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...


Introduction....
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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7 comments

  1. I loved this! Shows how there truly are differences in an honest way but also how you can make those differences work for you! Nice story.

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  2. Super cute kids... and the building restoration project is great ! (Padparadscha)

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  3. she is so beautiful for him . hehe

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  4. Thanks, this has helped me to think a bit differently about my own relationship. I feel like my partner and I must be twin flames. We are an unlikely couple; our horoscopes etc are not perfect, I am taller and heavier than him (never dated anyone like that before; had dated people of other races before though), and we are really quite different... but there has always been this tangible feeling of sameness, of familiarity... and the challenge of truly looking at the reflection of yourself.
    Our dream is also a retreat centre :) likely in Canada though.
    Meg

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  5. why many of the western woman you marry indian man end up being house wifes and move to india?
    this would give an interesting topic alexandra

    nice couple :) i loved the ashram project.

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  6. Thank You for sharing Radhika! We Miss you here in Halifax!!! I Hope one day to make it to India and meet your Handsome Family and see your Beautiful Home!

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