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Carnatic singer Sudha Raghunathan’s daughter, Malavika, is marrying an African-American scholar, Michael. The fact that the family is being attacked by bigots for this private business is truly saddening.
As an Indian living in the US, I see and hear quite a bit of casual racism within the Indian community, against African-Americans, against Mexicans or other ethnic communities, and it always frustrates me, that we who are a minority ourselves (in the US) cannot empathize with or stand in support of other people of colour. Witnessing Hindus supporting Trump, because he was against Muslims, was a difficult moment. My attempts to challenge the stereotypes and racism are more often met with whataboutery and a refusal to listen.
Which is why the reactions to Sudha Raghunathan’s daughter marrying an African-American do not surprise me. Racism, casteism and sexism are all in the mix, and every sort of bigot believes that they have a right to comment on what is a private family affair.
A few days ago, the news broke that famed Carnatic singer Sudha Raghunathan’s daughter, Malavika is to marry an African-American man, Michael. That bit of news was enough to set the rumour mill working, with some claiming that Sudha and her family were converting to Christianity.
Where some attacked the family on social media because of the groom’s skin colour, others outraged at the fact that the marriage was to a Non-Hindu. Some even went so far as to say that Sudha should now be banned from singing in temples and music sabhas. Some celebrated, because the girl was not converting, instead, she was leading him on “the path of dharma” as the groom apparently wants to wear the sacred thread and chant the Gayatri mantra. Others argued that he could not become a “Hindu” or a “Brahmin” simply by accepting these rituals. There are discussions on how Hindu children, especially girls, should be “brought up with respect for traditions”, and taught to recognize the “dangers of associating with Muslims and Christians”. Many bemoaned how Malavika had “let her parents down.”.
An audio clip has purportedly been circulated, which features Mr Raghunathan being intimidated by a Coimbatore RSS leader.
Thankfully, there are some voices of sanity. Many stood up for Sudha Raghunathan and her family, pointing out that this was her daughter’s personal choice. Others pointed out that her son-in-law must be an accomplished man indeed to thrive as a Black man in an elite white city. Those who shared pictures of Sudha with her son-in-law and the audio clip on Whatsapp were also criticized for breaching the family’s privacy and violating consent.
It is sad that in 2019, a girl cannot marry who she wants, without random strangers believing that they somehow have the right to attack her and her family for it. It is infuriating that those who say that casteism does not exist anymore, and that reservations should be abolished, are attacking her for trying to marry outside her caste. It is deplorable that a PhD scholar is thought of as “unworthy” because of his skin colour. The hate and hypocrisy are baffling.
Whether or not Malavika chooses to convert to Christianity or not, it does not make her a lesser woman. Nor does Michael’s choosing to follow Hindu/Brahmin customs somehow make him a better man. All that makes us worthy human beings is our actions, our words and our beliefs. Kindness, compassion, a belief in equality –these are what make a good person.
Children are not property to be safeguarded or traded. They are individuals with opinions, thoughts and desires of their own. They do not exist to ensure the propagation of any religion. They deserve the right to live their lives as they wish, especially if they are adults themselves.
Music and Love, it is said, are universal experiences that are beyond any language, religion or other fickle human boundaries. Unfortunately, as the poison directed at Sudha Raghunathan and her family shows, for some, Hate is just as universal.
Image source: Facebook
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Vijayalakshmi Harish is a book blogger and writer. To paraphrase her librarian, she is a
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