For my kinship chart, I decided to start at my great grandparents. In my chart below, the points where the circle is outlined in dark black with a star in the middle signifies my place in the family tree. The two main trees in the middle page in my picture are the last 3 generations on my mother and father’s paternal sides. The extension of paper on the right is my mother’s maternal side, while the extension on the left is my father’s maternal side. Since I could not fit everyone on a piece of paper, the highlighted green circle signifies my maternal grandmother, while the highlighted blue circle signifies my paternal grandmother.
I would say that my family’s marriages, at least the observable living ones, were endogamously arranged. I’m originally from India and was born there, but my parents immigrated to the states when I was about two years old. In India, there is a very strong emphasis, even today, on marrying within your caste system. The caste system is a pretty ancient way of wedding people and growing your family. Basically, it dictates a social order, one that you can only move up or down on based on marriage and your blood ties. There are four main groups that I’m familiar with, that I’ve translated into English below.
Brahmins – Priests (Educated, enlightened)
Vaishyas (merchants, landowners)
This is the original caste system, but following the British rule of India through the early 1900s, there was transformative social change, however the caste system still plays a large role in defining who gets married to who. Marriages in India, until very recently, are generally arranged by the family elders. This is to ensure a union between families, and not just two people. My parents knew of each other for about a year before their marriage, but met only a month before the wedding. This might be perceived as odd, but it is the norm in India. There is also, a more subtle and unspoken rule of dowry. Although my grandparents didn’t participate in such an outdated norm for my parents, dowry (in the traditional form or otherwise) is still very much a regular occurrence in arranged marriages. So, in terms of the caste system I was mentioned earlier, it’s not as though either of my parents fall into any particular category, but there were definitely some similarities that led to my two grandfathers approving the union. My last name, Rajput, is an old Indian name that can be traced back to the Kshatriya, or warrior class. That doesn’t mean that there’s some kind of modern day network for tracing back your ancestors and making alliances on that basis (although I’m sure many Indians probably actually do this anyway), my parents had the same general level of education. My mother actually is more educated than my father– she holds a masters degree in addition to my father’s bachelor’s degree. They were both from respectable families, and that’s how my two grandfathers came to meet and arrange the marriage. As far as I know, with the exception of a couple marriages (the ones highlighted in orange that I’ll get to later), all of the marriages in my family were arranged in a similar manner.
Though both my grandfathers are recently deceased, my grandmothers are still alive. Except for my immediate family (parents, older brother) and the family highlighted in orange, everyone in my extended family resides in India. My parents were the first to take a leap of faith and come to America with the understanding that their kids would get a better education and standard of living. The family in orange is my father’s paternal uncle and his two sons and their wives and currently one child. They reside in Canada, and are the only other members of my family who I see more than once a decade.
Overall though, the overarching theme in my family is absolutely zero divorces, since that is largely viewed as taboo in both my religion and culture. I also didn’t draw out all my grandparent’s siblings’ marriages, but all of them were married and did have at least 2 children. Moreover, there are no adoptions in my family because of the emphasis of keeping blood ties in family. There is a certain guarantee that marriage is always imminent as a young adult in my family, and many other Indian families, but nothing is ever forced. It’s ingrained into our culture and a big part of that simply depends on lifestyle. It’s interesting to see how starkly these norms have changed though; my brother is currently in a long-term relationship with a girl who’s not Indian, and my parents only came to know about recently. This should be pretty groundbreaking, but after raising their kids in America, my parents are grateful that my brother, now 23, is at least considering marriage at some point.
Th cultural break, however, happens when my brother implies that he can, in fact, date more than one girl before he marries (which is preposterous to my parents), and if I mention that I want to wait until after 30 to have kids, my parents will act as though they never imparted the right values on us. It’s interesting what things my parents will be lenient on when it comes to culture and family, and other things still shock them about the decisions their children make, even after living in a foreign country for nearly 2 decades. Regardless, I’m proud to come from a family with such strong ties and I hope that one day I can contribute to my family tree, even if I haven’t most of them.