Who Knows Our Suitors

The tragic death of Anni Dewani has shocked communities across the world. For me, it has also questioned the integrity of introduction marriages which is still such an important part of South Asian culture.

Anni Dewani was introduced to her husband by a family member. He came from a highly regarded wealthy family and would in anyone’s eyes be seen as a good suitor for marriage. However, this is the same man that has been accused of paying for a staged hijack which led to Anni’s death. As I continue to follow the case more information is revealed about the tragedy and her husband, doubts are cast upon his story, integrity and honour.

I have always associated introduction marriages as a safe institution. The suitor is always verified by family members and there is some kind assurance that the family you are marrying into is a good one. However, I am now left wondering what criteria does a good suitor have to fulfil; profession, wealth, parent’s reputation, number of siblings. Aren’t these criteria aesthetic and what relevance do they have to what a human being is really like? Are introduction marriages a fast route to marriage for parents and extended family members to fulfil their duty of settling their children?

Reflecting back to before I was married, I remember the number of introductions that were bestowed upon me. They were sold to me as suitors who had a good job, came from a good family or had only one sibling. Always when we met, I found them unattractive to me, still attached to their mother’s umbilical cord, poor manners, unimpressed by modern women with an opinion. Mostly, I found that they wanted a replacement for their mother. Still on one meeting, I may have decided that I didn’t want to marry that person but never really got to know the person. I now have to ask the question, do we ever really know anyone, especially our suitors and are all marriages pot luck?

The integrity of introduction marriages may have been questioned with this highly publicised story, however, the culture and tradition still lives on. It is my hope that parents and families do not fear questioning the backgrounds of people when arranging suitors to ensure the safety of their daughters.


6 Comments to “Who Knows Our Suitors”

  1. Hi Bunty,

    I don’t think there are nearly enough checks on potential suitors or a way to protect your loved ones from possible future crimes (how wonderfully Minority Report would that be?).

    There are so many questions that etiquette and polite society would shy away from but are crucial. I know I’m going off on a tangent here, but health is an important but often overlooked consideration. I remember when I was a teenager there was a short-lived advertisement campaign informing South Asians about the dangers of marrying someone with/ carrier of thalassemia if you are also a carrier. Thalassemia is a genetic blood disorder common amongst South Asians and could affect the quality of life and life expectancy of potential future children but how do you bring that up in the conversation?

    ‘May I please see your medical records after you finish that piece of cake?’

    It would certainly be a memorable introduction.


  2. Bunty – great article but I am interested to know what you mean by only having one sibling as a plus point? I only have one sibling but I had no idea that this is a selling point to potential suitors!

    • Hi Tanyah, Thank you for your comments. Apparently when my parents were trying to set me up, they would always sell the fact there was only one sibling and that the boy didn’t come from a large family. Apparently it represents modernism and therefore illustrating that the family is modern. hahaha!!!


  3. Bunty,

    Surely this guy is innocent until proven guilty? It seems a bit harsh to pass judgement on not only his suitability as a husband, but also on Anni’s parents’ judgement on what would make a suitable match for their child, based soley on accusations made by someone under possible torture.

    Anyway, I am deviating from the point of your story. I agree that parents may not have an exact idea of what makes a suitable match for their children, but they should know the basics – they have raised their children after all. It’s almost become a numbers game though. If parents spent half a hour speaking to the boy/girl before they tried to introduce you, I think they could be able to sift out the unsuitable ones pretty quickly.

    Maybe a group of aunties we trust should get together and put together a checklist for parents that includes questions like:
    – how would the boy in question react to an independant woman in their life
    – what their future plans are
    – can they cook a chapati (because I can’t)

  4. Yes, he is innocent until proven guilty, however, this tragic incident did leave me with the question of who checks our suitors. Regardless of guilt or innocence, I do feel that this story highlights the need for our parents, aunties etc… to be more diligent in their quest for getting people married off. To often I hear “oh we knew he wasn’t from a good family”. My response is always then “why did you support the marriage?”.

    Having worked with a charity for abused Asian women, eager families marrying their daughters don’t realise the domestic violence they could have avoided if families had been more cautious and not feared asking questions. Parents of daughters also fear taking their daughters back into their homes for the repercussions from the husbands household.

    Therefore, we need to ask more questions when marrying our daughters, especially as arranged marriages are such a large part of our culture.

    Aunties, get together and create your checklist!!!


  5. I agree Bunty, unfortunately there have been a few divorces in my family and always after the event you’ll hear comments like “well yes, we always knew he had a bad temper!!” or “it was never going to work with a mother-in-law lke that”….You know, I seriously think that even when families do know of undesirable traits, they are happy to think that marriage and/or children will “sort a boy out”… they would rather take on that risk than deal with an unmarried daughter in her 30s!

    I know someone who married a successful guy who worked in the City – while they were engaged (for a year) he was lovely – he was funny, charming and attentive. After marriage she would spend the evenings alone and realised he was an alcoholic who would binge drink on week nights and then arrive home in a foul mood – she would never be able to predict how he would react to anything she would say. And then the charming fellow would make himself vomit in the bathroom so that he would be able to work the next day.

    Background checks were done and even the long engagement did not reveal this side of his personality.

    Family introductions are a lottery and should be a thing of the past – all my divorced cousins have since remarried and found true love by themselves.

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