"There is a good reason why most people find their potential spouse at university."
Romance. Relationships. Rishtey.
Matters of the heart entice us all, but how does it work at university? Can ‘true love’ be found amidst the drinking, clubbing and essay deadlines?
Do western ideas of relationships clash with traditional Desi ideas?
For British Asians, there are conflicting views when it comes to young love.
Some enjoy casual, ‘no strings attached’ relationships. Whilst others are waiting for their Bollywood hero or heroine to skip out of yellow cornfields.
So, it is possible to find true love on the university campus?
Casual, Short-Term Relationships
After talking to young British Asian students, we found that there are two types of relationships at university.
The first type are casual, short-term relationships. These are fun, sexual relationships or ‘flings’.
Many Asian students are living away from home for the first time. There is also the introduction of alcohol, clubbing and brand new social circles. This creates an atmosphere of adventure and curiosity, which influences romance.
Sex is more accessible due to student accommodation. Students can also party to their hearts (or stomachs) content, so these relationships consist of sexual exploration and freedom.
However, 95 percent of Asian students we spoke to admitted that they disliked casual relationships, stating they were more inclined to avoid them completely.
Jasmeet Kaur said: “I don’t think they last very long due to the ‘uni life’ meaning that a lot of girls and guys won’t want serious commitments. I think they are a distraction and a hassle.”
Serious, Long-Term Relationships
The second type of relationship are the serious, long-term ones. These see students tasting adult life for the first time. They live away, are independent, and make their own not-so-round rotis.
They are young enough to enjoy themselves, yet mature enough for a meaningful romance.
Interestingly, 90 per cent of students said they would only pursue long-term relationships at university, rather than casual flings.
University consists of people of a similar age and intelligence, who share similar experiences.
It also provides enough time to get to know one another, and the popularity of student societies and events reflects this. As Arash Hussain expresses:
“I’ve met some brilliant women at university who you can click with on not just an emotional level but also an intellectual level. You share common interests and have similar ideals.”
These relationships promise hopes of blossoming to a higher level, including marriage: “There is a good reason why most people find their potential spouse at university,” Arash adds.
Marriage is hot on the minds of Asian students it seems, as all who desired a long-term relationship also mentioned hopes of marriage.
Much of this is down to Desi parents wishing for their children to settle down with suitable partners when they grow up.
And Asian students are not averse to this, with many considering marriage as both sacred and a future goal.
Sex and Marriage
Attitudes towards premarital sex remains a delicate topic for Asian students.
Interestingly, 85 per cent believed premarital sex meant a relationship without commitment. Students thought that sex should be with someone you love, and thus ideally after marriage.
However, some were open-minded to the idea that sex within a serious relationship is understandable. Although most students frowned upon casual sex.
Prakash Virani held a different opinion: “Marriage is something I don’t think you should think about in university.
“We are young and haven’t fully found our own identities yet, let alone the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy sexual relations.
“At our age it’s completely natural. I think old Desi ideas of linking sexual purity to honour are out-dated. And you shouldn’t just marry someone out of sexual frustration.”
Parents and Traditions
So what do the parents think? Many parents’ thoughts on university relationships is a unanimous ‘NAHEE’ (insert flying slipper).
Though parents are not oblivious to their kids having relationships, many young British Asians we spoke to kept them secret from parents, especially those of a casual kind.
75 per cent of students said they would only inform their parents if they were serious about their partner i.e. have a potential spouse in mind to marry.
Interestingly, the trend of love marriages over traditional arranged marriages is growing as 95 per cent of Asian students wish to find their own spouse.
Most of this was down to trust and understanding between couples before taking such a serious step like marriage. Some found the concept of having an arranged marriage as a lot of pressure:
“I don’t want to get married just because it’s seen as the done thing in Asian culture. I’d rather marry because it’s the right thing for me,” Sana Harris says.
Despite this, rishta culture is still seen as a viable way to meet someone. However, the individuals involved must be consenting. While students are open to the idea, most view it as a last resort.
Surprisingly, most students didn’t think it was hard to get into relationships at uni, which is common in the West, despite the traditional arranged marriages that Desi parents encourage:
“I don’t think a culture clash makes it difficult to pursue relationships. I find it difficult to find the right person. People don’t perceive to be who they say they are,” says Jahangir Ali.
For many Asians, finding true love is a tricky thing. We’ve all been brought up with Bollywood’s exaggerated idea of romance that sees heartache, song and dance all in packaged three hour intervals.
With such ideals, finding your perfect Raj or Simran is not easy. Many Asians desire different things from university relationships.
University offers a good place in which young Asians can explore love, sex and relationships without the pressure of an end goal like marriage.
But many Asians do prefer to pursue relationships that can eventually lead to a walk down the aisle.
For them, marriage is the inevitable goal, and university can be the perfect place to find a spouse.
Ultimately, true love depends on each individual, with his or her own expectation of romance. Love is no easy feat whatever the country or culture, but for some Asians, it could just be a campus stroll away.