Monday, March 30, 2015

Canadian citizenship!!!

As many of my readers know, husband-ji has been pursuing his Canadian citizenship because he is finding it too difficult to travel with an Indian passport. He has now been living in Canada for almost 7 years, so it was long overdue that he could apply - and by the grace of God, the application was somehow fast tracked and he has obtained it within 6 months of the time he first applied.

Right before Christmas, he passed his citizenship test with flying colors scoring a 100% mark on Canadian history (totally a better grade than I would get!). Shortly after, they penciled him in to take his oath of citizenship

I wanted to go with him for the ceremony but it was at 8am (as if they had chosen an auspicious time!) but Maya woke up late that day and we just couldn't get out the door. Husband-ji is extremely anal about punctuality, while I am the "Late Lateef"!! So he went without us to the ceremony and came back with the scoop. He said there were a lot of people there, and they took time to check everyone in and revoke their Permanent Residency cards. Then, the judge made a speech and they were sworn in together. He was the only Indian there - he said there were lots of Chinese and Africans. He received a welcome letter to Canada from the prime minister, as well as his Canadian citizenship certificate. 


The letter from the prime minister was really beautiful, and it even had his real signature with a ball point blue pen. In the letter it said, "Canadians can trace our ancestries to every imaginable culture and faith, and we have achieved harmony in our diversity." At the end of the letter, the prime minister personally thanked him for choosing Canada and welcomed him "to our Canadian family". It was warm and wonderful, and it gave the impression of gratefulness. It made him feel valued for choosing to settle in Canada and contribute to the economy.

Along with it, he received a free one year pass to ALL Canadian tourist attractions, as a gift from the government to familiarize himself with Canada. I thought that was really cool, and such a great gift for husband-ji because he loves to travel!

This whole shift has me pondering of the ways we adapt and adopt each other's cultures. Seeing husband-ji studying for his citizenship test, and really taking the time to appreciate and understand the meaning of my country and what it means to "be Canadian" really touched me. Some of the things he studied were things that I had no idea about. Even though I was born and raised here, with both my parents and paternal grandparents being Canadian citizens, it is almost as if he is more deserving than me...to be a Canadian.

It is as if our roles have been reversed. While he has been becoming a Canadian, I have been becoming an Indian. In reverse, I have been exploring what it means to be an Indian, to connect to my adopted culture and to figure out what that means to me. Especially since I received my Person of Indian Origin ("PIO") card a few years ago, I have felt validated in this quest, bearing an official document. In fact, I have seen more monuments in India than I have in my own country!

Maybe he is discovering what it means to be Canadian - through me. And I am discovering what it means to be Indian - through him. And thus lies the beauty of experiencing two cultures...


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Saturday, March 28, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Tina & GC


I met Tina through a fantastic "Masala" group she runs on Facebook, and she also recently started her own blog - My Masala Life - where she writes about her intercultural life.


Introduction....
My name is Tina. I am an American woman of European descent (Portuguese/Croatian), married to a Punjabi Sikh man. I am from Northern California. I went to college in Southern California, which is where I met my husband. My husband was born and raised in Chandigarh, Punjab, in India. We now live in Sacramento, California, and we have a four year old daughter named Nasreen.

Three words that describe you...
Talkative, Passionate, Sweet

Favorite childhood memory...
We lived on a farm so my favorite childhood memories were times my siblings and I spent around our creek. We would spend hours in the summer just pretending up amazing worlds, and playing games. I can never recreate that world as an adult - it was such a magical time.

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
I feel very inspired in nature. I love the ocean and I also love being in a wooded forest. My imagination takes flight in these places.

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
I met my husband in 2007, when we were both attending California State University Northridge. He was starting his Master’s Degree in Engineering and I was in the middle of my Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. We also worked together for the police department as student assistants. I remember the first time I was stationed with him. We were sitting at our post checking-in guests into the dorms. I was playing music from my laptop. He was (and still is) a quiet guy and I am super talkative. That night I kept on talking to him and asking him all kinds of questions. I found the fact that he was Indian interesting - I knew next to nothing about his culture. I thought he was cute, sweet and sincere. We became work friends, even though I always really liked him more than that. I learned later that he thought that I was dating my male roommate (which is understandable, because we spent every day together). GC did not know that my male roommate was gay!!!

One day in 2009, GC came over to my apartment to attend a birthday party for my roommate. I remember he was dressed very nicely which was really refreshing because everyone else was doing the college bum look! I kept watching from a distance, hoping that he would come and talk to me. Around midnight he stated that he was going to leave because he had work in the morning - the poor guy worked 75 hours a week to pay the double tuition for international students. I was so sad he was leaving...my hope of getting beyond the friend zone was fading away!!! My roommate decided he was going to force him to stay so he turned all the clocks back three hours hoping to fool him! GC was adamant that he had to leave, so my roommate forced him into a chair. He pulled me over and said “Tina is going to give you a shoulder massage”. I was known for my shoulder massages, but this seemed so forward!! As soon as I touched him it was like electricity. He really enjoyed the massage, but he kept defending himself to my roommate, who he thought that I was dating! GC was telling my roommate over and over again that he was not trying to flirt with his girlfriend (me). Finally my roommate said “dude, we are not dating...I don’t even like GIRLS!” GC was so confused, and then finally understood that my roommate was gay and that we weren't dating. Then he immediately turned around and said “what are you doing tomorrow”? He asked me on an official date - right then and there! And that's how it all began...

How long have you been together?
We have been together for five years.

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
I love how intelligent he is. He really is a bright man and it’s the thing I am most attracted to. I also love how much he cares about his family. His family comes first in his life above all other things.


Favorite memory together as a couple...
My favorite memory as a couple is really quite simple. We had been dating for a few weeks and we went to a park with a picnic. I brought cards and mancala (a board game). We just sat there, we enjoyed nature and playing games. We were just so comfortable with each other and I knew he was the one. We didn’t need fancy trips or restaurants, we were just happy with each other.

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
VERY LITTLE!!! I knew the politics of India because of my Political Science degree, but honestly I knew very little about the culture. What I did know...had nothing to with his region of India. Sikh Indians are quite different then Hindu Indians, which is what my high school culture class covered.

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship? 
I was never shy about telling anyone about our relationship. GC was my first boyfriend. So when I put a picture of my husband and I together on Facebook, everyone knew it was serious.

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
I can not even begin to explain how much this relationship has changed my life. I had traveled before, mainly to South America, but I had never realized the depth of culture/traditions in South Asia until I married my husband. Thousands of years of traditions are just as alive in India today - just as they were ages ago. The United States is such a young nation and a melting pot. The American culture is strong, but very diverse. The traditions have changed rapidly and adapted. This is not the case in India - traditions are strong even rigid at times. 

Who proposed and how?
I was in class in the morning, and my GC called me, which was really weird because he was not normally awake at that time. I was about to take an important midterm test. He insisted that I come downstairs to the quad because it was very urgent. I met him downstairs and he looked worried and upset - he said that he had something bad to tell me. He said that his parents were not happy with us being together and that they had changed their minds about our relationship. I started to panic - my world was falling apart around me! Right at that moment , he got on his knee in front of everyone and proposed! He said that he loved me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. It was one of the happiest days of my life!!!  I later found out that he got his friends to film the proposal. I had to go back to class wearing my new engagement ring! I was on cloud nine and everyone (including my professor) was asking me about what had happened! After the test I ran all the way to his apartment near the campus. He and his roommates made Aloo Paranthas and we had a big feast. I had to study for another exam that day but none of that mattered, I was in love and engaged!


Describe your wedding...
We decided to get married right away. We had a very nice Western Christian ceremony with a handful close friends in Las Vegas the weekend before we both graduated college. I wore a white wedding dress. My husband and I added red rose accents to the dress. Red and pink are the colors that Punjabis wear in weddings so I wanted to represent both cultures in our wedding. The wedding was so beautiful and intimate. After it was over, we came back to college to graduate. My mom came for our graduations and met my husband for the first time. A month later we had a small Punjabi Sikh wedding at the Gurdwara. It was a wonderful ceremony and it gave my family the opportunity to learn more about my husband’s culture and religion. I wore a pink Punjabi wedding suit which had so much beautiful bead work on it. It was a gift from GC’s best friend and his wife. It was a really beautiful ceremony and as I went around the Guru Granth Sahib I felt the beauty of our union. 
I am very happy with our two ceremonies, they truly represented who my husband and I are - sincere, humble, and in love! The only thing I would have changed was to be able to have GC's family from India at the wedding. Someday in the future we will have a big ceremony for all our family and friends and do a renewal of our vows.


What does being married mean to you?
Marriage is a sacred union. It is one of the closest relationships we can have with another human being. My husband is my partner in this world. Through thick and thin, we stay bonded and support each other through it all.

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
We have so many dreams... We want to raise our daughter to be a loving, kind, passionate human being, who draws from both her cultures/religions to be the best person she can be. We want to be successful in our careers and buy a home. We want to be happy and find joy in every part of life.


What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
It was not really advice, but I learned by example. My grandparents were married for over 50 years. They were best friends and they were so happy together. I wanted that - a life partner! I was so happy that we got married relatively young (at age 22) because I knew I was going to be able to grow up with him. Remembering my grandparents relationship inspires to be a better wife and life partner.

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
When I think of my culture, I think of our appreciation for family. I have seven siblings so family is very important to me. I also bring into our relationship the idea of change, growth, and optimism. Culture and traditions are wonderful, but they should never impede life... and honestly sometimes they do. I bring the American optimism and ingenuity! 

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
We did not get a lot of alone time together alone before having our daughter. We just jumped into married life and parenthood so quickly. To keep our relationship alive, we have to do lots of little things. Play card games, talk freely, share our dreams, and have a bit of fun too. My husband and I love to paint together. We have pictures we have painted together all over our home. We also love to hike together and spend time in nature.


In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
I cook A LOT of Indian food! We love Indian food and I enjoy making it. I also enjoy going to the Gurdwara (Sikh temple). I love Punjabi clothes - I love the color and style. I think I have also adopted the Indian passion for throwing a good party! I love creating a memorable event!

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
When we moved from Michigan back to California this year, we stayed with my mom while we searched for an apartment. She cooked mostly American food and one day and she used my Indian spices and surprised us by making Indian style rice and chicken. It tasted really good. My husband was pleasantly surprised!


What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
The hardest thing for me to embrace is the fact that some of the traditions are so rigid. I feel like I am always forgetting something. For example, when someone comes to your house and they are elder to you then you should touch their feet. You then bring the guests to a formal sitting room. First you offer water. Then you offer juice or soft drinks with salty snacks. Then you bring out tea and cookies. You have to keep pushing them to eat because they always say no at first. That’s the tradition. Finally - after this whole back and forth - they eat! If you miss a step, you risk insulting someone. Some traditions are fun but others are really exhausting. Americans are more casual that way - they just put all the food out and everyone eats what and when they want! There are other traditions like this that are just exhausting, but they are not changed. In India you just don’t change the traditions!

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
In many parts of India, it is a sign of respect to elders to touch their feet. You greet the elder with your hands together and say “ Sat Sri Akal” or whatever the greeting is from your religion, and you bend at the waist to touch their feet in a loving manner. Most people make it only to the knee before the elder pats them on the back and says “no need, no need”. I had never attempted to do this tradition while we were in the United States, but I had seen my husband do it many times. When we went to India I was going to be meeting all different relatives and I was told I needed to touch feet as a sign of respect, and not doing so could make me look stuck up. There was a big discussion about who I was supposed to touch the feet of and who I should not. I was very lost and confused. There were some special people I was supposed to cover my head for and also touch their feet, but there was disagreement between my husband, mother-in-law, and sister- in-laws as to who was important and not! They were still disagreeing when the guests came! As not to disrespect anyone, I just touched everyone's feet and then everyone proceeded to laugh at me because I didn't do it right. I felt quite embarrassed and I glowed red. I then hid in the kitchen at, volunteering to make food and such. I still get embarrassed when I think about this story - I am currently glowing red while I type this! So, the moral of the story is... I don’t do the foot-touching tradition, unless its someone a lot older and I see my husband do it first!

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
In 2011, we lost my Father-in-law to colon cancer. It was a very aggressive cancer and he was diagnosed 2 months before he passed away. When he was initially hospitalized, my husband phoned the doctor and asked him if he should come to India, or continue to work in the U.S. (in order to pay for the treatment). The doctor told him to work and that my Father-in-law would recover. The next week, my father in law became very ill. My husband boarded a plane, but sadly my father in law passed while my husband was still in the air, en route to India. It was the most devastating that had ever happened in our family. Honestly, we have not been the same since. My husband is now the head of the household, which comes with a lot of pressure. My husband worries constantly about his mother and sisters. He lives between two countries, two time zones, and double the worries.

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
I love the fact that we can teach each other about our culture and traditions. It’s never a dull moment in our marriage. I learned to love my culture even more when I shared it with my husband. I learned to love his culture when he shared it with me. I feel like my life is so rich and full of beauty. 
The worst part of an intercultural relationship is the misunderstandings. Sometimes I get left out of conversations when his friends and family switch to speaking in Punjabi. There are times when I have neglected an important part of his tradition and I was not even aware. Intercultural relationship take work.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
Many people have assumed that I pursued my husband only because he was from India - that I was looking for something exotic. Others have assumed that my husband pursued me because I was white, and that he needed a green card (which was not true). These people could not see past the color of our skin. We did not see color/ethnicity/or culture. We saw each other as individuals.

What are the biggest misconceptions about American women?
Many Indians believe that American women are sexually promiscuous. My husband literally thought that everyone lost their virginity on prom night!!! He worried about bringing up children in the United States. He soon learned that this was not the truth. My Mother-in-law was very worried that I would marry her son, only to divorce him for another man when I got bored. It was only when she spoke to me that she realized I really wasn't that different from an Indian girl. I blame Hollywood for these misconceptions about American women. Hollywood makes us look pretty bad! 


Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
I have not come across people that openly said that they disproved of our relationship. People stare and make strange comments. We were at an Indian party once, and this Indian Aunty told my husband that he should not leave me just because I was chubby. He was so confused!

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
My advice is to just follow you heart. If you love each other, you will find a way to make it work. Family is important in India and so is tradition. Sadly there are times when traditions and family stand in the way of individual happiness, and a person needs the support of their family to feel confident about their future. Intercultural relationships can be hard, but they are beautiful and rewarding. Follow your heart when it comes to merging the cultures as well. Do what feels right. Don’t lose yourself in trying to adopt all the traditions of your spouse. Find a happy medium. 


(All photos courtesy of My Masala Life)

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Highlights from Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2015

As all of my readers know, I am obsessed with Indian fashion as well as having impeccable taste, myself! Other than Christmas season, my other favorite time of year is Indian Fashion Week!

Twice a year, I eagerly await the famous Lakme Fashion week so I can see all of the latest designs, fabrics, and most modern ways to wrap the saree and suits....Indian fashion is unique due to the way they combine different colors, prints, fabrics, and embellishments in a complimentary manner. And also, it's ALL about the drape, which is so innovative and tres chic!

Here are my top picks:

Rahul and Shikha

Rahul and Shikha

Rahul and Shikha

Gaurang Shah

Gaurang Shah

Krishna Mehta

Payal Pratap

Rohit Bal

Yogesh Chaudhary

Rohit Bal

Anushree Reddy

Frou Frou

Mandira Bedi

Mandira Bedi

Mandira Bedi

Rohit Bal

Manish Malhotra

Manish Malhotra

Manish Malhotra

Manish Malhotra

Manish Malhotra

Payal Singhal

Ridhi Mehra

Sabyasatchi

SVA

SVA

SVA

SVA

Tarun Tahiliani

Tarun Tahiliani


(Pics via LFW)

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Dear readers, which are your favorites?

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Monday, March 23, 2015

A joint-family mini-reunion in Seattle


Recently, we had to attend the joyful occasion of husband-ji's cousin-brother's Griha Pravesh (housewarming) in Seattle. Since the housewarming celebration was in the middle of the week, we decided to take a week off of work so we could maximize our quality family time together.


The best thing about the Griha Pravesh was not the ceremony itself, but the fact that our entire Tamil side of relatives came from near and far to attend the event. ALL of the Tamil NRI's from North America in one room! It was really incredible. Husband-ji got to see a relative that he hadn't seen in nearly twenty years, and I got to see some of the cousins I hadn't seen since our wedding. Everyone is very spread out geographically, so it was really joyful to unite everyone in one place.


My real reason for attending the event was ALL about the kids. I wanted Maya to have some quality bonding time with her little cousins, especially since they are close in age.


Husband-ji often reminisces growing up with his cousins, living in a joint family, having family dinners in Sanikpuri every Sunday, and renting a car stuffed with relatives and traveling together. As much as possible, I wanted to re-create those memories for both him and Maya.


After the ceremony was over, we stayed for about 5 extra days and Maya got to play with her cousins. We did lots of fun outings and took them to play areas all over town, and bought them lots of toys and doughnuts. During mealtimes, the kids would sit together in a row and I would feed them by hand - just like my MIL does


Overall, we had a really wonderful time together and it brought me so much joy to see the kids play together so well and all the funny things they did! They had such a nice time that they didn't want to say goodbye! Hopefully we can plan another one for later this year...

(Aditya: "Maya, don't go!")

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Patricia & Ashwin


This Californian-Kannadiga/Telugu "Hind-Jew" couple has embraced each other's families with open arms and open hearts, and combined their faiths beautifully...

 Introduction....
Patricia: Jewish American, from California.
Ashwin: Indian, Kannada/Telegu from Bangalore.
Both: Currently living in the SF Bay Area.

Three words that describe you…
Patricia: Introspective, Calm, Wanderer.
Ashwin: Calm, Realistic, Dreamer.

Favorite childhood memory…
Patricia: Many of my childhood memories involve my maternal grandparents, whom I was very close with. One specific memory is of often joining my grandmother on her weekend grocery shopping trips. I think that is why I actually like to go grocery shopping now!
Ashwin: I grew up listening to a lot of English music, which both of my parents listened to. One of my favorite memories is that of the music playing at home on a nice Sunday morning, and my dad is helping my mom with cooking as he is great at cutting vegetables. Mom is making some delicious weekend delight, and my brother and I just hanging around the home watching some Sunday cartoons.

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
Patricia: I find inspiration in a lot of places. It may be on the pages of an incredibly well-written book or on a quiet walk along the beach. I feel inspired every time I travel somewhere new. It presents me with an opportunity to view the world just a little bit differently. I think that is way I have such a wandering, wanderlust nature. I just want to go, see, do, experience. 
Ashwin: I feel inspired when I watch the movie “A Beautiful Mind” or when I listen to certain kinds of music (classical, instrumental). I also get most of my inspiration at night because I am a night owl. The calm, dark, quietness of the night helps me think better. 

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
Patricia: As much of a cliche as it is, we met online. We talked non-stop for a week and then he drove over 2 hours to meet me the following weekend. We watched movies and ate pizza and then he made the trek home. He was twitterpated I guess because he got lost on his way back!

How long have you been together?
Both: 2.5 years

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
Patricia: I admire his childlike appreciation of holidays, movies, food, and pretty much anything. He has taught me to appreciate all of the little things in life that we often take for granted. He gets so excited over things and his enthusiasm is contagious! I also admire his strong sense of family and his intelligence. He’s the smartest person I know. 
Ashwin: I like that my wife is very brave and supportive. She doesn’t make me doubt myself. She believes in me even though I sometimes doubt myself. She is very supportive of my hobbies and interests. Even if she doesn't join me in some of my hobbies, she supports them. Her enthusiasm for the Indian foods and culture makes me more interested in my own culture!

Favorite memory together as a couple...
Both: Our favorite memory together as a couple is of us setting up our first apartment together. We moved in together two months before our wedding because we wanted to have space for Ashwin’s family to stay with us when they came from India. We made numerous trips to Ikea - picking out furniture, cutlery, candles - you name it! The end result was Ashwin being hunched over piles and piles of pieces and instructions on how to put everything together! He actually loves to assemble things so he didn't seem to mind!


What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
Patricia: I knew quite a bit about the Indian culture already. I think I keep surprising him with how much I know, such as I knew that he would speak Kannada since he was from Bangalore. I knew that family was very important and that most marriages were arranged. I knew I loved the food and the culture before I was even with him. 
Ashwin: I had been living in the US for about 6+ years when I first met my wife. I had interacted with quite a few Americans back in Dallas and in California. I was surprised to see that Patricia is very close to her family. Before, I was under the wrong impression about Americans being close to their families. I thought most American adults were aloof from their parents after they left the family home. That is not the case with Patricia and her family. 

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship? 
Patricia: I have a loving and supportive family who was over the moon when they met Ashwin. I introduced him to the family at a Summer barbecue and the rest was history. We had a huge get together right after we got engaged where my whole family met Ashwin’s mom for the first time when she came from India. My family has openly embraced the Indian culture and way of being. My mom and my aunt journeyed with us to India for our wedding and fell in love with the place. Also, I think it was always expected that I would marry someone who came from outside of the US, since I love to travel and explore so much. 
Ashwin: My parents were open to me finding a girl from another culture. I always joked with my mom that someday I will surprise them with a white American girlfriend! They were supportive about the fact that I met Patricia. My mom flew to the US to come see her and be here around the time I proposed to Patricia. My mom made sure she informed all my relatives here about Patricia and invited them for our engagement lunch.

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
Patricia: Where do I begin? I feel like my world has expanded immensely by being married to him and being part of an Indian family. I feel like I have become more of a world citizen, rather than just an American. I have spent close to two months in India now, and it has shown me a lot. It has made me appreciate that amazing country even more and has also shown me how drab and stifling America can be in comparison! It’s like I had been living in a black & white world...and then was thrown into color HD! It can be overwhelming, but brilliant and spiritual at the same time. I love being a part of our “Hind-Jew” family!
Ashwin: Marriage has been awesome so far. It’s great to have someone to come home to and talk about my day with. I feel more confident in general, because I know that I have Patricia who supports me. Being married to Patricia has also shown me a great deal about Western family dynamics. I love all of the big holiday celebrations that bring everyone together. 

Who proposed and how?
Patricia: Ashwin actually proposed to me in front of both our mothers on December 15, 2012. We took our moms to the Nutcracker ballet in San Francisco earlier in the day and then went out to a nice dinner afterward. During dinner, he asked me to marry him and gave me my gorgeous engagement ring. It was also “Santa Con” in the city that night, so everywhere you turned there were half naked Santas and elves running around!!! It made for quite a memorable experience. 


Describe your wedding...
Both: We had two weddings during the Summer of 2013. Our first wedding was our Jewish one and it was on June 30th. We had a morning ceremony in the outdoor chapel at my synagogue, followed by a brunch reception with a jazz duo. After a short honeymoon to Mendocino, we flew to Bangalore and had a big fat Indian reception with 300+ of my in-laws’ closest family and friends on July 23rd. Both were magical in their own way...

What does being married mean to you?
Patricia: Being married means having someone to share all of life’s adventures, misadventures, joy, and sorrows with. Our first year of marriage was very hard, not because of us, but because of all of the things that kept happening. Both of my maternal grandparents passed away, I was sick a lot, and Ashwin was in a miserable job. But we kept each other going, often sharing in tears and frustration. On a lighter note, it means having someone to cook for and get excited when you try new recipes, or in my case, conquer Indian cooking!
Ashwin: For me, it means sharing your life with someone you love, including all of the ups and downs. We have been able to weather ups and downs well together. It is also means thinking about life as a unit, not as an individual. 

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
Both: We both want to be citizens of the world and travel across the globe. We talk about possibly living in India for awhile, so that we may have that amazing experience together. We would like to eventually own a home and maybe a dog. If we decide to have children, we both agree they will be world citizens and experience both cultures and faiths. Most importantly, we want our spouses’ personal dreams and aspirations to come true, and will support in each other in making that happen. 

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
Both: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Always treat each other with respect. When in doubt...hug! There are bigger things in life that you will have to face, so there is no use in fighting over small things. Sometimes it is better to swallow a bit of your pride then just trying to be right. 


What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
Patricia: I think the biggest one would be love and respect of family. We are both big believers in the idea that you marry the whole family, not just the individual. I don't think it would have worked for us if I came from the stereotypical individualistic American family. Also, continually educating oneself and seeking knowledge is something that I believe I bring from my own culture to our marriage and family. 
Ashwin: I would say respect for family, taking care of your spouse in sickness and in health, treating guests like god, and having our home open to guests at all time. I like the idea of not making appointments for friends and family to visit. It’s a hard tradition to break in the West, but we like to keep an open door for visitors.

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
Patricia: We like to surprise each other with thoughtful gifts that we know the other would like. We treat each other to nice dinners out and a romantic lunch during the middle of running all of our errands. We make a point to check in with each other every evening after work to talk about our day. I make Ashwin a cup of coffee right after he gets home and we sit and talk for awhile. He also tucks me into bed and chats with me before I go to sleep because he stays up later than I do. We message each other throughout the day and tell each other we love each other often and regularly. We try to make a point to let the other know that we appreciate all they do for us. 

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
Patricia: I like to think of myself as an honorary Indian, as I have embraced much of the Indian culture. I cook Indian food (very well, according to Ashwin), I light the incense for the gods (who hang out on the same stand as my menorah and Shabbat candle holders), I can dress the part for any Indian occasion, and I am even part of the planning committee for the Diwali celebration at my work place. Along with my wedding ring, I wear the thali that my mother in law put together for me. 
Ashwin: I think the biggest aspect would be the concept of expressing gratitude in general, whether verbally or with a nice thank you card. I love exchanging gifts with friends and family members during the holidays, which we didn't do much of in India. I have embraced keeping kosher in our home, which works out well for being a vegetarian family. I love eating the Jewish challah bread, along with the hamantashen cookies that are baked on Purim, and the kosher sweet wine. I find the Jewish stories fascinating and love attending the Passover seders. 


Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
Patricia: My family (especially my mother), has taken to the Indian culture quite well. She actually has “tea time” every afternoon at work, with the chai that we bring her from the Indian grocery store. My mom uses a lot of the ayurvedic medicines that Ashwin’s mother has given her, as well as the spices and food items that we have brought from the Indian store. She talks about India often and is looking forward to visiting again. My dad loves Indian food and is always happy to try whatever things Ashwin brings with him to try, such as mirchi bajji
Ashwin: My parents send greeting cards to Patricia for her birthday and all of the Jewish holidays. My mother is interested in the Jewish culture and reads a lot about it. She likes finding the similarities between the Hindu culture and the Jewish culture. My mother loves to eat Italian food and is trying to learn how to cook it. Prior to meeting Patricia, she wasn't interested in wine, but now she and my dad have joined Patricia at the wineries and my mom loves her sweet wine. 

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
Patricia: I struggle with the communication techniques, or the lack thereof sometimes. I come from a culture of directness and meaning what we say. I feel in the Indian culture there can be a lot of tensions and misunderstandings resulting from people just not talking to each other directly. In the beginning, I had to tell my mother in law and my husband that it is okay to tell me how they feel, even if they don’t think I will like what they have to say. It’s the not talking about things that gets to me the most. 
Ashwin: The biggest issue I have had is that Western parents don't have much pull over their adult children. Patricia listens to her mother’s advice but her brothers don’t. That is hard for me to watch sometimes, as I always value my parents input. 

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
Both: I think learning how to communicate with each other on a level that made each other comfortable was a bit of a challenge. We spent a lot of time going over hurt feelings and misunderstandings because of simple differences in communication styles. We taken the time to learn each other’s communication styles and haven't run into too many problems since then. 

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
Both: The best part is that there is always something new to learn about the other person and their culture. It could be a religious story, a family tradition, or a favorite restaurant in a hometown. Neither of us thinks there is a worst part of being in an intercultural relationship. 

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
Both: Probably that the relationship will have a lot more troubles than a relationship between two people in same culture relationship. The truth is, if you have two people who are devoted to each other and the understanding of each other’s culture, that’s all you can ask for. 

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Both: Keep an open line of communication with your spouse about everything and don't take misunderstandings personally. It will take time to figure out how to communicate with each other and learn the things that are appropriate and not in each culture. Respect each other and the culture that you both come from. Try to create your own traditions based on the cultural and familial traditions that you both bring to the table. Don't jump to conclusions and just give each other the benefit of the doubt. There is a learning curve.

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