants diverge from the topic under discussion. The ques tions were asked in no particular order, but rather followed fr om the conversation. 1. Can you describe for me the Patel comm unity here in the US? What about the Patel community in Florida? What are the traditions and culture of this community? What does it mean to be Patel? Can you tell me a little about Pate l women and men – both the first and second generations? Tell me a little about your familyyour parents, when did they come to the US, how did they come, what about your mother, what were they expected to do in terms of roles? 2. Identity As a second generation Patel, what does it feel like to be of Indian origin living in America? What are some of the issues you face? Do you feel you are par ticipating in two cult ures and between two generations? If yes, is this ha rd to do and why? If no, why not?

PAGE 278

267 What challenges and issues do you face when trying to deal with being of Indian origin and American? 3. Tell me a little about how you were brough t up as an Indian and as an Indian male/female in the US. What does it mean to be a Patel? In what ways do you think Indian -ness was maintained in your family and community and how did this happen? What did your parent s emphasize at home? What did they tell you was prescribed and prohibited? Do you think these issues were Indian or American or both? Tell me a little about your food practices, language, religion etc? 4. Dating/Courship What does dating mean in the Patel community and to you? What does dating look like in the Patel community among the second generation? Do parents and children agree or have differing opinions on dating? Could you elaborate on these opinions for me? Is this what you have experienced with your parents as well? How does dating work for women a nd men? Is it the same? Is it different? Is dating understood in the cont ext of marriage? If yes, who understands it this way and why? What has been your experience with dating?

PAGE 279

268 If you date, is there some (kind of) person (eg. Indian of the same community, caste, and neighborhood) that your parents’ prefer you to date? When did you start dating? Why that particular stage in your life? How did it happen? If you do not date, why is that? How does the second generation bro ach the subject of dating with their parents? How does the older generation respond to dating among your generation? What do you think dating looked like in your parents’ generation? 5. Engagement/Betrothal How does a typical engagement take place in the Patel community? Who decides on whether or not to get engaged? How does it occur? Does courtship occur before /after the engagement? How long is an engagement in the Patel community among your generation before the marriage takes place? Are you engaged? Or do you know anyone who is engaged? Would you be able to relate either your or their experiences? How do you think engagement/betrothal happened for your parents’ generation? 6. Marriage Can you describe for me how a typical marriage actually happens among your generation in the Patel community?

PAGE 280

269 How does one select a spouse? How do couples meet? Where do they meet? (mate-selection) Are they introduced to each other? Who introduces them? Where and when does it happen? How soon after meeting each other do they decide upon marriage? In your opinion, which type of ma rriage is most prevalent among your generation (arranged marriage, love marriage, semi-arranged)? Why? When is the issue of marriage first brought up for men and women? What is said about it when it is brought up? W ho typically brings up the issue? With reference to the issue of marri age, the literature notes that the experience is different for women and men, can you comment on this? Do you plan on getting married? At what st age in your life do you plan to do this? Why? Is this your choice or th at of your family/community? What are/were you looking for in terms of a husband/wife? Does your spouse embody these expectations? Do you think any of these expectations have changed over the pa st generation? If yes, in what ways? If no, why not? From which sources did you de velop these expectations? Ideally, what type of marriage w ould you prefer for yourself? Why? Do you know anyone who has not adhered to th e typical type of Patel marriage that you have described for me?

PAGE 281

270 What have their experiences been? What have been the responses from their families and the Patel community? How did marriage occur with your parents and their generation? 7. What are some of the traditions you w ould like to maintain with your children and what would you like to change? Why? 8. There has not been much research undert aken on this topic and so I am in the process of figuring out what to ask. Could you perhaps assi st/help me in thinking about things that are meaningful to you on th is issue that I ha ven’t thought of?

PAGE 282

271 LIST OF REFERENCES Assar, N.N. (2000). Gender hierarchy among Gujarati i mmigrants: Linking immigration rules and ethnic norms. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg. Alba, R., & Nee, V. (1999). Rethinking assim ilation theory for a new era of immigration. In C. Hirschman, P. Kasinitz & J. DeWind (Eds.), The handbook of international migration (pp.137-160). New York: Russell Sage Foundation. Bellafante, G. (2005, August 23) . Courtship ideas of South Asians get a U.S. touch. The New York Times, pp.1-2. Bernard, H.R. (2000). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc. Berry, J.W. (1992). Acculturation an d adaptation in a new society. International Migration, 30, 68-83. Berry, J. W. (1997). Immigrati on, acculturation, and adaptation. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 46(1), 5-34. Berry, J.W. (2001). A psychology of immigration. Journal of Social Issues, 57(3), 615631. Chandrasekhar, S. (1981, January-December). A history of U.S. legislation with respect to immigration from India. Population Review, 11-27. Charotar Patidar Samaj (2005). Charotar patidar convention news . December 12, 2005, Dasgupta, S.D. (1998). Gender roles and cultural continuity in the Asian Indian immigrant community in the U.S. Sex Roles, 38(11/12), 953-974. DasGupta S., & Dasgupta, S.D. (1998). Sex, li es and women’s lives. In S.D. Dasgupta (Ed.), A patchwork shawl: Chronicles of South Asian women in America (pp.111128). New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Denzin, N.K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.). (2003). Collecting and interp reting qualitative materials. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

PAGE 283

272 Dugsin, R. (2001). Conflict and healing in the family experience of second-generation emigrants from Indian living in North America. Family Process, 40(2), 233-241. Esterberg, K.G. (2002). Qualitative methods in social research. Boston: McGraw Hill. Falk, N. E. (1995). Shakti ascending: Hindu women, politics, and religious leadership during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In R.D. Baird (Ed.), Religion in modern India (pp.298-334). New Delhi, India: Manohar Publis hers & Distributors. Farver, J. M., Narang, S.K., & Bhadha, B.R. (2002). East meets west: Ethnic identity, acculturation, and conflict in Asian Indian families. Journal of Family Psychology, 16(3), 338-350. Gans, H.J. (1999). Toward a reconciliati on of “assimilation” and “pluralism”: The interplay of acculturation and ethnic retent ion. In C. Hirschman, P. Kasinitz & J. DeWind (Eds.), The h andbook of international migration (pp.161-171). New York: Russell Sage Foundation. Gordon, M. (1964). Assimilation in American life: The role of race, religion, and national origins. New York: Oxford University Press. Gubrium, J.F., & Holstein, J.A. (1998). Narrative practice and the coherence of personal stories. Sociological Quarterly, 39, 163-187. Helweg, A.W., & Helweg, U.M. (1990). An immigrant success story: East Indians in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Heynik, J.W., & Tymstra, T.J. (1993). Th e functions of qualitative research. Social Indicators Research, 29(3), 291-305. Holstein, J.A., & Gubrium, J.F. (1995). The active interview. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Horenczyk, G. (1997). Immigrants’ perceptions of host attitudes and their reconstruction of cultural groups. Applied Psychology: An inte rnational review, 46 (1), 34-38. Jain, U.R. (1989). The Gujaratis of San Francisco. New York: AMS Press Inc. Juthani, N.V. (1992). Immigrant mental he alth: Conflicts and co ncerns of Indian immigrants in the U.S.A. Psychology and Developing Societies, 4(2), 133-148. Kallivayalil, D. (2004). Gender and cultural soci alization in Indian immigrant families in the United States. Feminism & Psychology, 14(4), 525-559. Khandelwal, M. S. (2002). Becoming American being Indi an: An immigrant community in New York City. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

PAGE 284

273 Krishnan, A., Berry, J.W. (1992). Acculturativ e stress and acculturation attitudes among Indian immigrants to the United States. Psychology and Developi ng Societies, 4(2), 187-212. Leonard, K.I. (1997). The South Asian Americans. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. Lessinger, J. (1995). From the Ganges to the Hudson: Indian immigrants in New York City. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Menon, R. (1989). Arranged marriage among South Asian immigrants. Sociology and Social Research, 73(4), 180-181. Miles, M., & Huberman, M. (1999). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc. Moideen, Y. (1995). Family functioning and acculturatio n in Asian Indian families. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, DePaul University, Chicago. Mukhi, S. (2000). Doing the desi thing: Performi ng Indianness in New York City. New York: Garland Publishing Inc. Patel, N. Power, T.G., & Bhavnagri, N.P. (1996). Socialization values and practices of Indian immigrant parents: Correl ates of modernity and acculturation. Child Development, 67, 302-313. Pocock, D.F. (1972). Kanbi and Patidar: A study of the Patidar community of Gujarat. London: Oxford University Press. Portes, A., & Zhou, M. (1993). The new sec ond generation: Segmented assimilation and its variants’. The Annals of the American Academy, 530, 74-96. Portes, A., & Rumbaut, R.G. (2005). In troduction: The second generation and the children of immigrants longitudinal study. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 28 (6), 983999. Rangaswamy, P. (2000). Namaste America: Indian immigrants in an American metropolis. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press. Rutten, M., & Patel, P.J. (2003). Indian migran ts in Britain: Mirr or image of social linkages between Gujarat and London. Asia Europe Journal, 1, 403-417. Saran, P. (1985). The Asian Indian experience in the United States. Cambridge, MA: Schenkman Publishing Company Inc. Sayegh, L., & Lasry, J. (1993). Immigran ts’ adaptation in Canada: Assimilation, acculturation, and orthogonal cultural identification. Canadian Psychology, 34(1), 98-109.

PAGE 285

274 Segal, U.A. (1998). The Asian Indian-Ame rican family. In C.H. Mindel, R.W. Habenstein, & R.Wright, Jr. (Eds.), Ethnic families in America: Patterns and variations. (pp.331-360). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Segal, U.A. (2002). A framework of immigration: Asians in the United States. New York: Columbia University Press. Sheth, P. (2001). Indians in America: One stream , two waves, three generations. Jaipur, India: Rawat Publications. Srinivasan, S. (2001). “Being Indian,” “Being American”: A balancin g act or a creative blend? Journal of Human Behavior in th e Social Environment, 3(3/4), 135-58. Szapocznik, J., Kurtines, W.M., & Fernand ez, T. (1980). Bicultural involvement and adjustment in Hispanic-American youths. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 4, 353-365. Vaidyanathan, P., & Naidoo, J. (1990). Asian Indians in western countries: Cultural identity and the arranged marriage. In N. Bleichrodt & P.J. Drenth (Eds.), Contemporary issues in cross-cultural psychology (pp.37-49). Amsterdam: Swets & Zeitlinger. Wakil, S.P., Siddique, C.M., & Wakil, F.A. (1981, November). Betw een two cultures: A study of socialization of children of immigrants. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 929-940. Warikoo, N. (2005, September). Gender and ethnic identity among second-generation Indo-Caribbeans. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 28(5), 803-831. Zhou, M. (1999). Segmented assimilation: Issues , controversies, and recent research on the new second generation. In C. Hirsch man, P. Kasinitz & J. DeWind (Eds.), The handbook of international migration (pp.196-211). New York: Russell Sage Foundation. Zhou, M., & Xiong, Y.S. (2005). The multifaceted American experiences of the children of Asian immigrants: Lessons for segmented assimilation. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 28 (6), 1119-1152.

PAGE 286

275 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Namita-Naomi Manohar is a masterÂ’s candi date with the Department of Sociology at the University of Florida. She has a bach elorÂ’s degree in sociology and a MasterÂ’s degree in social work from the University of Mumbai, India. She researches Indians in the United States and is primarily interested in studying their cons tructions of family, gender and marriage in the United States.