Posted on February 2, 2008
While other mums worry about their sons turning to drugs, getting their girlfriends pregnant or joining some sort of gang, mine is concerned with matters more spiritual. (Besides, I don’t have a girlfriend, I’m a responsible member of an online community and I just turned down a line of coke because I had a “terrible blocked nose”.) The way my mum sees it, the only road I’m heading down is the one clearly marked, ‘Identity Crisis’.
“Coconut boy,” she calls me. “Brown on the outside, white on the inside.”
While there might, at least, be parts of me that resemble a coconut – brown, covered in hair and full of a white, milky fluid – at this time of the year, when my colour fades, it’s quite easy to ‘lose my roots’ when they’re not so etched onto my face in hues of burnt sienna, sepia and mahogany. I’m invited to fewer dinner parties, considered less effective as a token person of colour, and stopped far less by police men.
It takes just a two hour journey up north and one weekend with my family to bring that muddy colour back to my sweet cheeks and to remind me that my roots don’t stop in Shropshire, but in a land far, far away, to which ex-pat relatives still squint and admire what remains of a changing culture.
I found out this morning that my cousin, a graduate from Kings College London, is in India to get married.
“That’s crazy!” I said. “Has he even met her before?”
“Oh yeah,” my mum replied, nonchalantly. “At the engagement party, I think.”
He’s my second cousin in as many years to go east to find the perfect Indian bride. Some send for the brides to come over to the UK. Others, like my cousin, get married in India with a view to bring their brides home once ‘the paperwork’ is ready.
On the one hand, I think it sort of represents a failure, as if the groom-to-be was no match made in heaven for the British Indian girls he would have seen on the arranged marriage circuit (which I like to imagine is like the selection process of American Idol; Simon Cowell as busty bride-to-be).
On the other hand, it’s like the son or, more often, his parents, look to India for the ‘old fashioned decency’ quickly escaping British Indian girls. (It’s being replaced by ambition, I’m pleased to report.)
What they don’t know – or fail to see – is that the kind of girl that insists on a wedding register at the UK Border & Immigration Agency, is probably pretty ambitious. And that India is going through it’s own (belated) sexual revolution (after ironically triggering western ‘free love’ movements of the 1960s and 1970s, with the rediscovery of its ancient culture of sexual liberalism).
The pursuit and purchase of the ‘perfect Indian bride’ might be more a case for Trading Standards than Border and Immigration control. Ambition and sexual liberalism is completely at odds with the requirements of my cousin, his parents and other British Indians who look to India for ‘old fashioned decency’, as impossible to attain as the ‘impaling on a stake’ position of one of its most old-fashioned texts, the Kama Sutra.
Nevertheless, I wish them luck. If I’m like a coconut, and life a box of chocolates, an arranged marriage is like a curry. It’s hot, it’s exotic, you can pick it up or have it delivered, but soon enough that shit’s going to really hurt.