**Cet article a été coécrit par Korina Joseph.**
According to the Taj Group of Hotels, 85% of Indians would rather marry the person chosen by their families than the one they would decide on their own. For this reason, and many others, India finds itself to be very different from North America. Might it be the food, school, work or, as mentioned, the relationships? This Asian country is far from what we know here in Canada. Sarita Behl, an Indian woman, agreed to share her way of life, making us see the gap between life in eastern and western countries, but also all the similarities that make us all part of the same human race.
Sarita Behl is a 42 year old woman living in Faridabad, a small suburb near Delhi, India. As do most Indians, Sarita practices the Hindu religion. She tries to pray at her local temple every day, which is not easy when you have a group of teenagers running around your house. This Indian woman works for International Volunteer HQ, a New-Zealand based travel company that works internationally to host volunteers from several different countries. Before she was approached by the company in 2013, asking her to open her home in India to foreigners, Sarita owned a girls’ hostel.
As if two dozen young adults were not enough to feed and take care of, Sarita is also a mother of two children. In fact, her 19 year old son is currently studying engineering in the United States, while her teenage daughter lives with her in India. She first had her son at 20, a year after she got married. She laughs when she says, « I was just a child, but I had a child! » As most people do in India, Sarita had an arranged marriage. She is married to Rocky, who helps her manage the homestay. She lives in his house with all of her in-laws. She says, « in India, it’s a tradition », married women move in with their husband’s family. Sarita actually enjoys this way of creating relationships because, « you are not married to a person. You are married to a family. They [all of her in-laws] take care of you, too. » Since Sarita is very open-minded, she believes that, « everybody has a right to make their own choices ». Therefore, she is also in favour of the progress that young Indian women are making: « Girls are becoming more financially independent, they are looking for a more compatible husband. » Still, she does not regret her arranged marriage. There is always somebody to look up to. » One of the advantages, Sarita also mentioned, includes the fact that the cost of the marriage is handled by the parents. She also says, « I love this concept. But I also like your freedom where you can choose. » Hence why, after 21 years of being married to a person she did not choose, Sarita decided that her children deserve a love marriage. Although arranged marriages are the norm in India, Sarita says, « it is not an obligation. »
Even though her love life got picked for her, Sarita says she is very content: « I am happy, I am a happy person. [Laughs] » She considers herself blessed to be living the life she is living: « It was destiny, it was meant to be like this. » She would not change a thing about her past nor her current lifestyle. In fact, seeing the volunteers enjoying themselves is the primary source of her happiness. Which is partially why Rocky, her husband, and she are doing such an amazing job at running the homestay. She says her biggest dream is to see her kids also be happy: « I want my kids to get settled and have a beautiful life. » She says.
Sarita, a woman with a university degree, opens her heart and her home to people she does not know. She is filled with love and joy despite her destiny being decided for her. In Canada, we do not have arranged marriages. Even though this is an enormous difference between the Indian and the Canadian culture, Sarita taught us that what really matters is universal happiness. In the end, everyone just wants to be happy and parents want what is best for their children. Despite the cultural differences, humans around the world are all the same. Sarita believes in freedom and love marriages: « You enjoy your life. This is your moment, you should enjoy your life. Don’t forget anything, just go with the flow. I wish you all the best for the future. You are beautiful, beautiful kids! You should have [the] best of everything », whether it is chosen for you or not.
Photo credit: Korina Joseph