In India, the name Patel is similar to the name Smith in the United States. There are millions of them. In fact, my eye doctor is named Patel. The comedy “Meet the Patels” tells the story of one particular family who immigrated to the United States from India and hoped that their son would find a bride soon and that the girl would be of Indian heritage.
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This is Ravi Patel’s true story and it is told with candor and humor. Ravi and his sister Geeta co-directed the film which started out as a home movie and became a successful film about their struggles to become independent of their loving and concerned parents. Some of it is told through cartoons which Ravi’s voice explains, and which add to the humor that is exuded for our entertainment.
Ravi was about to turn 30 years old. His parents came to America in 1967, and Ravi and Geeta were educated here and were completely Americanized. The family returned to India once a year for a family reunion. Ravi had just broken up with a red-headed American girl, Audrey, whom he had never mentioned to his parents. He and Audrey had worked in the same bar, which was where they had met. His parents were under the impression that he had never had a girlfriend.
Arranged Marriages in India
It is the practice in India that parents seek out a mate for their children through various and not-so-subtle methods. They planned to exert pressure on Ravi when they returned home to India this year. Ravi’s parents were the product of an arranged marriage, and they were happily married for 35 years. Ravi’s sister, Geeta, was also unmarried at this time.
Because the family is named Patel, it is also assumed that they will look in the small section of India which contains other Patels. It is traditional to mate a Patel with a distant cousin before looking further.
Ravi’s Parents Make Arrangements
Much of the humor in the film comes from Ravi’s darling parents, Vasant and Champa, who love their son deeply and want only what is best for him. Champa is a matchmaker in her hometown, so she has had a lot of success in pairing two prospective lovers. They want to use the effective system they call Bio-Data, whereby parents exchange resumes of their children which are then followed by phone calls and arranged dates. Ravi has agreed to try the system since he has been heartbroken since his girlfriend, Audrey, left him because of his commitment issues.
Ravi Agrees to the Arrangements
In addition to the Bio-Data system, there are also Indian matrimonial websites and even a Patel Matrimonial Convention which provided a speed-dating exercise for the participants. Ravi is agreeable to all of his parents’ efforts since he himself has always pictured marriage to a girl of Indian heritage who would provide him with the same sort of love and affection he saw in his parents. His father Vasant has a Charity Event every year when they return to India. He is one of the most respected people in his town. The Charity Event reminds Ravi of how much he loves his family. He would like his own children to grow up just like he did. That was mainly why he had the break-up with Audrey.
Champa warned her son that 50% of all marriages in America have failed. She wants a girl for him who has the same family values, with the same religion, and preferably with the name Patel. In their geographic area in India, 90% of the citizens are named Patel. Girls in India have no say in the matter. Ravi was stressed out just thinking about his parents’ efforts to get him married. It was a huge failure for Vasant and Champa that their own children were not married since Champa is the best matchmaker in the business.
Champa looked carefully at the Bio-Data results that Ravi received. She sought out a good girl, with a good family, and who was known to them. She should be educated. If they knew who recommended her, that would carry weight. She should be a girl with a strong Indian culture.
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Nothing Worked for Ravi
When Ravi looked at the Bio-Data, he chose one pretty girl who was a computer science major. He thought she was really cool but she never called him back.
Back in the states, the family took a 15-day trip throughout the country. Every motel they stayed in was owned by Patels, who embraced them like family and invited them for dinner, knowing that they would probably never meet again.
Ravi Talked Again to Audrey
Ravi talked to Audrey on the phone. She had unfriended him on Facebook, which disturbed him. She wondered how he was dealing with his issue of not being able to commit. He admitted that he did not know how to deal with that issue.
Ravi said to his father “Find an American-born woman for me, Dad.” His friends told him to use the internet, and to list himself on several matrimonial sites. He received 566 matches. If the match did not work, you got your money back.
Ravi Confessed to His Parents
Ravi finally told his parents about Audrey, his former red-headed girlfriend. Champa was shocked, mostly because her son had lied to her. They had a small anniversary party where they talked about their courtship. Vasant said that Champa had never been more than thirty miles away from her home, and she was happy about that. He liked that about her.
The last-ditch effort for Ravi was the Patel Matrimonial Convention. It was great fun, but neither he nor Geeta found someone who could be compatible with them. Ravi talked on the phone to Audrey again. She told him she couldn’t have him in her life anymore because she didn’t want him for a friend; she wanted him for a partner. He told his parents that he and Audrey cared a lot about each other. He admitted that he compared every girl he met with Audrey. He said “She makes me a better person in so many ways.”
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Champa Does an About-Face
Champa said “I would love whoever you fall in love with. Just so you get married. Make a decision.” That was totally unexpected, given Champa’s former efforts to have him marry only a girl from India.
Ravi ended by saying “I found the girl that I really liked. I had to beg her to take me back. I was starting a relationship truthfully for the first time.”
I loved this story about family relationships and how deeply family love influences all of our decisions. I loved learning about the practices in India, and how this family integrated themselves into the American way of life. I recommend it highly.