I was struggling with my arranged marriage while in college in 1987. Specifically, I felt challenged not only with a new unplanned life in a new city, but was trying to cope with hosting in-laws in my new small apartment after having just spent months with them in India, and adjusting to a new college at the same time.
I started seeing a therapist, and she advised something along the lines of why my husband was hosting them so long (about six months) and why he couldn’t just ask them go back. I remember thinking about all the cultural (and specific to his family) reasons what she was asking couldn’t happen. He was the only son, his father was ill, they set the rules, etc., etc. She sounded very simplistic. I needed some help dealing with the culture I felt bound with as well.
When I was forced in the marriage to begin with, there was no one to turn to, preferably a person or place that had some cultural understanding. At that time and others, I felt imprisoned by the culture I was born into.
Years later, after moving to Chicago in 1994, I discovered Apna Ghar, a shelter that provided aid with a South Asian cultural focus. I worked part-time as the organization’s Volunteer Coordinator. I also worked at a women’s shelter through the YWCA in Evanston, while completing a paralegal degree.
There are other South Asian organizations that can also aid those that are South Asian or other immigrants that could use help, but especially help that is sensitive to their cultural background and the specific situations and concerns they may have. There are people that can understand and help. They may not be in smaller cities and towns, but thanks to the internet and other technological advances like a cell phone, help does not need to feel far away or non-existent.