To Marry or Not to Marry: Young Indian Americans Weigh In on the Issue Malala Yousafzai Raised

  • Most parents in traditional marriage maybe surprised to learn that several young people agree with the Nobel Prize winner’s skepticism about the need for marriage.

Pakistani Nobel laureate and global girls rights advocate Malala Yousafzai recently kicked up a social media storm. In a post that went viral, British Vogue quoted Malala as saying: “I still don’t understand why people have to get married. If you want to have a person in your life, why do you have to sign marriage papers, why can’t it just be a partnership?” Her comment didn’t go down well with Pakistani netizens, sparking an outrage on Twitter and inviting venomous criticism.

American Kahani caught up with a few Millennials and Gen Xers to figure out which side of the argument they fell on – to marry or not to marry, that is the question.

According to Varsha Narendra, a 24-year-old graduate student, “The spirit of marriage is to make a commitment to another person to spend the rest of their lives enriching each other’s experience with the world, supporting them when other people may walk away, and always having their back and looking out for them.”

With that definition of marriage, Narendra adds, “I don’t believe that government contracts have any place determining those things for people; the only thing that can prove a commitment is the passage of time. In that vein, I think marriage is a nice way to share this commitment with your loved ones, but I honestly don’t think the government needs to be involved in my personal life.” 

Varsha Narendra

As to her personal marriage goals, Narendra says, “My goal has always been to find someone who, if asked me to marry, I would have no misgivings about saying yes. Whether or not we got married after this would probably be based on tax reasons. I am pro-domestic partnership over marriage because I think that if you are in a situation that no longer benefits you, it should be easier to leave, not harder. Just because you made a commitment doesn’t mean it’s always going to work out, and marriage is a great way to trap people into living lives that they don’t want to endure!”

Delzin Daruwalla, 20, a student at University of Georgia (UGA), says, “As someone who has dreamed of motherhood and having my own family since childhood, my first instinct is yes. But after carefully thinking about me versus some of my friends and those around me, I realized that everyone has a different answer. Everyone knows that most little girls from a young age dream of getting married to their own Prince Charming. I myself am guilty of throwing a while t-shirt over my hair, and walking down the ‘aisle’ in my bedroom!”

Delzin Daruwalla

However, Daruwalla, sounding more mature than her years is quick to remind one that “In our generation, social media can be a very harmful space but can also be a place for people to be able to relate to one another. “Recently on social media the idea of a partnership has become popular, where people decide that they don’t want something as committed and serious as a marriage but they would rather have a simple partnership. While our parents and grandparents may view this as taboo, as a young adult I see the benefits in having a partnership. While I value marriage and know that partnership is not for me, I am able to understand why those around me may choose this path. I truly believe that families come in all shapes, sizes and fonts so regardless of a marriage or partnership, if you and your companion are happy and healthy then there should be nothing to get in the way of your happiness.”

As to whether she will choose to walk down the aisle, Daruwalla says, “I still wish to have a marriage, but not for old fashioned reasons such as playing my role as woman — having kids and raising them. I want a marriage because I value the marriages that I see around me and want that life for myself.”

Ananya Kulkarni

Seventeen-year-old Ananya Kulkarni, a junior at South Brunswick High School in New Jersey looks at things a little differently. She believes that “the only reason people get married is for tradition. And if the couple loves each other, they can easily spend their lives together, have kids, and join families, without a marriage license,” adding, “We see that so much in gay couples. In states that do not allow gay marriage, they still stay together and adopt kids and they function like a married couple. I don’t think marriage is necessary. I think people like to get married for the experience. But a piece of paper should not define a relationship.”

She is however quick to point out that while she doesn’t think a happily ever after is necessary, “I do not have a problem with people who chose that option.”

Aryaman Kulkarni

Aryaman Kulkarni, 20, a rising senior at University of Connecticut, Storrs, who is currently in Nashville, Tennessee, on a summer internship seems also to lean toward a domestic partnership. “I agree with Malala. I think as long as the people involved are on the same page, they should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they want to get married.” 

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However, Kulkarni also points out that being a male, societal expectations may be different, and possibly easier on him. “Women are definitely scrutinized more. Expectations for them are very different.”

For 19-year-old Zoey Patel, microbiology student at Augusta University, marriage, like others pointed out before her, is a very personal choice. She is of the opinion that it works for some people and not for others, but believes that’s a decision that should be left up to the couple…only and sees the women have to deal with the societal judgements about marriage vs. partnership more. 

“Granted, I think there’s a lot of benefits you’d get with marriage (like filing joint taxes) and I think your relationship is definitely viewed as more “real” and permanent (especially in Asian cultures), but I also think women in particular have to weigh that with the cons of marriage. For women, getting married means that you lose a part of your autonomy. If you have kids, you’re expected to sacrifice a lot more for them — career, free time, hobbies — than your partner would, whereas having kids in an informal partnership means that both partners are viewed slightly more independently as parents.” 

But Patel does believe that marriage is better now than it was decades ago because divorce is a lot less stigmatized, “it’s not a be-all-end-all situation anymore; if you’re unhappy, you do have the option to leave.”

So whether you believe in wedding bells or living-in, as these youngsters have pointed out – it is personal.

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The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
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