Kavita Ramdya’s debut book, BOLLYWOOD WEDDINGS: DATING, ENGAGEMENT AND MARRIAGE IN HINDU AMERICA (Lexington Books; November 28, 2009; Hardcover plus a photo spread of 12 images), is this year’s answer to the age-old questions, “Why do we fall in love with the people we fall in love with?” and “Why do we marry the people we choose to marry?” To answer these questions – the ethnic, religious, linguistic, cultural, and financial qualities – and what our choice means in terms of expressing our national identity, Kavita Ramdya does an anthropological study of Indian-American Hindus in the tri-state New York area.
By interviewing twenty couples, “Bollywood Weddings” addresses the various methods of meeting a potential future spouse including using family & friends, personal ads, and internet dating services as well as family tensions that arise with inter-marriage (Hindus marrying Christians, Jews, Muslims, African Americans and Atheists). Attending their weddings and watching wedding videos, she successfully describes how this community negotiates between antiquated, Old World values such arranged marriage and modern, individualistic values such as love marriage. She finds that in this day and age, a discussion about who and how we choose to marry cannot be had without recognising the significant influence popular culture has on our ideas about how to best express love. In Kavita Ramdya’s book, the Bombay-based Indian film industry “Bollywood” emerges as a significant force in formulating conceptions of love and identity. Bollywood culture – it’s fashionable aesthetic and symbolic representation of a modernised India – becomes the method by which American-raised Indian Hindus negotiate two diametrically-opposed value sets: that of pre-modern India and mainstream America.
Kavita Ramdya integrates the love stories of twenty couples, which makes her book about why and how a sub-community falls in love and expresses their identity a wonderful read. She provides readers with a window into second-generation Indian-American Hindu couples who are navigating identities through a major life rite of passage, marriage. In her book, she affirms that this sub community flaunts all things Indian (be they more traditional or Bollywood style) as a way to assert their American identity. Beautifully written and containing gorgeous photographs, with insight into matters concerning love, marriage, and identity BOLLYWOOD WEDDINGS: DATING, ENGAGEMENT AND MARRIAGE is that rare find: an insightful first book which is both an excellent choice for the classroom and the wider general readership.