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...

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.



  1. It's nice to read about another couple who met online. My boyfriend and I were so embarrassed by that for so long, but who cares!

    Very nice looking couple, love love loved this post! =)

  2. Sweet couple. "Don't jump to conclusions and just give each other the benefit of the doubt", I totally relate to that, very good advice. (Padparadscha).

  3. A great way to start the Hindu New Year - Ugadi/Baisakhi/Gudi Padwa by reading this love story - a marriage made in heaven. Both seem so balanced, friendly and open minded. Wish them a life long happiness with each other and their families.

    BTW, India has been a welcoming home for Jews for over 2,500 years, they came as traders as well as refugees and settled along the western coast of India and adopted some local customs.
    A very famous India poet is Nissim Ezekiel, the Indian army unit that won the 1971 war with Pakistan - which formed Bangaldesh - was led by an Indian Jewish Major General Jacob. Vijay Samuel Hazare was a captain of the cricket team that won is first game against UK ( his family adopted local Marathi culture/names)
    Hindus and Jews have lived in peace and share many cultural as well as spiritual values. Hope the Indians settled elsewhere also live in peace with their new community.

  4. Aww. Loved it. The family looks very happy together!!! <3

  5. This just makes me so happy. <3

  6. Beautiful! Love the blend of cultures! I totally agree the best part is always getting to learn something new! Its beautiful to share your culture!

  7. "When in doubt...hug!" I want to print this line and hang it in my kitchen!! Beautiful story and great advice! =)

  8. As another Jewish girl in a relationship with an Indian man, it really means a lot to me to see other happy couples just like us. My boyfriend and I are still young (both twenty, and we've only been dating a year), and sometimes I get discouraged by how difficult blending our two cultures can be. There are so few "HinJews" like us! Thank you so much for sharing and bringing a huge smile to my face!


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