Having grown up in the age and environment of the ‘Amerikan Dream’, I always aspired to travel. And this dream came true through my employer a few years ago, which made me land in The US. The initial days of stay were quite exciting with lot of places to explore, learning new cultural aspects in the professional environment and making new friends. After this honeymoon period, something in me started to miss the constant family support system which I’ve always been blessed with in India. While the advent of technology helped bridge family relationships, it was still a ‘virtual’ experience! Hailing from traditional Indian family and being a girl the ‘social norm’ was a constant push to ‘settle down’ which in Indian context is Marriage. I thought to myself and decided yes, there are needs physical, emotional, social, economical which could be answered through Marriage.
Now the big question was how, who, where, and specially being away from India the ‘where’ part was a big question mark. It puzzled me, did it really matter, as long as two people involved were convinced? Then it struck my mind, there is technological aid to reach out to any corner of world. It turned out that it did help to reach out to people; families across multiple places including the US. The initial conversations were always full of content. Over time it raised doubts, was the personality being represented through technology actually the same in reality? Was I being blind folded, what if it’s something else in reality? How could I build that real trust, through just technology meet ups? This was valid on the other side as well. Yes there was a puzzle to solve, the virtual to real. This made me limit the search to India as it left me with opportunity to feel reality.
One day I was questioned, would you be fine marrying someone in the US itself? Most of my high school summer holidays in India were filled with attending Indian style colorful arranged marriages of extended family. My idea of marriage ceremony itself consequently was filled with colorful events and memories with friends & family. It was a little tough to imagine a different picture of ceremony at the first instance, but then I did analyze that option.
First thought was the immigration hurdle! The uncertainty of visa stamping was one of the concerns. It was a choice to not fall into an uncertain situation by travelling back and forth. It reflected in my choices, how family and society ecosystems were changing and with that, they were demanding us to make tough choices in life. Ceremony itself exempted, the idea of getting into a possibility of ‘not meeting’ the guy’s family for years, made choosing someone from India, a tough choice for me, although I still settled for its familiarity.
After exploring a few options within India, I realized that it’s not just about two people but also about ‘Families’ in an arranged Indian Wedding. Now how does family get to choose or accept? Again we depended on technology to connect! This brought me my unforgettable experience. At 9 pm at night, I dressed myself up in a traditional Indian attire to present myself to the guy’s family through video chat. As planned all were available over group chat. I turned on my video and to my surprise the other side had not enabled video. I was hesitant to question elders and was wondering if they didn’t know how to turn that on, but then the next thought was, how did they even come into a group chat, if they didn’t have some knowledge of using the medium?
This virtual space didn’t give me any reassurance, because people could choose not to reveal themselves! The probability of several people watching me on the other side of the screen scared me. This again put me in a dilemma as to whether technology could help me really find what I was looking for!
Now came the time to visit my family in India after being away for long. I longed to have simple meal cooked by my mom, specially after being deprived of it for long. But my family had made arrangements for some more meet ups! The scenario here was a little different. It was not about just two people – the boy and the girl, but was a mixed-meet with family members. The meetup was so formal, and was strange especially when meeting everyone for the first time without any prior interaction.
Then I did realize the advantages of starting virtual. Though at the beginning virtual was easier, there was always a ‘first time’ meet, so I went along with meetings in reality. My vacation period had exhausted, with just a week to go. There were questions from everyone about my opinion regarding the people I met. I wondered if I really needed to rush just because I was an NRI. I couldn’t decide then but I realized that I needed a good mix of virtual and real interactions, given there are professional goals to fulfill along with personal ones.
With some experiences in mind, I thought to myself that there was no point in limiting myself to countries. I had to accept that it’s global now. Families – kids and siblings all are usually dispersed. I had to accept the way it was and find opportunities to overcome these limitations and make choices for myself. At the end it’s one’s own conscious decision!
In my case, technology made it easier to handle the first step in finding people. Thereafter I made it a point to put in the effort required to build human connections, in terms of time and travel (domestic/international). It was obviously worth the effort, it was a matter of my life!
I found my partner through this eventually, starting with a virtual interaction. We soon found each other interesting. And it became a real interaction with travel between US, Europe and India. Fortunately I found the sweet spot, exploring as an NRI! But I know how tough it is, so good luck to all in the process of finding a partner! 🙂 It’s up to you to make it worth the time and effort.