Below is a full transcript of our podcast episode, titled Arranged Marriage, Marrying into Different Communities, and Raising Children. The episode was hosted by PlanEvents.ca, and our guest was attorney Raminder Hayre (a.k.a. Rami Hay). Scroll down to see the transcript and/or listen to the episode here.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 00:02
Welcome to the PlanEvents.ca podcast. In today’s episode, we’re gonna do something very different from what we’ve ever done, we’ve brought on, Zareen. She is married. She’s been married for, I think 36 years. And she’s got two sons, one of them is 31. And the other one is 34. And her oldest son is is engaged to be married sometime next year. So she’s done the whole rodeo. And the reason we thought it would be interesting to bring her on as a guest, is because her and her husband, they come from some same similar cultures, but you know, in the subcontinent, but let you know, she is Urdu-speaking and her husband is Bengali, like pure Bengali from Bangladesh. And there’s a lot of historical context behind that between the two communities, a lot of conflict that has happened in the last, let’s say, 50 years. And so the reason that we thought that’d be interesting is we want to know, you know, how does it work for two? How do two people, you know, from two, I’d say, conflicting communities come together, especially through an arranged marriage. also talk about how that influenced raising their children, what that meant, in terms of each of them, each of the two of them being brought into each of their respective families. And beyond that, we’ll also talk about what it was like in the 80s. Going through the arranged marriage process and how some of the themes in the 80s are still present in 2020. Then Zareen will also take the opportunity to talk about what it was like for her, not related to her marriage, but more about her oldest son, what it was like for her, to have her son get engaged, and is planning to be married to somebody similar culture, different language, different religion, and how she handled that. And then finally, she will have some words and words of advice that has proven to be true when she was getting married, almost 40 years ago, and proved to be true now. So with that said, I’m going to hand it off to Zareen and Zareen can start off with kind of what her experience was like, during the arranged marriage process, and what it was like, like what it was like to marry into a different community.
Hi, thank you for having me here. And I can start off by saying that when we when I was growing up, arranged marriage, obviously was an in-thing. Of course, people also had love marriages. So I saw both and not saying in my family, but all my sisters had arranged marriages. And so that was also like a preconceived idea, something similar will happen with me. But at the same time, I also had an idea, every girl has an idea like, this is the kind of man you want to marry. And even though I was brought up in a very strict family, strict father, strict brother, so very, very sheltered. So I was in Pakistan, then I went to Bangladesh for a visit, and relatives over there had somebody, you know, they had seen a guy, and they wanted me to marry him. And I didn’t know anything about this person. So I he, I had they arranged for us to meet but not like a date or anything, not one on one. It was a room full of people, and with elders over there. And I just saw him for a few minutes. Very nice guy. But something didn’t click. And I gave myself a lot of thought, like, I can just say yes, and make it easy for everybody because they have big expectations, without giving me any details. They expected me to say yes, get married and done. But I gave it a lot of thought. And I thought, No, I’m just going to have to say no, because my gut feeling was I didn’t feel good about it. And so I said no. So eventually, after a few months or a year, then another arranged marriage system arose for me. And this time my aunt, my Khala, my mother, sister, and my husband’s uncle, they were involved. So it was like both sides. So I might have husband came to my aunt’s house with his cousin and sisters. And they saw me and I had a very good vibe. I got very nice vibes from him. And I did not speak to him directly. He just asked me one or two questions about education. That’s it. He didn’t ask me if I know how to make biryani and stuff like that. And so it felt good. So I said yes to that. And so far has been good. I’ve been happy with him very nice guy. treats, treats me with respect and I felt that was a good thing to have. I didn’t I wasn’t looking for much. So that’s how it started. Even though I come from an Urdu-speaking family. My father was Bihari so we spoke Urdu in our household, my mother and father spoke fluent or do so we learn to speak Urdu. At the same time through my other relatives who were being married to Bengalis is kind of confusing. I know. But they are I’ll we’ll learn some Bengali from them. So I had some I could speak some Bengali because we lived in Bangladesh, and the native language language was Bengali. So that’s how I learned how to speak Bengali. So I had a My husband has Bengali. So I had that comfort level, I was able to communicate with him in Bengali. So he does not speak Urdu with me. He tries. So I tell him, you know what, just speak Bengali. So, in the end, we ended up speaking more English than our native languages. So that’s how it went. So far.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 06:43
Yeah, thank you. So first, I’ll spend about a minute giving historical context on kind of like, how do people end up in like Bangladesh, and then some finally end up in Pakistan. So for those of you who aren’t super familiar with the history of this of content, and for the last 75 years, you had the partition of 1947. And what happened is that resulted in basically the creation of West Pakistan and East Pakistan. And so, during that time, a lot of early speaking people migrated to East Pakistan. Like most notably Bihar, some from U.P. And essentially, they lived in East Pakistan, side by side with Bengalis. In peace, like they just they had they had, they spoke different languages, but like, the other speaking people, you know, they supported the Bengali right to self determination that they, I guess, spiritually supported that. And basically, in the early 70s, and this was a build up over the period of 20 years, because the West Pakistani government, so West Pakistan is like, presently Pakistan is kind of exploited and marginalized, the Bengali people and mistreated them and whatnot. And now over 20 years, that kind of rose up into like mass violence. So in the early 70s, there was a huge movement for Bengali liberation, and unfortunately, a big side effect of that was Bengalis Bengali, I don’t say Bengali obeying all the people but like Bengali militias, and freedom fighters, you know, to carry out acts of violence. It was a lot like the partition of like 1947. So 1971, you had Bengali militias coming in fighting are the speaking people taking them out in the street, infanticide, killing, rape. And, you know, that resulted in a lot of speaking people could spend about two decades in these packs and forcing them to move to West Pakistan. So that’s kind of the conflict there. And I did want to just mention that. So now, bringing it back to like a more practical level. Another big thing, so you mentioned, you know, most of what you guys spoke at home was English, kind of as a function, like in between your children. Right. So I think, from what I understand, there’s also a difference in like, the level of religiousness between you and me and your husband. And so, my understanding is, you are a very devout Muslim, and your husband is he doesn’t do most of the things that you’re supposed to do as a Muslim from what I understand. So I want to understand like, was that something you knew going into the marriage like, were you expecting, you know, you’d be marrying somebody who prays five times a day and fast goes to the masjid multiple one or more times a week, like what was that like?
Well, when I got married to him, I did not know he did not pray five times a day, but he does fast every Ramadan he will fast. But he will not. He doesn’t go to the masjid much at all. But at the time I got married. I went to a into eight with the feeling like, I just took it for granted Oh, he’s a Muslim, I’m sure he prays, you know you I didn’t question that at all. So I didn’t know. But you know, he but he is that doesn’t make him a bad person, he is still a good person, he is honest, he is kind. And it’s just that he doesn’t practice. So there was a difference between us because, you know, I pray I’m not saying I’m a great Muslim, but I do my best I follow my religion. And I tried to instill that into my two boys. And I guess for girls and boys out there, take this message seriously. If you are, if you want your children to grow up a certain religion, you have to make sure that you and your husband are on the same page. Because back when we are getting married back then, or even now arranged marriages, you don’t think about questioning those things. Because when you are in your native country, and it comes like okay, you take it for granted, he I’m sure he goes to the masjid. But here in like North America or, you know, different countries, you can bring up that question if you want. Because if you want your future children to be religious or follow a certain thing, you make sure before you get married, because those things will come into play big time when your kids are growing up, and there’s less confusion. So I hope Did that answer your question?
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 11:47
Yeah, that answer to my question. So I think there’s like two things that I’ve kind of teased out. And the first is the linguistic difference between the two of you. So speaking different languages are the speaking versus Bengali. And the second thing is differences in religion. So I kind of I want to dive into those two things separately. So first, I’ll jump into the linguistic difference. Specifically, I want to I’m wondering, what was it like in terms of how you were how comfortable you felt how you were treated amongst the immediate family from your husband’s side, knowing the cause, knowing that you were not like pure Bengali?
Well, you know what I will I think I consider myself lucky because especially my husband’s two sisters. They never question my language, like not being a Bengali because I spoke such good Bengali and speak fluent Bengali. And I don’t think they even went there with this Bengali-Bihari thing. So they were very kind in that manner. They accepted me. At the same time, I didn’t like make it a big deal. Like when I lived in Bangladesh, or when I go to visit there, I don’t make it a big deal. Like oh, I am a non Bengali, I’m a Bihari. If it comes into context, I say it, but I’m not hiding my identity, do not hide your end identity. It doesn’t come up. I don’t need to say it but the immediate family or close friends of course, they know I’m not a Bengali My mother was actually a Bengali but I’m not a full Bengali I’m consider myself a Bihari. So that’s how it is you know I do not hide your identity. If you are a Bihari, you are a Bihari, your blood is not going to change. So immediate family knows friends and extended family knows. So it’s been okay. And I guess knowing Bengali and speaking Bengali has helped me a lot in this journey. Even though I missed talking in Urdu with my husband, but
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 13:56
Yeah, that answers my question about the linguistic difference. So now going back to differences in religion, how do you think that has affected raising your children?
Okay, I’m going to be honest, in the beginning, when the kids were little, we sent them to the we didn’t have Islamic school here before and I grew up when my kids were growing up, there was just one or two families from like Bengali families or they didn’t have many Muslim friends. I didn’t have many so the exposure was not as much that really helps with the children’s identities. So I did as much as I could at home, send them to the mosque for classes like Quran class, but as they grew up and left for college, and for some reason, it just kind of I don’t want to say fell apart, but they had they made up their own minds what they were going to follow, and I still try to tell them to this day like do this you should pray And I’m not going to give up. I keep trying, but they’re adults now. So they make their own decisions. And they will have, you know, the consequences, whatever happens will be on them not on me, hopefully not on me. But at the same time, I will say, I think I have, I hope I have raised great kids, because now I see them as grown up, they’re kind, they’re honest, these are the qualities of a good human being, they have good human qualities. So just because a good Muslim also have to have good human qualities. So just because if a person is not of a certain religious, religion doesn’t mean that they’re not good. If you just have to have a good human quality. And this is just me speaking. I’m not judging anybody. So hopefully, nobody will take it otherwise. And I don’t know if that answer your question. Did I leave anything out?
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 15:59
Yeah, that that answers my question. So I’m gonna go ahead and transition into like the last part of like, raising a family getting married in your experience, so be curious to know. So your oldest son is getting married to somebody that’s not Muslim, they’re Sikh. So can you share what your experiences was like? In that in Mo, probably was like a multi year process.
Okay. I, to be honest, I’m going to be really honest, I preferred my sons to get married to Muslim women, or, or a Christian or a Jewish because they are considered People of the Book. So staying within that. But then, over the years, once I found out that he is seeing a Sikh girl, and I realized that, you know, I tried to ask him, if he is truly serious about her, is it going to work? Think about it before you jump into something like that, because you’re going to have children down the road? Or how what kind of an effect is going to have on them? Are they going to be conflicted between two religions, I was thinking like generations ahead of them, not just them, because, but now I see they are very happy knowing each other. And I think you and I have met, I have met his fiancee, and her family, and I think they’re great people, she’s a great girl, we get along. And all those things together, I just want them to be happy, even though it still hurts a little bit. And I’m sure it’s the same on her side of the family. But we want our kids to be happy. In other words, we don’t want – some mothers have conflicting issues with children marrying outside of their religion. And the problem is, the kids move on. And they marry. Eventually they marry whom they want, and the parents lose their children to that. And my thing is, I don’t want to lose my son, because I did not accept his wife. Even though my religion, I may be going against my religion, but he’s an adult, and he knows what he’s doing. There’s so much a person a parent can do and then they just have to let it go. And they can only hope that things will turn around. So that
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 18:27
Yeah, that that makes sense. I’d be curious as a part of, was there anything you did? In addition? I mean, you got to know your son’s fiance, you got to know her family? Did you do any, like sort of self education to understand their their culture a little bit more? Maybe their religion or anything like that? Did you do any learning or no,
I did look up some of the stuff to see what their belief is in. But I didn’t dive too deep into it. But I just wanted to see about their culture. And but To tell you the truth, I didn’t deep dive too deep into it. I just, I just asked my son’s a few questions or just look up some of the their beliefs. And that’s all.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 19:18
I’m also curious, you know, for the for the Islamic marriage, I think it’s a pretty like, my understanding is it’s a it’s a lightweight process. It can happen anywhere with a small number of people. You don’t need anybody to be of a specific like anybody can officiate as long as they’re Muslim, right. And they have to know how to do the officiating. Whereas with the six ceremony that needs to happen in the Gurdwara, and it has to be I’m not sick. So I’m assuming it has to be done by spirit. Like it can’t be done by just anybody, right? Like they need to know what they’re doing. And so the like, was there any conflict with like, how did you Do you feel about this idea of you having to go to another place of worship to this work to this wedding? Because I assume maybe you have not been to other places of worship? So like, share your experiences on that?
Well, I haven’t be having been there yet. So we’ll find out. But with the, with the Muslim marriage, yes, there’s one thing like you have, and you don’t have to, but it’s preferably the Masjid Imam does the Nikah. DUe to COVID, we decided we could do it through hopefully through zoom and have one of our friends do it, because we want to keep it very small. And also there is, you know, some of my friends know about it, all of them don’t know about it. Because of the big religious difference. I had a hard time for the first couple of years to tell my family. And it was very easy to tell my sisters. And I know, I have, you know, but I have told my brother. And the thing is, and I think the same thing happened with the girl’s family, her her mother and I talk, we talk like every few weeks, and we’re almost on the same page about our conflict, like, okay, they’re marrying outside of the religion. So it’s kind of great, but she understands that how I feel, and I understand how they feel. So parents are on the same page about this, which is, it’s okay, so it’s good to know that they feel the same. So I think the girl’s mother also had a hard time telling her side of the family. And I have, I’m still telling some side of my family. But in the end, I’ll just have to say, Hey, you know what, ask my son if you have any questions. But so due to COVID, we will have to do the nicca on the on the zoom. And the Nikah is like they will, whoever is doing them, the father of the girl has to be there. Of course, there needs to be two witnesses on each side. And preferably this could have been done in the Mosque. But it cannot happen that way right now. And the girl has to say Qubool , three times. And the boy has to say Qubool three times. And also, I just want to mention this in our religion, Islam, a girl cannot be should not be and cannot be forced to marry somebody. And some people, they miss us this their power family members to force the girl, which is not right. Although they mean well, because they think this person is the good match for their daughter or sisters or, you know, family members, and they try to force them. But I you know, that’s not right it that is it should not happen that way. But in the end, parents always mean well, for the children, brothers, older brothers and sisters mean, well, it’s not like they will not try to do something that’s wrong, but also that the girl and the boy should have the right to choose. That’s exactly what I you know, trying to say. And I hope those people who fought try to force marriages on people need to learn.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 23:17
Awesome. So before we bring this to an end, do you have any final words of advice for other women that are either getting married, or maybe they’re in the middle of maybe they’re engaged and they’re going through like the planning phases, or being or they’re being pressured to get married? you have any advice for them?
Oh, I forgot to add one thing. And like I said, No offense to any men or women out there. And girls, I don’t have girls, but I am. I definitely feel for girls, just because I have boys doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings for girls. I have nieces. And you know, so I’m just saying that girls, show respect your mother in law, like you respect your mother, but do not become a slave to your mother in law. Just a piece of advice. And just because she is your husband’s mother, and she should not dominate everything. You are your own person. And of course you should. I don’t want to say you should obey your husband, but you should have a good common understanding. And the mother in law should sometimes take a step back and not interfere in the marriage too much. This is for the boy’s mother. And which means it will be Oh, I better follow my own advice, I guess. Right. And for the girl’s mother, please don’t take over your take over and dominate your son in law because remember, he has a mother. So for both men and women out there getting married new couples, please remember you have a mother who gave birth to you respect them and you Don’t forget about them. Remember them love and respect your mother in law mother, father in law, Father, respect your elders, but just be kind, but know when to draw the line. Like if somebody is trying to dominate your new nurse wrong. Don’t just give him given. Draw the Line respectfully, with a lot of respect, you can conquer anything.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 25:24
Do you have any examples specific examples of what it means to draw the line respectfully?
Well, if the mother in law tells me come wash my feet, you’re like, I don’t think so. I guess.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 25:38
Okay, awesome. Any any last things you want to share before we end this podcast episode?
Okay, I want to thank Kamran, for giving me the chance to speak in this podcast. And I am commands mothers. So that’s what I wanted to say. And he is a great son. And so his his brother, and I think is going to be a good marriage for Kamran and Kami. I love them all. And I just wanted to tell Kamran, I love you my kid. All right. It was good to be on this path, podcast. And also, like I said, Please don’t be offended. I this is just my thoughts is just me. Every anything I said, I had no intention of being offensive to anybody. So if anybody offended by anything, I said, Don’t take it. Otherwise, don’t be offended. is the truth.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 26:40
Awesome. Thank you, mom. Love you.