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By Sushama Kirtikar -

“Attack the problem at the root. An informed decision should be made by the parents of the bride before sending her off to the U.S. They should gather knowledge and recognize their daughter’s ability and willingness to adjust to a new culture and environment,” says Anil Nirgudkar of Tampa. To pick up the thread of the dilemma of newlyweds as presented in the U.S., let us look at preventive measures.

A suggestion made by Nirgudkar was to create a resource in India, such as a newspaper column or a Web site, which prospective brides can access when making a lifetime commitment. This would list possible conditions to anticipate upon arrival: solitude, absence of an instant social network, minimal time spent with spouse, cultural gap with neighbors, loss of mobility, lack of transportation and such.

“Crusty and cynical, a sure deterrent,” you say? True, it would belie the rosy image of walking off into the sunset with the man of her dreams. But as we know, fantasy rarely matches reality. Therefore, a healthy serving of practicality would help dispel the Disney myth “…. and they lived happily ever after.” It would prepare young brides for the dry realities that bombard them on the heels of their arrival.

Often, parents are just as bedazzled by the prospect of coveting a foreign son-in-law. In the flurry of a wedding, they are unable to look beyond obtaining a visa and seeing their daughter off on a transatlantic flight. The young woman’s journey is just starting and she needs even more support and guidance from then on. “Future pacing” can be encouraged to avoid the inevitable heartaches that follow for many unsuspecting brides.

Not everyone has relatives or a support structure in place here. This is where we, as host residents, could possibly step up to the plate. I propose a “welcome wagon” of sorts. This could be a welcoming committee that connects with each regional association of the Tampa Bay area (Gujarati Samaj, Maharashtra Mandal, Telugu Association, Punjabi Association, Jain Society, etc.), on a quarterly basis, to get names of newcomers to town. This committee could then approach the newly weds with a “wagon” of resources.

A needs assessment can be made on an individual basis. The young woman’s expectations can be matched with reality. Gaps in her knowledge base can be identified. Normalizing her bewilderment, assuring her that she is not alone in this feeling of disconnect, and boosting her self-confidence will be the prime focus. To help her ease into this society, several arenas could be approached.

She may need to learn how to use public transportation ... shop for food and household necessities … know where the nearest craft store is so as to start indulging in her hobby … drive to the nearest library so as to check out books … take a quick tour of a local campus so as to get familiar with the feel of going back to school … make an appointment with a physician … and so on. A head start in independent living is what the committee could offer.

You might well challenge, “Who has time to devote to this?” Our web of interdependence asks us, “Who can afford not to?” When a tiny butterfly flaps its wings in Tokyo, the changes in wind currents are eventually felt in Seattle. Similarly, the confusion and unhappiness of a disillusioned couple transfer to us as part of a collective consciousness. It is incumbent upon us to mitigate distress and foster emotional health of the community as a whole. I believe there is a wealth of resources and ideas within each of us that we can tap and pool together.

Sushama Kirtikar, a licensed mental health counselor, can be reached at (813) 264-7114 or (727) 586-0626, or e-mail at

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