Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The mixed Indian husband


One of the things that my readers may not know about us is that husband-ji has a mixed Indian heritage. Although my tagline for this blog is about being a Tamil Iyengar wife (based on the religious customs that we do) - husband-ji is actually Tamil AND Telugu.

Even now in India, inter-caste and inter-state marriages are a rarity. It is starting to happen more and more nowadays, but it is still a minority. The majority of Indians prefer that their children marry people from the same region and caste, since each are all wildly different in their customs. So, back in the 1970s when my inlaws met, it was still very much taboo.

It all started when a young handsome Tamil man moved to Guntur, Andhra Pradesh for work. He lived next to a big house in which the family had 4 daughters. The eldest of those daughters was a gorgeous and smart girl - my MIL - who surely caught his eye...

In true Indian fashion, everything is STILL shrouded in secrecy. When I ask my MIL how she fell in love, she barks "no details!!!!", and "I can't remember!!!", although she has told me the story - more or less - in fragments...

From what I gather they dated for about 6 months before deciding to get married. My FIL then went to ask for her hand in marriage and her parents threw all kinds of typical emotional blackmail. Her mother threatened to kill herself. Her father told her never to come back to their house. Meanwhile, her grandmother (clearly being the wise woman) loved my FIL. However, her family refused to attend the wedding and pretended she was dead. Later, they came around, but always kept their distance. Then, my Telugu MIL had to go and stay with her new inlaws after marriage, who were Tamil and she couldn't understand their language or any of their customs. She was under enormous pressure to make her inlaws like her because she was not the DIL they had wanted, to which they constantly reminded her of. She was told she was "too dark" constantly. There are people on both sides of their respective families who STILL don't approve of their match, who whisper and gossip about how others should never do what they did. 35 years later, still...

(My inlaws on their wedding day)

Husband-ji grew up caught in the middle of two families, being a true symbol of two South Indian states united, yet found comfort in neither. He was too Telugu for the Tamilians; too Tamil for the Telugus. And of course, husband-ji chose to marry completely outside of his culture by marrying me...a Firangi. And again, my inlaws were blamed for what they did, how they started "the cycle" (of freedom??) while all the others were kept on an even tighter leash, as if we were tigers devouring each one of them with our "bad influence".

Hence, husband-ji is a mixed Indian man. He is both Tamil and Telugu. Although he was raised in a Tamil house, he was raised by a Telugu mother. I have often assumed that husband-ji identifies as Tamil more, but he says he is both equally, not one more than the other.

One of the things I am truly confident about in raising a mixed child is that my husband is also of mixed heritage. Just like we celebrate Christmas and Diwali, he celebrated Ugadi and Puthandu growing up. With him being a mixed Indian, he obtained a social freedom wherein he mingled with many different groups of people. Not just Tamils or Telugus; but Punjabi's, Pakistanis, Malayalees, Bengalis, Gujarati's....etc. He has so many friends from different states that he is able to speak 7 different Indian languages. He fits in wherever he goes...

And that is exactly what I hope for our daughter. I hope that just like him, she can be friends with all kinds of people....

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Dear readers, do you know people who are mixed Indian with the heritage of 2 states?

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26 comments

  1. Wow great story. :) At my husband's family there is mixed hindu-catholic (indian catholic) marriage which also happened about 30 years ago but it was within same city. 10 years back there was Karnataka-Maharashtra wedding and now me - international wife :D

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    1. Woo hoo! I find it helps if their are other mixed marriages before us...

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  2. Quite a few inter-caste marriages in my family. One inter-state as well. I am in an inter-religious one,haha.
    I come from an Indian matriarchal family. Blend of matriarchy and patriarchy is a good balance :)

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  3. @Alexandra

    We all know that you had difficulties in your inter cultural marriage. However, I guess you MIL had more difficulty because being and Indian she was supposed to know the family hierarchy and what was expected of her as a DIL even if she did not understand the language or rituals. She perhaps got little concessions. In short, she was supposed to know the "game". We thought that all south indians are the same because the look the same. In north india there is distinct difference between a Punjabi and a Bihari.

    I think she also had the the Shiva Vishnu problem to sort out too. Shiva and Vishnu devotees in south india treat each other as two different communities. One important problem in inter cultural/inter religious marriages in India is that all communities have strong religious/cultural identities. One culture cannot subsume the other. This makes assimilation all the more difficult. These identities like small fortresses difficult to breach. Then there are castes, sub castes and what not. Religious is a part of daily life and cannot be kept at arms length like in the west where it is more of a private affair. Then there is a problem of what culture/religion the children will follow. As long as the couple is alone they have little problems, but as soon as the interact with their parents/inlaws religious/cultural problems crop up. Then no single pan american kind of a culture in India, which makes things very difficult.

    Indians are more open to inter cultural marriages with caveats. Some Indians parents say "Oh, I am open to love marriages but I have told my child, don't marry...........(religion/caste), apart from that we have no problems". Certain communities/castes are more acceptable than others. There also something else. We may feel that we have something in common with certain communities but when we start knowing them we find they are very different from us.

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    1. Yes, My MIL is a Telugu Nyogi which means she is a Shiva worshipper, so the household she had to adapt to was completely different for her. I think she had a harder time being in that generation, but also being an Indian woman there was surely more expected of her - she had no choice. It sounds like it was A LOT of pressure. I can relate to her a lot that way, since her marriage was intercultural as well...
      Yes - exactly - the last part you said....just because someone is the same caste is not a guarantee that they would have something in common....me and my husband are so much alike/have similar interests that one would never think of us as born on different continents! Sometimes I find we have more in common with people who have completely different backgrounds...

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  4. I know that it is some-what taboo, but actually when I talk with some of the mothers at my son's school a few are mixed. Marathi/Bengali, Marathi/Gujurati... intercaste too. Yes traditions differ, but today many women are working, if the reason to stay in the "caste" is to have the same breakfast and to celebrate holidays a specific way, it saddens me. There's discrimination and then there's just choosing someone you relate to. Is it "better" to marry someone who is like you but you don't like? Or is it better to marry someone you like and with whom you celebrate similarities and differences? I am not overtly against traditionalism... I'm against the discrimination that happens against those who have had generations and centuries of issues because of the caste they were born into.

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    1. YES YES YES....fantastic comment, fantastic points...

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  5. Oh, I totally love that photograph of your in-laws ! How old was your MIL when she got married, she looks quite young and fair and mischevious. In our family, unconventional marriages started with my great-grand-mother and she sure started a cycle. I like your idea of people of mixed origin getting more social freedom. (Padparadscha)

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    1. She was only 19! She had my husband by 21...

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  6. Hi Alexandra, recently found your blog while google searching, very interesting , me and my husband are basically Telugu speaking but grew up on the border of tamilnadu, so can speak both Telugu and Tamil , of course not a mixed kind , I am loving your blog , you write so well , all the very best

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  7. hi its is a grat blog to read keep going kindlyThese identities like small fortresses difficult to breach. Then there are castes, sub castes and what not. Religious is a part of daily life and cannot be kept at arms length like in the west where it is more of a private affair contact me for any help renjith@q8living.com

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    1. Thanks for reading, and very true. In India religions and customs take a daily part in everything, all day long...

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  8. Hi Alexandra, Me and my hubby both are Tamilians but it is an intercaste marriage, we had great difficulty in convincing our parents in this 21st century, can imagine how your MIL would have gone through in her period. Although the scenario is improving in India, still Love Marriage is looked down by many, and they talk behind our back :-( Hope the future generation doesn't look at Love Marriage with such disdain.

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    1. Wow....I can only imagine. Just this week I have read 2 stories in the news of young couples being murdered by their families over love marriage....we are still very much a minority. I hope our children don't face the same things we had to deal with.

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  9. Let's see ...

    My aunt (mother's sister) is a Bengali who married a Sindhi, living in Kolkata.

    One of their daughter, my cousin, married a Tam-Bram guy, who grew up in Bangalore. They currently live in Philadelphia. So their progeny (whenever they arrive) will have Bengali, Sindhi, Tamil, and Kannada heritage, living in the US!

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  10. What an interesting account. I enjoyed reading it. I can never quite understand the discrimination that two people in love have to face just because they choose to marry outside their caste/community. My mil is from Karnataka and my fil was Punjabi. I am sure they faced their opposition but their families accepted them later.

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    1. Awwwwww beautiful :) A perfect blend of North and South....a true Indian in every way :)

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  11. Did you read that article about mixed raced marriages and children in the USA ? It claims in the USA, 9% whites and 28% Asians marry outside their "ethnic group", isn't that amazing ?
    http://mic.com/articles/87359/national-geographic-determined-what-americans-will-look-like-in-2050-and-it-s-beautiful

    (Padparadscha)

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    1. gorgeous children!!!!!!!!!!! stunning!

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  12. What a beautiful and moving post! Thank you for sharing.

    Delurking to say Hello. I have been reading your posts for a year now.

    My husband and I belong to the hybrid Indian milieu ourselves. He is a Tamil speaking Telugu Brahmin and I am an Assamese non practicing Moslem. Currently living in New York.

    Cheers
    ~J

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    1. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!!!! Thank you for reading :)))))

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  13. My spouse and I combine 4 states, 4 languages .... Our parents each come from a dif state. In my parents case, also dif castes. My parents had no problem getting married; My inlaws however had a pretty rough start, but things were fine as muminlaw changed her first name to one they liked and transformed herself to "fit in". I grew up speaking both my mum and dad's languages and with both food cultures. My muminlaw though was prohibited (yes!!!) from speaking her mother tongue to her child... but she sang him lulabyes in her mothertongue and contact with her family assured a familiarity with both cultures. But my husband, perhaps like yours, grew up between the two and not entirely comfortable in either ...I think its made him what he is - an open-minded, colour/caste/lang/etc blind person. My generation on both sides (paternal and maternal) is entirely intermarried across states/nations, religions and castes. I don't know any other world and I am still amazed that people will make themselves unhappy (my in-laws did too!!!!!!) over whom their children love and marry...

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    1. Absolute inspiration, that is beautiful! <3

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