Where’s the Husband?

I would venture to say that the majority of non-Indian women who become Hindus do so because they’ve fallen in love with a native Hindu man.

I am not one of them. I am unusual in that I come to Hinduism as a natural step from my own upbringing and not because I learned about it from someone I was trying to build a life with. I went on a date with a Hindu man only once. It was the only opportunity I had.

It has been brought up a couple of times that I do not have an Indian husband. It has been suggested that perhaps my entry into an Indian-based life would be easier if I had that reason, that excuse.

I’ve read lots of blogs of non-Indian, American women who have married Indian men. Their struggles with identity do not seem easier than mine.

I am not married at all (Update: I am now, and not to an Indian man!). I wouldn’t be against marrying an Indian man. But I do not feel like I need to do that in order to give legitimacy to my claim to Hinduism. I believe that I am a Hindu and it is my own identity. I don’t need a husband to give me permission to be what I am.

And yet I can see a case for it. I can see how it would make sense for a convert to fully integrate herself into the world of her chosen religion by taking the opportunity to express that religion in every aspect of her life. Why would a woman go through all the work to convert if she isn’t going to marry someone of the religion she converted to? And the answer is, because it’s for me. It’s not like I’m going to fall in love with someone of a different religion and then give up my Hinduism in favor of that. If I marry someone of another religion, it will be an interfaith marriage. That might not be my first choice, but sometimes an interfaith marriage is where life guides you. Hinduism is in my bones. It is at the core of who I am. I will never cease being a Hindu.

I don’t feel right about going out looking for a Hindu husband so that people will stop questioning whether I am a Hindu or not. If I were to meet the right guy for me and he was a Hindu, that would be great. But it hasn’t happened. I have tried.

That’s the thing that stings the most for me about this criticism. I’m thirty years old. Way, way, way into old maid territory by Hindu standards and by the standards of the community I grew up in. I spent my entire twenties trying desperately to get married. Marriage and children is all I’ve ever wanted from life. I did everything I could think of to get it. Everything humanly possible. I tried arranged marriage, I tried set ups from friends, I tried regular American dating, I tried online dating. I worked hard to find a husband. And no guy would have me. It’s not as though I turned down any dates from any Hindu men.

Because marriage and babies is so central to my goals in life, it hurts a lot when I see things like this review on my book (a collection of spiritual essays based on my previous blog)

1.0 out of 5 stars Where’s the husband? July 17, 2012
This woman’s story would have been more interesting if she had actually married an Indian. I’d recommend books authored by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. She’s a British woman who married an Indian man and moved with him to Delhi in the 1950s.

That’s right, he gave my 400 page book that I worked hard on one star. One star because I don’ t have a husband. So apparently my thoughts on Hinduism mean nothing? The book is clearly about the experience of a convert. It is about my journey. How I got to Hinduism was not through a husband.

Happily, my friends and readers were quick to respond with comments on this review defending me.

I’m dating a man now who is absolutely, without a doubt, the right guy for me. There’s a lot more to me than just my religion and he “gets” all those different sides of me. He respects my Hindu beliefs, though he is a white Buddhist himself. What I said last time this argument was brought up is what I’ll say again: I am not going to throw away the greatest gift the gods have ever given me because he isn’t Indian.

What do you think? Do you think a convert to a religion should marry someone native of that religion? I’d love to hear your reasons why or why not!

Full Time Spiritual Life
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About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Seeker

    Hi Ambaa–

    I almost never say this because the term is overused but that reviewer was extremely biased and sexist. If it had been a man writing about his conversion to Hinduism, would the review writer have said, “This man’s story would have been more interesting if he had actually married an Indian.”

    It seems that this whole issue mixes cultural norms and spiritual pursuits. A speaker at our Temple pointed out that many of the religious norms are culturally based and depend to a great extent on the climate. They are not essential to spirituality.

    Some societies have a strong cultural norm about marrying someone of the same faith, ethnic background, socioeconomic level, etc. These are man-made norms, not spiritual or divine ones.

    I’m married to a man who follows Celtic spirituality and have found that because we respect each other’s beliefs and viewpoints, our own spiritual lives are enriched.

    • Ambaa

      It is sexist, isn’t it? I was so startled by it because I’d never experienced sexism in a blatant way.

      Part of what I’ve been exploring in my blog writing is the intersection of culture and religion. Which aspects of Hinduism are purely cultural? Which should I follow? Which do I have any business following. Fascinating questions, I think! :)

      I have also found that partnership with a man who respects my beliefs is what I really need.

  • indian

    most people India fall in love with their husband or wives only after marriage. As people are getting more americanised or westernised this attitude is changing fast & the concept of falling in love b4 marriage is catching on . & As Indians(Hindus) are moving away from tradition culture & dharma , Indians now accept blindly anything from west without judging the long term effects on society by their choices made today.

  • indian

    most people in India fall in love with their husband or wives only after marriage. As people are getting more americanised or westernised this attitude is changing fast & the concept of falling in love b4 marriage is catching on . & As Indians(Hindus) are moving away from tradition culture & dharma , Indians now accept blindly anything from west without judging the long term effects on society by their choices made today.

    • Ambaa

      Fair enough.

      I had a post on my previous blog about my history with arranged marriage and I may repost it here sometime. I did try to have an arranged marriage when I was 18 and I came very close, but was rejected by the guy.

  • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com Andrea

    I told you already that this reader is a creepy creepster looking for some Kama Sutra jollies. He is uninterested in spiritual life and so of course he would not like your book.

    I think it is a good idea for people to share the same general spiritual beliefs. If religious practices are important, finding a spouse who shares them would be ideal; otherwise someone who at least respects them is necessary. But is it required for a ‘convert’ to marry a ‘native’ of the religion? No. Two converts may share many more life experiences and have more in common and similar worldviews than a convert and a native, I’d think.

    I think it is a terrible idea to marry someone just to “legitimize” your belonging to a religion. I would put that in the exoticism category, as well as entering romantic relationships so you can learn more about the religion that the other person follows. It is the opposite of “missionary dating” (going out with someone with the intent of converting them to your religion) which is equally abhorrent. If you want to learn about a religion, join a study group.

    I am still confused though as to why you classify yourself as a convert when your family has practiced Vedanta since before your birth.

    • Ambaa

      You make great points as always!

      I classify myself as a convert because my family never saw themselves as Hindus. I was raised to think I was Christian! I’ll do a post soon on my history with Christianity. Should be interesting :-/ The fact is, I certainly think my immediate family have been Hindus for a long time, they just don’t acknowledge it. So I am a bit of a special case!

      On the other hand, I don’t know of any other person who grew up in the organization I did who now practices Hinduism.


    @ Ambaa

    What can I say, this is a very tricky situation. I was going to wind you up then I thought NO, you are too nice. Nope, I’m not being kiss ass.

    Life is a journey, be it spiritual or pilgrimage or any other. You can call it what ever you like but it is. For this journey you need good companion who can aid you in this journey. Every cart needs two identical wheels to run properly and progress forward and when it doesn’t have this, it kinds of hobbles forward rather then run forward. Therefore the journey is very difficult. This is same as having inappropriate partner who dosn’t help in your spiritual growth to complete this journey. Do you see my point. I’m NOT saying that having a hindu partner is important. But having a right partner is more important.

    Even a born Hindu may not be a right partner, even if he’s seen as a right partner for this journey.

    My father likes drinking in Irish pubs, That’s where I was brought up living in an Irish area and that’s what he has done whole his life. He did not aid my mother in her spiritual journey. I only realise this when we were about to float her ashes in ganga (ganges) that he said she deserved better and I wasn’t. He still drinks in the same Irish pubs today. All his drinking friends are Irish. One thing I can say is, he’s a brown Irish. Wink Wink.

    So even merrying a Born hindu may have not been a right choice, if you see my point. I know lots of born hindus who doesn’t practise the hinduism to your level. My mum used to call my dad dalit and he used to laugh it off. They (hindus) just takes hinduism for granted because they are born hindus. We follow hinduism because of my mother who was very spiritual person.

    A one faceless individual telling you that you need a husband from same religion to be a hindu is same as him saying santa claus is real.

    As far as a culture and Hinduism goes they both are intertwined with each other like one supports the other in a way like buttons on garmet where one is not complete without the other because most of the religious celebrations have direct link with the culture and it would be very difficult for you to separate because hinduism is a way of life rather then a specific religion. I’m sure you understand this.


    PS So on that note Greeting from a brown Irish to a white one. :) Wink

  • Doesitmatter

    Nope, you shouldn’t have to be married to an Indian Hindu to be a Hindu or fulfill your spiritual and non spiritual goals.

  • http://homeskyshop.com/category/43-shani-rakshak-kavach.html Shani kavach

    Very good post. to adopt any religion no body need to get married to that religion man or woman. if we like that religion then we easily convert into that.

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  • Don Gwinn

    You did a great job pointing out how stupid this is, and I’mma let you finish, but first I’m gonna tweet a link to this story to @EverydaySexism.
    . . . .
    . . .
    OK, carry on.

    • Ambaa

      Awesome! Thank you very much.

  • Cultural_Hindu

    You are extremely luck that you haven’t encountered much blatant sexism on the interwebz; the veil of anonymity brings out the scum of the universe.

    Even though Hindus don’t evangelize, according to most, anyone who follows the Sanathana dharma is a hindu. I would assume that anyone who follows it by choice rather than by an accident of birth would have more interesting views about it .

    One of my Caucasian American colleague is a Hindu; mainly because she loves the concept of Karma and partly due to hatred the LGBT face in her cultural religion.

    P.S : Came here from Hemant. Great blog, will drop by once a while.

    • Ambaa

      Thank you!

      Yes, I’m either very lucky or extremely oblivious :D

      I’d love to for you to stick around and give your insight on my ponderings!