Saturday, March 14, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Rick & Raina

Raina & Rick are a lovely "masala" couple who have been together for nearly a decade and live in California with their beautiful 6 year old daughter, Ananya...

Raina: South Indian- Kannadiga Brahmin; from Bangalore, India. I grew up all over India and very briefly, attended school in the United States as a child. 
Rick: I'm American of various ethnic backgrounds (Irish, Danish, German, Scandinavian, possibly Russian). My family never talked about our origins so I cannot be 100% sure! I was born and raised California and aside from a year or two in other states, I've lived in California my whole life to this point.
Both: We currently live in California, USA, with one 6 year old daughter - Ananya, one dog, and three cats.

Three words that describe you... 
Raina: Three words are too few, but if I really had to pick they would be: stubborn, highly sensitive, bibliophile!
Rick: Funny, quiet, and creative.

Favorite childhood memory...
Raina: Getting a pen from Singapore - it was all silvery with butterflies all over it and I thought it was the best thing ever! I was 5 when I was gifted that pen and I remember thinking that a country which produced such a pen must be pretty fantastic. Coincidentally, the first foreign country I visited was Singapore!
Rick: Going to Disneyland!

Where/how do you feel most inspired? 
Raina: When I watch inspiring movies and read inspiring books. Whenever I am down or just going through a really rough time, I turn to movies and stories such as Lord of the Rings (hey, if Aragorn can take down an army, I can write a thesis!), Pride and Prejudice (the 1994 BBC version), Bend it like Beckham, etc. I also read advice columns such as Dear Abby and Ask Amy. Reading about the kind of troubles others go through inspire me to never make the mistakes I read about every day.
Rick: Watching a good TV show or movie. I am a big fan of science fiction - Star Wars and Star Trek being my top favorites.

Where/how did you meet your spouse? 
Raina: At work, in 2006. I had just joined the company and Rick was already working there. We first met at a mandatory company meeting where I thought Rick was just nuts because he told me his name was Rick (which was actually his middle name) but signed his first name on an attendance sheet and I'm thinking "what a weirdo!!" 
Rick: We met at work at a company meeting. I was in a bad mood that day, and I was never fond of company meetings to begin with. I sat next to her because it was the first empty seat I saw. I had no idea that I had just sat down next to my future wife!

How long have you been together? 
Both: Since 2006 (almost 9 years).

What qualities do you admire in your spouse? 
Raina: His passion in his interests, his sense of humor, and his ability to work with me and be with me despite how crazy I am sometimes (I am not an easy person to live with, no matter what Rick says!)
Rick: Raina is intelligent, caring, and not afraid to speak her mind.

(Morro Bay - img by Kevin L. Cole)

Favorite memory together as a couple...
Raina: Going to Morro Bay for our one year anniversary/honeymoon.
Rick: It was when I told her I loved her for the first time. She thought I was about to confess to being a serial killer!!!

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship? 
Raina: I would like to think I knew quite a bit about Rick's culture since I was quite conversant with North American culture. I lived in the United States for a year and a half as a child, and then returned permanently in 2003. But, how well I managed this is something only Rick can answer!
Rick: All I really knew about India was that it was under British rule for a while. And then what I saw in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. So...not much!

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship? 
Raina: I was unsure about how my parents would react to Rick, but I figured that because I'm an adult and in a romantic relationship with someone I care about - that I was not going to hide it no matter what their reaction was. I told my parents at 2 AM (after taking some hearty swigs of sake) and I just laid it out straight. I told them that I was dating someone, that I did not know where it was going to go, but that I just wanted to let them know. My brother was in the United States as a student at that time and he got to meet Rick over the Christmas holidays. My parents reacted well, and if they had any concerns they didn't let me know about it! The only time my mother voiced her concerns was when I told her that we were going to move in together before marriage. She did wish that we would have gotten married first, but she knows my stubborn nature and knew nothing would change my mind! Rick and I joke that I married relatively late for an Indian woman (at 28!! On the shelf and moldy to boot!) so my parents were just happy that I was with someone :-)
Rick: I simply told my family and friends. The were all happy that I had found someone.

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life? 
Raina: Being with Rick makes me want to be a better person because (though I have never told him this) I admire how he faces life with equanimity and his goofy sense of humor. I, on the other hand, react to every bit of negative news like a nuclear bomb went off! So I definitely try to learn from him, but I am far from measuring up.
Rick: She has shown me a new way to look at things.

Who proposed and how? 
Raina: Rick did, by getting me out of the house (we were living together) with the help of a friend and then setting up the apartment with flowers and candles. I would like to think I kind of proposed to Rick too because I had an engagement ring made for him though there was no formal proposal from my side. Truth be told, I don't think either of us needed to propose to the other because there was never a question about getting married - it just grew very organically - and there was never any doubt about it.
Rick: We just decided to get married one night after living together for a while. I surprised her a month or two later with a proper proposal in our living room.

(Img via Gopal Venkatesan)

Describe your wedding...
Raina: We had three ceremonies. My favorite was the civil ceremony where it was just us and two of our friends. We also had a very brief Hindu ceremony at a temple. The priest gave us the "international version" (the priest's words, not mine). We also had a lovely Christian ceremony at an Austrian-type chalet in the foothills of the mountain ranges nearby.
Rick: We had three weddings. The first was the legal wedding at the city clerk's office. We were married by a fat guy in a tacky Hawaiian shirt and then went to work after! The other two weddings were to honor our respective cultures. First we had a Hindu wedding, and then we had a Christian wedding a couple of days later.

What does being married mean to you? 
Raina: It means being together in the good, the bad, and the worse. And we kind of have - on the same day that we found out I was pregnant we found that that we also lost our jobs. We lived through unemployment for 8 months and the worst kind of stress possible within the very first year of marriage. Ultimately, marriage means that Rick will be there no matter what and it gives my life a solid base that nothing else could.
Rick: Being married means committing the rest of your life to your spouse.

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple? 
Raina: To work in fields that we love. To provide our daughter with the best future possible and help her reach her full potential and live her dreams. We also want to get our daughter off to college and then tour the world together...the first on our list are the British Isles! :-)
Rick: We would both love to travel as much as possible.

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends? 
Raina: There was something I heard much before I got married which stayed with me - "Marriage is NOT 50:50. Some days you will be giving 90 and he will be giving 10. Other days he will be giving 90 and you will be giving 10. In the end, it all works out."
Rick: We've asked family and friends to keep their advice to themselves and to let us figure things out ourselves!

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship? 
Raina: That marriage is for life - we work through crap and we get to the other side. Divorce is just NOT an option.

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse? 
Raina: We try to go on dates with each other. Our love of Harry Potter (we got interested in each other arguing about whether or not Professor Snape has a beard); the unusual and out there stuff really unites us. We are also big James Bond and science fiction fans and we can talk for hours on these topics! We love to debate anything and everything. We challenge each other to really understand ourselves and each other's points of view. Before I met Rick, one of my biggest fears was that I would be married to someone who was boring - this is definitely not an issue with Rick!
Rick: We like to sit and talk while sharing a drink. We go out on dates whenever we can, but mostly it's all about talking together and communication.

(Img via)

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture? 
Raina: I think in this aspect, I have adopted a lot more of Rick's culture than he has of mine. We live in North America in the state Rick was born and brought up in. I was brought up a Hindu Brahmin, but eat beef and like to think I have adapted pretty well to North American culture and Rick's family.
Rick: I've started watching Bollywood films and listening to music from those films. I'm also eating a lot of Indian food, and adding a lot more hot spices to other foods.

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture? 
Raina: No. Personality wise, I think I have always been a North American. My family keeps marveling at how "American" I have become! Truth is, I have always been this is just that now I have the freedom to be who I really am.
Rick: No.

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace? 
Raina: I was very apprehensive about the fact that Rick came from a divorced home with three generations of divorce in his family. However, I have grown enough to realize that just because one stays married for a lifetime does not make that marriage a happy one. I wouldn't call my parents' marriage happy, though they never got divorced.
Rick: Nothing from her culture was difficult for me.

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
Raina: Asking very personal questions! Rick often tells me that he was perplexed by how many questions I asked of him regarding his family, his background, his way of life (and here I thought I was being subtle!!), but I was just being Indian I guess!

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship? 
Raina: We haven't had any issues because of our cultures. Both of us had traveled abroad before we met each other and I like to think that we are both very adaptable to different ways of life. I feel that I am neither Indian or American - I am just Raina! As cliched as this sounds, I consider myself a global citizen.

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship? 
Raina: The best part is that we get to learn that there are different ways of life out there and no one way of life is "THE CORRECT" or "THE RIGHT" way to live life. There has been no worst part.
Rick: The best part has been learning about her culture from first-hand experience. The worst has been having negative reactions to some Indian food!

What are the biggest misconceptions about Indian women? 
Raina: That we are all docile and submissive (Rick is rolling around on the floor laughing at the idea of me being docile or submissive!) and walk ten steps behind the men.

What are the biggest misconceptions about Americans? 
 Rick: Given recent events, many feel that Americans are anti-Islam. Also, I've met several people abroad that think life in California is like an episode of Baywatch! People think everyone lives next to the ocean and surfs (we don't, we live in a desert!)

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them? 
Rick: It happened at the company we both worked for when we met. Though no one said anything to our faces, we were told by friends that some people didn't approve of our relationship for various reasons - mostly because we are from different religions.

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Raina: Be there for each other. You have to remember as a couple that you are a unit and you must work together for each other. Yes, your parents gave birth to you...but your spouse is your life partner and your loyalty should always lie with your spouse. Especially among Indians, I think this can be a huge issue where parents get away with emotional blackmail and guilt tripping. Don't let your parents do this to you - parents are human beings too and often act toward their own interests. When you get married, you are part of an exclusive unit and you must protect the interests of that unit.
Rick: Do not assume that your culture does anything better than your spouse's culture. Try different things from your spouse's culture. You may not like some things, but you may be surprised at what you do like.



  1. Wow. This is such a nice post. :-)
    They have answered every question in such a sensible and perfect way that I couldn't help but have a deep sense of admiration and respect towards them. Also some very nice tips and advice for all the couples out there who are already married/getting married, intercultural or not. Thanks a lot for posting this.

    1. Anonymous, thank you so much for your kind words. I think a large part of where our advice comes from is the fact that we have both observed our parents and picked out what worked and what didn't and have made our own rules as well regarding what works best for us.


  2. The meeting story was quite funny, and the advice is really interesting and good. They seem to fit really well together.

    1. Anonymous, thank you for your kind words. I continue to be amazed, even today, by how well we fit despite our differences in background, culture, and religious upbringing.


  3. I love all of the "intercultural love" posts, but I feel this one is especially moving, and I love the first picture with the hands and the little girl wearing varnish <3 (Padaparadscha)

    1. Padaparadscha, thank you for your kind words. I really appreciate what you had to say.


  4. Good description of an ideal bi cultural marriage..and a very sensible way of dealing with the ups and odwns of life.
    However, if we want to get away from the old caste labels, we have to consciously not describe ourselves by those very labels.

    1. Anonymous, the reason I used the label of Hindu Brahmin and Kannadiga Brahmin was to give readers familiar with India an idea of my upbringing and background without having to say too much. The labels I used to describe my background were not to assert superiority or to say that I am of that caste today. I describe myself as an agnostic today and while I realize the irony in using a label to refute another label, the term of Brahmin/Hindu Brahmin/kannadiga Brahmin all allude to to my life and how I was brought up.


    2. Anonymous, thank you for your kind words. I do want to clarify the use of caste labels-

      I very specifically and deliberately used the terms Hindu Brahmin and especially Kannadiga Brahmin to give readers familiar with India an idea of my background and upbringing without writing too much about my past. Those who are familiar with Kannadiga Brahmins know of the insistence on madi, eating certain types of food, using certain language etc. The use of caste labels were not in any way intended to demonstrate superiority/inferiority or an identification with those caste labels. While I realize the irony in using caste labels to refute caste labels, I decided to go ahead and use those terms anyway for this specific segment that Alexandra was kind enough to publish.


  5. Alexandra,

    Thank you so much for giving us the chance to share our story with your readers. As we wrote out the answers to the various questions, we were constantly reminded of what brought us together in the first place and it was actually a very romantic way to spend Valentine's day! :-)

    Rick, Raina, and Ananya.

  6. Is there any blog link? I liked this couple and would love to read more about them!
    do they write blogs? anyone of them?

    1. Anonymous, your words gave me a thrill! Thank you so much. No, neither I nor Rick write a blog. I used to a long time ago and a time may come again when I do, but in the meanwhile I start a day with a bang because of your kind words :-).


  7. :) That is one amazing interview of one super cool couple.
    I love her courage and how well she framed her thoughts. They were both so mature and understanding of each other. Loved every word and really wanted to know more. I thought of asking the same question the Anon asked over here but i guess i got the answer. That's sad. Anyways, glad to know about you guys and i just wish i have at least half the courage and strength she showed.
    Thanks for the interview MM. You did a great job.:)

    1. Hello Journeyofmythoughts, thank you for your wonderful comment. I don't know why you wouldn't have the courage and strength- you might surprise yourself- I know I surprised myself :-). There was a lot more which went on in the background and a backstory that I just couldn't include in the interview (Alexandra would have to devote a week full of posts just for all the stories), but I did want to say, whatever your story is, hang in there. :-) I am off to read your blog now :-).


  8. Yeah. Please update your blog on how it all got okay with everyone. I mean, how did it go. I always check your page. And by the way, i replied to your email. :)


    1. Hello Roxanne, I'm guessing you were not responding to this interview? :-) Just wanted to make sure and also wanted to say hello.


    2. Read th entire blog post and comments. And agreed to the commenter above about yoir blog, in connection with that we urge you to update you blog. We crave for what happened next. LOL.

  9. Lovely post... reminds me so much of my own life, especially when my husband and I were dating... and the distance of thousands of miles.... :-)
    Thank you for sharing!

  10. Archana, I am not sure if you were commenting on this post or on the latest post about the intercultural couple, but either way, thank you for your lovely comment :-).


  11. beautiful thumba thank you! stay healing reading your story.


Respectful comments only, please! (That means you, anonymous.)

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