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Bewitched: Exotic brides and no prejudice


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Bewitched: Exotic brides and no prejudice

26 October, Jaspreet Nijher, TNN


CHANDIGARH: Just as that swanky car makes the turn around the bend, you catch a glimpse of a fair woman, foreign and exotic, snuggling up close to the driver, often bearded and obviously Sikh, but sometimes just Punjabi.

In what can be seen as the reverse fascination of an increasingly self-assured Orient with the Occident, there are more foreign brides now than ever before in both Punjab and its capital city of Chandigarh. Though there is no statistic as of now to say exactly how many, those keeping track of the marriage business, registration officials, wedding fixers and hotels hosting parties say the region’s households are dotted with firang faces coming here, or being brought, with startling vigour.

‘‘The trend of Sikh men marrying women of foreign origin is on the rise,’’ says IS Sandhu, ADC-cum-SDM (headquarter), UT. He should know. ‘‘Since the past few years, of the 10 marriages registered in my court, at least four involve such couples. Earlier, a lot of these weddings took place because the men aspired for green cards, resulting in contract marriages. But now I see genuine ones.’’

A case in point is Randeep Singh Nabha, the MLA from Nabha. Married to Behishta, an Afghan from Kabul whom he met here way back in 1994, he said effusively, ‘‘I was drawn to her honesty. Yes, she is fair, fuelling the much-touted charge against Sikhs for their fixation with white skin, but she is as Indian in her values as any here.’’

There is another, more cosmopolitan reason he attributes to the growing trend of Punjabi-firang unions. ‘‘Multiculturalism is finding an acceptance which we didn’t see in earlier decades,’’ he rationalized. ‘‘And then the times, of course, they are-a-changing.’’

Not all such marriages have had smooth sailing, though. Col (retd) Balwant Sandhu, a renowned mountaineer now settled in Sabathu (HP) and married in 1976 to Helga, a German pharmacist, had to chose between career and consort.

‘‘The matrimony,’’ he said, ‘‘was fraught with difficulties as the Indian Army didn’t allow its men to marry foreigners without the President’s nod. Rules dictated that I submit my resignation along with request for permission. But since she got Indian citizenship, I didn’t have to quit,’’ he said as Helga smiled and added she was more than comfortable settling into an Indian family.

Sandhu was lucky. Capt (retd) Shamsher Singh not so. Now settled in France, he had to leave the Army for love when his betrothed wasn’t able to become an Indian national.

In the end, though, for most love has conquered all. Surrinder S Hara, an agriculturist who has been on several foreign postings, including deputations to the World Bank as advisor, made a slew of excuses when Valerie, a Canadian, proposed to him. ‘‘I was unsure of her capability to take to a life in the farms of India,’’ the Jagadhari (Haryana) man reminisced. ‘‘But once she convinced me, I gave in.’’

Hara has been glad ever since. Valerie not only proved to be a good farmhand but became quite the head turner at social gatherings — a feeling many bridegrooms on this side of the border are getting used to and lavishing in.

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