First comes marriage: Couple takes leap of faith with arranged nuptials
Nivritha and Sandeep Mariserla knew each other only four months before marrying in May. The timing wasn’t entirely up to them — theirs was an arranged marriage, the union sealed according to Indian tradition.
This part of Indian culture strikes Western ears as archaic. But the way this couple tells it, they’re straddling their dual worlds of East and West without sacrificing anything from either.
Nivi, 30, has lived in the United States for 10 years and works for Cerner Corp. in Kansas City. When she turned 25, Nivi’s parents in India grew increasingly anxious that she had yet to get married. Her family had set her up with potential marriage candidates, but she turned each one down. She knew her family’s patience was thinning.
That’s when Nivi’s brother stepped in. He’s lived in America nearly as long, and unbeknownst to his sister, he’d been scanning profiles on Indian dating websites. He saw the profile of Sandeep, a 32-year-old scientist in Connecticut, and thought he sounded interesting. Nivi’s brother met Sandeep in person first, then made the introduction.
Nivi and Sandeep were both looking for someone fluent in American and Indian culture. “You get used to the hybrid feeling of not being from here, but wanting what America offers to you,” says Sandeep.
Sandeep’s own parents broke tradition when they married each other for love. For him, the only pressure to marry came in the form of his father’s advice: “The older you get, the harder it is to find someone.”
For Nivi, the expectation was greater. On one visit back home, Nivi says, “My mother took me to a temple, and she made me promise on the gods that I would not date anyone else (and focus on finding a husband).”
In the U.S. dating scene, mentioning marriage too early is a good way to get dumped. By comparison, the prelude to arranged marriage is direct and to the point.
“You know why you’re meeting,” Sandeep says. “It’s freaking obvious. We want to get married, that’s why we got introduced. So the goal for us is to find out and explore the possibility of whether we can live together and have a good life.”
Nivi agrees. “You start to learn about yourself and you know what you’re looking for. So you have a mental checklist. Not as in ‘he needs to make this much money,’ but the qualities in a person. And you get right to it. There’s no dancing around the subject.”
A few months after meeting, the couple gave their parents the nod, and their families sprang into action. In line with tradition, an astrologer was consulted to read whether the match was favorable and to determine an auspicious wedding date.
“We said yes, and a wedding date was placed a month and a half after,” says Nivi. “It’s a giant leap of faith,” Sandeep adds.
All they had to do was board the plane. The families took care of the rest. “I just kicked back and enjoyed the ride,” Sandeep says.
The wedding celebrations lasted a week, with receptions in the bride’s and groom’s hometowns, and a ceremony at the temple in Tirumala, one of Hindu religion’s holiest sites.
The toughest part so far has been returning to the U.S. — he to Connecticut, she to Kansas City. The logistics of merging two lives into one will take time, but their plan is to live together by the end of the year.
How do they know that they made the right choice?
“How long before you ever know?” counters Sandeep. “I know people who have dated and lived with each other for seven or eight years, and the question’s never come up.”
India’s divorce rate is less than 2 percent, compared to America’s 50 percent. Entering into a lifetime partnership with someone based on practical criteria doesn’t sound terribly romantic.
“You know there’s not going to be much romance before the wedding,” Nivi says, and smiles. “Afterwards, that’s different.”