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Jodhpur (the Blue City): Conversations with a Brahmin

We travel in third class AC this morning. Third class means, there are three beds on each side attached to the wall – Ben & I have a bed each. We can either choose to sit on the lower bed, which can be transformed into seats, for the entire journey, as we have done previously – but this morning we are tired. We take out the freshly washed linen out of the paper bags and make our beds to have a nap (***travelling by train in India is highly recommended, by the way!).

I decide to climb onto the middle berth and tuck myself in, immediately drifting off into sleep. Today there are no women around and I do feel a bit uncomfortable about all the men around me. But Ben is there. Apart from the occasional stare, there is not much to be annoyed by. After a good for hours we slowly roll into Jodhpur – the blue city. I have slept all the way through.

Already accustomed to our routine, Ben and I head to the pre-pay taxi booth, hop into a Tuk Tuk and drive to Kesar Heritage Guesthouse our home for the next 4 nights. Guddu, the owner, greets us with enthusiasm and we feel really comfortable from the start. We then wander up to the rooftop where we spend pretty much the entire day – the atmosphere is fantastic – today, we relax and lounge – nothing else. The view from up here is breath-taking. Everythings is blue!

Ben, Guddu and I have a good chat over a cup of freshly brewed Masala tea. He tells us that he is a Brahmin – the highest caste in Hindu culture– and his family’s ancestors were once advisors to the King.

“So I guess we have to bow in front of you?” and he starts laughing.

He is the kind of person who radiates such positivity, you can’t help but feel comfortable around him. It must be an Indian trait, as I think back to Hemlata. Guddu is an attractive, well-groomed 26 year-old who has set up this guesthouse business. He has been working in a hotel for the last ten years (since he is 16 basically) and has a breadth of experience. This is also where he learnt to speak English which is almost flawless and the best I have heard on our trip so far.

“Are you married?” I ask keeping to my tradition of asking direct questions within minutes of knowing someone. “Not yet” he grins “but my family will choose a bride for me soon”. This prompts Ben and me to ask a whole lot of questions. Guddu explains “even if I came home with a Brahman woman, the answer would still be No. My father needs to choose my future wife – this is how it has been done for centuries. Families in Jodhpur and in many parts of India are still very traditional. An exception was only done for my brother. His was a Love marriage”.

As we sit there on our pillows on the floor, I feel like a little girl who is being told a bed-time story. Only that this is reality not a fairytale. Arranged marriages – a concept entirely foreign to us Westerners! As he explains that he has never been in love and that he will have to marry who has been selected for him, I feel very sad. I look down on and have to fight my tears back. The fact that there are people in this world who will never be allowed to experience the freedom of being allowed to choose to marry who they want out of  love, makes my heart bleed.

Guddu continues “there is the odd occasion when some decide to elope but they can never return back to their families and many of these love marriages have resulted in suicide. The pressure is too big. And life away from our families is hard and almost impossible. We loose everything. You have to choose wisely. And almost all of us choose our family over love”. My mouth starts to drop and my eyes are wide open and I fall into a stare. I can’t quite believe what I’m hearing. Part of me hopes he will say “I was just joking” and we all laugh.

It ain’t happening. Love marriages are a big No-Go. Guddu is not kidding.

As so many times in India, like when the little boy stole the orange from the vendor’s cart, I feel like I’m in a movie.

Guddu’s brother was allowed to marry out of love. But only because he’s got a very bad leg and cannot get a decent job (Guddu’s words). He met his love on Facebook (!) and kept their relationship a secret for six years…During that time they only saw each other 7 times. And every time he went to Jaipur, he lied to his family: he would have to go there for an exam, for instance, or he would make up some other story that seemed somehow believable.

A Brahmin herself, was eventually visited by his father who actually liked her (lucky for them, because if he didn’t, the already un-orthodox way of selecting a future wife would have been crushed soon enough by the head of the family who has the ultimate say in this matter). He gave them their blessing “but only because of the leg – he has polio – he is lucky to find a wife at all” according to their Dad.

Afterwards he sat his other three sons in front of him, pointed towards their older brother and said: “Don’t think that this will be possible for you! It will not!” Guddu is not sad, however. He doesn’t know anything else. And so far he has never been in love – so he doesn’t know what he is missing. I admire how relaxed he is about it. He sits there quite content as if he is relieved that he does not have to worry about having to find a wife. “One morning I will wake up and they will show me a photo of my future wife on their phone. And I will reply ‘Oh ok. She is nice I guess’ and that will be it” he starts laughing, we laugh with him whilst shaking our heads.

“This must be quite strange for you guys” he says with a big grin on his face. But the way he says it, sounds almost as if he feels a bit sorry for us. He explains that he is already past his ‘marriage expiration date’. A Brahmin man marries when he is 23 or 24. He was allowed to negotiate the age to get married with his father by convincing the old man that he still wants to build up his business and make more money before settling down.

Once he is married, which will happen in the next 2-3 years, he won’t be able to continue the guesthouse – nor smoke in secret on the rooftop for that matter. Then he will be a husband and father which comes with its own responsibilities. As I look around at this beautiful rooftop with its mosaic floor and the hand-made lanterns, I cannot help but feel sad that this place won’t be receiving guests from all over the world anymore.

Surely, his wife could help him run the place? But no, of course, she will be a wife and mother – which comes with its own duties. I think back of Hemlata: I somehow get the feeling her life will turn out very differently. She did not seem like the type of woman who would let herself be married to some stranger. I chuckle as I think of her reaction when we stopped at the train station this morning and an Indian man stared at her with disgust. Her response: A big grin on her face and in English she says “Oh, hello there” with a cheeky attitude before walking away chin held up high. What a feisty woman!

As we lounge around enjoying a delicious Rabodi for lunch, made entirely out of yoghurt, Guddu walks towards us and shows us the book in his hands. “This was written by my sister-in-law, you know my brother’s wife who got married out of love. She has written a book about their story”.

It’s not hard to guess what I will be doing over the next days.

A Life Full of Serendipity Have you ever had conversations with a localthat  provoked emotions within you?  I would love to hear your stories in the comment section below! 

 

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Conversations with a Brahmin in Jodhpur, India (the Blue City) - Nowhere else did I have such meaningful local encounters as in India. Particularly the young Brahmin's story of how he was not allowed to marry for Love touched me deeply. His tales about his life transported me to another world - one that I thought only existed in fairytales or in the movies. But this is reality for many particularly in Rajasthan.

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12 Comments

  • Linda Bibb

    09.02.2016 at 19:25 Reply

    What a great story, thanks for sharing it with us. While arranged marriages are hard to understand for us westerners, I don’t have such a hard time accepting it because I know people who have been raised with that standard. Here’s an interesting insight: There’s a saying that, “be careful who you marry, because your future wife will be just like her mother in thirty years.” I was told that if both sets of parents get along then it’s likely that the couple will get along as well.

    I wonder if arranged marriages have better success than we do, with our 50% divorce rate…
    Linda Bibb recently posted…Mt. Pilatus: A Day Trip from ZurichMy Profile

    • Serendipity Tess

      10.02.2016 at 16:14 Reply

      Now that is some hindsight that I’ll remember forever – thank you so much! Although…I must say, I have some traits from my mother but since I was pretty much adopted from the age of 12, I also have a lot of traits from my adoptive mother. So…I guess the saying does apply but it would be interesting to see what happens in about 20 years from now. 😉 I suppose if you have been raised in a stable home, it’s more likely that you choose a person that comes from a stable home him – or herself. I guess this is why arranged marriages could work better in a way because you just make it work – you don’t really have a choice. Our divorce rate is through the roof. I think because many in the Western world don’t understand what Love is really all about. Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

  • mark

    04.03.2016 at 23:42 Reply

    It’s refreshing to read a different perspective on travel blogs not just destination based but culture based article. I guess arranged marriages are not something we think off in western societies. But who’s to say they are wrong when we have huge divorce rates in today’s society. Maybe their way is the right way and marriage can be built on practicality

    • Serendipity Tess

      05.03.2016 at 09:51 Reply

      Thank you for the compliment 🙂 yes it is a topic that had me thinking a lot after this special encounter. He seemed so happy and somehow he didn’t feel like he would miss out on anything. Yet, i still think, being allowed to marry who you fall in love with, is something really beautiful…

  • IamVagabond

    05.03.2016 at 00:03 Reply

    Lovely post and such gorgeous images.

    I’ve been to this city and i liked the blue houses. It’s a lovely sight.

    I have a few images at http://southasiaimages.blogspot.com/2014/12/jodhpur.html

  • Holly

    05.03.2016 at 02:14 Reply

    India is high on my list of places to visit. Especially since I have family from there and have never been. The blue city looks so pretty and I would love to see this for myself. Very nice to hear others stories.

    • Serendipity Tess

      05.03.2016 at 09:52 Reply

      I highly recommend Jodhpur – it’s one of those rare gems 🙂

  • Long Nguyen

    05.03.2016 at 11:15 Reply

    Sadly this kind of arranged marriage is still available today somewhere around the world, even in my Vietnam country

    • Serendipity Tess

      05.03.2016 at 16:31 Reply

      Yes, it is widely practised in India even though it is officially ‘illegal’…

  • Nicola Royle

    17.04.2016 at 05:38 Reply

    Hi Tess, I plan to visit Jodhpur next year – was the Kesar Heritage Guesthouse expensive? also the accommodation with the man on his room via airbnb was he expensive?

    They sound brilliant – but I have a realllll tight budget!

    Thankyou Nicola

    P.S – absolutely excellent blog btw!!! Thankyou for sharing so much!!! 😀

    • Serendipity Tess

      17.04.2016 at 17:25 Reply

      Hey Nicola, if you check in the side-bar, click on the AGODA banner and then enter KEsar Heritage Guesthouse – they are really good value for money! It was by far my most favourite place to stay at – if you stay there, please try the Rabodi for dinner! It is out of this world!! As fro the Airbnb accommodation ‘with the man on his room’ – which place are you referring to LOL? Do you mean the Explorer’s Nest in Jaipur? Not expensive at all and really highly recommended too! 🙂 Let me know if you need any more advice – here to help! And thank you for your lovely compliment! It means a lot to me 🙂

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