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By Sushama Kirtikar -

Returning to our patchwork quilt series, I acknowledge that we were supposed to address solutions to the problems faced by immigrant students. Presently, I am waiting to gather more input from students and others in the community. For now, I have chosen to focus on another vulnerable population.

When a young bride arrives with hope and trepidation in her heart, she is truly unprepared for the rude and abrupt ruffling of her dream world. She finds herself surrounded by indifference to the entire life she has ever known back home and engulfed by nothing but confusion about her present circumstance.

An unseasoned 21-year-old newly married woman has arrived in the United States eager to start her new life with her husband. She barely knows him through a brief courtship while he was on a bride-finding mission in India. She is highly accomplished, with a B.S in Physics, extremely articulate in English, has been the recipient of several awards in Indian classical singing in her hometown, and comes from a strong, loving, nuclear family. She was a social magnet who drew friends to her like bees to nectar.

The bridegroom, a sincere, upstanding software engineer, is in a dither for having taken an indecent two weeks off from work to go to India for the meager purpose of getting married! He is busy working on deadlines, playing catch up and has absolutely no time to acclimatize his new bride to the life here, leave alone even to go on a honeymoon. He expects her to manage the house by herself based on the image of the self-confident lass he saw on her home turf.

The nubile bride finds herself sentenced to house arrest. She cannot venture out as public transportation is minimal or absent. She is dependent on him taking her places if he has time on weekends. There is only so much TV watching, reading, cooking and cleaning she can do. She isolates, refusing to meet new people, ruminating over why she traded in her life back home, full of vigor and vitality, for one of boredom and excruciating loneliness here. From a free-spirited, independent, extroverted, happy, confident young lady, the woman is gradually reduced to a shriveling likeness of her self. Quickly, she approaches clinical depression.

This creates discord and resentment. She cannot understand his seeming indifference, coldness and distance from her. He cannot understand her perceived clinging behaviors, over dependence and demanding behaviors. He latches on to the one constant in his life: his office and colleagues at work. He buries himself deeper in his projects, staggering in to the house well past bedtime. He is unable to understand the unhappiness at home when it ought to have been one of the happiest periods of his life. He is fraught with self-doubt and misgivings. Did the relatives in India mislead him into an arrangement with this woman who no longer resembled her resume in the marriage classifieds? Who said marriage brings as much happiness as earning $100,000 extra per year? Statistical mumbo jumbo! Slowly, incrementally, each withdraws from the other, with emotional and physical intimacy diminished to a vacuum. They become shells of their original selves.

This is a common occurrence in this country and our own community here in Tampa. How can we help smoothen the transition from bohemian bachelorhood to bound wedded union for these youngsters? What sort of fail-safe measures do we need to take as a community? Once again, I request you to write in with your insights, suggestions and ideas. A collective think tank is what we must build.

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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