Our Mothers Ourselves

Tanjeet Basra. Indian Matchmaking and the evolution of a marriage. A Conversation with Gurki Basra

December 06, 2020 Gurki Basra Season 3 Episode 4
Our Mothers Ourselves
Tanjeet Basra. Indian Matchmaking and the evolution of a marriage. A Conversation with Gurki Basra
Chapters
Our Mothers Ourselves
Tanjeet Basra. Indian Matchmaking and the evolution of a marriage. A Conversation with Gurki Basra
Dec 06, 2020 Season 3 Episode 4
Gurki Basra


 
Gurki Basra knows a thing or two about dating. She even starred in Season One of the Netflix show Dating Around, in which she went on a famously bad date.

Her mother, Tanjeet Basra, on the other hand, had never been on a date, right up to the day she got married when she was 22, which also happened to be the day she met her husband for the first time. 

Katie talks to Gurki about her parents' wedding and marriage, and the wisdom Gurki gained in watching the ultimate blind date evolve into a loving marriage.

 


Please visit the mother word cloud page and contribute your own word to describe your mother.


Music composed and performed by
Andrea Perry.
Artwork by Paula Mangin. (@PaulaBallah)
Producer: David Walters
Send us email at: [email protected]


Show Notes Transcript


 
Gurki Basra knows a thing or two about dating. She even starred in Season One of the Netflix show Dating Around, in which she went on a famously bad date.

Her mother, Tanjeet Basra, on the other hand, had never been on a date, right up to the day she got married when she was 22, which also happened to be the day she met her husband for the first time. 

Katie talks to Gurki about her parents' wedding and marriage, and the wisdom Gurki gained in watching the ultimate blind date evolve into a loving marriage.

 


Please visit the mother word cloud page and contribute your own word to describe your mother.


Music composed and performed by
Andrea Perry.
Artwork by Paula Mangin. (@PaulaBallah)
Producer: David Walters
Send us email at: [email protected]


This is our mothers ourselves, and I'm your host, Katie Hafner. Gurki Basra knows a thing or two about dating. She even starred in a season of the Netflix show, Dating Around. Her mother, Tanjeet Basra, on the other hand, had never been on a date, right up to the day she got married when she was 22, which was also the day she met her husband for the first time. I invited Gurki to come on to the podcast to talk about her mother's marriage and the wisdom Gurki says she's gained from watching the ultimate blind date evolve into a loving marriage. So Gurki Basra, I want to thank you so much for coming onto Our Mother's Ourselves to talk to me about your mother.

Gurki Basra:

Thank you for having me on.

Katie Hafner:

Yeah, this is you know, I've wanted to do a podcast on this very topic for a while. There are so many questions, you know, what is it like to have a mother who was in an arranged marriage? And how does that affect you and all of that. So let's start the one question I aske absolutely

everybody:

if you had one word to describe your mom, what would that word be?

Gurki Basra:

Oh, probably loving. My mom adores my brother and I. She's definitely always really prioritized us and you know, our happiness definitely relates back to her happiness.

Katie Hafner:

Nice, loving. So let's talk about her life like where she was born when she was born.

Gurki Basra:

So my mom was born in Bharti, India, a little village in Punjab and Punjab is a state in the northern most part of India. And so she grew up in a little farm town. Her dad was a farmer, and she was one of six.

Katie Hafner:

What year was she born?

Gurki Basra:

1957.

Katie Hafner:

Oh, 1957 so post-colonial India.

Gurki Basra:

Yes, yes.

Unknown:

Yeah, yeah. So she's one of five girls and one boy and the boy is second to youngest, so is a long string of girls and then a boy and then one more girl,

Katie Hafner:

and her name is Tanjeet.

Gurki Basra:

Tanjeet, yep.

Katie Hafner:

Tanjeet. And how well off was the family?

Gurki Basra:

She always described it as if you know that she was like a little princess living in a village because for today's standards, they definitely were not well off. They grew everything they ate. And of course, they had money to buy certain things that they needed to survive. But her father was sort of the head of the village. So he had the big farmland, he would host you know, Sunday lunch for the entire town. So growing up, even though they weren't super well off her and her sisters and brother definitely felt like special and taken care of and they knew you know that no matter what their dad was going to kind of handle whatever needed to be handled.

Katie Hafner:

And what language to Punjabi speak?

Gurki Basra:

Punjabi is also the language it's very similar to Hindi. So you know, everybody in India, most people learn Hindi as well as whatever a secondary language would be. So they grew up learning Hindi and Punjabi.

Katie Hafner:

Tell me about her education.

Gurki Basra:

So she went off to boarding school, her and her sisters. And she subsequently ended up going to college. She also got her master's in sociology.

Katie Hafner:

Do you know what her family's relationship had been with the British colonialists back going back generations.

Gurki Basra:

I know that my grandmother, her, her mom was born in Pakistan and had to move over during the partition. That's a whole separate thing. But that's kind of the extent of it. I didn't growing up. We didn't hear a ton in terms of the political landscape. Punjabis are known to be very proud that they're Punjabi. They're kind of like Texans in that way where they feel like they're their own country. And so you know, so it's always about kind of Punjab in the village they grew up in and it wasn't this life so great. Look at what your grandfather did for the community. So it was very much more focused on kind of the local community,

Katie Hafner:

Like Texas. I like that. Did the family go down the birth order of daughters to marry them off? Tell me about that.

Gurki Basra:

That... Definitely. Yes. So my eldest aunt was the first one to get married and she married a gentleman that lived in London and then she moved to London. My mom...

Katie Hafner:

but hold on, whoa, whoa, whoa, back up one sec. So...

Gurki Basra:

Sure, sure.

Katie Hafner:

So your aunt married a man from London. Was that an arranged marriage?

Gurki Basra:

It was

Katie Hafner:

Aha

Gurki Basra:

So she saw, so she saw a photo. And yeah, see, that's another thing. I'm like Indian. So I just assume everybody knows like, yeah, of course it was rare and yeah. But yea know, so my, my eldest aunt had an arranged marriage, she saw a photo, said yes. And then got married, went off to England. My mom got married, I believe, a couple of years after that.

Katie Hafner:

Let's, let's stick with your aunt for just a sec. Okay. Yeah, sure. So how much older than your mom was your aunt?

Gurki Basra:

She's only like a year older than my mom. She's not that much older.

Katie Hafner:

So this is interesting. So your mom watches this whole process of her older sister getting married off from a photograph that she sees? And you said she said yes to? If she had said no. Would that have made a difference?

Gurki Basra:

I mean, I'm not sure if it would have made a difference. But I believe they had a choice. My mom actually said, you know, my aunt said yes to the first kind of photo she saw in guy that came up, you know, as an, I guess, a marriage proposal. But my mom did say no to, you know, a few marriage proposals before she said yes to my dad. And that didn't seem to be an issue with my grandparents.

Katie Hafner:

Got it. And who's the intermediary? The Matchmaker, the Yenta. The Auntie,

Gurki Basra:

It really varies from family to family. I don't actually know in this case, who was the the specific person they kind of arranged it. But you know, again, like back in the day, my parents grew up, obviously, my mom grew up in a very small village. And to get a marriage proposal, you kind of had to go outside of that town, obviously, because you knew everybody you grew up with or what you know, you weren't about to marry anybody in that town. And so it kind of became one of those things where when my grandparents so their parents would go to another wedding or a social event outside of town that kind of became the conversation topic. So what I know, yeah,

Katie Hafner:

Almost done with this one. On to the next one.

Unknown:

Exactly. Exactly. So it kind of became, you know, so you go to this other wedding, you're like, yeah, you know, I have a daughter too. She's ready to get married. Do you guys know anybody? You know? And that sort of became the topic. And I did hear, you know, so again, my mom has, she's one of five girls. And I remember hearing stories growing up, one of my aunts has like green eyes, which, you know, I guess was, you know, highly desired back then. And people would be like, "Well, what about her?" and my grandpa's like, nope, she's not ready to get married yet. Like, we're still trying to marry off the oldest two. So I do remember hearing those kinds of topics, which, you know, can be kind of disheartening I would think, right, if you're like trying to get married, and somebody wants to marry your younger sister, like, I, my mom never said that was disheartening. But I would think it would be.

Katie Hafner:

And then how old was your mom? So let's walk through the whole process of your mom's marriage. So my mom was 22, when she got married, similarly to my aunt had some marriage proposals come through via photos. She said no to, I believe, like two or three gentlemen. And then when my dad's I guess, profile came across to her was more interesting, because at the time, he was in the French military, so he didn't actually live in India. And of course, all the basics of came from a good family, etc. were there but to her, I guess the big draw was the fact that he didn't live in India, and it would provide her sort of an opportunity to see the world. But she laughs that when she first saw a photo of my dad, he was in Djibouti at the time in Africa on some mission when they asked him for a photo for this marriage proposal. And so he sent some like god-awful photo of him, like sweating in the jungles. And I guess my mom was like, absolutely not. And, you know, his family was kind of like, just hold on, we'll get another photo. And then my dad sent like, another more respectable photo of him, like in a uniform, and then she was like, Okay, all right. I can work with this. Like, obviously, that's not the word she used. And then what happened then to how did they meet? And where was everybody there drinking tea like you see in that show? What's the show? So Indian?

Gurki Basra:

Oh, Indian Matchmaking. Yeah, that's how... Yeah, that's how it happens now, but my parents actually met on their wedding day.

Katie Hafner:

Oh, my God.

Gurki Basra:

So, yeah. So there was my aunt actually to your point, my eldest aunt did have tea with her husband and his family before they got married. But my mom did not they actually met on their wedding day and... and my mom goes back and always explains like how terrified she was. And again, my mom's really funny when it comes to describing my dad, she she's like, oh, and then I remember he was sitting there and he had this big belly that I didn't see in the photo. I mean, when I look at the photos, I'm like, whatever, Mom, he didn't have a big belly. I think they're just being. Yeah, she's just being a little bit of a drama queen and just kind of trying to make light of the situation, you know.

Katie Hafner:

So was she all dressed up in her wedding outfit? When she

Gurki Basra:

Oh, yeah, yeah, yep, all dressed up tons of gold on if you look at the photos, all you know, head down looking very demure. He was in his full on like military uniform, so his formals.

Katie Hafner:

So then they have to stand there and say vows.

Gurki Basra:

So in the Sikh ceremony, similar to the Hindu marriage ceremony, the bride and groom actually don't have to speak. So you basically sit down in front of the girl grant side, which is the religious book that follow and there's a priest there, and he reads a few lines. And that's pretty much it. I believe. It's like a 30 minute ceremony. It's pretty quick. And yeah, and that's it. So they didn't have to say anything, do anything. You're kind of just sitting there. And then afterwards, it's just photos and food and all that good stuff.

Katie Hafner:

So do you have any idea how many words total they exchanged?

Gurki Basra:

I don't think they even, I don't think they even spoke at their actual wedding. Yeah, no, I don't think they actually even said a thing. And again, like back then, and still today, in a lot of Indian marriages, it's it was much more about the families. So I know, you know, she exchanged a lot of words with like her new in laws and my my dad's brothers and their family, and like I just knew, okay, like some of some people get arranged marriages and other people meet on their own, like a kind of, didn't really dawn on me, the impact of that, or that it could be strange or odd, until I myself started going out and dating. And again, I'm 38 now. I got married to somebody that was from within the same culture and religion when I was 25. He was my first boyfriend, I kind of dated within Indian culture, predominantly when I was younger. So it wasn't until I was older and divorced, and started dating kind of a plethora of people from different cultures that I realized it was kind of a unique situation. But it kind of never really felt different to me, it just was like one of those like, options, like I even have cousins that are younger than me, that have had arranged marriages, they met their husband, you know, before they got married and dated over the phone. So it was you know, much more, there was more relationship building prior to the marriage, but it's still to me doesn't feel that weird.

Katie Hafner:

So what I understand from watching that show is that there's marriage, and then there's love marriage.

Gurki Basra:

I'm now the point where I've seen kind of both sides, I've seen people have arranged marriages and then be successful, or love marriages, and then be not successful or arranged marriages, them not being successful and love marriages being successful. So I kind of think like, I don't think anyone really knows, and a lot of it is kind of up to luck. But I have not had luck finding anybody on my own. And I feel like, you know, the people that I've seen, that are my age that have had sort of a pseudo-arranged marriages are really happy. And the mentality is just different. When you go into an arranged marriage, you're the mentality is you're gonna make it work versus when you're out there looking for quote, unquote, the one, you're trying to find somebody that can like, fulfill you and grow with you and help you be your best self. And, and like, that's a lot to put on a partner and on yourself to be for that person. And so so I don't know, I agree with you. I think there's advantages to kind of both situations. But as I've gotten older, I've definitely I never thought I would want an arranged marriage. But as I've gotten older, I've realized that, oh, maybe they're not so bad.

Katie Hafner:

You know, this makes me think of my, I was married to my late husband, we had met as children, and grew up together. And his parents had always been when I was a child, my role model of a relationship just the way they interacted. And so when they came to visit us in California, years ago, and they were celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary, and we went out to dinner, and I said, "What is the secret?" And my mother in law? She said, "Well, it's like this menu. Katie, you know, here, you could order the chicken. And you know that if you get the chicken, it'll be good. It'll be this and that it'll come with these side dishes. But you can't have the steak, which you might also want." And she said, but you make your menu choice and you stick with it. And then and then she said, "Then when somebody else's meal comes and they've ordered the steak, it is not an option to say..."

Gurki Basra:

Yeah, you can ask for a bite, there's you ordered the chicken, you stick to the chicken. That's funny.

Katie Hafner:

Isn't it funny, it's kind of profound. It's like, that's your menu choice, you stick with your menu choice. So for me with your mother from seeing the photograph says, Okay, I can work with this from a photograph. And, and then they get married. And so tell me Did she been learned to love him? Do you know how the evolution of their marriage happened?

Unknown:

My mom again, like she's really funny about how she describes my dad, you know, it's kind of like a old married couple that kind of always, like makes fun of each other. But you know, they truly actually really love each other and respect each other. And my parents, like, if you met, like, they could not be more opposite. Like, they have completely different interest. They're very, very different. So it's funny, but when you go back, and you look at like old photographs, like there's definitely like a lot of tender moments there. Like I love seeing the photos of my parents when they were younger. But when my brother and I were born, it definitely became all about me and my brother, my dad kind of just became like, you know, breadwinner, secondary to us. But you know, being in France as an immigrant, you know, French wasn't her first language. And so to be in Houston, where her sisters had, you know, bought a couple of businesses and to be involved in that was really important for her. So we ended up moving when I was 12 to Houston. My father stayed back so that he could retire from the military and get his pension and all that good stuff. So he came over five years later. And so for them to as a couple, the focus of the marriage really shifted to more we got to provide for our kids, we got to give them opportunities. And then it hasn't been until, you know, kind of fast forwarding recently, that I've seen the more of a, let's go for a walk, or I'll see them outside having dinner together, while my brother and I might be inside. And so it hasn't been until recently that I've kind of seen this little bit of a shift of them kind of trying to reconnect and find kind of common ground. And I don't know if I would call it romance because I don't think it's, there's much of that but kind of it's kind of romantic, go for a walk and do those little things together around the house.

Katie Hafner:

So when you got to the age, when you were starting to date, did she say, oh, Gurki do or don't do what? I did? Did she give you advice?

Gurki Basra:

As a kid? It's funny, they would always joke that they're gonna find me a husband that has like, the long mustache and I'd be like, no, Mommy, please. Like, I mean, they were strict. Like in high school, I was not allowed to date. It wasn't until college that I get, you know, obviously, I was free. I could date whomever. But the minute I started having a boyfriend and it was somebody from the community that kind of checked all the boxes. My parents knew his parents.

Katie Hafner:

Oh really? So did you meet him just by happenstance?

Unknown:

So I was friends with his cousin in college and yeah, so quote, unquote, it would be a love marriage, but the minute my parents kind of got wind of it, that was like the first thing of like, Oh, that's awesome. Like, when do we meet as parents like formally? When are you guys getting married? Like it... There wasn't like a conversation about like, Oh, you know, have fun enjoy get to know each other. Like, that's not for my parents dating meant marriage. Like there was no sort of in between.

Katie Hafner:

And when you say that you were part of the same community? Which the Punjabi? Yes, Punjabi, So you got married to this person from your community? Did you have a traditional Indian wedding?

Unknown:

Yeah, we did. We did. So I wore the big red outfit. The whole thing. I think we had like 300 people at our wedding reception. Whole thing was traditional. Yep.

Katie Hafner:

In Houston.

Unknown:

In Houston mhmm.

Katie Hafner:

And then how long were you married? And what happened to the marriage?

Unknown:

So we were married for five years. Um, you know, it was one of those things where he and I had been dating. He was my first boyfriend. It kind of felt like the right next step. I was kind of just going through the motions and something didn't feel right for me, but I couldn't really put it into words and like, I don't really have an excuse. My mom had an arranged marriage. She made that work. I picked this guy. And I don't even have something specific of why don't feel good about this. So I had doubts going into the marriage. And the year that we got married, actually, before we even had a wedding date my mom got ill. So she went to India on a trip. And the pollution I guess, was really bad. She had the flu. She ended up coming back with a flesh eating pneumonia, which I didn't even know was a thing and the doctors didn't know what to do and so they put her in a medically induced coma. Fast forward long story short, we thought was gonna die. She somehow miraculously made it. And so when she came out of it, all she wanted was to just see me be married. And so then I kind of just put my own stuff aside and decided like, okay, fine, we'll just get married. And I think she came out of the coma April and we, I planned the wedding for a couple months that summer. And then I went off to business school to get my MBA. And then we got married that December during December break.

Katie Hafner:

Oh, my gosh, what a story!

Unknown:

The good news is my mom is, that happened over 10 years ago, and my mom is still here and living and healthy.

Katie Hafner:

So there you were married, having felt the pressure to put your own doubts aside? Because she was so sick. And then it just didn't work.

Unknown:

It did not. Yeah, so all the doubts I kind of had about the relationship, it just kind of all came to a head

Katie Hafner:

Was she understanding?

Unknown:

She again, like she couldn't wrap her mind around it, because she, she had an arranged marriage. And she just had to make it work and all the things about my dad that, you know, she doesn't like like, she just makes it work and all the things that my dad doesn't like about my mom, they just figure it out and make it work and they compromise. And so for her, it was really hard to understand. Now fast forward, after seeing how much more of myself I've become how much happier I was post divorce, she's realized, like, Oh, this is the real Gurki. That Gurki in that relationship was like not happy. And like, this is why that had to end. But at the time, it was really hard for her to understand. And I actually had to stop talking to my family for like six months as I was progressing through the divorce and the paperwork. Because for me, it was just too hard to have to have that battle every day of explaining why I was doing what I was doing.

Katie Hafner:

Wow. Oh, that must have been so hard for you. Because you've turned to your family for support.

Unknown:

Yeah, it was not, it was not a fun time. But it you know, it did help me kind of, you know, sometimes looking inwards and finding strength within yourself is important in life too. And taught me a lot about myself. And I think it was important for my family and I to have that break and to be able to come together and rebuild from like a more honest place a less codependent place. A place from like, where I'm like, this is me, you're not going to be happy with all my decisions. But you know, you can still love me. And of course, they still love me. And it brought us closer even as you know, eventually once we kind of got over the hump.

Katie Hafner:

Mm hmm. And this makes me wonder, though, people, what do you know, the statistics of like, how many Indian arranged marriages end up in divorce?

Gurki Basra:

I feel like it's becoming more and more of a phenomenon even though I feel like people usually associate divorce with like, as a Western thing. I think it's becoming more and more prominent India as well.

Katie Hafner:

So what do you think now going forward? So you're, you're not married now?

Gurki Basra:

I'm not.

Katie Hafner:

And you're dating?

Gurki Basra:

I am. So I actually went on ... So after I got divorced, I kind of wrote off marriage. Like I kind of decided like, Alright, I tried it. I don't know if it's necessary. Like, I like I checked it off the list, like, I don't know. So I'm hopeful for the possibility of like, love and you know, a long term relationship again, but I haven't. I haven't dated anybody in a bit. And like you've mentioned earlier, these dating apps. It's, it's really horrible. I like I'm like, I don't want to judge based on a photo. But that's all you have. And yeah, and now with COVID. I'm like, I guess I should just become a monk. Like, I don't know. I don't know.

Katie Hafner:

I know. Right? It's, yeah, these this pandemic dating is really tough.

Gurki Basra:

Yeah.

Katie Hafner:

So it, but it does make me think I just had a thought, which is that back in your mom's day, she would just see a photo. But she, she didn't have a choice because she was going to have to choose someone. Right?

Gurki Basra:

Right. Right.

Katie Hafner:

It's like, you know, it sounds like she's happy enough and fulfilled enough. And she, based on a photo made her menu choice. And

Unknown:

no, it's totally, you totally, you're right. And like this whole phenomenon of wanting, like if you study the history of dating, and like, you know, this new culture of and millennials now are actually dating a lot less than our generation. And it's interesting, but this whole phenomenon of like, the person you're with has to be your other half and they have to fulfill you to your best capacity and you guys have to be like soulmates and all that like that's a very recent thing. Like that's not like nobody put that kind of pressure on their partners before. You know, I really respect what my mother and father's relationship is and I think my mom sees all the positives that the marriage with my dad had even, you know, even if it wasn't love at first sight, and you know, she always jokes that she's like, "Oh, I wonder how love at first sight feels, I wish I would have felt it," you know, and like, so she still has those like, emotions and those desires from watching movies. But she's you know, I think to your point, there's something really beautiful about the fact that she could just make it work and to your point, be happy enough, because that's all you can really ask for from another person. Everything else has to come from within you and you have to work on that stuff.

Katie Hafner:

That is such a great point. It's such a wonderful note to end on. I want to thank you so much.

Gurki Basra:

Thank you for having me and being open to you know, having this conversation.

Katie Hafner:

And that's it for Our Mothers Ourselves. Our theme music was composed and performed by Andrea Perry. Paula Mangin is our artist-in-residence, and David Walters was the producer for this week's episode. Please visit us at ourmothersourselves.com and contribute your one word that best describes your mother to the site's mother wordcloud. Our Mothers Ourselves is a production of Odradek Studios in San Francisco, and I'm your host Katie Hafner. Have a safe week, everyone.