Book Review “Marrying Anita: A Quest for Love in the New India” by Anita Jain

I was eagerly looking forward to this book, but it disappointed me a lot.  I admire the author’s honesty in recounting her dating and relationship adventures but some aspects of the book got tiresome.  She seemed to be caught in a dating rut or she’d waste her time meeting guys who were completely inappropriate (men who couldn’t speak English well when that is her first language, men who were too young, etc.)  Some reviews note that Jain writes eloquently about the life of a professional, single, urban woman and that she is especially good at detailing the loneliness that sometimes comes with that life.  I can see that point of view.

Book Synopsis:  Her parents moved to the U.S. from Northern India.  She moved around the U.S. with her family.  Eventually, she went to Harvard and became a financial journalist.  She was able to live and work around the world.  She spent some time in NYC and discovered the dating scene there to be soul crushing.  Her parents pressure her to get married so she decides to move to New Delhi to get find a husband.  Unfortunately, her experiences in New Delhi are not that different from her experiences in NYC.  She leaves New Delhi unmarried.

What irritated me?  She seemed to make the same mistake over and over of partying and then ending up drunk and passed out in her bed or someone else’s.  The next day there would be much embarrassment and awkwardness and the man would vanish forever.  This happened more than once in the book.  Or she would fantasize and build imaginary relationships with men who were clearly not available or not interested.  Again, this happened repeatedly.  Men who did match her in education, world experience, and age she did not find attractive.  This begged the question…how serious was she?  It seemed she was more interested in fantasy than reality. 

What I did like: her honesty, her vocabulary, and her relationship with her parents.  Her parents seemed very sympathetic and lovable. 

“The New India”:  Here are some of the interesting facts and anecdotes that Jain includes in her book.

-50% of the population is under age 25

 -Styles of dressing and modesty seem to be the same in New Delhi as New York

-She noted that in some ways, a woman of Indian heritage has more freedom in New Delhi than NYC.  NYC has a lot more expectations about how a woman should act.  It is easier to smoke, drink, party, and smoke marijuana there than in NYC.

-Still it is incredibly difficult for a single, professional woman to find an apartment in New Delhi.  Apparently, landlords consider single women to be of questionable values.  Other Indian cities do not have that view.

-New Delhi is still considered the rape capital of India and generally unsafe for women.  Fortunately, the author does not have to encounter this herself first hand. 

-Cars are common places for sex because young people in India lack privacy. 

-Divorce and premarital sex are no longer so taboo in India among the young and urban.  Still, she meets a surprising number of people in their 20s and 30s who did not date before marrying.

-Acid attacks are not uncommon.  In the book, a friend of a friend gets acid thrown in her face.  Her crime?  Marrying.  Apparently, the girl got married and a married male relative who had always had feelings for her followed her onto a train and threw acid in her face.  Satya says this is mostly a phenomenon of Northern India.  On the bright side he says, shootings are not as common as here.

-In rural areas, time has not changed much.  Her father goes back to his hometown and announced that nothing has changed.  Her cousins who live there live with their kids and husbands in the same house as their in laws.  Her cousins devote themselves to the welfare of their kids, husbands, and in laws.  The mother in law controls such minute things as whether her cousin can take off her bangles and wear a watch or not and decrees that after defecating they must change their clothes completely as they are only supposed to do that once a day upon waking up in the morning and before bathing.  Still, Jain notes that her cousins seem healthy and happy with their lives.

Overall:  I enjoyed the snippets of what life is like in India today.  What I gathered is that there are huge extremes between generations and between urban vs. rural.  I’d recommend this book for skimming, not for savoring.  This is a book to borrow, not to buy.  Also, it also might be useful as a guide on how not to get married. 

What is your opinion?

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Intercultural Dating, Part One

I did not intentionally set out to date an Indian.  Most people in mixed relationships say they did not plan on marrying outside their group.  Both of us were looking outside our cultures due to location.  I did not meet any other Scandinavian American Catholics on the East Coast.  If Satya had stayed in India, he most likely would have married another Lingayat.

 

Below, is my dating advice and links to a few helpful resources.  Most of it applies to dating in general. I will write a future post about some of the specific challenges we’ve faced as a mixed couple.

 

 Be Open

At first you need to be open to know what you like, what you don’t, and what you can tolerate.  This requires you to meet different people.  One book that explains this well is “How to Get a Date Worth Keeping” by Dr. Henry Cloud.

 

Neither Dr. Henry Cloud nor I recommend having a lot of relationships, but I am recommending going out on dates (just dinner or coffee) with a variety of people and getting to know them.  Of course, use your common sense.  If someone is dangerous or just seems “creepy”, just say no.

 

This also means that when you are on a date with someone, listen to them.  Don’t just talk about yourself and don’t judge people without listening first.

 

Have a Checklist

In my head, I had a generic checklist of qualities I was looking for: kind, intelligent, tall, non-smoker, no drugs, responsible, somebody with similar interests, etc. 

 

Satya’s list was a bit different.  He had some disastrous dates with Indians so he was mostly looking outside his culture.  He had some quirky (in my personal opinion) requirements.  One of them was that he wasn’t interested in dating someone in his same field.  His reasoning is that if the economy goes bad, the chances of both being out of work at the same time are decreased.

 

One book that advocates this is Neil Clark Warren’s book “Date…or Soul Mate?  How to Know if Someone is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less” His major piece of advice is to write down what qualities you desire in a partner.  He calls these the “Must Haves”.  Then, when you meet someone, listen to them carefully to try to discern if they have those qualities.  Even if only one or two are missing, discontinue the romantic relationship because that mismatch will just build a greater divide over time.

 

It may take more than two dates to decide if you’d like to persue a romantic relationship with someone.  That’s ok.  The point is not to compromise on things that you believe are important. 

 

Be Honest

Satya and I met each other when we both were nearly burned out of dating.  The hidden benefit of this was that we both decided we were tired of playing games and we both decided to be honest.  I think this is why people often say that you meet somebody when you aren’t looking…it is because you are honest. 

 

What does this mean?  First off, don’t lie.  If you don’t like something, say so.  I decided not to continue dating a man whose passion was baseball.  Baseball to me is one of the most boring things in the world.  I just couldn’t envision myself by his side at the baseball stadium.  Hopefully, he has found a woman who can share that passion.

 

Secondly, be honest about what you are looking for.  If you are interested in meeting lots of different people, say that.  If you are searching for a marriage partner, say that.  If you don’t know, say that.  Satya and I decided individually we were ready to marry and were looking for that type of relationship. 

       Be Strong

Dating is tough.  It is tough to go through the roller coaster of emotions and to keep your optimism and hope.  One of the books that helped me put dating in a better perspective is, “It’s not you, It’s him” by Georgia Whitkin, Ph.D.  If things do not turn out how you’d like, remember this.  Hopefully, in the future you will find someone.

 

This book does have some controversy.  Some people who read the book believe the author is advocating that women should be extremely demanding.  This isn’t the message I took from the book. 

 

The main message I took away from the book is remember, if things don’t work out, it isn’t always your fault.  I do think that women do take relationships too seriously and blame themselves needlessly.  Some relationships just weren’t meant to be.

 

Give everything your best shot, learn as much as you can, and then move on.

 

Conclusion

Dating is tough, don’t let anyone tell you different.  Hopefully, someday you will find your match and grow a lot in the process.