American woman marries auto-rickshaw driver

Bassam Tariq is a Boing Boing guestblogger who is the co-author of 30 Mosques. A blog celebrating the NYC mosques during the Islamic month of Ramadan. He lives in Harlem, NY.

It was just another hot day in Jaipur when Harish, an autorickshaw driver, sees Whitney, a University of Chicago student, in the distance and was awestruck. He asks her out for a cup of tea and she says no. He asks again, and she says no again. But Harish's persistence pays off, by the fourth time she comes around and they both grab a cup of tea. He shows her around Jaipur and, at the end of the day, he proposes to her. She accepts.

I'll admit, there is a part of me thinking, "typical colonized South Asian men always chasing after white women. I give it two months." And to that part of my brain I say shut it,let them bask in their happiness. What do you guys think?


  1. I’m more prone to think that its a nice story. True love in unexpected places. But more importantly I’m always skeptical when people get married before they’ve been together less than a few years. I’ve only met 1 couple where the marriage seemed to make sense. Every one else seems to just be in the “well marriage is the next step” category. But then I’m only 15. I just always felt marriage should be that little something extra as opposed to the end result of any relationship.

  2. This is kind of my parent’s story (except dad was white, mum was from “3rd world”). I wish them every happiness, long life and many blessings.

  3. I don’t take marriage especially seriously, so I vote for “nice story”. I don’t know if knowing someone for a day counts as true love yet, or if it’s more like saying “what the hell lets go crazy”

    that having been said, personally I’d be really hesitant to marry someone I just met. Marriage isn’t just a relationship – it’s a contract.

  4. Meh…

    A “nice” story I guess. While you might see “typical colonized South Asian men always chasing after white women” I see bored white girl who wants to see the world and experience cultures. An overzealous westerners trip to a new “exotic” culture gone way too far.

    This will be little more than a cute facebook album “That time I got married in Jaipur” in short order.

  5. Romance is easy. Marriage is work. This is stupid or a strange publicity stunt. They come from totally different worlds. Unless she grew up in India and within the same social class, he and his family will expect her to behave and know things she would know nothing about. Her naivete (if not a put on) and patience will fade. Good luck to all involved–they’ll need it.

  6. I’m too jaded. with so few details and a single source, I’d assume viral marketing or promo for a reality show.

  7. Sometimes those who believe in fantasies manage to keep one alive long term. If that be the case, all the more power to them I guess. But I think it is extremely rare.

  8. I’ll admit, there’s part of me thinking, “typical American woman, trying to live out ‘The English Patient’.”

    But then I figure, love and marriage is really a crapshoot anyway, so best of luck to ’em.

  9. Yeah, I can’t see any possible way that this is going to succeed for very long. But, then again: It’s none of our business, really. I don’t know either of them, so does it really matter if their wonderful cross-culture marriage spirals out of the sky and crashes into the ground at 300 mph upside-down and backwards, nine or ten months from now? And will they make a YouTube video of *that*?

  10. I’m skeptical of such a short time together… but at the same time, i think inter-racial marriage is beautiful.

    my mother was well-off and fresh from europe (portugal, if you’re curious) and my father a poor new-to-america honk kong guy. back in the 70’s everyone said it was stupid and couldn’t work. 30 years of marriage and two kids later, they’re still happy.

    even if i think think this couple jumped the gun and are rushing into marriage, i wish them the best in weathering the odds. bravo and welcome to the melting pot!

  11. Who knows what will last and what won’t? Best laid plans and all that. I bet their marriage has the same 50/50 chance as everyone else’s. I wish them the best.

  12. loved the video…as sweet as it seems, I don’t think she realizes what she just got herself into! I hope there is a happy ending though.

  13. Marriage does take work, but they look happy to jump into this new adventure. I say Mozel Tov!

    /or whatever you say in India

  14. What worries me more is that this will perpetuate the myth that all you have to do is keep asking and eventually the girl will cave. :D

    The racial aspect worries me little. It’s the class aspect that i think is the greatest hurdle, and the guy has serious stones for jumping over it as he did. Do I think they’ll die together? Who am I to say?

    I’m just glad his name isn’t Mohammed. That attracts the worst sort of commenters.

  15. With India being such a class conscious society, I’d say an auto rickshaw driver has a better chance with an idealistic American college student than with an educated Indian woman.

  16. i really dont want to, but i seriously give it two months, if that. the foundations upon which theyve decided to marry are weak, if not non-existant, and for that reason alone i dont give long. that being said, i hope they can fulfill their contract and stay married but im just comparing their marriage to a history of failed marriages with a ‘somewhat’ similar foundation. thanks for sharing.

  17. I see a lot of amusing comments here, so I’ll join in. I’m 65 – married 45 years (same woman). I’m a writer/journalist, divemaster, pastor (of sorts), marriage counselor and general beach bum in a small town in the Southwest Pacific. I’ve married a lot of people and counselled more. I’ve seen these types of marriages (none that I performed) time and time again. I give them one chance in a hundred of making a year. These marriages generally result from an inability to control impulses.

    On the other hand, I proposed to my wife at 19 after I’d known her a week. Go figure!

  18. @crazybychoice you sound fascinating! i am very curious about where you are. you know mark frauenfelder relocated his family to raratonga for a while, right?

  19. I don’t mind or even think about the ‘colonized’ aspect of it since it is not in my experience whatsoever but: “…at the end of the day, he proposes to her. She accepts. just freaked me out!!!

    Best of luck lovers: I need to read about your version of it. Who were you at that moment, what made you those persons, how did you feel when this door on a new life unexpectedly opened and then you decided to cross it. No outsider’s description can account for what you lived.

  20. Well if you spend your day proposing to every SWF that gets in your rickshaw you’re bound to get lucky one day. One step closer to that US passport.

  21. I am a 47 year old American living in Turkey. I had come to stay nine months, to pick up some Turkish before going to graduate school, and to try teaching before I started the Ph.D. path.

    The evening of my first day in Turkey I went to the Istanbul Jazz Festival and sat down next to a most interesting man (I should note that he was not a stranger. He was a friend of my local contact). That was a Tuesday night. He proposed on Saturday. We had not kissed yet.

    We have been married 22 years. He is convinced we are soul mates; I think he is cute :) We have a 17 year old daughter who is about to launch off to university in the States.

    There is a high rate of divorce among Turkish-American couples. On the other hand, I know several couples who have been married as long as we have who are very happy.

    Almost everyone assumes that I met my husband the usual way: guy goes to US to study, brings back a wife. They are pleased to hear that I met my husband in Turkey, that I had come on my own. The stereotype situation in the man goes off to the US to do graduate studies and comes home with a wife (usually blond and thin), ho never adjusts or accepts much of anything. Many of the leading families in the country have American “brides”. If the elite were accused of being alienated from society before, imagine what the situation is now.

  22. And I’m not the man they think I am at home
    Oh no no no, I’m a rickshaw man
    Rickshaw man, burning out his fuel out here, alone
    Rickshaw man.

  23. I think it will work. Honestly, I wish I had that kind of gumption to jump feet first into love. Congratulations, you crazy kids!

  24. Mitch is right on. Anyone who has spent time in India knows the pushy-“tour guide”-male / western woman story.

  25. I guess it depends how seriously they take marriage…

    I can see an outside possibility of hitting it off with someone so well that you’re both certain that you’re both prepared to tackle any and all obstacles that come your way…

    Given the success rate of arranged marriages compared to western ones, I’d say one’s attitude to the whole deal is just as, if not more, important than compatibility…

    Also, I remember reading about a study which showed that people who have an amusing anecdote to tell about how they got together are something like twice as likely to stay together.

  26. Nice. I think maybe somebody’s been seeing too much Salaam-e-Ishq.

    But at the end of the day, more power to them! Hope they get a happy marriage. And if not, pyaar kiya to darna kyaa, to …

  27. Was that her mother in law that kept adjusting her veil?

    And what was the deal right before that, where the elderly woman offered him money, which he turned down, but she accepted easily?
    I admit cultural ignorance but i’m curious why these chose to show those bits…

  28. Also – why am I not shocked that she is from U of C? My first response was “Of course she is.” I suppose I see this as evidence of the frivolity rampant at my alma mater.

  29. @ #15 – Yep, I couldn’t agree more:

    An old friend of mine arrived in India to attend a Yoga retreat. On her first day, she met a chap and his brother who spent the day showing her around town – although I can’t remember the town, I’m afraid.

    My friend and the brother liked each other (a lot) and ended up getting married in India after a couple of weeks. Seven years later, they’re still together and still very, very happy.

  30. Mmm, the older woman seemed to be peeling off a small stack of 10 rupee notes. Not sure if that’s a refund of the bride’s autorickshaw fare, or perhaps a wedding gift of some sort. But in any case, it looked to be about a dollar or two US. If it’s all part of a stunt to raise money for the bride’s $30-50K tuition at Chicago, the bride, she’d better start meeting a whole lot more eligible rickshaw drivers, really fast. She’d need to marry a hundred a day or so to pay her bills.

    Or maybe it was just meant as a nice gesture.

    I will say, judging from the occasional reading of various Indian newspapers over the years, their readers are apparently even more tickled by heartwarming-to-the-point-of-corny stories of romance (especially mismatched or oddly matched ones) than U.S. audiences.

  31. I think they’re both crazy. But see no point in being cynical about this when there’s so very many other more worthy objects of cynicism. Let them have fun for as long as they can.

  32. I also agree with @19 Mitch. He’s hit the nail on the head. I do wish them luck–may the marriage be blessed. Jen.

  33. Just because it’s probably doomed doesn’t mean it ISN’T a nice story, too. :) It’s great when two people find happiness in each other, even if it’s a relationship built on an initial fetish for the exotic in both of them. I agree with some other posters in seeing the lady as kind of predatory — the dude seems sincere, even though it’s infatuation. But I’d be surprised if both of them didn’t have this exact conversation and are totes fine with it.

    A few month’s happiness, and a plot for the next Jennifer Aniston movie, and an interesting story to tell. Lots of marriages have a lot less than that. Cheers, kids.

  34. @#35:

    The old lady offers 10 rupees as a gift/blessing. 10 rupees is about USD$0.10. Not a big deal for the bride, but quite generous on the part of the old lady.

    The husband – Harish – refuses the money. “No, no, Mrs. Patna. You keep it.” She insists. The money is handed directly to the bride and the bride offers great thanks for the gift.

    There was nothing greedy about her accepting the 10 rupees. It was, in fact, the proper thing to do.

  35. My own marriage was/is very similar to this one except that I am the westerner and my wife is the foreigner (and the country wasn’t India).

    We’ve been together 21 years now and have a beautiful daughter who will start her freshman year in college next year when she’ll be the same age I was when I met her mother.

  36. Ignoring the context, it sounds like a whirlwind proposal, which tends to yield whirlwind divorce. Exceptions occur, but that’s the real hazard I see here.

    Then again, I’ve been dating someone for over two decades and we have no plans to marry — we’d drive each other crazy if we didn’t have elbow room in the relationship — so my perspective is a bit odd.

  37. Shoot, marriages like that happen all the time in California. After the ceremony it’s a dice roll. But seriously…even if it fails, at the very least they got to feel whatever they felt for that first day.

  38. this reminds me of the south park where everyone buys up the peruvian flute music to seem more cultural. no one likes it, they just want to be seen as more cultured and worldly.

    don’t get me wrong, i wish them the best, but i don’t see her living out her life in a third world country, and i wonder if he’d be ready to leave his entire family behind to live with a practical stranger in the US.

    i think he’s in it for the lond haul, and she’s along for the ride while shes young and stupid. whats worse, as i see this as an adumbrative inspiration for a slew of new sitcoms.

  39. Marriages are made in heaven and the maintenance
    here on earth. Let us be the spectators of the world.

  40. she has seen Slumdog Millionaire too much, and he just capitalized on it.

    at least now she has street cred in Jaipur…

  41. I don’t know either of these people, and shouldn’t really comment on the situation…I will say this, however:

    In my experience, naivete and poor impulse control characterizes a large chunk of the undergraduate population of the University of Chicago.

  42. Far be it from me to tell people who to marry, but I’d like to note that if she’d said “no” the fourth time he asked her out he would be considered a stalker instead of a romantic.

  43. Love is a beautiful illusion we desperately want to believe, like the parched man in the desert crawling towards what he thinks is a shimmering oasis on the horizon. The only question is how long can one believe; some last their whole lives in the illusion, and I tip my hat to them.

  44. there are so many reasons why i think this is a stupid idea but hey, people make stupid decisions all the time.

  45. I hope they live happily ever after. Realistically, I give it a year, maybe two. It’ll end in a sea of cultural misunderstandings; failed expectations about issues like marital roles, freedom, independence, and spousal duties; not to mention bouts of sadness, self-recrimination, and bitterness toward the other.

    I’m enough of a romantic to seriously hope I’m wrong.

  46. You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
    You own it, you better never let it go
    You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
    This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo

  47. …”a sea of cultural misunderstandings; failed expectations about issues like marital roles, freedom, independence, and spousal duties; not to mention bouts of sadness, self-recrimination, and bitterness toward the other.”

    That sounds like my marriage. 17 years so far. What, is everyone supposed to get divorced the day they realize they don’t live in a Disney cartoon? Staying married requires two things: 1) staying alive 2) not leaving. Everything else is optional.

    And oh yeah, I think I first proposed within two weeks of meeting her, though I knew before that. Seriously, how long does it take to fall in love?

  48. @XENI – I live in Madang, Papua New Guinea. I’ve been here since 1981. Yes, I knew about Mark. I’ve been a daily reader of BoingBoing forever (seems). I keep a daily journal at where my inspiration sometimes comes from something I’ve seen on BB. As for me, I’m just an old hippy who finally found Nirvana (not the band). I love BB. It’s my daily breath of fresh air. BTW – CrazyByChoice is my FB nickname.

  49. Now, every time I scroll past this the guy at the right of the youtube freeze frame creeps me out! The one with the crazy staring eyes. Yeah, him.

  50. @KMOSER, I would like to point out that commenter #1 is 15-years old whose gender is currently undetermined–do you really want to marry this person?

  51. Why not? They’ve got just as good a chance of a successful marriage as anyone else. Divorce happens in 50% of marriages in the US so if this one works, great. If not, then perhaps they’ll both have pleasant memories.

    Besides – he’s kinda cute!!!

  52. Harish has the best English, accent, and grooming of any rickshaw driver I have ever seen, and I lived in India for two years. I call BS.

  53. If I may add a few points:

    People in India (especially not brainwashed, educated, urbanized, etc.) are generally genuine in their expressions and feelings. They do not really have a concept of political correctness and they call the shots like they see it. Sometimes this can be a godsend especially in a world of pretenders, frenenemies, etc. How well would you say you have to know someone before they can commit their love to you and vice versa; we are so conditional in the western world that people don’t get the chance to love deeply or know it’s meaning…it’s usually based on things like compatabilty, income, race, etc. It’s funny how we think they’re backwards and we’re ok. People are afraid to make sincere commitments these days and everything is a matter of convenience. I wish them well.

  54. how has no one gone to the “he’s looking for a way to America” theory? it is admittedly cynical but no less so than saying she’s just in it for some exotic changes in her life. Nevertheless, she looks really happy – so I hope it’s not the guy who is taking her for a ride.

  55. An experienced tour guide once told me his line to any woman who has this kind of experience is: Honey, he’s not in love with you, he’s in love with your passport.

  56. If she had been like maybe 95 years old, overweight, broke, terminally ill, etc. and this happened the viewpoint would be different and the visa/passport argument is more valid. In this case, she’s a very attractive girl who has likely attracted even guys from Chicago. Besides, he’s done well for himself so why would he leave her even after getting a visa, unless there was something wrong with her to begin with. In other words, she’s a catch so why would he not want to spend the rest of his life with her. Unfortunate incidents like green card marriages, terrorists on student visas, etc. have made life harder for their victims but also for those genuine folks who do marry for real, who are in pursuit of real education, etc. This kills a culture/races credibility. It’s like when a US soldier abuses his power overseas onto someone and the entire US looks like tyrants; don’t define/judge based on the action of a few. An incentive for him is the chance at coming overseas and building a better life for him and his family. Isn’t that quest what many go after in one form or another? I say kudos to getting the visa but most importantly love like there’s no tomorrow.

    Of course, there is the possibility that AXE deodorant is starting a reality show jointly with Bajaj motors (or even Indian tourism industry) and this is part of a viral marketing campaign. Maybe they’re promoting the new $25k Gandhi pen :)

  57. I should have added that, yes, I do wish them well. Sometimes love at first sight works and/or people make it work. I’d be more optimistic if she wasn’t American; we’re not exactly known for thoughtful commitment.

  58. I (from India) married a Westerner (from Argentina) in the US. She was from a rich family, I from a lower middle-class family. We have been married for 26 years and 11 months. It has been great. We live in the US. She got her Green Card because of me, which is atypical. Love and commitment, both are needed. May Harish and Whitney have both in plenty!

  59. I feel there is nothing wrong with it ,especially in this 21st century, but there could be a cultural shock between the two.I infact pity the guy,cause if she has a problem with his culture, then he could get the boot.

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