Recently, TC Magazine commissioned a poll surveying the marital status of Tamils in the diaspora. The poll revealed that over half of all Tamils remained unmarried at ages 30-35.
Family is an important aspect traditional Tamil values. So how does a family-oriented culture with a strong tradition of faith, marriage and family end up with over half of its community unmarried into their 30s?
Over the next few months, TC will interview members of the Tamil community to discuss why this trend exists, to relate from personal experiences, and to address what can be done about it (all names are pseudonyms).
Sanjiv, 27, from Scarborough writes:
While I’m not in the age range polled, I feel obliged to comment. There is definitely a growing rift between young men and women in society, and I think it’s even more pronounced in the Tamil community. Certainly the low marriage rates from your survey attest to this. I’ll try my best to explain my reasons for why this is. Be warned that much of my commentary is not politically correct, but I think it needs to be said if we are to discuss this issue openly and honestly.
First, there is no doubt that Tamil women are outperforming Tamil men both in education and professionally. There are more girls than boys pursuing post-secondary education. And while this is true for all of Canada, this trend is exacerbated in our community. Almost every Tamil girl I’ve met who grew up in Canada has some form of post-secondary education – at minimum a Bachelor’s degree or a college diploma. Numerous women in our community also hold graduate degrees and PhDs.
However, the same cannot be said of our Tamil guys. Tamil women with degrees far outnumber Tamil men. And because most women prefer to marry men who are above them in status, educated Tamil women are finding that there is a shortage of men who meet this criteria. Most are unwilling to compromise their standards and “settle” for a less educated partner. And many will hold out until the right guy comes along, not realizing that a handsome, educated Tamil man with a professional job has plenty of options. With each passing year their marital prospects decline… until they find themselves still alone well into their 30s.
Another critical aspect is that there is a huge element of superficiality in the modern Western society we live in. Given that most young Tamil professionals today marry for love, physical attraction undoubtedly plays a factor. Most men have a preference for slim, fair-skinned girls. A girl who is dark or fat will find it more difficult to attract a partner.
In our parents’ time, such a girl would have found a husband (provided a sufficient dowry) because physicality wasn’t a deciding factor in arranged marriage back home. Most parents sought an educated man for their daughter and a girl who was “adakam ozhukum” for their sons. But with Western media pumping out images of blonde bombshells and Kollywood pushing Shreya as the aesthetic ideal, every guy wants a fair-skinned girl on his arm and not the plump, dark girl with the heart of gold.
So why are so many of our men still single into their 30s? The truth is many Tamil guys today are lonely and embittered. Many Tamil “nice guys” still harbour resentment from Tamil girls ignoring them and going for “gangsta” bad boys back in high school and university. Of course, when these girls mature and realize the gangsta guys are going nowhere in life, it’s too late. You ignored me before, but you’ll settle for me now after being pumped and dumped by bad boys and run out of options? No thanks.
Furthermore, Tamil guys – even educated guys who grew up in Canada – are very judgmental about a girl’s past. Even today, Tamil men have different standards for whom they’ll casually date and whom they’ll marry. And a Tamil girl who has had several boyfriends or sexual partners will not be viewed as marriage material. Tamil men won’t settle for what they perceive as "used goods" with baggage from past relationships. While this double standard may seem unfair to the ladies, it is still the reality in our community.
At the same time, Tamil guys today can’t go “back home” to marry a virgin bride as their uncles or older cousins did. Most guys who grew up here can't hold a conversation in Tamil , and there is a significant language and cultural barrier between Tamil guys who grew up here and village girls back home. Unlike Indians, the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora does not have a huge pool of attractive, educated English-speaking girls to draw from back home. So a lot of Tamil guys here are stuck in limbo – either marry a girl whose had multiple past boyfriends in Canada, or sponsor a village girl from Jaffna. Not content with either option, many men still remain unmarried well into their 30s.
As a young Tamil-Canadian male, I find this trend worrisome. If Tamils who are born or raised here don’t form families and reproduce, it will be the demise of our community. We should not be a community of underachieving bachelors and overeducated spinsters. So what can be done to bridge this rift between our young men and women?
Tamil guys – you need to step it up educationally and professionally. Our ladies are doing extremely well, so there’s no reason why you can’t. And don’t be so judgmental about a girl’s past. The archaic values you’re clinging to are from a bygone era when women didn’t have the freedoms they do today. They’re incompatible with today’s modern, egalitarian society.
And Tamil girls – you need to do a better job of picking the right guy while you’re still young. Instead of wasting your prime years with the “exciting” bad boy who’s going nowhere in life, find a smart dependable guy with a good future and stick with him. Your biological clock is ticking and soon it may be too late.
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