While attending a friend's
wedding in Chicago in the fall of 2003, I contacted a pair of community
centers in the center of an Indian neighborhood in search of a local couple
to photograph. Though it was a last-minute cold call, I was lucky
enough to connect with Samson Macwan, who gamely invited me on the spot
to come to his home and interview him and his wife, Shantaben.
Their 7-year courtship began
in 1948. Shantaben was in nurse training at a Salvation Army hospital
in India when she met Samson, who was working as a office clerk and storekeeper
there. They fell in love but, before Shantaben finished her coursework,
Samson moved to the Gujarat capital city of Ahmedabad for a better job
with an electric utility company. They reunited in 1950, when Shantaben
passed her nurse training and moved to Ahmedabad to work in a civil hospital
there. The families met and arranged their marriage.
Samson and Shantaben are
Methodists who emigrated from India in 1993 and became American citizens
in 2001. They live on the second floor of their house, the remainder
of which is dedicated to the activities of their family foundation, which
provides counseling and assistance to Indian immigrants in the Chicago
area. They have two children.
What is the advantage of arranged marriages, in your mind, versus the
standard American way of marriage, where two people meet and choose to
In an arranged marriage, sometimes that also goes failure. And these
marriages which arewhat do I want to say?
Yeah. In that, after some times, they don't try to understand each
other, and then it goes failure. Most of the Americans I've seen,
they have one or two marriages. I have seen so many American friends
of mine, "oh, this is my second marriage." They had dating
and after dating, after a couple of years, they get married. But
then sometimes that marriage doesn't settle forever. For the life.
What is it about an arranged marriage that makes it stronger, or not as
Out of two families it becomes one family. I don't know here, much,
but in other countries, or in India, this background of that family, what
is their occupation, what are their
Income. And all that.
Her sister, brother, mother, what they are doing.
Everything we have to see. Then we get married.
So everything is checked out ahead of time.
Yeah. Anything wrong, then they would
I see. By checking all this background ahead of time
They will realize, this is a good family. So
we have to get married. Mother, father, whatever. And anything
will happen, they will meet. My family, and [his] family, they meet.
And they will
They will discuss.
Discuss. And they will keep together.
They will keep the couple together through group solving of the problem.
Yeah. Solve problem.
Is it still that way?
Yeah. Sometimes arranged marriages are arranged through some people who
are arranging marriages. So when there is a dispute, they will call
that guy. And ask him, "what kind of family you brought for
Complain to the salesman!
And what happens in that situation?
Then they settle, sometimes. They settle.
Mm-hmm. Both families.
Do you feel that you've seen a lot of changes between your generation
and current generations when they get married?
Yeah, yeah. A lot of changes. Nowadays we cannot tell children,
"don't do this," or "don't go there." They will
not listen. They don't want listen, anything. Nowadays.
And that's different from your day?
Yeah. Very different. (She laughs.)
Is there an advantage or disadvantage to it?
Disadvantage. Because those marriages, arranged marriages, with
the consent of two families, the marriage which took place will create
a good impression amongst whole family. They will help each otherif
anybody has got no job, they will try to help for a job, they will try
to help for the money, everything. If it is only, I mean, two persons
will [arrange] with their own concepts, there is only way left, out, will
be to be separated. That's it.
Now, you say your son's marriage was arranged
Has that followed the same kind of stability,
and the same dynamics with the families all helping?
So you think that will last? This
style of marriage will continue to be strong that way?
We are never separated. Suppose if I were to go to my son's place,
or she. She would come down immediately in one or two days.
I don't think we are separated more than one month. Only once, she
went to India. And that earthquake took place in India. So
at that time, she stayed for one, or
Otherwise, everywhere we go, always together.
Some people try to spend as much time separate as they can.
No. I will not live without her, she will not live without me.
God has made us so.