Saturday, May 23, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Jess & Madhu

Jess writes a wonderful blog about their multicultural life in Sydney and raising their two gorgeous boys between two cultures!

I'm Jess. I was born in Sydney Australia, which is also where I met my husband, Madhu. Madhu is originally from Bangalore. We currently live in Sydney with our 2 boys - Sachin and Rishi.

Three words that describe you... 
Caring, happy and critical. 

 Favorite childhood memory... 
 I have lots of childhood memories, but the overriding sensation I get when I think about my childhood is love. I was surrounded by unconditional love.

Where/how do you feel most inspired? 
I feel mostly inspired when I am with my family. They push me to be a better version of myself. 

How long have you been together? 
We first meet in 2009 and have been together ever since. 

What qualities do you admire in your spouse? 
His ability to always put his family first. Everything Madhu does is to help make our life better and easier. 

Favorite memory together as a couple... 
Finding out we were pregnant with our boys and then becoming parents.

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship? 
Only what I seen on the National Geographic and I knew about the Taj Mahal. To be honest, not very much!

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship? 
I was very open from the start with all my friends and family about Madhu. My side was accepting - they had no choice - but just wanted us to proceed with caution. Madhu took longer to tell his family, and at the time I was very frustrated about that. Looking back, I can understand why he waited and it took them quite a while to get over the initial shock, but we made it in the end!

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life? 
I can't say that just my relationship has changed or enlightened me. Over the 6+ years we have been together we have grown from a couple to a family. In my opinion, being parents together has enlightened us so much more than just our relationship. Our appreciation for each other and love for our children has made us better people. 

Who proposed and how? 
We were going on a drive to Madhu's favorite beach and I was being such a bitch in the car on the way there! We walked a while through a bush track which looked over a cliff top, and then Madhu got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.. I cried - of course - and said yes. I can just remember thinking that I was such a bitch this morning and all this time he was thinking about proposing to me!!!

Describe your wedding... 
I was lucky enough to have 3 ceremonies. What more could a girl want!?

The first was a simple registry wedding at our home with very few guests to finalise the formalities. The second one was a small pooja in India with the priest and the traditional tying of the Thali. Last but not least - what I like to call "The White Dress Wedding" - in Bali! Again, just close family and friends in a tropical dream destination. 

All of the 3 were special and significant to us. We both needed to have the ceremonies that signified to us that we are married. Wedding traditions for everyone are very important and we both wanted to uphold them and pay our respects by doing them justice. And who doesn't love a wedding!? 

What does being married mean to you? 
It means love, respect, honesty and future. Being married is a choice. I chose who I wanted to marry and they in turn chose me. We made that choice and we have to respect it - for each other and our children. Anyone who is married knows how tough it can be to stay married. It takes work, commitment and compromise, but it demands to be upheld and admired. 

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple? 
Happiness and longevity. 

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends? 
The best advice that I have been told is to compromise. You cant have it your way all the time and keep in mind a marriage is two people and not one. The old cliché holds true about how ''there is no 'I' in TEAM''! 

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship? 
Openness and willingness to see and and try new things. I went and still go to India with a very open mind and it's definitely a part of my cultural upbringing. I don't think anyone is better than me and I don't believe that I am better than everyone else.

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse? 
Honestly, this is something we struggled with after the birth of our children. We found it hard to connect and that caused tension. I think I was mainly to blame for the tension but I felt like I was being left behind. Madhu's ideals of marriage were different and we had many deep discussions about "us" as a couple which has helped. Now the kids go to bed, and we have dinner together and talk. Even if it's nothing more than how many poops Rishi had, or how the park was, we make an effort to talk about our day. Night time is our time as a couple and we cherish it. 

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture? 
One main aspect is the food. We are a vegetarian household (no cooking meat at home) and I cook lots of Indian food. Mainly because the variety of vegetarian dishes is endless and I love the spice! 

 Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture? 
They love a good curry!

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace? 
Religion. I am not a religious person, I never have been. For me, religion makes people dependent on something and I don't like that. I go to the temple and be there for Madhu, but I could never convert. 

 Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed... 
I always use my left hand for eating food. I know they hate it and I try really hard but it's so hard to change a life time habit!

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship? 
 I would have to say when our first son was born. The cultural ideas of how I should behave after having baby (ie. sitting in a dark room alone all day, co-sleeping and not letting a baby cry) was a huge wakeup call. Every thing I wanted to do for and with the baby was completely opposite to what he thought. The arguments were horrendous and it truly was a tough few weeks for us. 

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship? 
Lots of holidays and mix race babies is the best! The worst is not being able to fully appreciate the other person's language and culture. I know I try, but we are so far from India so it's hard. 

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships? 
People just flat out think Its not going to work! I don't know how many times I have heard "See... you should've just married someone from your own race." When I question it, the answer is always the same "they are so different". Yes, they are different - but that's what I love and that's what I was drawn to! If I was to marry a white guy we would fight and he would be different too, but outsiders don't see that.

What are the biggest misconceptions about Australian women? 
When we first had our baby, there were people that thought I was not going to be a good mother because I was white, and that I would not love my baby as much as an Indian mother would. It is hurtful for people to think and say those things when they hardly even knew me. I sure proved them wrong because I know that I'm the best mum ever!

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them? 
There has been one person (even after 6 years and 2 kids) that does not like me. I am completely ignored and would not be served food by her in her house (she literally skips me- it's quite hilarious) and I just ignore it and be the better person. She is just a narrow minded small individual that obviously has her own issues and tries to make others unhappy!

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
You have to be a united front. Going to either side of the family and telling them that you've met your soulmate takes some courage and you have to be there for each other.

(All photos courtesy of The Aussie Indian Bride)


  1. Just love to read these stories. It is always so interesting to see how people meet and later on how the families are dealing with it. Also in our relationship were some difficulties when it came to take care of our baby, not because we both had different ideas but because all Chinese friends and family members were so shocked that we did not follow the Chinese tradition...

  2. Gorgeous couple. Just absolutely gorgeous. I wish them and all couples (intercultural or otherwise) in the world happiness.

  3. Co-sleeping and not letting baby cry... that sounds very familiar. Nice post ! (Pad)


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