Monday, September 28, 2015

Highlights from our Summer

Now that the crisp, cool Fall air has settled in, I am feeling a bit sad to say goodbye to Summer. With Maya being in school this year, and off for the month of August, it felt like an actual, real Summer vacation. I also cut back on my work hours so I could spend more time with Maya and my dad.

We were total beach bums and spent so many days and evenings at the beach, where Maya would collect shells, swim, and build sand castles, and we would relax. We swam nearly every day, either in the pool or in the ocean.

Maya had her first official sleepover at Grandma's house, and did so well that by the end of the season we got to sneak away for a Romantic weekend up the coast.

We also enjoyed having a TON of ice cream this Summer. Just couldn't resist! In Vancouver, all these gourmet ice cream shops have opened up, so of course we had to go....again, and again. (Okay fine - it was like every week! Maybe a few times a week. Maybe it was like every other day...ha ha!)

We met up with a lot of our friends and family this Summer and had lots of kids' play dates too. We are starting to have a great network of friends with kids.

We got to do so many fun outings like celebrating Greek Day, the Indian Summer Festival, Science World, Celebration of Light fireworks competition, Stanley Park miniature train, the Fair at the PNE, Museum of Anthropology, forest walks, and of course hanging out at the playgrounds.

We also had a lot of fabulous outdoor dinner parties at my parents' house.

Maya also learned how to ride both a scooter and her tricycle, which was so much fun to see. She has been zipping around our neighborhood like an absolute terror!

We did a lot of traveling this Summer, going to Seattle, Half Moon Bay, and then Yellowstone National Park.

I read so many books this Summer, and Maya has equally become a big book addict too. Whenever we go to the library, she refuses to leave because she wants to read more books - which totally makes me like I'm doing a good job at this parenting thing!

Maya also became even more obsessed with animals, and has to stop and pet every dog she meets!

This Summer was really fantastic, but I am really excited about all the fun things that we're going to do this Fall & Winter! I am also relieved that Maya is back in school, because I'm utterly exhausted. Now I'm getting back to work, and also - no more ice cream!!!


Saturday, September 26, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Kristin & Ravi

This gorgeous, fun-loving couple met randomly at a Halloween party & have been together ever since!

My name is Kristin and I’m a graduate student originally from Auburn, Washington (100% Scandinavian). My husband is Ravi, who was born and raised in New Delhi; but has worked in the US for the past 5 years. Right now we live in Redmond, Washington with our two cat babies and Ravi’s mom.

Three words that describe you...
Independent, feisty and fun! 

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
Growing up in the Seattle area, I've always felt inspired by nature. Mount Rainier is one of my favorite places in the world - it's so beautiful and quiet. I love the city, but there's something about being utterly by yourself that is so calming and centering. Getting away from daily disturbances really focuses your energy on what is important and is so great for getting those creative juices flowing! 

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
We met completely randomly on a dance floor on Halloween! I was a senior in college and my girlfriends and I decided to go to a club in Seattle for a night of fun. About halfway through the night, a very confident man whose accent I could barely understand came up to me and just started to dance with me. He was very forward, especially for all of the Indian guys I know now! I had never done anything like that before, but there was just something about him. We spent the rest of the night together until my friends dragged me away to drive them home for class the next morning. We exchanged numbers to have an official date the following weekend and have been together ever since, despite having to deal with a lot of challenges from our families and society.

Talking about it later, it turns out we almost didn't meet - Ravi was at a friend's party, and then went home because it was boring and he wasn’t feeling well. He reached all the way to the stoplight down the street from his apartment when he decided to turn around on a whim and go out. I don't believe in fate or predestination, but it's crazy to think that if it hadn't been for the last second decision, I wouldn't be writing these words right now!

How long have you been together?
We have been together for three years, legally married for one year and publicly married for only a few weeks! 

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
Ravi is so confident and charismatic. It’s rare to meet someone who lives their life completely on their terms. When he does something, he does it 100%. He inspires me to believe in myself in ways I never did before meeting him. He also is unafraid of singing and dancing in any situation - it might take me a few years to match him in that!

Favorite memory together as a couple...
It's hard to pick just one, but a very recent memory was seeing him for the first time at our Indian wedding. His baaraat arrived hours late (as per Indian Standard Time), so after getting dressed I ended up sitting in a back room for hours by myself without any idea of what was going on! As time went on, I became more and more nervous. Finally, someone whisked me out for the bridal procession. I had no idea what I was supposed to do, so there were literally at least 100 people yelling at me to “walk slow!”, “no, do this!”, “look down!”, “smile!”, and “look here!”. It was really overwhelming but as soon as I saw Ravi smiling and sitting on his throne waiting for me, everything was alright in the world and all my nervousness went away. Perhaps it’s cheesy, but it felt just like a movie! It’s those kind of little moments that are so beautiful and memorable. 

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
My best friend in middle school was Gujarati-American, so I had a bit of exposure when I was a kid t o "Indian culture" (mostly just eating a lot of dhokla). I also did research on India in college, but it didn’t prepare me at all for everything that has happened in the past three years! It's one thing to read about it, it's another thing to live it. No one could have ever prepared me for both the self-inflicted/outside pressure that comes from marrying an Indian...especially an only son. 

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
We joke that our life is a Bollywood movie since we've had drama from both sides of our families! Our relationship was not very public when we first started dating because Ravi was planning on going back to India within in a year to get an arranged marriage. We quickly realized that what we had was serious, but due to the situation in India, it look a long time for everyone to know. My immediate family was aware that I was seeing someone, but Ravi was apprehensive to meet them in the beginning since meeting the parents is such a big deal in Indian culture. However, it was love at first sight once they did! I’m pretty sure they love him more than me now! 

For the first year and a half, only Ravi’s mom knew about me. There was a lot of embarrassment and shame there, which was definitely hard on me. Finally, on a trip home for a cousin’s wedding, Ravi told everyone about our relationship and that we wanted to get married. There was a lot of pushback, threats, and drama, as I’m sure everyone on this blog can imagine! A lot of horrible things were said about me, but Ravi usually gets what he wants and he came back from the wedding with the reluctant go-ahead for us to get engaged. Sadly, after that we also had some drama when we told my very Christian grandparents that I was marrying a non-Christian, but you can’t please everyone!

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
I’ve gone through some very negative times in my life (being raised by a mentally ill, abusive mother, almost dropping out of high school for financial reasons, etc.) and for a long time, I really thought I would be alone. I’m very hard on myself, and I kind of just accepted that happiness was not in the cards for me. I was putting my life back together when I met Ravi, and so much has changed since then. His name means "sun" in Hindi, and he is just that for me. He believes in me so much and has made me see that trying to be “perfect” is so misguided and simply not any fun. Being married to an Indian has also made me realize that sometimes, you just have to go with the flow and enjoy the adventure!

Who proposed and how?
Since I knew that the proposal was coming, Ravi played so many games for weeks - getting down on one knee, coming home late, taking me out for nice dinners, saying he was going to a different jeweler after I had already picked out a ring. I literally turned into a crazy person! Finally, he took me down to Portland for the weekend (we’re vegan, so it’s our food paradise). He planned afternoon Ayurvedic massages and then took me to my favorite restaurant. Over dessert, my favorite Bollywood song started playing (Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai) and I was so confused because we were in an Italian place! When I finally realized it was for me, Ravi presented me with a gorgeous ring as everyone in the place clapped and cheered!

Describe your wedding...
All of our friends joke that we are addicted to getting married; although what we did seems pretty typical for many intercultural couples. We got legally married the month after getting engaged (we simply couldn't wait), and then had weddings in Delhi and Washington just a few weeks ago! Our Indian wedding was small (by Indian standards), but it still seemed like a circus to my family and best friend. We had a traditional Hindu ceremony with around 300 people at a banquet hall near the family’s neighborhood. The makeup artist tried to make me into a modern day Cleopatra/Snooki, but thankfully I knew enough Hindi to shut that down! 

We returned from India on a Monday, and had our American ceremony the following weekend (not something I would necessarily recommend to the faint of heart). We kept it small with around 50 people in attendance. I really wanted to focus on us as couple, as opposed to India where there is a Bride and there is a Groom. We had our ceremony in an old WWII structure and had one of Ravi’s groomsmen officiate. Since Ravi didn’t really know our wedding traditions, I kept telling him beforehand that he was supposed to cry when I walked down the aisle. He didn’t, but I got him during our handwritten vows! We then had a reception at my parents’ house, which was basically just a big party! It might not have held up to Indian standards, but it was so wonderful to hang out and have a good time with all of our friends and family, after the craziness of the Indian wedding.

What does being married mean to you?
We have the relationship we have with or without a license, rings or a mangalsutra. It is a forever commitment, through the good times and the bad. However, not having to hide it anymore and having our relationship recognized by those who were initially opposed is really great.

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
We both really push each other and have changed so much since we met each other, so I know anything is possible as long as we are together. One day, Ravi hopes to start his own company and I am looking to earn my PhD. We have a lot happening in the next few years! On a more dreamy note, I never wanted kids before meeting Ravi, but we love to imagine how adorable our kids will be once we are settled down, wherever that might be.

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
Most of the positive values I think I bring to our relationship are based in very American ideas about independence, from freely expressing love and affection to encouraging Ravi to follow his own personal dreams, not someone else’s. I’m not one to let anyone tell me what to do, and I think that quality has really helped our relationship in times when lots of people felt like they could say that we didn’t belong together and that we were making a huge mistake. 

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
Ravi has never been very interested in doing “Indian” things - I have always been to one to say that we should go to the temple on Diwali or go to Hindi movies. Of course, we do regular stuff like make lots of rajmah and chaat. However, now that my mother in law is here, there are a lot more things I am adopting - like wearing sindoor, anklets, bangles, bindis and the mangalsutra. I don’t wear them all everyday (besides the mangalsutra), but it was funny to see how much Ravi actually likes them. He would never ask me to put anything on, but I see the smile on his face when I do wear them! He says I look exotic, which I find hilarious!

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
My family has not really adopted much of Indian culture, although they do love the food and celebrating holidays like Holi! They had a hard time in India due to getting sick and the heat, but they all looked really great in Indian clothes at our wedding. We’ll hopefully find another occasion soon to wear them.

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
Lack of privacy and space has probably been the hardest thing! While we were in Delhi, people would just show up at our house at any hour of the day - one time, I had a full face of makeup on only half of my face...and had to serve tea to an uncle when he stopped by! It was very embarrassing. I also love to come home at the end of the day, take all of my clothes off and just decompress, which is something you can’t do when you live with your mother in law. Besides that, freely giving any criticism and expecting women to dress and act a certain way has been very hard. I try not to take it to heart when someone says something, but it’s not always easy. The Firangi Bahu insecurity complex is REAL!

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
Oh my goodness, so many! In India, I felt like I did everything wrong, from not riding a scooter side saddle, to not wearing enough jewelry and bangles. Ravi’s family is very conservative, so there were even things like not bringing his plate to the kitchen after dinner that was frowned upon. Of course, I didn’t always touch elders’ feet at the right time. It’s an awkward thing when you haven't grown up naturally knowing when to do it!

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
Coming home from our Indian wedding and bringing Ravi’s mom back with us has definitely been the biggest challenge yet! India was crazy but I was able to go with the flow (one, I actually like it there and two, when in Rome do as the Romans). However, being subject to judgment and having no privacy or freedom in my own house has been very tough. Ravi loves his mom (which I love), but it's hard to feel like you're married to someone's mom. She also doesn't speak any English and my conversational Hindi isn't great, so it's like living with a stranger. We're learning and adjusting, but it's definitely been challenging in a way we have never experienced before.

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
Probably the best part of being in an intercultural relationship has been being exposed to so many new things and really thinking about the culture you were brought up to decide how you want to live your life. It broadens your horizons, figuratively and literally. On the other hand, the worst has been navigating certain cultural norms that are directly opposed to each other. Sometimes there simply aren't solutions that can make everyone happy. Thankfully, those are very rare for us, but looking forward, eventually we will have to settle down somewhere and one of us will be very far from our families. 

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
There are so many, but perhaps the biggest or most confounding one I’ve come across is that an intercultural relationship is too much work. Yes, it may not be as easy as dating the person who grew up right next door to you, but being with someone from a completely different background is also so much more of an adventure.

What are the biggest misconceptions about American women? 
The biggest ones I’ve come across about American women: we're godless/have no culture, we’re often prostitutes and all of us get divorced (all things we heard from my in laws when Ravi told them he wanted to marry me). There were probably even worse things that they said, but thank goodness for selective memories! 

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
ALL OF THE TIME. We live near Microsoft and all the big tech companies around Seattle, so we are around a lot of Indians. We've had some racist encounters with other kinds of people, but for some reason Indian women glare at me like I stole Ravi away from the gene pool or something! I've had them gossip about us right in front of us because they assume I can’t understand Hindi. Even just going out to dinner or grocery shopping near our house can be awkward. We deal because we know how amazing our relationship is - sometimes we laugh it off, other times we make comments to each other about it where the people in question are sure to hear. That’s not for everyone, but sometimes we just get so frustrated! Interestingly, we never had these kinds of problems in India!

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
It might not be the Indian way or the way of some other cultures, but ultimately, everything comes down to you and your spouse. Your relationship is worth fighting for. Sometimes it can take a lot of time for others to understand (or for you to understand each other), but true love is worth all of the struggles and misconceptions.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Ask Firangi Bahu: "How can she be the first to break tradition of generations of arranged marriages?"

(Img via Mayur Gala)

Sharing a letter from a reader...


What a wonderful website, as it has lots of information, and is 100% related to my situation. I was hoping that maybe you could give me some advice.

I am an American guy living in the Midwest. The Indian girl I love is from Kolkata. Actually, she and I work for the same company. We originally began corresponding over Skype, as coworkers, which transformed into a more personal relationship. Then when my company sent me to Kolkata for 3 weeks, we had a chance to be together and we shared many things, and several which would 100% be against the culture of an Indian woman.

She and I desire each other more than anything. We want to get married so very badly & have a family. However, there are several obstacles in the way.

First, her father does not like Americans. He has a certain view of American people.

Next, her parents forced her into a socially arranged marriage. Since then, she has not lived with him, did not take his last name, still lives with her parents, refuses to recognize the arrangement, and says she'll fight it to the very end.

And finally, there is the Indian culture. She tells me that no one has even done anything other than an arranged marriage in her family for many generations, and how can she be the first to break tradition, to hurt her family?

I am also 15 years older than her. She is 30, and I am 45. The age gap is no issue for us, but it may be a problem for her parents.

I told her a story of a someone I know from the local gym, a black guy, who also met a girl from New Delhi when his company sent him there. They also fell in love, and after 1 year, against her family, she left and they got married. Her parents did not talk with her for 6 months. And after she became pregnant and had a daughter, all of a sudden, he is the best son-in-law in the family and can visit anytime!

Her comment to that is, "My parents are not her parents". When I ask to make contact with her parents, she just asks me not to make the situation more complicated. Yet she tells me she is afraid of going through the rest of her life without me.

An Indian man at the same gym told me that if I want her bad enough, all I need is patience.

She often tells me that I should forget her, that it will just not work, that there is no way it can ever happen. I then ask her, "can you forget me?"  And of course, she replies "No." I tell her that women all over the world, including Indian women, make this choice. I have told her that I will learn whatever Indian culture is necessary or needed.

We talk every day about so many things, and so much about a possible future and family we both want with each other. I tell her how once her family sees how happy she is here, and how successful she is, and what a happy family we have, they will accept me.

I ask her what kind of parents she has, if they know she does not love or care for the arranged match, yet they force her to be with him.

I try to explain to her that she has a God given right to be happy and choose her own way. And that once her parents are gone, who is she doing it for?  I try to show her the freedom here. To explain that the decision she is making is not hers, but someone else living her life. I tell her that she is not someone's pet, but has desires and wishes and wants and needs to do them for herself. The world is a huge place, and life is short.

She agrees with it all, and tells me she is afraid of going through the rest of her life without me. but always comes back to telling me how complicated it all is, and just to forget her.

Can I win this? Can I make her strong enough to do what she desires, instead of letting someone else choose her life? Do we have any chance of a future.......... because I love her, and she loves me. How can I convince her parents?

Please advise, and thank you very much."


Dear readers, have you ever been in this situation?
How can you break free of generations-worth of arranged marriages?
Do you think Indian girls in particular are raised to put their parents' wishes before their own?
How can this man convince the parents when her father doesn't "like" Americans?
What should the next step be for him, being the man in the relationship?


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Our joint-family Summer vacation to Yellowstone National Park

Last month, we went on our annual Summer vacation to none other than Yellowstone National Park! Every year, we like to meet up with my inlaws by choosing a special travel destination that we have never been to before, and explore it together, which has become a wonderful family tradition that we look forward to. Husband-ji and I went to Jackson Hole 5 years ago, except we went for work so we didn't have a chance to see much. This time, it was purely for fun!

My inlaws wanted to see Yellowstone National Park (it's on their traveling bucket list) and I thought it would be a great trip for Maya as well. Maya LOVES animals, and she is very much a wild girl, so it made sense to take her on a "great outdoors" vacation! 

The trip was so educational for all of us. Not only did we get to be in nature all day, but we got to see tons of wild animals in their natural habitat. We saw at least 300 bison, moose, elk, and eagles. We also learned so much about rock formations, and volcanic activity by seeing all the geysers and hot springs. I got Maya a pair of kids' binoculars and she had them around her neck the entire time! She also got this pink suede cowboy hat and refused to take it off, which was a big hit with the locals.

The only problem with the park was that there was very limited vegetarian options for husband-ji and my inlaws. I was secretly thrilled to eat beef chilli, which seemed to be a staple there! I am glad that we stayed in our Air Bnb rental because we just cooked our own vegetarian food to bring with us. ("We" being my MIL, chef extraordinairre!)

We ended our trip by driving up to Montana to see husband-ji's favorite professor from college, who we last saw when he attended our wedding 4 years ago. We all stayed in his cabin, which was in a very remote place on the hills and 1 mile to the nearest neighbor! My inlaws had never been to a place that was so isolated - it was a totally new experience for them. My MIL surprisingly ended up liking it a lot! He built the entire cabin by himself and it was very impressive. Of course, we took over the kitchen with our traveling on-the-road full-service Indian kitchen, and he was delighted at the Indian meals we made him.

Our trip itinerary went like this:

Day 1 - Everyone fly into Jackson Hole, rent car and spend the night.

Day 2 - Have brunch in Jackson Hole and go shopping.
Drive North through Mormon Row & Grand Teton National Park.
Arrive in West Yellowstone to our Air BnB rental.

Day 3 - Explore the South loop of Yellowstone National Park.

Day 4 - Explore the North loop of Yellowstone National Park.

Day 5 - Rest day in West Yellowstone.
Husband-ji & FIL went out hiking/taking additional pictures.

Day 6 - Check out of Air Bnb rental. 
Drive from West Yellowstone to husband-ji's professor's cabin in Montana.

Day 7 - Explore Bozeman and go to the Dinosaur museum.

Day 8 - Flying back home out of Bozeman.

It was great to go on a fun road trip like this together, and it is definitely a trip we'd never forget! We got to spend some good quality time together, which is so important when we live so far from each other. Maya still has her binoculars, pink cowboy hat, and now she wants to be a cowgirl for Halloween!


Our outfits:
My patterned dress is from Anthropologie.
My pink tunic & MIL's orange tunic is from Kilol.
Maya & thatha's matching shirts are her design from our Etsy shop.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Caring for your Masala child's hair

Children with mixed ethnic backgrounds often require different beauty routines - especially when it comes to hair care. Since we are trying to grow Maya's hair long, we have been consciously trying out products that gently wash and soften her hair.

Doing "the hair" has kind of become a big deal in our household - especially when you have a girl! It is all about proper brushes, detangling spray, hair clips, bows, elastics, products...our second bathroom has become a full service hair salon! Not to mention, diva husband-ji is also growing out his hair and is obsessed with having it either straight or in a super hot man-bun!

It occurred to me a while ago that the majority of products out there - especially hair products - are geared towards blond, blue eyed, straight-haired white babies. Like the Gerber baby. There are very few products out there that are geared towards curly haired people, or even wavy haired people. A lot of the products that say they moisturize are actually not at all moisturizing.

So, I went online to research. However the articles online are geared towards Black/white babies (the most common interracial mix) and not any Indian or even Asian mixes. Asian hair is completely different than African hair. Indian hair is completely different than Asian hair. A Masala baby's hair texture is much different than any other mix.

With my own daughter, her hair is fine and curly. It needs a very gentle moisture, and I only wash it twice a week to preserve this. One of the two times that I wash it, I will either use a deep conditioner like pure coconut oil (pre-shampoo); or a store-bought conditioner after the shampoo, and then some oil on the ends which I let air dry. And all week long, I will use a moisturizing detangling spray before I do her hair every day. Our "head bath" days are usually Wednesdays and Sundays, and it requires a bit of a procession.

I have tried a variety of products on her hair, so I know what has really worked for her texture. And it is even better if the products are something that we all can use. Husband-ji, Maya, and I have completely different hair textures, so it is a miracle if we can get something that we can all use!

Here are my reviews of what we've tried so far:

This one is my favorite, and all 3 of us use it. It has a heavenly scent that smells like a coconut cookie, transforming our shower to somewhere tropical. It is very gentle and moisturizing. You don't have to use a lot and it works up into a great lather. After months of daily use, we still haven't finished the bottle!
*I also love their Desert Essence Coconut Hair Defrizzer & Heat Protector, which I use as a detangler.

Weleda Calendula Baby Shampoo and Body Wash
When Maya was born, my midwives recommended Weleda's Calendula line for babies and I got hooked. I have used this one for years - it is hypoallergenic and great for sensitive skin. As she has gotten older and her hair has become more dry, I have noticed that it doesn't dry it out. The only thing about this product is that the smell is very strong - it's not for everyone. I would tend to use it after swimming or getting dirty, because the smell is highly pungent - which might be a good thing!

Mustela Bebe Dermo-Cleansing
This is another product that I've used all the way back from my pregnancy with Maya - my friend swore by their stretch mark cream (Mustela Stretch Marks Double Action), and at my baby shower someone gifted me a bunch of Mustela products which I still continue to use on Maya. This product is very gentle and safe to use on any skin irritations. I love the sweet floral scent to it - it is almost perfumed!

Alaffia - Beautiful Curls - Curl Enhancing Shampoo
This is a product I found while trying to scour the shops for something that was specifically for curly haired people. I was very impressed by this shampoo, as it did what it was supposed to do. It cleaned the hair without stripping it, and many times I even skipped the conditioner afterwards. It made my daughter's curls nice and shapely the next day.
*I also love the Alaffia - Beautiful Curls - Curl Nurturing Leave-In Detangler for Babies

Aveeno Gentle Conditioning Baby Shampoo
Some people swear by Aveeno, but for us this was a very basic product which did not moisturize at all. The only positive about this product was the nice warm smell, but that was it. Not impressed!

Johnson's Natural Baby Shampoo
I purchased this product mainly because the labeling was appealing, being "natural" and all. Unfortunately it stunk like chlorine or some other weird chemicals that are sold as the "natural" scent (WTF...) This shampoo was also very drying and very watery. I would only use this if I was desperate and it was the last thing in my cabinet and there was a snowstorm and we couldn't get out to buy proper shampoo.

Weleda Oat Replenishing Conditioner
I love most of the Weleda line, but I wasn't a fan of this. It was too moisturizing and extremely thick. It does not glide over the wet hair nicely and it is so thick that you can hardly squirt it out of the bottle. I love the scent, but the texture is a fail.
This is a great bedtime bubble bath for the family that gently cleans and has a beautiful relaxing scent. The whole jar lasts forever, with the pump control. I have tried it on the hair, but it is too drying - but it is perfect as a bubble bath staple.

Moroccan Oil Hydrating Shampoo
This one is a big hit with the whole family - especially my inlaws. Not to mention I dragged it all the way to India for my cousin-sisters as they loved it too. It's no surprise that it worked wonderfully on Maya's hair too. It is very gentle and it has a great lather, so it lasts a long time. My only gripe is that it's not tear-free...but I still love it.
*I also love the Moroccanoil Oil Treatment Hair Oil with Pump and sometimes I run it through the hair after towel drying. It works wonders on both curly hair and my straight hair too!

I'm sure I will have more reviews in the future, so stay tuned!


Dear readers, do you have any recommendations for curly haired individuals?
What is your masala baby's hair texture like?


Saturday, September 19, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Gopal & Radhika

Radhika is a fellow wonderful Canadian gal from the other coast who now lives in India in a big fat joint family! She also writes a wonderful blog which documents her personal spiritual journey...

My name is Radhika Angie and I was born and raised in Canada (Halifax). My husband, Gopal-ji was born and raised in Holy town in Northern India. We have two children - a three year old boy and a two year old girl.

Three words that describe you...
Adventurous, Evolving, Compassionate.

Favorite childhood memory...
I've led a semi-charmed kind of life, filled with so much travel and fun. But if I had to choose, I'd say every summer we would spend it at the beach and bobbing in the waves with family. It wasn't one specific memory - they all kind of melt into one glorious gift of sunshine, love and laughter!

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
In nature.

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
We met here in India. I was on my second trip to his Holy town which felt like home from the moment I arrived. I was staying at an Ashram, and my girlfriend convinced the driver to take us out touring around on his motorcycle. He introduced us to some of his friends at their place of work, and they happened to work for my hubby!

 How long have you been together?
Five years.

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
His ability to make use of anything. The way he always gets the most for his money. His confidence in himself is contagious, and the way he believes in anyone he brings into his heart is incredible

 Favorite memory together as a couple...
When I asked hubby this question he said "How can I choose? Any time we spend together is a favorite memory!" It made me swoon, but we do both agree that if we had to choose one - it would be when we were first spending time together. He and his friend took my girlfriend and I on their motorcycles touring around the countryside and surrounding towns and to one particular temple where we got matching Henna. The day felt like something out of a Romantic Movie!

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
Not as much as I thought I did!!!

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
My family wasn't surprised! They knew after my first trip to India I'd probably end up living here. For me to fall in love - well, they figured that would happen as well. I've always been a wondering soul, so my family is very grounded and supportive.

I really had to have patience when it came to my hubby making our relationship known to his family. He had proposed to me and I had accepted, but he hadn't told his family a thing about me. It was hard on me, but that's because I spent to much time in my head during those few months after I moved here. It was a true lesson in our love and my ability to have faith in him.

His family was incredibly accepting, and his father had only three questions for me:
1. Which country did I prefer - Canada or India?
2. What did my father do for a living?
3. Who is my God?

I obviously answered it to his liking because the next day, he and my now Mother in Law (whom I had already won over weeks before) informed hubby that he should marry me if he expected to continue on the way he was (i.e. spending time with me)

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
I'm far more grounded now. I'm relaxed in the flow of daily life, especially with my kids. I just don't fear for them the way I used to. My hubby and Indian culture (in general) is a lot like it was in the West decades ago - kids have far more freedom to just be kids. My relationship has also taught me that words can often and are often misunderstood - you have to trust your heart and listen to the truth of what is being said - not what your ego wants to hear. 

Who proposed and how?
He proposed. He was receiving marriage proposals daily for an arranged marriage and was feeling pressure from his family to chose a bride. He had decided he wouldn't marry, and then I arrived in his world! He asked me to marry him almost instantly and I hesitated - it was just so fast for what we are used to in Canada. He asked me why I had fear, and said to look into my heart not my head for the answer. I said yes in less than a minute!

Describe your wedding...
Super simple! We had a traditional Hindu ceremony in India with hubby's family and a few of his closest friends, along with two of my friends. It all happened so quickly that my family couldn't make it, but they were there afterwards via Skype :)

What does being married mean to you?
It means dedication and commitment, it's not easy especially when your in a twin flame relationship like ours, we've both had to resist the urge to jump ship. Giving all you think you can possibly can, and then giving a little more. 

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
We want to restore and renovate as many ancient structures in our town as possible. With developers coming in and destroying these old buildings because it is cheaper to build new ones it is disheartening. It takes our little ancient Bhakti town and creates a world closer to the cookie-cutter world of concrete city life. We have two children, so it's important to us to preserve cultural heritage for them. 

We are about to finish our first project - Gopalji Dham: A Spiritual Guesthouse, where we run retreats and introduce people to authentic India through our guided spiritual adventures. It is our dream!

Ideally, we'd like to live between India and Canada each year enjoying what each country has to offer and bring our children up in the most loving open hearted world we can create.

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
Live each day like it's your last. Love fully - accept the ugly, with the beauty. And always talk it out; but first give him the space to process it! Men need quiet time to make sense of what is going on. Women can just start talking and come to the same conclusion. It's important for us gals to understand this, and give our men the space they need. We can call our mother, call our best friend or any girlfriend, but we can't expect him to be that person. Men just aren't wired that way! He'll talk when he is ready, so allow him to have the time he needs.

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
My Canadian family is all about the good times, I keep reminding my hubby that it's okay for adults to play and be silly! Compassion and consideration for others is something I don't see often in India and I love this part of my Canadian heritage. 

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
Food in India is huge. I always wait for hubby to return home in the evening so that we can enjoy our food as a couple. It usually happens after the kids are in bed. Every night after the kids are sleeping we spend time together - no TV, no internet. We keep the lights soft, recap our day, visualize our future and just breath together.

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
Practically everything! I live in rural India, and I am a traditional Indian housewife by all accounts. I wake up before my joint family to prepare "bed tea" morning chai. I wear only Indian clothes - suits and sari's while in India. In the West, I wear Western attire and such, but always have my sindoor, bindi and bangles on. I cook Indian food every day. I touch the feet of everyone I am supposed to. By all accounts I'm a good Can-Indian girl :)

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
My family loves Indian food and when they visit they can't get enough of the temples!

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
We still attend functions where hubby sits on one side of the room with the men, while I sit with the women on the other. These gender distinctions are outdated, and I constantly argue that I didn't move to India to spend time with anyone but him. While I love taking care of my family, it is a choice for me - but for many Indian women, it is not a choice and their own dreams often get sacrificed by their duty to be a "good" Indian girl.

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
The only one that comes to mind (although there are many), is touching the feet of elders. One of my bhabi's (hubby's brothers wife) parents came to visit shortly after our marriage, I came out to meet them, and touched their feet as I thought you were supposed to do with all elders, but this is not the case. Once married into our family, she becomes my sister therefore her parents my parents - in Indian culture (from my understanding) girls never touch the feet of their biological parents because daughters are considered Goddess incarnate to the parents.

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
The first year of marriage was really difficult. I didn't understand the language and had moved into our joint family home in India. I was convinced everyone was talking about me all the time; I had no control over my life; my MIL was the ruler, telling me what to do and how to do it and she didn't speak a word of English! I felt picked on; It seemed like everything I did, from the way I bathed to cutting potatoes was "wrong"! I was also pregnant immediately, so add the hormones into the culture-shock of joint family living - I was a mess! Hubby often had my back, but didn't understand a woman's emotional side. He claimed his sister in laws never cried or complained - which was not the truth but because they kept it private the same way I was, no one else knew I was as stressed as I was. I am super close with my family in Canada and fortunately hubby understood this and was comfortable with me going back to Canada after six months in order to catch my breath. He even joined me and my family in Canada so I could have our son with the comforts of my known world. That's when I realized I needed both countries in order to find true balance and happiness in my life

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
We have different understandings of the relationships and expectations between a husband and wife based on our experiences. This can be straining at times. But I do love how diverse our life is and the constant growth.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
That's hard to answer. I think people romanticize it. And others think he married me only for money - not!

What are the biggest misconceptions about Canadian women?
I think in India, they believe we have loose morals and values. There is a fear we won't take care of their sons, and take them away instead of embracing them and remaining open to what Indian culture has to offer.

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
We just laugh! People will think what they want, free will is the beauty of life, we know our truth and that's all that matters

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Don't lose yourself to please anyone, but put your ego aside and be open to everything being offered!

(All photos courtesy of Balanced Soul)
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