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FRESH OFF THE PLANE: She had heard of arranged marriages, but what’s a ‘love marriage’?

After moving to Canada, we were thrilled to discover that children were automatically enrolled in the closest neighbourhood school. 

It was such a relief. And such a change. No standing in serpentine queues to pick up registration forms, no need to get an influential person to put in a good word. You just walked in with proof of address and your child’s immunization records, etc., and your child was guaranteed admission.

I also loved the fact that there were junior public schools in each neighbourhood, within walking distance. Not only were kids not transported in buses over vast distances like they are in Delhi, they didn’t even have to cross a major street to get to school.

I used to walk our son Shantanu up to school when he was little. Other parents did, too, and we would chat for a few minutes before returning. Doing this twice a day, while dropping and picking up our kids, parents got to know each other rather well over time.

Karen and I became friends and would also sometimes grab a coffee while the kids played after school. She herself was born in Canada, but her parents were originally from Portugal, and had had difficulty with English. She wanted to know how I was fluent in English. I told her we studied in English in India. 

Then she said, “I don’t want you to think I am being rude or inquisitive – but I am curious! How come you speak to even Shantanu in English? We speak Portuguese at home.”

That’s because my husband and I spoke different languages, I explained. My mother tongue was Bengali and his, Gujarati. English was the common language! Karen was deeply interested in knowing the story of our marriage. Why did we speak different languages, she asked. “Ours was a love marriage,” I said, using a common Indian expression.

She had heard of arranged marriages among South Asians, she said, but what was a ‘love marriage’? My husband and I had met in Delhi while at university, fallen in love, and gotten married, I explained. But we were originally from Kolkata and Ahemdabad and came from different cultures, spoke different languages at home and even our foods were different.

“And that’s called a love marriage?” Karen exclaimed. “What a lovely expression! I know people sometimes think arranged marriages are an antiquated idea, but you know what? I think that we have the same thing here in Canada these days.” Seeing my questioning look, she continued. “Used to be that people met at university or work and fell in love, like you and your husband or Mike and I did. But increasingly, lives are so complicated, people are turning to dating sites to hook up with someone. And what are those if not modern arranged marriages?!”                                                             
– Shamoli Mehta 

Posted: Oct 2, 2013

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