There’s a nice saying in English which is: every day is a school day. It means that you learn something new each day.
This is exceptionally true when you are immersed in to a foreign culture.
However, today was a school, college and university day.
I was talking to a work colleague, as you do, and he happened to mention that a girl was betrothed (promised) to another man. This girl is about 22 so nothing wrong there (if you discount the fact that she may have had little say in the decision). My school day came when he went on to tell me that the man she had been promised to was her Uncle.
Not a close family friend that is called ‘Uncle’, but a real blood relative uncle. To be specific, her mother’s brother.
Naturally I thought this was a total wind up as India, particularly South India is such a conservative society with strict morals and ethics. Surely ‘keeping it in the family’ would be against every law and religious custom.
To my horror, I found out that this is real and happens often. Wikipedia describes it in more detail for those of you that want to go there. It’s perfectly accepted in the more rural parts of the country for the daughter to marry the mother’s brother.
Furthermore, when I brought up the subject with others, the general attitude was “yeah, what’s wrong with that?”.
It turns out, my maid, is also married to her uncle – her mother’s younger brother. She leads such an unhappy life because she refuses to ‘live’ with her husband. ‘Live’ was the choice of words used by my friend to explain that although she lived in the same house as her husband, she refused to consummate the marriage, much to the displeasure of her husband and the rest of the family.