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Spot light

Mixed Marriages

In today's world, inter-religious marriages are not uncommon. Even in Bangladesh we encounter examples of them through our own acquaintances or otherwise.

Marriage itself is a tough deal on its own, and on top of that, having to deal with "inter-religious" issues certainly does not make for the smoothest of covenants. Especially when the concerned parties have strong religious affiliations even at a personal level. Let's face it, it is not customary for Bangladeshi culture to endorse arranged "inter-religious" marriages. They are the result of a highly independent choice of an individual, or rather of two people.

Love, although ideally not conforming to any boundaries, pragmatically does often get faced with little trials and tribulations once that little paper is signed. Welcome to the real world guys!

No married life is smooth sailing, be it in a regular marriage or in a mixed marriage, unless a conscious effort is given to make it work from the very beginning. After all, two people often come from different backgrounds with very different experiences, different upbringings, regardless of similar socio-economic classes or educational qualifications. So, it often takes a lifetime to learn about each other and discover ones own self through this institution.

There can be various scenarios of inter-religious marriage. But one thing that is common in most of the cases is that this wonderful ritual is usually committed through what many would call a crime, elopement. It's often highly unlikely that parents or family members will consent to these marriages at first. Most individuals that face such trials, being adults eventually persuade their elders to agree to their commitment, often hitched with one or two conditions. Those that are a little underage often face more obstacles and "casualties".

But the truth of the matter is that not all these relationships sail off without some sort of sacrifice on one's part or some sort of pre-arrangement prior to the final commitment. In most cases, a partner agrees to convert to his or her spouse's religion for the sake of avoiding conflicts and to pursue happiness, which often leaves some heavy hearts.

Usually the dominating one in the relationship wins. Either it's a family obligation that leads one to take such a poignant course at the expense of the other, or sometimes it is one's own choice in order to please the beloved.

But I have come across some couples who take a more conscientious decision on their own in preserving and practising their own religions through more selfless efforts and some compromises. For those who do not convert to the religion of the other, trying to find the middle ground in any mixed marriages is not an easy task. The burden often falls on the more understanding one although ideally the onus should be on both partners. We have to bear in mind that these couples are usually coupled with family and some social obligations. But when two adults make the decision to live their lives with each other under the same roof knowing their differences, there shouldn't be too much room for aunts and neighbours to poke their noses into private affairs.

A more sensitive issue that will inevitably create some uproar is when a child is born unto the mixed couples, particularly when the parents belong to different faiths and practice their respective religions without converting.

Normally we have seen that many couples following their own religions do not indulge in social and familial obligations, rather they raise the child with teachings from both religions in order to educate them of the two faiths and guide the child to follow good moral behaviour.

These children normally enjoy both religious festivities and learn from both religious books.

Do these kids normally have problems in dealing with life or the society in general? No. Instead they often learn better ethical conduct from both parents and learn to be more considerate and patient with others than regular kids.

So, should mixed marriages be encouraged in our society? Well, legally it is already an acceptable matter. But socially I think people should be more accepting of such marriages.

I think at an individual level people should be more open-minded about taking a step into this realm and welcome such an opportunity should it arise. A mechanism which could start a positive movement through individual efforts and ripple across our big blue world.

By L. Bridget

Reader’s chit

A sliver of Apple Pie

A door carefully shut and eight staircases jumped and ran down, then off to the street leaving behind the coziness of the box like room that has started to feel like home. Then a mix of walking and some running, and then breathing a little heavy, testing the morning air, to find out last night's weather forecast was again misleading. And then sit for a minute on a painted white bench, looking eagerly towards the street corner showing the coming traffic, for that first "win" of the morning, the bus towards Pentagon City Metro station. It might seem funny that this could be a prize at all, but this Bus is my first assurance at 7:12 in the morning that I am on track today, that I have made it. Then say a bright "Hi" to the bus driver in his dark blue uniform, and stick in my one-dollar bill, and prop down. In peace, for 10 minutes… watching the older gentleman in the cheap suit leaning his sleeping head against the window, the prissy lady with her all matching dress and accessories, the two preppy guys exchanging work-out tips. And the clever American advertisement strategies, not wasting any room, filling up every open space with a new and dashing advertisement to get the attention of the sleepy eyed bus-goers. "Find a simple path of life, united under one belief, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar," or "Pregnant and Scared? Need help call 1 800 MOM HELP" all posted with appropriate pictures around the inside of the bus. I often wonder why they choose such worrisome advertisements, entering in people's heads and offering solutions so early in the morning. Why give a shot of reality too bitter to take? Perhaps to wake us up from our dreams.
The 10 minutes fly by, the bus swirls and abruptly stops like a huge roaring beast as we all thank the driver and jump out, running to the moving escalator, hurrying down the steps, as if the moving stairs are not fast enough to satisfy our needs. Then run again and hustle; now I am completely underground swiping my Metro card to get into my prospective subway train. And as usual it's full. As I make my way through designer coats and gym bags and find a small spot to collect myself and hold onto a bar in the moving metro, everyone trying to be polite and at the same time claiming their territory as much they can with their two feet. There we stand, all of us, everyone who decided to leave their cars at home and ride the metro and everyone who has no choice but to ride the metro in a messy but still clutter, and I add in colour and fill in their quota as a Bangladeshi American. The brown skin between the black and white. The different face to make everyone feel normal, to know that "Yes, we are in DC the o' so diverse capital of the USA." And I try to fit in although I know I never really will no matter how much my two feet imprint on the floor of this moving subway. I wait and look around, seeing the priority seating for older people taken by a snoring teenager, some woman reading a book with total concentration in the middle of a crowd where no one has space to even move their fingers, and some people trained by horses sleeping soundly standing up. And one, two, three, and then my stop, I rush out and hustle again through the human traffic, swipe the card and walk towards the end of the tunnel and daylight. And this is the time when I feel like a supermodel. You see there is specific spot right when you get out of the metro and get onto the escalator where there is a pocket of wind, it blows your hair off and makes you feel like you are on a runway posing and profiling, so I enjoy those two seconds, hop on to the escalator look up to the DC sky and take a deep breath and thank myself for making it to work before 8 o' clock. Walking my way, I leave you here to wonder wherever your mind wishes.

By Iffat Nawaz


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