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4 Common misconceptions of Arranged Marriages

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Cover from Indian Matchmaking on Netflix. Depicts the matchmaker Sima Taparia smiling in yellow clothing with a woman and a man over each shoulder.

Since its release on July 16, the reality show, Indian Matchmaking has become a  household name. It has reached Netflix’s top 10 list in the United States.

As the name suggests, the show revolves around the business of Mumbai-based matchmaker, Sima Taparia.

Taparia focuses on seven couples ranging between their mid-twenties and late thirties, each with a variety of different professions. The show revolves around the age-old concept of arranged marriages. 

However, after watching the show, many viewers have had a negative idea of what the arranged marriage process is like. There are still many viewers, who do not quite understand how the process works.

BLENDtw has gathered first-hand experiences from couples who are products of arranged marriages. This is a list of four common misconceptions people have about arranged marriages. (All names have been changed due to privacy reasons).

1. It’s forced onto couples

Historically, arranged marriages were organized between families as an alliance to bring the two families together. It was not something that was limited to India, but also to other Asian and European countries.

Often in these circumstances, the bride and groom would have never met in person. They would have simply met on the day of the marriage. Arranged marriages have evolved over the years.

The arranged marriage process is similar to that of an online dating service. However, arranged marriages work on a spectrum. 

No two arranged marriages are alike. Each couple meets in a different way. Samir, the son of an arranged couple, described how his parents were matched in a more traditional way. He described how his two grandparents were neighbors in Lahore pre-Indian and Pakistan partition.

In 1947, they moved to New Delhi, where they were once again neighbors. “My paternal grandmother asked my father if we should approach my mother if he had any interest,” said Samir. “He was interested in another woman, but they rejected him because she was in the police force.”

In 1951, the couple married, when Samir’s mother was around nineteen years old and his father was around twenty-five.

Samir said that prior to their marriage the couple barely knew each other, but after, they were happily married for 65 years until the passing of his mother. 

Ronit and Rena, a couple married for 25 years, had a very different experience meeting. “It’s like going on a first date and seeing whether or not you liked the person,” said Ronit.

He described how the only defining difference between meeting someone through an arranged marriage was that they knew of each other’s family background.

“Although we didn’t know each other before, we both had similar experiences. Both our families celebrated the same festivals and took long train journeys to see our grandparents in South India.”

2. Women must compromise more

Throughout the show, Sima Taparia emphasized the importance of compromising and adjusting, while looking for matches. However, many viewers felt that the women were often asked to compromise more on their expectations for an eligible partner.

This lead to the spark of many internet memes, Tiktoks, and other criticisms of the arrangement process. 

While this might be the case for certain situations, it is not a set standard for everyone. Not every woman is forced to compromise their personal beliefs, lifestyle, and values for the sake of the groom’s family.

If a family demands this from the woman, the woman has every right to say no to the match. Taparia described how she rejected many matches, who did not respect her as a woman. 

Gauri, who has recently completed 25 years of marriage with her husband, also cared about her place in the marriage. “I do not want to be a doormat, I want to be able to work, I want to be able to make my own decisions. I needed a kind of person, who would let me be myself,” said Gauri.

She mentioned how she turned down many matches until she met her husband. “Even though it’s an arranged marriage we need to stand our ground. Even in marriage, it’s like colleges, you have to write down your pros and cons. If pros exceed the cons, then I will go for it. If not, I won’t,” said Gauri.

Compromise in marriage is not something that is limited towards marriages. It is a multi-faceted concept that applies to friendships and parent-child relationships.

If an individual cares for someone, then they are willing to deal with certain things they may not like. “Take the show King of Queens,” said Ronit. “Doug’s father-in-law lives with him. He doesn’t really like it, but he puts up with it for his wife’s sake.”

3. There is no true love in the Marriage

A common misconception about arranged marriages is that there is no love present in the marriage. However, this is not the case. The purpose of arranged marriage is to meet someone, who has a common goal: marriage.

The idea is that your shared experiences and common backgrounds and pave the way for the two individuals to grow to love each other.

“You’ve got to understand and like the person before you love them, so the love comes after everything else. I would say that’s the difference,” stated Gauri.

While it may not be the typical boy meets girl story, both individuals love and care for each other in the same way. “The main observation I have is that they get to learn to love each other. They were very devoted to each other. My mother was the stronger personality in the marriage.

My dad was more easy-going.” said Samir. “Their key was that they mutually respected each other.  The respect and love were what kept them together.” The love might happen a little later, but because of your common goals, experiences, and background, you grow to love the individual. 

4. It’s regressive 

Throughout the course of the show, Taparia emphasized that marriage is not only between the couple, but also between the two families. This idea was seen as regressive by many viewers of the show.

Many viewers believed that if the two individuals cared for each other, then what does the relationship between the two families matter?

While the first priority is that the couple gets along, there is a practical reason as to why it’s important for the two families to get along as well. 

For Gauri, the family background matching was a huge benefit to her. “Even though I didn’t have time to meet with him frequently, I knew he was a product of a good family, and that we would get along,” said Gauri.

She described how nowadays, she often speaks to her sister-in-law on the phone if there are any difficulties at home. Having this common family background and respect for the other person’s family, in fact, strengthens the relationship of the couple.

“I’m not only accepting my husband’s family, but I’m accepting my husband’s mother, father, and brother.” explained Rena. “Even though people may see it as a fault, I think that’s where our marriages are much stronger. We care for the extended family as opposed to just the individual.” 

The arranged marriage process is not perfect. There are many flaws in the system such as casteism, colorism (“fair, tall, slim, and trim”), and the exclusion of LGBTQIA+ individuals.

There have been arranged marriage couples, who’s marriages have not worked out, leading to toxic environments. However, it is a system that has worked for may marriages and continues to evolve day by day. As society continues to change, so do the standards of arranged marriages.

“Understand that there are real gradations to it,” said Ronit. “There are still marriages that take place in India, where the people who are getting married in villages have not seen the faces of their matches.” 

“My gut tells me that after a couple of years, it doesn’t matter if it’s an arranged marriage or a marriage based solely on love,” said Gauri. “You discover each other in a year or two, and grow to love and understand each other no matter how you met.”

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Culture

A New Home for Asian American Representation in Hollywood

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Kelly Marie Tran on MTV International.

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After the onslaught of negative reactions to Mulan (2020), Disney’s recent film announcements offer new hope for Asian representation in the entertainment industry.

From Raya and the Last Dragon to Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings, Disney has opened up a larger space for Asian Americans to shine, but can they do it right this time?

Here are a few movies that offer a new home for Asian American representation in film. 

Mulan in Crisis 

Over quarantine, Disney+ users dreamed about the promise of greater authenticity and Chinese representation in the live-action of Mulan

The film had an aggressive campaign of staying true to the original ballad of Mulan, and established a more serious approach than its animated companion. 

Soon after its release, however, audiences were sorely met with lackluster characterization and collapsing themes of Asian female empowerment.

In addition to the outrage concerning main actress Yifei Liu’s support of Hong Kong police, Mulan (2020) suffered from its generalization of Chinese history and glorification of outdated values. 

An overwhelming backlash, in this case, was inevitable. The Asian American community responded with a plethora of media criticizing Disney’s failures with Mulan

As Disney enters a new era in the streaming industry, however, there has been some hope for growth in its relationship with Asian representation. 

Disney Plus on all platforms.

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Raya the First 

Though some have pointed out its stylistic similarity to Avatar: The Last Airbender, many others have applauded Raya and the Last Dragon for its introduction of Southeast Asian representation into the animated sphere.

The new film portrays Raya, a fictional Southeast Asian warrior princess, who must search for the last dragon in order to save her world. 

Throughout its trailer, Raya and the Last Dragon hints at a variety of Southeast Asian cultures.

Producers have claimed inspiration from countries such as Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and others, but many viewers have recognized the film’s direct representation of Filipino design and culture.

While the ability to openly point out such specific cultural moments paves an optimistic path, another question arises in Disney’s choice for a film that works to “blend Southeast Asian cultures” rather a distinct country.

This particularly speaks to the ways in which Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander communities are too often consolidated as one culture. 

Whereas films like Mulan enjoy the cultural specificity of being Chinese, Moana and now Raya and the Last Dragon must settle for a more generic representation of being “Southeast Asian” or “Pacific Islander,” as opposed to Filipino or Tongan. 

2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition law protest with an ambulance driving through a crowd of people.

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This also comes with the replacement of half-Filipina Cassie Steele with Vietnamese Kelly Marie Tran.

While Raya and the Last Dragon has been largely recognized for its distinctive Filipino references, the film continues to largely err on the side of mixing (and potentially confusing) a variety of Southeast Asian creatives. 

In the midst of such a struggle, however, Raya and the Last Dragon nevertheless represents the beginning of Southeast Asian involvement in the film industry, with hopes for more to come. 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of Yellow Peril 

Marvel’s latest Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings also provides a new avenue for Asian representation, especially in the superhero realm. 

Simu Liu, set to play Shang-Chi, has been a longtime favorite in the Asian American film industry.

From acting in short films with Wong Fu Productions to playing the sweet but arrogant Jung on Kim’s Convenience, Liu is a familiar face in the Asian American community and reflects their desire for diversity on camera. 

However, there is hesitation about rehashing the damaging Asian stereotypes from the original Shang-Chi comics. Inspired by the age of martial arts films, Shang-Chi echoes the era of Fu Manchu and Yellow Peril, when Asians were essentially characterized as purely evil

Fu Manchu represented the culmination of America’s anti-Asian, anti-immigrant anxieties and fears. In the comics, Shang-Chi is the son of Fu Manchu and equips his martial arts to destroy his father.

Such a relationship spoke to the utilization of the “best” parts of Asian culture (a.k.a martial arts) to take down the “worst” parts (acting or looking “too Asian”).

This divisiveness ultimately denounces an Asian identity, uplifting only that which is “best” in the eyes of others. 

Knowing this history, Shang-Chi holds the potential to backslide in the same ways that Mulan (2020) did, by focusing too much on a presumed perspective of “authenticity.”

In the making of Shang-Chi, Disney must pull from contemporary Asian America, rather than its past.

Simu Liu speaking at Comic Con San Diego.

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As Simu Liu has pointed out, however, there is hope! Both Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings and Raya and the Last Dragon have released their massive inclusion of a largely Asian and Asian American cast and creative team.

This means that, in contrast to Mulan’s implementation of solely Asian actors, these two new films will be written and creatively produced by the same people it seeks to represent. In this way, Disney is truly learning from its failure with the live-action Mulan (2020).

Though there has been some early criticism for the next two films, a positive anticipation flourishes in Disney’s changes for greater Asian representation in film and media.

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Culture

Different Ways to celebrate Christmas-Comparing Christmas Traditions Across the Globe

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Four girls holding candles, singing Christmas carols.
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Christmas caroling, gingerbread houses, eggnog and candy canes are an indication that the holiday season is upon us. In the U.S. and certain other countries, we have traditions like setting out milk and cookies for Santa, lining our mantels with stockings, and hanging wreaths and bright lights outside. But many other countries around the world have their own unique traditions to celebrate this most wonderful time of the year. Let’s take a look at some of the different ways other cultures embrace the magic of Christmas. 

Region of Puerto Rico 

In Puerto Rico, Christmas is an extravagant, go-all-out type of holiday. Christmas celebrations start the day after Thanksgiving and last until the beginning of January. An important holiday tradition is caroling, referred to as a parranda, meaning the gift of music. The parranda isn’t your average Christmas caroling excursion; there are maracas, guitars and tamboras involved, making it all the more festive. In many cities, fireworks are set off each night in celebration. Some special holiday foods in Puerto Rico include lechón asado (a pork dish), tembleque (coconut pudding), and coquito (a coconut-rum drink).

Australia

Christmas is a holiday that is typically associated with winter. But in Australia, Christmas takes place in the summer season, swapping snowmen for sandmen. The beach is a very popular destination on Christmas day, filled with live music, barbeques, and decorated trees in the sand. If you’re lucky, you may even see Santa Claus, better known as Father Christmas in Australia, surfing the waves. Australians also celebrate the holiday season by gathering in large groups to sing Christmas carols with candles in hand. This tradition is known as ‘Carols by Candlelight.’

Finland

Rovaniemi, located in Lapland, Finland, is a city noted for its holiday spirit. In fact, Rovaniemi is the official hometown of Santa Claus. Santa’s post office (it’s a real post office) is open year-round, collecting letters from thousands of children. The subpolar climate of Rovaniemi makes the city a winter wonderland for several months. Christmas theme parks filled with reindeer sleigh rides and Santa and his elves make for a wonderful holiday experience.

Mexico

In Mexico, the Las Posadas celebration begins on December 16th and ends on Christmas Eve. Communities dress up and reenact Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem in search of shelter. There’s music, parties, and holiday foods such as buñuelos, a dessert made of fried dough and topped with cinnamon sugar or syrup. On Christmas Eve, the party culminates with the breaking of piñatas.

A tree ornament in the form of a globe.
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Germany

Germany has a rich history of Christmas traditions, some more terrifying than others. In Germany and some other European countries, the Krampus, an evil demon-goat creature, is rumored to be Santa’s evil relative. Krampus punishes children who misbehave, and if you’re in Germany, you may see people dressed up as Krampus wandering through the streets and scaring bystanders. On a happier note, Christmas markets and holiday shopping are all the rage in Germany. In the city of Nuremberg, Christkindlesmarkt is a famously large Christmas market, attracting millions of visitors each year. Famous holiday foods at this market include gingerbread, bratwursts, and fruitcake. 

Japan

Although only a small fraction of the population of Japan is Christian, the spirit of Christmas is still in the air. In Japan, millions of families celebrate Christmas with a special tradition: a chicken dinner, typically from KFC. Santa Claus has been traded in for Colonel Sanders. In some ways, Christmas in Japan is celebrated in the same way that we celebrate Valentine’s Day. Rather than spending Christmas day with family, couples go out for romantic dinners. 

Netherlands

In Amsterdam, Santa Claus is not the only one to deliver presents — Sinterklaas, a Santa-like Nordic figure, also distributes gifts to children. Sinterklass sails from Spain over to the Netherlands to deliver presents on December 5. Santa then arrives on Christmas day to fill childrens’ shoes with gifts. Another important Christmas tradition in the Netherlands is gourmetten, a big dinner where meats and vegetables are grilled at the table, and underneath the grill or hot plate, tiny pans filled with sauces and cheeses are broiled. These dinners somewhat resemble an indoor barbeque.

Iceland

In Iceland, the Yule Lads, 13 mischievous troll-like figures, deliver gifts to children or give them potatoes if they have been naughty that year. Starting on December 12th, a different lad visits each night leading up to Christmas. Children leave their shoes out on windowsills in anticipation of the Yule Lads’ visits. Grýla, the mother of the Yule Lads, is a scary troll rumored to eat misbehaving children. 

While many Christmas celebrations and family traditions are on hold due to Covid, it’s always nice to reminisce on the pre-Covid holiday seasons, as we hope to resume the celebrations next year.

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Hanukkah: 8 Things You Might Not Know About the Eight Nights

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A closeup of candles burning.

It’s finally the holiday season here in the US, and all the signs are upon us. Christmas music is playing in most public spaces on the rare occasions we leave our homes, decorations and Christmas trees are going up in private and public spaces, and anticipation of that one magical night is high. Or, it is if you’re Christian.

Jewish people living in the United States, while the world around them gears up for Christmas, celebrate Hanukkah while simultaneously weathering the yearly bombardment of questions and assumptions about what the holiday is like.

There are a lot of misconceptions about what Hanukkah is actually like from people outside the Jewish community, so to help with that confusion, here’s a list of common mistakes people make about how to celebrate Hanukkah, and some general fun facts about a common Jewish holiday.

1. It’s Not “Jewish Christmas”

This is likely self-explanatory, but it’s important to cover. Because of its closeness to Christmas during the year, Hanukkah has become perceived as the “Jewish Christmas”, a holiday with equivalent importance to Christmas, which is not true at all. Christmas is one of the most important holidays in the Christian tradition, commemorating the birth of Jesus. Hanukkah is not on par with that importance.

2. It’s Actually a Minor Holiday

This is the big one that trips non-Jewish people up a lot: Hanukkah is not a big deal at all for Jewish people. For Jews, all the important holidays are tied directly to holy or important days, like Rosh Hashanah, which celebrates the Jewish New Year; and Yom Kippur, which is a day of mourning and remembrance. Hanukkah has no associated holiness to it, making it a very minor event in the Jewish Calendar.

A menorah with two candles burning, one in the middle and one on the far right.
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3. Hanukkah is About a Rebellion and a Miracle

Part of the reason why Hanukkah is actually not very important is that the story it commemorates is not part of important Jewish traditions like The Torah. Hanukkah celebrates the rebellion and reclamation of Jewish land and temples by a band of rebels known as the Maccabees. Once the rebellion succeeded and the temple was reclaimed, the Jewish people wanted to relight the menorah (that branching candle holder that’s associated with Hanukkah) inside to reconsecrate the temple, but all the special oil they burned in the menorah was destroyed. They only found a tiny jar which held barely enough oil to last a night. Amazingly though, the small amount of oil burned for eight days and eight nights, giving the Jewish people time to make more oil. This is the miracle of Hanukkah, and why Jews celebrate by lighting Hanukkiah for eight nights. Pretty interesting, huh?

4. There Aren’t Christmas Levels of Gifts

This isn’t true for all families, but for the most part, Hanukkah is a more low-key affair than Christmas. Most Jewish people give smaller gifts across the whole of the eight nights, with maybe a few larger items in there, but not an overflow of gifts every night.

5. Shockingly Enough, Gift Giving Isn’t Even Traditional

This might be surprising even to Jewish-Americans, but gift giving during Hanukkah is not actually traditional! There is no significance to gift giving like there is to other parts of the Hanukkah tradition, and in fact, it’s almost entirely a Jewish-American behavior. Why? Because of Christmas. Sometime around the 1920s, American Jews began buying gifts for their children to celebrate Hanukkah so they wouldn’t feel left out when all their peers got Christmas gifts, so it’s largely an American invention.

6. But Eating Fried Food is Traditional

Everyone always focuses on gifts and lighting candles, but it’s interesting to note that another tradition in Hanukkah is eating fried food. “Latkes”, a kind of fried potato pancake, are associated closely with the holiday, but they’re actually important because they’re fried. The tradition relates back to the story of Hanukkah and the oil that burned for eight nights. To honor this, Jews eat fried food like latkes and “sufganiyot”, fried donuts that are often jelly-filled. That’s one thing Christmas and Hanukkah do have in common: they’re both incredibly healthy holidays. 

A large sculpture of a menorah outside in the snow.
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7. Blue and White Decorations Aren’t, Though

If you’ve ever seen any decorations for Hanukkah you’ve likely seen strings of blue and white lights or decorations, as opposed to the normal red and green of Christmas. Surprisingly, though, there’s actually no association between Hanukkah and blue and white. Blue and white are important colors for Jews, as the traditional prayer shawl called a “tallit” is usually white with stripes of blue on the ends. Hanukkah decorations in blue and white are another tradition that started in America because of Christmas. To not feel left out of the Christmas spirit, some Jews began decorating with blue and white, but outside the US, this isn’t a common behavior at all.

8. Hanukkah is “The Festival of Lights,” but ‘Hanukkah’ Means Something Different

Finally, it’s important to think about the most important part of Hanukkah. The lighting of the menorah is the most crucial tradition of Hanukkah and the main way Jewish people the world over celebrate the holiday, which is why the holiday is affectionately called The Festival of Lights. The word ‘Hanukkah’, however, actually means ‘rededication’ or ‘consecration’, to commemorate the consecration of the temple by the lighting of the menorah in the Hanukkah story.

In 2020, Hanukkah runs from December 10th to 18th, so if you know anyone Jewish who observes the holiday, wish them a happy holiday and a good new year to come. Hopefully, you understand at least one Jewish tradition a little bit better now.

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