A good crowd gathered on Sunday November 2nd, including the Consul of India and his wife, at the Mississauga Arts Centre for an afternoon of theatre and discussion on the topic of arranged marriages. The audience included other writers, members of the cast, representatives from the Universal Peace Federation, Dr. Moon Shik Kim and Rev. Mitch Dixon who also took care of the technical aspects of the event, and a beautiful rainbow of faces, colours and ages reflecting the diversity that it is Canada. The discussion was stimulated by first watching a screen recording of Zohra Zoberi’s excellent award-winning play, “Window Shopping … for Lasting Love”. The event was sponsored by Zohra’s ‘Bridging the Gap Productions and Women’s Federation for World Peace Canada (WFWP).
The play centers around the dilemma faced by a 27 year old, Seema, a professional young Canadian adult coming from a South Asian family, in dealing with her parents’, and especially her mother’s aspirations to arrange her marriage and the desires of her own heart. A potential well educated, professional match comes from Detroit with his family and it seems that the arrangement is going to move forward. Seema, with no help at all from a troublesome, but for the audience, highly amusing younger brother, and her more thoughtful girlfriends, goes through a difficult process of conforming herself to her parents’ viewpoint. This included ending her relationship with her Caucasian boyfriend who professed his love for her and, we can presume, dealing with her office colleagues. Then it transpires that the young Detroiter has a girlfriend and no interest in the attractive, intelligent Seema. So it seems that Seema has lost everything. But at the end love and marriage are found through a blind date, arranged by her brother Omar, with a young man completely acceptable to Seema’s parents and family.
The play provided an excellent introduction for a very lively question and answer session with the assembles panel of the play’s author Zohra Zoberi; Jasmin Jackman, Director of Skills for Change, who met her husband on a blind date; Roohina Gilani, a counselor with Victim Services of Peel, who shared the dark side of arranged marriages and David Stewart, whose marriage to the event’s MC, Eveline Stewart was arranged 32 years ago by the WFWP founders, the Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon. A quick showing of hands showed that many of the audience’s marriages had been arranged. This included the Consul of India, Aklesh Mishra and his wife, Reeti, who both shared very warmly and humorously their experience in being successfully matched by their parents. The Consul also shared how only in Canada has he repeatedly been invited to events originating in the Pakistani community for which he is very grateful and honoured. One young man shared how his parents’ attempt to arrange his marriage did not work out and how this has affected him. Others were quick to point out the differences between “forced” and “arranged” marriages, the former sadly still occurring in Canada more frequently than one might think. All agreed something must be done to curb the current divorce rate. Clearly arranged marriages are alive in Canada, if under some attack from the Canadian-born and educated young adults growing up in those communities in which such marriages are the cultural norm.
Many thanks to WFWP President Lilly Tadin for her help in organizing the event and her words of introduction, and most especially to Zohra Zoberi without whom this on-going stimulating discussion would not have started and who also provided the huge delicious cake enjoyed by all in celebration of the tenth anniversary of ‘Bridging the Gap Productions’.