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The excerpt “Dating on the DL and Arranged Marriages,” from Desi Land by Shalini Shankar, describes the dating habits of the Desi teen. Shankar uses a myriad of examples to describe the nominal amount of dating that occurs within the Desi communities, prompting the Desi teenagers to “sneak” around in an effort to uphold the social norms. In Desi societies, hanging out and dating does not occur often, in fact, from the way Shankar outlines it in the excerpt, dating only occurs when marriage is in the cards.
Shankar goes on to describe how the teenagers are desperately trying to break out of the normalcy of Desi living by exerting their freedom and rebel spirits. Desi communities “can be far more socially and religiously conservative than those in South Asia,” (Shankar, 2008) notes Shankar. It is as if social activity among teenagers in Desi land is a foreign matter due to the morals and values maintained in that particular society.
Despite the frequency of “down low” dating among teenagers in Desi, the women do indeed remain chase. Valuing chastity and purity of their body in an effort to uphold the beliefs of their religion, many young women in the land abstain from sex, Shankar describes. Certain sacrifices are made in order to keep with the societal rules. Many teenagers see the ideology as “far too restrictive.” (Shankar, 2008). The restrictions placed on teenagers stems from the families of the teenagers wanting to maintain the honor they place on their family name and culture.
In the latter half of the excerpt, Shankar begins to discuss the varying systems put into place to control the ease of social life among Desi teenagers. Parents of the teenagers, much like Western parents, “keep a watchful eye,” (Shankar, 2008) on their kids. In order to avoid this watchful eye, the teens do hang out, but it is not as frequent as one would normally have social activities. Many teenagers’ social lives are built on events and gatherings that are pre-arranged or setup. The teenagers do not enjoy the activities, but fear if they do not attend such functions, will be “the subject of gossip” (Shankar, 2008). The teenagers are very careful to ensure that gossip is not spread about them or amongst them as to disturb the societal norms about Desi children and young adults.
Shankar pivots from this discussion and goes on to discuss how teenagers keep their “down low” relationships going with all of the various methods their parents use to keep an eye on them. Conversations are monitored and the teenagers are forced to use discretion in their “sneaking around.” Shankar also talks about arranged marriages and how they are setup for the teenagers directly after high school years. While the teenagers are not directly forced into these marriages, they are heavily persuaded by the parents. In Desi religion, when it comes to marriage, it is all about remaining within one’s religious background and that is also true for other Hindu and Muslim communities. Shankar relies heavily on examples of various children in Desi culture to describe the rules and ideals.
The excerpt primarily uses societal norms as its backdrop to show how relationships are affected, whether positive or negative, with regard to Desi teenagers. These examples, however, can be applied to any culture that has conservative ideologies and guidelines for its young people. Shankar does an excellent job of using examples to depict these rules.
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