Butter chicken, Patiala peg and an NRI groom are pretty much the few things that can definitely brighten up a Punjabi face any time. While the chicken and the peg may not have any geographical indication (GI) but the groom must come with a GI tag of the United States. And if by any chance this doesn't work out, then there is always Canaida (colloquial Punjabi pronunciation for Canada).
But US President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration in January and a proposal to squeeze H1B work visa programmes have just not affected job prospects of Indians in America, there has been an additional, though interesting, misery they must face. The decades-old demand for US-based grooms has dwindled sharply, thereby affecting the marriage market in India at large.
Young Indian men studying and working in the US, once the most sought-after, are no longer finding any takers in marriage bureaus in Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Besides, the attack on two Indian engineers in Kansas, in which one was killed, has put a further dampener on the demand for these grooms.
Ironically and funnily enough President Trump's order has not just affected the job security of Indians working in States but also their marriage prospects!
A call made to a marriage bureau in Jalandhar validates this. A polite voice interrupts us to say that they no longer find rishtas for prospective brides in the USA because they don't deal with the Indian boys settled there anymore. "France, Holland, Turkey, Vancouver...we can look for Indian grooms anywhere else but not the USA. Dekhoji, Trump ne ta saddi market kharaab kar ditti. (Look, Trump has spoiled our market)," adds the voice, sounding genuinely perturbed at this development.
With visa laws in the USA getting stricter and Indians working there feeling the heat of it, parents in India are exploring other foreign shores to marry their daughters since the US is out of picture, at least till Trump is the President. "I had asked my elder daughter to find a match for my younger daughter in the USA, preferably a Punjabi from the IT sector," shares Amandeep Sekhon, a landlord from Nakodar, Punjab. "She did find a suitable match; we spoke to the boy's parents settled in Amritsar, and then Trump passed the order. Now, my wife is pressurising me to call off the talks because we can't get our second daughter married in the US as long as Trump is the President. You never know when he throws out all the Indians."
If this insecurity wasn't enough to scare the prospective brides' parents, especially those who have always hankered after NRI sons-in-law, racial attacks on Indians is further cementing their resolve to give a miss to US-based grooms. Though some parents are still ready to brave the odds, they are afraid that the couple may be deported. It is this dilemma that has affected the marriage prospects of a large number of Indian bachelors working there and other NRI single men, no matter what positions they are working on.
Sarita Suman, who runs a marriage bureau in Noida, tries explaining the shift in the marriage scenario with the help of numbers. "Earlier, out of the 20 marriage proposals I would get from North India, Chennai, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi and Mumbai, nearly 15 preferred a US-based Indian boy (preferably working in the IT sector or a physician). Now, with the new immigration policy, only five may still be interested to get their daughters married in the US, rest have changed their preferences to Australia, Dubai, Canada, Germany, Italy and Malaysia," adds Sarita, foreseeing a change in the trend.
While the parents of the Indian girls or even the girls themselves have shifted preferences to other continents, Indian boys settled in the US are facing the threat of being stranded at the altar because of these new and stricter laws.
Jaskirat Brar (29) from Patti, Amritsar, is a warehouse manager working in Virginia. The talks of his marriage to an Indian Punjabi girl who works for a production house in Mumbai, had almost reached the final 'yes' stage. For the last one month, however, neither Jaskirat nor his parents have had any communication with the girl's side. "All Indians settled in the US will remain bachelor till Trump is in power. I think I have to wait for another five years to get married. Now we wouldn't be picked up by the firangi girls as our future in this country is so uncertain," says Jaskirat woefully.
Manbir Sharma, 29, who hails from Faridabad, works at a petrol station in Kentucky. Manbir came to India seven months back to get married. A roka ceremony was held to solemnise the marriage. To his surprise, the girl cancelled the ceremony because she thought he was about to lose his job. "I tried convincing her that it was all talks and nothing concrete has happened yet, but she said she would only marry me if I decided to move to some other country," says a totally disheartened Manbir.
The effect is evident even on matrimonial websites. Indian men or women of marriageable age are no longer the preferred choice. "Uncertainty about what will happen with the so-called outsiders has affected the marriage market in a big way," shares Pratap Prabhakar, a professional matchmaker based in Minnesota.
As President Trump is going to be there for another four years at least, Indian men in the US should now concentrate on getting a green card. Or maybe they should start giving dowry to girls now to marry them. Now that's a thought!