Friday, April 10, 2015

Ask Firangi Bahu: "My Indian mother told me I dishonored and shamed my family for having a white boyfriend"

(Img via Chris Sardegna)

Sharing a letter from a reader...

"Hi Alexandra, Over the past few weeks I've been greatly invested in your blog and the help you provide to so many. I know this is a lot to ask for but if you are able to, can you provide me with some advice for my current situation?

I was born and raised in New Zealand. Although I identify as an Indian girl, some would say I'm as a western as a white girl. I'm 20 years old, finished university and about to enter into full time work. I'm lucky because my parents are very modern in most things. I've been allowed to go out drinking with friends, hang out with boys, travel alone, and pursue my own career choices. This is something I am greatly thankful for. In the past I have dated boys who are not Indian but being an Indian girl, I know that I had to keep it on the down low. Also, I knew I had no future with these boys. Six months ago I met the most amazing man and thought to myself this is someone I could have a very long future with and believed my parents would love him. He is not Indian.

I told my parents about my relationship with him and my mother asked me if we were sexually active, and I didn't want to lie to her so I said yes. For the past few weeks I have endured verbal abuse, emotional blackmail and threats making me break up with him. I have been told I have sinned, I am disgusting and they can never look at me the same. It's as if something has been taken away from me. According to my mother, this will kill my grandparents (as they are very traditional) and I would be responsible for their deaths. My family can never hold their heads up and I have dishonored and shamed them. I did not expect this sort of backlash from them. As I no longer live with my parents (they live in a different country than me), I told them I'd break up with him but I haven't. I told him what has been going on and he has been supportive, as his mother went through the same thing with her parents and she understands how upsetting this is for me. Him and his family have been amazing. I thought maybe I could sneak behind their backs and be with them but now I've realized I don't want to do that.

The issue doesn't come down to my boyfriend. It comes down to the fact that there is a difference in values and beliefs and that is something I don't know how to overcome. They won't accept my choice of living and I don't want to resent them for making me have to lead the life they want me to. Other than this, they have been so proud of me and used to tell me everyday. This one thing has made me so disgusting to them. How could a parent do that to their child? I don't think I will ever change my views because I don't believe love is defined by ethnicity. I'm not naive to think my boyfriend and I will be together forever, but I don't want my parents to have such a hold on such a personal part of my life. I'm not asking for their support or acceptance. I know you cannot give me a definitive answer as to whether it is worth the risk. I just need to know if I'm being selfish or I'm asking too much from them? I have a large group of friends who have supporting me throughout the whole process so I know I will be safe. If I just tell them how I feel and say that's that, is it horrible to make them pick up the pieces? I want to compromise, but it's their way or the highway and my brother and sister have both chosen to go my parents way. I have never felt so alone in my life."


Dear readers, what advice would you give to this young woman?
Do you think some Indian parents are more "modern" when it comes to other life choices - except when it comes to dating?
Do you think your parents should have a say about your personal romantic life?
How do you find a way to co-exist with desi parents when your core values and beliefs are different than theirs?



  1. Clearly, her parents are not as modern as she imagined they were and she is shocked at their reaction. She can try explaining couple of time but then if it their way or the highway, I would take the highway. We really can't change people unless they want to even if we love them. So, let them be.

    To co exist with desi parents -

    - You can lie, keep up a facade and continue and pretend you broke up. Agree for an Indian arranged marriage. The truth will come out eventually.
    - Refuse and be open about your lifestyle.
    - Tell them who you are once and not discuss it again if they are unwilling to understand.

    These are tough choices btu you have to make one.

  2. I feel her parents are unfair to her in making a hue and cry about having an white boyfriend. But this line concerns me:

    "I'm not naive to think my boyfriend and I will be together forever"

    Maybe this is what the parents are against? To be with someone when they are ready to not be together always?

    Indian mentality is that they like having just one sexual partner from beginning to end, to love one person forever.

    I may be wrong but maybe they are okay with having a white partner but not a temporary relationship especial if it involves sex?

    Think about it.

    No, you are not selfish in selecting your life partner. But I am concerned if you are making the right choice in being sexually active with a person you are not sure will marry you.

    1. I agree partially with you. Better not tell traditional parents about the sexually active part.

      On the other hand I do not think it is wrong that she is sexually active even if she is not sure they will end up marrying. I feel she is realistic because all relationships may not last forever and things may not work out. Women don't have to twist themselves in a pretzel because they had sex and hings didn't work out. People are not damaged good because they were used once.

    2. “Indian mentality is that they like having just one sexual partner from beginning to end, to love one person forever.” So true ...... I think how it should be....this is what I learned from my parents and they from their parents.... temporary marriage or relationship is not only for family but also specially for children...... sex is not just sex it includes emotion, risk of pregnancy, loyalty etc... One should have sex when he/she is ready, including those issues. Because we can’t tell our children that because of our “stupid mistake” he/she was borne and that’s why they don’t have father. To raise children both parents are required.

  3. Agree with Boilingwok:
    -Your parents may be modern in many ways, but their treatment of you hearkens back to very, very traditional attitudes amongst conservative and/or rural Indian folks
    -You've been raised as a Westerner and in no way hold those same views yourself
    -This is your life; you have to make choices that make you happy. You cannot live life as your parents want you to live it if it doesn't make you happy, because one day your parents will no longer be here, but you'll be stuck with their dream life
    -I think your mom asking you if you were sexually active and then behaving this way when she got an answer she didn't like is very unwise and immature. Lesson learned: she does not know enough to NOT ask questions to which she doesn't really want to hear the answer, whatever it is, so your job as an adult is to know that about her and refuse to engage in that type of discussion/question. Just say, "mom, I'm not going to answer that question. It's not your business, and I don't think you should ask questions unless you can truly be okay with the answer no matter what it is."
    -They're treating you terribly, but they will get over it. They're trying to control you now. Once you show them that their treatment isn't going to have the desired effect - this will take time and probably a lot of time with you not speaking much to them - they'll get over it and move on.
    -You are in the driver's seat. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do.

  4. I think the sexually active part might just have been what is causing the most angst. Not that if it is so anything can change. Live your life. Your family will get over stuff. Really. I'm Indian and while I married someone at least somewhat 'acceptable' to my family, my brother didn't. My SIL is Muslim and my parents used to be huge bigots and this devastated them. But you know what? They got over it. Now my mom even says that she's glad she didn't go ahead and try to be in the way of that match. Because she sees how happy they are together.

  5. Indian parents feel overly responsible for their children, it could be one reason why they are making it a big issue - to save you from boyfriend whom they believe might take advantage of you. Indian parents are overprotective and they may sometimes go overboard in trying to prevent their "loving daughter" from being cheated by a white guy. They may think all white guys take advantage of women just for sex. It is important to understand that the primary motivation for these parents is that they are protecting their little girl from a bad guy.

    Of course, White guys are not bad guys (guys who just sleep around with multiple girls)! But they may have this feeling after seeing movies and reading about White men in papers.

    1. Indian parents are not "over protective", they are control freaks. Your whole "white guy" thing is a, how shall I put it, ... a little racist and prejudiced. Whether a "white guy" sleeps around or not, does not determine he is a bad guy, so long as he is not sleeping with children. sleeping with multiple adult partners is something adults of both sexes and all skin tones do. I think a man who promises love to a woman, and then ditches her because he does not have the balls to stand up to his disapproving parents, is rather worse. I am Indian, and I have seen a lot of Indian men do this to Indian women (not of the same caste) and non-Indian women (not of the same race). So before you go making silly excuses (seen it in the movies/read it in the papers) for other people's sad, angry and abusive parents, think a little about how your own prejudices are making you make such excuses!

    2. Hello,

      Stop fuming please, especially on your assumptions.

      I just expressed what "HER PARENTS" might have felt. They "may think" that "white guys are bad guys because they sleep with multiple girls"

      Please direct your comments on me being a racist against her parents instead.

      Did You find me saying that it is my opinion??? We are all talking about what her parents might have been thinking and why they are reacting this way. I live in America and I am an Indian girl and I am aware of many guys sleeping with multiple girls and I am not against it. If it a consensual sex between two adults.

      And I am not here to make excuses. I am merely explaining the actions of her parents.

      I do know even Indians do it.

      Are you so used to attacking commenters without clarifying their points first? You have used words "silly excuses", " racist" etc against me, a girl whom you don't even know. How about you practicing what you preach first?

    3. As long as its not children, its okay to sleep with multiple women? Then do you support cheating on a partner? What if the girl never is okay with that?

      I am personally not okay with it. And if my partner sleeps with multiple women, then yes he is a bad guy.

      What is silly is you not understanding that Indian parents are in a whole different generation and they find it so hard to understand this generation. What they do can be termed as "abusive" but they dont even realize it, thats the sad part. They do love their children, they just dont understand the harm they are causing.

      You cannot throw away years of love for misunderstandings due to a generation gap.

      You got to be mature and deal with it instead of reacting harshly and emotionally.

  6. Your parents are wrong in the way they are treating you, period. You are not being selfish, don't get bogged down by verbal abuse, tell them firmly that you are going to stop calling them and meeting them if they don't stop the verbal abuse and emotional blackmail. Even if they disagree with you they can convey it in a respectful way. Our Indian culture empahsize so much about respect, but elders hardly respect youngsters.

  7. I think growing up is realizing your parents have shortcomings, and having the courage to live your own life. The tricky part is staying calm and positive without accepting BS. When your parents abuse you on the phone you may want to say gently you don't accept this language and will hang up if they go on. Good luck !

  8. I have a different take on this. As a black woman i have seen desi men date women, sleep with them and then marry a more acceptable person. I think that's kind of your parents original modern thinking, that you would settle with someone like you. I can only assume that you really like this guy because this is causing you distress. My children tell me that dating should lead to a more permanent situation, so maybe your family is mad because they think you are being too casual. If you love this person then stick to your guns and let the relationship lead to marriage. Or maybe don't tell your parents about every new guy. In the end they love you and want what's best for you. However, you are an adult now and can make your own life choices. Be blessed

  9. First thing first : No you are NOT selfish. Your parents are on the other hand.

    Then, if they think you comitted a shameful act of dishonour, that is their problem, not yours. They can claim all they want that you brought it on them. Ultimately they made the very choice of being offended themselves. It was their choice to feel dishonoured, and they should not drag you into their pity fest.

    On the grand parents part. Really? You fault if they die? Sorry to say this is a very crass case of emotional blackmail. Do not ever feel like it is your responsibility if confronting a case of generation gap will kill them. Grand parents the world over have seen their own children and grand children do things they would not have been able to do themselves, and didn't die from it.
    I found that this trend of trying to blame kids that don't go your way for a hypothetical future death in the family way too prevalent in India, and absolutely disgusting a behaviour at that.

    Respect is a mutual thing, it is not something that the young generation is obliged to give by default to any elder that is not even above the crassest form of emotional blackmail to get their own way.

    Perhaps point out to your parents that if having a good Inian daughter that will go the traditional way when it comes of marriage and family, it perhaps would have been wiser to not raise you abroad.

  10. I am always struck by the number of young people who are emotionally abused (and it is emotional abuse, indian law recognises it as such!!!) by their parents over their life choices. I am Indian, raised in India. My advice to anyone whose parents threaten suicide, or death of grandparents, dishonour, etc, etc, is to take a deep breath and get the hell out. easier said than done, I hear you say. No, not at all. You must understand that family's are supposed to be about love and support. That you have a right to expect unconditional love from only two people in the world - your mother and your father. Indian families hold on to the myth that families are the only ones you can fall back on. Not true, esp if falling back on means doing things the way they want you to. You have one life to live. Live it well. Live it with love and without fear. Its why you are given life. Caring for one's parents does not mean living the life they choose for you. It means living the life you choose to live and being able to love them and take care of them when they most need it.

  11. You are NOT being selfish, so that thought out of your head right away. I am sorry if this comes across as rude, but it is your parents who are being selfish here. No one dies or has a heart attack because their child is dating a person of another race/ethnicity/religion/etc. If they do, it is because of self-inflicted stress, so again, it is NOT your fault.

    I am Indian, born and brought up there, but married to an American man and living in the United States, and I completely understand what you are going through when you ask how a parent can do this to a child. Many Indian parents believe they have absolute control over their child's life because they see their child as an extension of themselves. It is only when dating, sex, and marriage enter the picture that such attitudes come roaring forward. My own parents almost had me married off in an arranged marriage and I can tell you today, more than a decade after, that this arrangement was more about how much their status would go up than whether or not I would be happy in that relationship (I do have to specify, I "chose" the man, but there was a lot of subtle pressure about choosing the "right" man- i.e., Hindu, Brahmin, Doctor or Engineer). I did not get married to that man anyway, thank goodness, so things worked out, but still- I still have nightmares in which I think I am getting married to that man and I KNOW how horrible my life will be and I can do nothing to stop it.

    Whatever happens, please stay true to yourself. It is going to be very tough at times, but it is worth it in the end because you will life a life of your choosing and you will live a happier life.

    By the way, kudos to you on being honest with your parents. Not many people are able to do that and it must have taken enormous courage to be as honest as you were, especially with Indian parents who seem unable to handle the idea of their children having sex or even having sexual needs at all.


    1. Hi Raina,

      If I may ask, did you know your now American husband before your parents tried to marry you off in an arranged marriage? Or did he happen after all of that?


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

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
© Madh Mama. All rights reserved.