Saturday, November 28, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Fawad & Satu


This beautiful Pakistani-Finnish couple lives in Europe together and combines their cultures effortlessly!


Introduction....
My name is Satu and I’m from Tampere, Finland. My husband, Fawad, is Pakistani Punjabi,  raised in Islamabad. We currently live together in Espoo, southern Finland and are expecting our first baby.

Three words that describe you...
Intuitive, impatient and thoughtful.

Favorite childhood memory...
Long summer holidays from school and all the activities during those holidays: travelling around Europe with my family, spending time by the lake at our family cottage in Eastern Finland, long walks in the forest with my Labrador retriever Tessa, picking berries and flowers with my mother and grandmother. 

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
Definitely in nature. Finnish nature offers four very distinctive seasons and each of them involves different traditions and activities. My mother taught me to always admire and respect nature and that has stuck with me until this day. I might stop to adore a specifically beautiful shade of green grass and I still get excited (and equally scared) whenever there’s a thunderstorm.

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
We met in Tampere, Finland, at University circles. I had recently returned from Turkey, having lived there for six months for exchange studies. I didn’t want to let go of the international atmosphere so I joined a group of exchange students and international degree students in Tampere and quickly met Fawad through common friends.

How long have you been together?
We met in May 2011 so it has now been 4.5 years.


What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
Fawad is a very loving person and really takes care of those close to him. I have no doubt that he will be a great father! He is also very fun loving and never fails to make me laugh. He has an amazing ability to always think positive and he makes people comfortable by keeping the moment light.

Favorite memory together as a couple...
It’s really hard for me to choose one favorite memory over others! But I specifically enjoyed our trip to Istanbul back in 2013. Due to a small confusion with flight dates (oops!) we ended up spending 10 days there instead of the planned 4 days. We were in my favorite city in the world, roaming around with ample of time, enjoying the food, the atmosphere, the history and the sights. On top of it all, Fawad got a call with good news on a job AND we celebrated my birthday. It was just such a stress free trip and I feel like we connected in new ways.

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
Pretty much nothing. I had never met a Pakistani person before and my knowledge on the country was limited to news of Taliban and Osama bin Laden. I’d like to think myself as open minded though, so I never let prejudice define how I looked at Fawad. And here we are!

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
Most of our friends are international so it was no big deal for them. There were some friends/family members that I knew would struggle a bit with the news, but once they got to know Fawad, their worries disappeared. Fawad also told his family about me at an early stage.


How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
It is amazing to learn about a new culture so different from your own. It really widens your perspective and gives new points of view. On a personal level, there are some values in my life that have been re-kindled with Fawad’s influence. I have become more positive and laid back and Fawad has brought the hugging culture even to my side of the family!

Who proposed and how?
We had been discussing getting engaged and already bought the rings together so it wasn’t really a surprise to me. We went on a small trip to Tallinn, Estonia and spent a very pleasant few days in a nice hotel. Fawad didn’t have a grand speech prepared and was clearly a bit nervous, but he did say some very beautiful words and proposed in the hotel room, privately but romantically, just like I wanted. Earlier he had also met with my parents to ask for my hand, not that we needed their permission, but because we thought it would be nice gesture towards them. This story ended up in my dad’s speech at our wedding!

Describe your wedding...
We had two weddings, one in Pakistan and one in Finland. The Pakistan wedding took place in April 2015 and lasted for two days. We had a Mehndi party for friends and close relatives, with music, food, dancing, colorful clothes and all that. The next day we had the Walima reception which was a more upscale dinner event, us sitting on a couch on a platform and being photographed with all the guests one by one. Regardless of the horrifically last minute (in my Finnish, calm-natured, confirm-everything-six-months-before opinion) preparations, everything went really well and both events will always be some of my best experiences of Pakistani culture.

The Finnish wedding happened in August 2015 in Tampere, the city where we met. We had a civil ceremony in a beautiful blooming rose garden and a reception at a manor. The program was quite traditional with the ceremony, food, speeches, wedding dance and so on. We kept the two weddings separate in a way that one was completely Pakistani and one completely Finnish, with one exception of the wedding dance in the Finnish wedding where we performed a short Bhangra show. That turned out to be a hit!


What does being married mean to you?
Getting married was like gearing up to the next level. We are both calmer now and quarrel less. We share the same values and goals in life and being married is kind of a testimony for that. Our marriage is still so fresh that I sometimes forget to call Fawad my husband – it sounds so grown up. And I get weak in the knees when he calls me his wife!

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
We want to maintain our relationship as affectionate, bubbly and happy even when the times get busier. We want to buy a home, settle down and start our family but at the same time keep all doors open for news career prospects and locations. We also want to keep on travelling regularly.

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
Never go to bed angry.

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
Meaning what you say and saying what you feel, honesty, and love for nature.

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
For us the small acts of kindness in everyday life are the key to keeping the relationship alive. We need regular together-time to just relax, laugh and be cute. Another important thing for both of us is travelling, whether it’s a small weekend trip to a nearby city or a longer overseas holiday. Learning and seeing new things together connects us in a very special way and creates precious memories.


In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
I like the fashion and clothes and own way too many shalwar suits considering that I’ve only visited Pakistan twice! I’m also slowly increasing my threshold for spicy foods and recently learned to love lentil soup. Last but not least, I’m trying to learn Urdu which is a bit of a challenge as there are no classes available where I live. Fawad also likes to mix Urdu and Punjabi which doesn’t make my language learning any easier!

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
They like the Pakistani food that Fawad sometimes cooks, given that he makes it Finnish-friendly (no chili or other hot spices). And we did see some bhangra moves from them at the wedding!

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
No matter how late or behind of schedule you are, there’s never a hurry to get things done. This can be really frustrating for someone like me who can’t relax if there’s unfinished business lurking around! Another thing that is totally different from the Finnish culture is the perception of and need for privacy. I’m used to having my own space and time so adjusting to a big family household with people constantly popping in and out can be tough. In Finland, even friends and family let each other know beforehand if they want to visit, and life in general is much more private and centered on the nuclear family.

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
The best part is that there is always something more to learn about each other and each other’s backgrounds. It is such a richness to be able to build your own family culture while picking the best sides of two very different cultures. The worst part is that someone’s family is always far away and not all big moments can be shared with both sides.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
That there is always some background agenda to the relationship other than love.

What are the biggest misconceptions about Finnish women?
Probably the general misconception that all European women have no moral values and are after money, and they cheat on their husbands the first chance they get. 

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
No, at least not very openly. Although following the current European immigrant crisis I have noticed more people giving bad looks because they think Fawad is a fresh-off-the-boat immigrant who’s here to take advantage of the social benefits and stealing jobs and women from the locals. Luckily Fawad isn’t at all bothered by this!

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Follow your heart. In the end, it’s your life and your choices, not your friends’ or family’s. If you are struggling with cultural differences, it might be worthwhile to search for some reading material and assignments for intercultural couples to learn to better understand each other’s backgrounds.


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Friday, November 27, 2015

Ask Firangi Bahu: "My Indian boyfriend's MARRIED ex-girlfriend is still in love with him!"

(Img via Oscar Keys)


Sharing a letter from a reader...


"I'd be interested in your perspective and that of other readers if you have the time or interest in replying. I honestly don't know if there is any kind of answer to this situation, but it's also a strangely dramatic story which is entirely foreign to me and I wonder if you/your readers will find it entertaining/have any insights for me.

My boyfriend and I are very happy to be building our lives together here in the US. We're both 28 and this relationship is the most mature, sincere and loving relationship either of us have experienced. He's been in the US for six years, first doing his master's degree, and for the last several years working. During their last visit here, my boyfriend told his parents that he would like to find his own wife, according to him their response was "Fine, but don't come crying to us if it doesn't work out." I take that as a hopeful sign they'll eventually accept our relationship. But I also expect that his parents were probably still expecting him to eventually ask for an arranged marriage. I feel secure in our relationship and trust that with time and communication things will eventually work out. So, the family stuff, I feel okay about, the concern I have is about an ex-girlfriend of his. 

They "dated" while they were in college in India. He's told me about their relationship and I am not worried that he has lingering feelings or anything like that. It reminds me of my relationship with my first boyfriend- mostly sweet and innocent "first love" kind of stuff, but without the realities of adult life. They dated for over a year while in college - but she ended things when he decided that he wasn't interested in following her to the US for grad school. He wound up working at home for a year and then later decided to come here. At this point, their relationship ended seven years ago.

She had an arranged marriage, but is apparently still hung up on my boyfriend. She sends him Facebook and WhatsApp messages once or twice a year. The messages range from cordial birthday greetings, to plaintive cries for attention and love. Seriously, the message read like my high school journal when I was processing the end of my first love. "I'm sorry for caring so much, I'm sorry for loving you too much, for wanting to see you everyday, for always thinking about you before going to sleep." Not even kidding, that is straight out of the latest message.

Three years ago, she flew across the country and appeared on his doorstep unannounced to confront him about why he had stopped responding to her attempts at communication. She was married at that point! Who does that?! His house mate let her in and she spent the night in his room while my boyfriend slept on the couch and called her husband, (yeah that seems like a yucky patriarchy thing to me too, but also, I don't know what I would do if I were in the same situation.) At that point he told her explicitly that while he cared for her as a friend, he didn't feel comfortable continuing to talk to her or exchange messages. I did not know him at that point. Since then, he hasn't really engaged with her when she sends messages, but she continues to do so. 

I feel a bit like a bad feminist for saying this, but I'm getting frustrated by her presence in our life. I mostly feel really sorry for this woman, she is clearly carrying a lot of pain and anguish over this relationship which ended SEVEN years ago. Honestly, it is entirely possible my sweet, wonderful, perfect match for me now, boyfriend, was not a great boyfriend to her when they were younger. I don't know. I know I've grown and developed as a person and handle changing relationship dynamics much differently now, than I did when I was 21. I've experienced a heart shattering break up which took me a year to learn and recover from - but it's been seven years and this woman is STILL holding on. I know there isn't anything I can do to control her behaviour, I would really like to send her counselling and therapist options for her area - but that might not come across very well. 

It's also frustrating for me, because as the white girlfriend, his family doesn't know me and we haven't announced our marital intentions publicly yet. I guess I'm feeling a bit of desire for public recognition of my place in his life, like maybe that will either help her see that this is clearly inappropriate, or at the very least, I'll feel less bothered by her nuisance if I'm publicly recognized as his partner. Does that make any sense? Or am I just borrowing trouble to even engage with this issue at all? 

Should I just keep my mouth shut about the twinges of irritation I feel? Just support my boyfriend in his decision to NOT respond to her? I feel really sorry for her, it must be very painful to continue carrying this emotional burden. 

Also, it's totally possible this last message has me more annoyed because he's at home in Chennai right now and I just miss him and our relationship is going through a significant milestone - he's telling his folks about me. It is a nerve-wracking time for us and her latest message came at the right time for me to get bent out of shape over. 

Any insight? Or is this just something I should peacefully ignore and let run it's course?"

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Dear readers, should the reader get involved or stay away from the drama?
How do you handle people who just can't seem to let go, despite the amount of time that has passed?
Have you ever dealt with a stalker ex?

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Canadian Thanksgiving in the USA


This week, Americans are celebrating the huge holiday of Thanksgiving in the USA, while we Canadians celebrated it last month in October.


Since my parents' were away and we had a holiday weekend, we decided to make a quick trip down to Seattle to see our Tamil family for the weekend. Over the past few years, we have made soooooooooo many trips to Seattle, as it is only a short drive across the border.


I love Seattle. It is such a great city, and so kid-friendly. It is just enough to get my fix of "American-ness" which I often miss, now that we are residing in Canada. Seattle is a city that is very subtly American. It is not as "Yankee" as places like Texas or New York. It is American, without being too American. Seattle also has a very cool and calm nature, much like many of the cities in the Pacific Northwest. I would compare it to a place like Goa, in terms of it's relaxed attitude - and lots of hippies too!


I also love that Seattle is such a diverse city. Thanks to Microsoft, there is a huge community of South Indians, which we don't have in Vancouver. The Indian food in the Seattle area is much better than the limited options in Vancouver, which are mostly inauthentic Punjabi cuisine.


While we were there, we got to do a lot of fun stuff, such as explore the Public Market, shop downtown, and take the monorail to the Space Needle and The Children's Museum. We have done all these things before, but when Maya was younger and was asleep for most of it! It is fun to do these things again, as she is older. I love seeing the world through her eyes.


The best part of the trip was seeing her play with her little cousin, who is like a big brother to her. Seeing her cousin was more fun for her than a trip to Disneyland!


While the kids played, husband-ji also got to have the chance to spend some good quality "guy time" with his cousin-brothers.

This was our last official trip of the year that we have planned. As winter rolls in, the only plans we have are just to stay home, keep working, and stay warm! It's hard to believe that a year ago, we were in India! Time just flies!

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Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers! 
What are your plans for Thanksgiving?

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Interview with Thrity Umrigar on her book "The Story Hour"


One of the novels that I read this year that really stayed with me was "The Story Hour" by Thrity Umrigar. It was one of those novels that I devoured late at night and just couldn't put down. Each word seemed to reach out to me and touch my soul. Characters came alive in my head, and they were so familiar to me. I imagined their faces and their surroundings in pristine detail. There was something about this novel that really got under my skin. Not to mention, this is one of the few novels that I have read by Indian authors that features a masala intercultural love story - a Blindian couple! YES, YES, YES!!! This book is a must-read for anyone who is in an intercultural relationship.


Hands down, my favorite thing about the novel was Thrity's exploration of multi-dimensional female characters. The two female protagonists were complex and flawed, which made them even more realistic and likable. Boy, do I love a flawed woman!

The novel also touched on many important themes that effect our masala community, such as: arranged marriage, the struggles of immigration, culture and love, isolation, reinvention, marriage, mental health, forgiveness, betrayal, and the innate power of female friendship.


(Img credit: Robert Mueller)

Today I'm thrilled to feature an intimate Q&A with Thrity Umrigar about her book, "The Story Hour"!

I loved that the two main protagonists were both multi-dimensional, complex women, which made this book even more precious to me. The theme of the flawed woman is also present in your other novels. What fascinates you about the idea of the flawed woman?
Thrity: I attempt to write novels that are reflections of reality as I see it. And one thing I've learned is that life is complex and so are people. There is a gap between who we aspire to be and who we are. Indeed, our flaws are evidence of our humanity. So, by definition I create flawed characters. I am not interested in black-and-white representations of reality -- we can leave that to the comic books. I think most of us live in the gray and that's where I nestle my novels.

One of the main themes of The Story Hour is female friendship - two women from completely different backgrounds who form a very deep and complex relationship. Why did you choose to write about the power of female friendship?
Thrity: I'm not sure that I chose to write about female friendship. I just chose to tell the story I wanted to tell about two different women from different class and educational backgrounds and they ended up seeking out each other's friendship because each needed to learn something from the other. 

In the novel, Lakshmi is brought to the US by her Indian husband and finds herself trapped with no support system and living far away from her family. Do you think this is common for many Indian women who relocate abroad after marriage?
Thrity: I'm afraid that it may be true for immigrant women of a certain class background. If they are not in grad school or working outside the home, there is a possibility of them being very isolated. Who would they turn to for friendship? And since arranged marriages are still common in India, even their most intimate partner -- their husband -- may be a stranger to them. I would imagine that this adds to the isolation, especially if the man is domineering or abusive or they find that there is no compatibility between them. Or, even if that's not the case, the man would be at work almost the entire day, leaving the woman to fend for herself.

How can people rebuild their lives after moving to an entire different country? Do you think people who haven't made such a drastic uprooting underestimate how hard it is?
Thrity: Absolutely. I think the vile rhetoric that we hear about immigration from our presidential candidates at the moment would end in a minute if people really understood the magnitude of the emotional trauma that immigration engenders. I mean, we are not even talking about people whose migrations are fueled by desperation -- whether it be abject poverty and violence in Mexico or the upheaval in Syria. Their trauma is almost too unbearable to fathom. Even someone like me, who came for the happiest of reasons -- to go to grad school in the U.S. -- I can still cry when I think of that awful scene at the airport when I left my entire family behind for the first time. I was 21 years old, brimming with optimism and raring to see the world. And yet, it was heart-wrenching to say goodbye to all the people you love. 

The novel also touches on some mental health topics, like suicide and depression. Is discussing mental health issues is frowned upon in Indian culture?
Thrity: Not frowned upon so much as misunderstood. Among the lower classes, there's no real understanding of PTSD or panic attacks or depression. The binaries are stark -- either you're crazy or you're sane. And there's very little support system for someone suffering from depression etc.

Lakshmi is also trapped in an emotionally abusive marriage by her controlling husband. What made you decide to write about emotional abuse - which is often overlooked (and therefore allowed)?
Thrity: In my novels, I'm always interested in the "smaller," less dramatic stories. So, writing about physical abuse didn't interest me -- it's common and easily understood. But verbal and emotional abuse is so much more interesting in a literary sense because its secretive and subtle and can be much more painful and lethal to a person's sense of self and personhood than more overt forms of abuse.

This novel was also very much about marriage and how long-term love changes and develops over time - for both Lakshmi & Maggie. How is marriage viewed differently in India than it is in the US?
Thrity: I think people in India are generally less romantic about marriage than we are in the West. I'm not sure how much people believe in soulmates etc. like we do. But then, we have so many more options -- staying single, marrying for love, geographical mobility, entering in same-sex unions -- than people in India do. So many people, even young people, still have arranged marriages. The saying in India is that there, love comes after marriage rather than before. I find myself quite dubious of this but there you have it.

Do you think Indian men have different expectations of marriage than women do?
In my very limited experience of life in India today -- I have lived in America my entire adult life -- I would suggest that Indian men are much more conservative and traditional in their expectations of marriage than the women are.

Both Lakshmi & Maggie are married women, but are childless - which is a taboo in both Indian and Western cultures. Do you think this helped the characters connect on a deeper level?
Thrity: This is one of those instances when the reader is more intelligent than the writer. I guess I was so focused on the other connection that the two women share -- that they both lost their mothers at a young age -- that I missed the connection that you made. Lakshmi, of course, is young enough to yet have children.

Being in an intercultural relationship myself, I absolutely loved that Maggie & Sudhir were a "Blindian" couple - which is quite a rarity in our community! What made you decide to write about a mixed masala marriage?
Thrity: I just thought that giving Maggie an Indian husband would give her yet another point of connection with Lakshmi. But I also wanted to point out the limits of that connection. Sudhir and Lakshmi are both Indian, yes, but they come from such vastly different class backgrounds, that they don't have all that much in common. And at a crucial moment, Maggie finds that her knowledge of her husband's culture doesn't help her understand and comfort Lakshmi.

Many of my own Indian family are scared of African-Americans when they come to the US, much like Lakshmi's husband was towards Maggie. What made you decide to write about some of the racism and mistrust that some Indians have towards people who have darker skin?
Thrity: I wrote about it because it's something that has always puzzled and angered me. I've heard of instances of Indian foreign students, for instance, refusing to say hello to a fellow black student on campus. I feel embarrassed when I hear these stories. So I decided to explore this phenomena and perhaps even suggest a path forward. India is one of the most color-conscious countries on Earth and I'm afraid that we carry our prejudices with us when we come to another nation.

Both Maggie & Lakshmi have painful secrets from their past that they share in the novel. Do you think painful secrets tend to catch up with oneself? Do sharing these stories with others help the healing process?
Thrity: If a secret is shameful, if it is weighing you down or corroding your insides, the best thing you can do is set it free. Then, the worm becomes a butterfly. And sharing our stories with one another is one of the fundamental things that human beings do. It affirms our humanity.

I loved that you wrote Lakshmi's thoughts and dialogue in heavily accented English - it reminded me so much of how my Indian Mother-in-Law thinks and talks. Were you worried that readers who are not familiar with the Indian accent would have a hard time understanding it?
Thrity: Yes. I was terribly worried. Not just about readers not getting it but whether I was getting it right. I didn't want Lakshmi to sound stupid or ignorant. I didn't want readers leaping to that conclusion. And so I really struggled mightily to write her in the most authentic voice I could.

This novel was very suspenseful and many times I felt as if I couldn't put it down! When you set out to write this, did you have a plan? Or did the story take shape organically?
Thrity: I think it was a combination of both. I had some idea where I was going -- I think I knew early on what Lakshmi's big secret would be -- but everything that happens from that point on took shape organically.

Are any of the characters based on real people?
Thrity: No.

Where do you feel most inspired?
Thrity: Out in nature. And in my shower.

I noticed in your biography that you are a professor. What about the teaching profession appeals to you the most?
Thrity: Teaching is a creative endeavor, much like writing. And I like to "infect" my students with my love for literature.

What advice can you give to aspiring writers who are just starting out?
Thrity: I would advise them to write as much as they can for as long as they can. I'd tell them to write for the joy and love of writing, without any thought of publication. You have to get your 10,000 hours of practice in first.

What's next for you? Are you working on another novel?
Thrity: I'm actually working on two novels. One is a novel with an African-American protagonist -- no Indian characters! -- called Everybody's Son. The other is a sequel to The Space Between Us.

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A huge thank you to Thrity Umrigar for sharing this amazing book with our readers. For more information about Thrity and her upcoming books, please visit her HERE. To purchase her book on Amazon, click HERE.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Ask Firangi Bahu: "We are dating but he is getting married to somebody else..."



Sharing a letter from a reader...


"I saw your article online. I was pleased to hear all of the positive things you said and felt quite relieved that you have an email address. I met a young resident doctor on the Surgical floor that I am working in. He wasn't really my type, initially. I didn't think he was handsome at all. But when we went out on our first date, and I got to know him better, I find that he is such a precious jewel. He is from the South and has his strict beliefs. He wears a red string around his waist. I am a devout Christian woman, and I am saving my virginity for marriage. 

As we spend more and more time together, I ask him where exactly we were headed to, if he wanted to be in a relationship with me. He was very open and honest and told me the sad news. He said he likes me and cares a lot about me but after he will be done with his residency here, with is in 10 months, his parents have arranged a woman for him to marry. He is not engaged yet, and he has not met the girl. When he starts his fellowship in 10 months, he will meet the woman who his parents have arranged for him. He wants to consent to this for fear of being dis-owned by his family and his parents not talking to him as long as he lives. 

He asked me if I wish to continue on our path to love and spending time together, even if I am aware that in 10 months, we both shall part ways. 

 I mentioned to him that there are couples I know who intermarried and who's parents forsake them but eventually down the road, they reconnected again. With tears, he explains to me that even though that's a possibility, he cannot imagine not speaking to his parents. He talks to them everyday and has a very strong, deep connection with them. He explains that in the first few years of marriage, couples will encounter marital problems and will seek their parents love, counsel and comfort in those tough times. Also he added, that they are getting old and not in good shape, if anything were to happen to them, he couldn't take the thought of not being able to talk to them and care for them.

I asked him if there was anything I could do to be acceptable to his parents, and he said any guy would be so blessed to have me and I am more than "good enough" because I possess all the qualities to make a husband very happy. But he said, "My parents are very shallow minded and that is such a shame." When I told him, we should end things now before it gets really tough later, he paused and tried to hold back his tears. He didn't say a word. But I can tell he was deeply hurt. He continues to send me text messages and he invited me for dinner tonight.

When someone broke into my house a few nights ago, he couldn't sleep, and was constantly checking on me even when he was at work. He said he was so worried, he cares so much about me, and has feelings for me. All my Indian female friends are protesting to leave him and not ever talk to him again. But at the end of the day, I'm thinking... you leave a guy when he disrespects you, cheats on you, abuses you, or drains all your money and energy, and hurts you. He hasn't done any of these. In fact, he brings out the best in me. Everyday, he inspires me to not settle for less, but to go back to school and try to be a doctor. He thinks I'm too smart to be a nurse all my life. He calls me when he hears that I had a bad day at work through his sources of information. He constantly checks on me to make sure I am okay and happy. And he may not say it, but I can feel it in his heart that he loves me and doesn't want me to leave right now. I've dated assholes, jerks, players, users, etc. I can smell them from a distance. I have become so familiar with their ways. But all I can sense in him is love, peace, deep sadness, and a feeling that he will miss me when this is all going to end. I don't know if he is trying to figure things out. 


I really am overwhelmed by this. I want to fight for my love for him but I have such fear of the unknown and scared to death of what might happen to me once he leaves. I am terrified to think that I might not be able to deal with it. 

I need your input and your advise. Please help me I am in a state of confusion. I don't know how to move forward from here, whether to leave him now or just make the most of the time we have left together. And I'm grieving. It's almost as if I dated someone with Leukemia and the doctor tells me he only has 10 months to live.

I feel so disabled and paralysed I don't know where to go from here. Thank you."

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Dear readers, have you ever been in a situation where you love someone knowing that it will end in heartbreak?
Any red flags here?
Do you think a lot of desi men are trapped in double lives - living between what their parents want and what they really want?
What can the reader do for her sanity?
Do you think there is hope for these star-crossed lovers?


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Ask Firangi Bahu: "How do I survive a 12 hour Indian wedding when I'm newly pregnant?"

(Img via Arnold Lee)


Sharing a letter from a reader...


"I invited my Indian in laws and even sent money 6 times (over an 8 month period) for their Canadian visas so that they could attend our wedding last year. They applied once - 6 days before my wedding and got declined. I was devastated, but kept trying to get them here and sent visa money an additional 3 times so I could meet my MIL. 

As this approach was obviously not working I convinced my husband that we should go to India to meet them. I informed my SIL we were coming on our days off for two weeks during our Christmas holidays and was informed that I would not be welcome in the home as I'd be arriving at a inauspicious time. I booked time off work and got my husband to as well (he told me we shouldn't bother with this trip at this point) and booked tickets for next month. 

The first warning that things were not going to be as I had hoped (to meet the family, go to the temple for a prayer/blessing, and have a reception for everyone to celebrate our union in India) was when my SIL started saying things like we booked the hotel, and your dresses have been finalized. I struggled for a month to get any details such as when, where, how should a bride behave, and I got ignored. 

Finally, in the last 48 hours the plan has been exposed and when we arrive, they want to separate me and my husband until after the party. They will pick us up in two separate cars - one car with my MIL and one with my SIL. I am to go with my SIL, and my husband with his mother. The reason for this is that I am not married (even though I am according to the Indian government and the Canadian government). From the airport, I am being dragged off to a hotel over a hour away from my husband....to be at a party. I am not okay with any of this!

The next morning, my ceremonies start at 7AM and go to 7AM the next morning. I can't enter the family home until 3:15 AM, as any other time is inauspicious. This is a major concern for me as its 24+ hours of travel, less than a day to recover from culture shock and jet lag, separation from my husband, and a 24 hour period where I have to remain awake and cheerful. The insult being that I am not married - in my Indian family's opinion. The kicker for all of this is that yesterday I found out I was pregnant which can explain my exhaustion and emotionally drained feeling.

Most of the messages my SIL has sent me are downright bullying. I went to the nearest temple to seek advice and the priest was horrified with what they were doing and said for no reason is this treatment necessary. I fear I am about to meet these people and not be able to even like them a little bit even though my husband came from this family.

Any advice how I can get through this with as little risk to my emotional and mental sanity for my husbands sake???"

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Dear readers, what would YOU do if you were in her position?
How much should her husband intervene?
How can she get through a stressful and long Indian wedding when she is newly pregnant?
How do you speak up regarding your needs when your Indian family doesn't consult you?
How should she handle a bully SIL?


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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Where DOES one go to the bathroom?


Today is World Toilet Day, as designated by the United Nations, to bring awareness to the BILLIONS of people around the world who do not have access to safe sanitation. A huge chunk of those people live in our other homeland, India.

In India, and especially in Hyderabad, there are a lack of public toilets. On our most recent trip last year, I noticed that FINALLY the government decided to put up some public toilets around HiTech City. The catch? It was for MEN ONLY!!! 

Let's say you're an educated working woman. You live in a house and you commute to work. Due to the insane Hyderabad traffic, you could be commuting anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours per day (no joke!) If you have to use the bathroom, there is literally nowhere that you can go. Of course, you could stop at a local shop, but those bathrooms aren't great either. If you're a guy, you can just whip out your you-know-what and go on the road. If you're a woman, you can't do the same thing. The result? You either hold it in (which can cause a bladder infection), or drink less fluids (which can make you dehydrated). And that's if you're lucky.

If you're a woman who is homeless, or makes very little money, and has to travel very far for work, it is even worse. Many women have to risk their personal safety to use the bathroom, as a lot of them have been sexually assaulted by trying to find a private place to use the bathroom. Plus, due to the amount of people that live in India, privacy is basically non-existent.

Last year, we were staying in a hotel in Hyderabad that overlooked a small slum next to an open field. Every morning, I would open the curtains and see men coming up to this open field, with a small water bottle. They would attempt to hide behind a bush and defecate, and then wash themselves off with the little water they had. I noticed that only men would come out into the fields - where were the women???


Plus, in Hyderabad, we have been having water shortages for YEARS. The last time we visited, it was particularly bad. In our cousin-sister's apartment building, they can go for days without water coming out of the tap. This is an average middle-class neighbourhood. The apartment building water alarm went off at 7pm, and our relatives scrambled to gather large buckets and fill them up with the tap. Whatever water they got, they'd have to use it for bathing, drinking, cooking, washing dishes, and cleaning. There was never enough water. Sometimes the water alarm would simply not ring at all. If this is what middle-class people have to face, then you can imagine what poorer people have to deal with.

And, to make it all worse, the water that is provided is unclean and very bad quality. I noticed this the second I arrived. The only time I got sick was when I had a glass of water that was offered to me.

A lot of people have no clue as to the terrible conditions that people face in regards to water and sanitation. It is a very real, and global problem. It is a social issue that all women should be interested in - it is very much a woman's issue, since women and girls are effected the most.

To donate to the World Toilet Day organization, click HERE.

Also, check out this funny video below about an Indian girl's quest to find a bathroom. A very real problem!!!



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Dear readers, what has been your experience with the toilet situation in India?
Have you noticed very few public toilets that are open to women?
Where did YOU go to use the bathroom?
What about in other parts of the world?


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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Our Diwali 2015


Last week, we had the pleasure of celebrate one of the biggest Indian holidays - Diwali. I am always up for an excuse to celebrate, have family time, and enjoy good food together. Every year, I always try to celebrate Diwali for husband-ji so that it makes him feel at home, and also for Maya, because it is important that she have these traditions as she grows up.


Depending on whatever is going on, sometimes I celebrate Diwali in a more or less way. This year, I had big plans, however we all ended up getting horribly sick after our huge Halloween weekend, so we didn't end up doing everything that I wanted to do. However, it was still a nice celebration at home.


The star of Diwali was absolutely our little darling Maya, who I dressed up in a gorgeous blue silk pattu lehenga. Husband-ji got this outfit several years ago in Hyderabad, but it was always too big. Now that she is the size of a 6 year old, it fits her perfectly! (She is only 3.5 years old but super tall!). Last year, it was such an issue to get her dressed up, but this year she absolutely loved it!


This year, I dressed up in a new designer saree that husband-ji got me from Hyderabad, which I didn't have a chance to wear yet. I wore a matching hot pink lipstick which made the look so dynamic. I also wore a new faux-gold necklace which had a Goddess Lakshmi pendant on it. This time, draping the saree was so effortless for me - I didn't need any help at all. And I hardly used any pins! (The sign of a pro!).One day...Maya will be so excited to have my saree collection!


Maya was fascinated by my saree and said I looked beautiful in it, meanwhile trying to crawl under my saree...and trying to use it as a blanket!


At sundown, we placed the idols on our dining table and Maya helped me decorate them with flowers. We lit all the candles together, played a Lakshmi mantra and prayed together. It was really nice to just stop everything and say a prayer for our hopes and dreams. We placed some candles near the window, and opened it slightly so the presence of the Goddess Lakshmi could come in. Maya was absolutely enthralled by the candles and was very excited about wishing everyone a Happy Diwali!


After we recovered from our colds, we invited our friends over for a big Diwali dinner in true Indian spirit! Husband-ji was very eager to cook and he was menu-planning all week long. He was so excited that he even designed a special menu card when he was at work! I swear, his dream would be to open a restaurant one day! 



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Happy belated Diwali, dear readers! What did you guys do for Diwali?


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Monday, November 16, 2015

Recipe: Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins


This recipe is one of my family favourites that we make all year round. They are so easy to make, and it gives an instant pick-me-up during the day. These are great to have for breakfast or for a snack on the go. I also like to freeze them (they keep for 2-3 months!). The addition of cornmeal in this recipe creates an added boost of protein and fiber. You can use any berry, but I love blueberries for this recipe. Blueberries are a super food with tons of antioxidants and taste wonderful in baked items.


Madh Mama's Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins
(Makes a dozen)


Ingredients:

- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/3 cup butter (softened/melted)
- 1 - 1.5 cup berries (fresh or frozen)

Instructions:

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.


Beat the egg, buttermilk and butter in a mixing bowl. Keep aside.


Mix dry ingredients in a separate mixing bowl.


Once sifted, create a hole in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in. Mix it gently, and keep the batter lumpy.


Fold the berries in to the batter.


Butter your muffin baking tin or use paper liners. Scoop the batter in, a little more than 3/4 of the way full - it will not rise that much.

Bake for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.


And voila!


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Don't forget to check out my other recipes HERE!

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Now Featured On: World Citizen Storycast



Today I'm sooooooo excited to share with you that I have been featured on a podcast interview by World Citizen Storycast. Marcia and Lisle are a husband & wife team that run this great podcast which focuses on blending cultures and cultural understanding. 

Our interview was fantastic, and we covered wide topics such as: my first time landing in India, gaining acceptance from my Indian family, the biggest fight I ever had with my mother-in-law, and what I love most about being in an intercultural relationship. A lot of things that I haven't had a chance to talk about on my blog yet!

Also, you get to hear my voice & my Canadian accent!

Click HERE to listen!
Click HERE to download!


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Saturday, November 14, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Katelyn & Kavi


This young couple has already been together for 5 years and are only 20! True love is ageless...


Introduction....
My name is Katelyn and I am American, from Virginia. My partner is Kavi, and he is American and Sri Lankan. We share one kitten together, Hamilton! 

Three words that describe you...
Quiet, creative, family-oriented.

Favorite childhood memory...
Summers in my grandparents home as a child. I have tons of little cousins, and one younger sister. All of my aunts and uncles would bring everyone to the house to celebrate from Memorial day to Labor day! We had all kinds of food, pool activities, and fireworks for the really big holidays. 

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
Currently, I feel most inspired at my University. I am surrounded by professors and teachers who are doing exactly what I want to do in my future. Knowing that they were able to be successful gives me hope in my own future.

Where/how did you meet your partner?
We went to the same high school. Our freshmen year we were in the same Latin class together. We started talking through a mutual friend, and it's been us together ever since! (Ironically, I now major in Classics— Latin, in College). 

How long have you been together?
We began dating our freshmen year of high school, so about 5 years now. 

What qualities do you admire in your partner?
He has dreams to the moon and back. No matter what, nothing will stop him from doing what he wants. When we were in high school he wanted to be an astronaut, so as soon as it was time to plan on higher education, he started training for the Air Force. He pushes himself in every way, and I couldn't admire him more for it. 

Favorite memory together as a couple...
For senior year of high school, we went on a school trip to London. London is where I found my dream job and absolutely fell in love with the city, as well as travelling abroad without my family for the first time. Being able to go on that trip with him made our future seem much more real and tangible. We saw that city for the first time together, and I knew it would be the beginning of many firsts together. 


What did you know about your partner's culture prior to your relationship?
When we first met, I didn't realize how different our cultures would be, and the distance it would put in our relationship. As we began dating, it became obvious the obstacles we would face when we discovered just how serious his parents were about us not dating. 

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
We dated all throughout high school with my family fully in the know, and his on the periphery. After a semester of college, I decided that we needed to tell his family. He told them, and they were definitely put off at first. It is still quite slow, but now that we are older, things are much more serious and they understand more. 

 How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
Everyday with Kavi allows me to grow with knowledge. My life before him was much of the same type of cultural situations and almost made me ignorant to how a lot of the world operates. He has introduced a new type of culture into my life that opens my eyes to the struggles that many relationships struggle with when it comes to love and life in general. While there are struggles with cultural stereotypes and what not, the insight into his culture is the most interesting. Whether it be the foods, languages, or fashion sense, it’s all new and different to me. A lot of what I have experienced with him allows me to grow into a more cultured human being, and it is all thanks to him.


What are your dreams for your future together as a couple?
At this point, it is to further my relationship with Kavi’s family! We are still waiting to be a little bit older to fully introduce me into his family, but I look forward to that time very much! Being a young couple, we do have big dreams - marriage, dealing with being in the Air force, but first and foremost, getting through college and graduating!

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship (from your own culture)?
I like to think I bring a sort of open-mindless to our relationship. We have waited a long time for our relationship to be taken seriously, and very few are willing to take that time (as slow as it might be). My family absolutely loves Kavi, no matter what, as I do with him and his family. To be able to see past stereotypes is a quality that I believe I have, because in the end, we are both the same type of people. It is only our cultures that make us slightly different. 


What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your partner?
We love to do new things and adventure around where we live. Whether it’s trying new foods, cooking our own foods, meeting new people, or seeing a new place, we are all for it. There are hard times obviously, but everyday is something new for us. Kavi is in the Air Force ROTC program at our college, and there are always new events going on, so we love to go to those. While doing new things is exciting, I think we connect most when we are just at home in each others company (and sometimes interrupted by our kitten, Hamilton). Days off relaxing are something we cherish and look forward to in our schedule; being able to ignore everything else in the world and focus on each other for a few hours. 

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
As soon as I told my family about Kavi’s situation (his family being very forbidding of our relationship) my family were instantly turned off (in some ways, of him as well). I think the fact that they so easily judged him to follow those same stereotypes was difficult, and at times I found myself thinking what they did as well (should I keep waiting, is it worth it, will they ever accept me for me?). In the end, I knew that what his family thought about me didn't matter, and it was our relationship and love that would be the biggest proof to both his family and mine. 

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
The past year has definitely been the hardest in our entire relationship. Kavi’s mother passed away very suddenly, and it took the biggest toll on our relationship. The idea that she may have not approved of me, is something that will always be in the back of my mind, and he admitted to as well. This is a worry that anyone would have with such an unknown end to thoughts like it. He has two older sisters that helped him a lot, assuring him that she would only want the best for him. That thought occurs a lot, but I try not to dwell on the unknown.


What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
The best part of our intercultural relationship is the new traditions that I'm learning about every day. The merging of our cultures brings about a new culture, one that mixes his and mine and something that I imagine will not be quite so "intercultural" in the future, because I see more and more intercultural relationships out and about. 

One bad feature of an intercultural relationship, at least in our case, is the not knowing of what our future may hold. We are coming to an age that we can decide for ourselves, but because we are both very family-oriented, we want to please everyone around us, and that may be difficult with the outside pressures. 

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
When we first started dating, my **white** friends, would comment on the fact that I was dating someone darker, and well, not white. In my eyes, there was no difference between Kavi and Brad Pitt. Both extremely attractive, smart, and an exciting person. Skin color is something that I don’t see, because I don’t filter it in my mind. Everyone is the same, whether I am the color of a white piece of paper or he is the color of a delicious brownie! Just because he is one color doesn't mean he has to date the same, and just because I am white doesn't mean I have to date my same color either. 

What are the biggest misconceptions about American women?
As an American, many other cultures think, especially as a woman, that I cannot be trusted with a man. All I want is the richest man, to take their money and then divorce them. 

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Don’t ever let others' opinions affect how you feel about a person. If you are in love, or even like someone of a different culture, you have every right to fall for them. And when you do fall for them, fall for them hard, and push until the very end.


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Friday, November 13, 2015

Ask Firangi Bahu: "Why do NRI's care about my husband's caste?"

(Img via Eutah Mizushima)


Sharing a letter from a reader...


"Hi Alexandra,

I am an American woman married to man from India. We reside in the United States. 

I have noticed for several years that when meeting an Indian for the first time and informing the person that my husband is Indian, they immediately ask me for my husband's last name (surname). My suspicion is that most of these people are making a not so subtle inquiry into my husband's "caste". If this is an erroneous assumption then please correct me but I think caste determination of the intent of the question.

When I meet non-Indians for the first time, last names rarely are asked. The initial exchange is mostly about pleasantries and questions about I live, my occupation, or how many children I have.

Yet even with NRIs would have lived in the US for over 30 years I have found that they have an urgent need to determine my husband's religion and "caste". Caste is an abhorrent and man made institution that should be deemed irrelevant in the year 2015.

Here's a typical exchange with an Indian woman I met that I will call Priya:

Me: Hi, are you from India?
Priya: Yes.
Me: My husband is from India.
Priya: Which part of India?
Me: (I tell her)
Priya: What is his surname?
Me: (I tell her)

At this point, I have to restrain myself from laughing because I can see the puzzled expression on Priya's face as she tries to determine the caste of my husband's obscure surname. He told me only a few thousand people in India have the same surname as him. 

I am really rather tired of this not so innocuous question and am asking for advice from your readers on how to handle this in the future. I don't want to appear rude or insensitive yet may not really care if I alienate an new acquaintance who still cares about caste. I have considered replying "Why are you asking?"...."

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Dear readers, have you experienced the same thing from fellow NRI's or Indians?
Do you think the Aunty was just being nosy or trying to figure out caste?
Do you think caste and/or caste based discrimination happens even outside of India?
Have you met people who really care about caste? What has been your experience with that?
Do you get more respect if people find out you're married to a higher caste Indian?
How can this reader re-route these intrusive questions?


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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Best Shops in Hyderabad


It's no secret that I LOVE to shop and have an excellent wardrobe of Indian attire. India is my favorite shopping destination, as the nation produces the most exquisite handiwork in an array of colors and patterns. Every time I go to India, I go with an empty suitcase and come back with 4 full ones - this is a running joke in my family!

Hyderabad is our second home to me, and I have been shopping there for a decade. It will always be my #1 shopping city in India. Hyderabad has changed a lot since the first time we visited there - back then there were very few Western brands, and now there are so many. However, I refuse to shop at any Western stores when I'm there, as I'd rather explore Indian shops instead.

Here are some of my favorite shops in Hyderabad:


Nalli Silks
Nalli Silks is my favorite place to get silk sarees in Hyderabad. They have an excellent selection of sarees with unique colors and a variety of price points. Nalli Silks is our go-to destination for silk sarees for our whole family. They have a wonderful store in Begumpet with lots of parking in front, and great service.

1-10-72 – Sardar Patel Road,
Begumpet, Hyderabad – 500016.
Phone: 040-27766601602


Biba is an Indian brand that has a lot of appeal with Westerners, as many of their items are ready-made. They also have the cutest kids clothes! Their outfits are more colorful than FabIndia, and also more stylish. They have a beautiful collection of Anarkali's as well.

Biba has 7 locations in Hyderabad.


Kilol is a brand which I discovered in Jaipur and fell in love with, and I was happy to find out that they also had a store in Panjagutta. They have beautiful block printed fabrics, which you can easily where in the West. Their outfits are not fussy, and very elegant. Their Salwar suits are semi-stitched, so you just have to get the sides stitched up - and they have a man who does it in the store. The lady who runs this store is excellent and efficient. Most of the outfits that I wore in my post, My Salwar Kameez Style, are from Kilol.

6-3-456/A/1
Panjagutta, Hyderabad
Phone: 040-66565152


Neeru's is famous for all Hyderabadi girls, as they carry all the latest in fashion and glitz. They have an excellent selection of party dresses, like embroidered Anarkali's in the hottest colors. The thing I like about Neeru's is that everything in the store has the latest fashions - there is not a single thing that is old. It is a very youthful store - great for women in their teens to 30's - who are not ready to graduate to silk sarees and being called an "aunty"!

Plot No 639, Road No:36,
Jubliee Hills, Hyderabad
Phone: 040-65220000


Kalanikethan is where we got our wedding outfits, and also where I bought my first collection of sarees. It is a grand store with 3 levels, and they have everything from costume jewelry, to sarees and Salwar Kameez, and they also have a great selection of men's and kid's clothes. The manager of Kalanikethan is an Anglo-Indian man who is very nice and helpful.

6-3-883, Somajiguda Circle, 
Somajiguda, Hyderabad
Phone: 040-32000934



Ten years ago, I got my first ever Salwar Kameez from Taruni. Hands down, they have the best selection of Salwar Kameez - an entire wall of them. I used to shop at their Park Lane store, but I recently visited their Jubilee Hills store and I liked that one better. The staff was very helpful and knowledgeable.

8-2-293/82/A/708, Road No. 36, 
Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad.
Phone: 040-23545855


Elahe is a beautiful boutique shop that carries several of the top Indian fashion designers. They also have a beautiful bridal selection, and cater to Hyderabad's top society women. The items in their store are hand picked and are the most modern in selection. Their staff is very sweet and used to dealing with foreigners.

Banjara Hills No. 10 Road
Hyderabad 
Phone: 040-66565154


FabIndia is a famous Indian chain that carries a great selection of ready-made outfits, as well as home wears. They also have a wonderful selection of kids' clothes. I like to shop here for ready-made pants like Salwar, Patiala, or stretchy churidar (leggings). Their things are a bit overpriced, but when you're in a rush and don't have time to get stuff tailored, it's a good option. I also like to buy gifts at FabIndia, such as short kurtas or dupatta's to bring back to Canada as gifts. The colors are very basic - but just vibrant enough - that it translates well in the West. I have been to several of their stores in Hyderabad, but I prefer the store in Begumpet because it is less busy, cleaner, and well-stocked. And, this store is near Nalli Silks, so I always check out both!

Door No. 1-10-8/8-4, Ground Floor, Prakash Nagar, 
Begumpet, Hyderabad
Phone: 040-32948055


Tarun Tahiliani is one of the most famous fashion designers in India, and he has a store in none other than the posh neighborhood of Banjara Hills. They have a beautiful store that is very Beverly Hills. If you are shopping for a very special event, I would go here.

No. 8-2-577/1/C, Road No. 7 
Banjara Hills, Hyderabad
040 - 66903377


Manyavar is husband-ji's favorite for men's outfits. He got an amazing Nehru-style outfit from here that they tailored for him. They also have a beautiful selection of sherwani's. I like to go to their store strictly to gawk because it is filled with testosterone and it's like watching Magic Mike - minus the dancing! We like to go to the Panjagutta store because then I can go to Kilol, which is a few stores down.

Sharma Complex, Beside Model House 
Panjagutta, Hyderabad
Phone: 040-40113333


This is the only shop where I purchase gold. Their store in Hyderabad is right next to Kalanikethan, and it has 3 levels of amazing designs. Their staff is very nice, and gives amazing service. I particularly love their thick temple style jewelry - very Tamilian. We got our wedding rings, thaali, bangles, and my MIL's necklace. They are one of the few shops where they give you a fair price. You can also exchange gold there. They also fixed my wedding ring, free of charge.

6-3-882/5 Somajiguda Circle
Hyderabad
Phone: 40-2341 4999


Amrapali is famous from Jaipur, and has absolutely exquisite jewelry. Many of their items have a vintage feel, and when I go there, I can't even pick one that I like the most. Their shop is like stepping into a palace! Amrapali doesn't have a stand-alone store, but it is located within both Good Earth and Elahe stores.

567A, Road 12 
Banjara Hills, Hyderabad
Tel: 040-23327000


Siri Pearls World
Hyderabad is very famous for pearls and this shop has an excellent selection, as well as a knowledgeable staff. They also give a good discount if you buy more than one piece. As well has pearls, they have some beautiful semi-precious stones too. They also have a small store in the lobby of the Marriott hotel.

1-10-9/2 Ground Floor Prabha Plaza, 
Begumpet, Hyderabad
Phone: 040-66322407


This is my favorite bookstore that has a wonderful selection of fiction by Indian authors. They also have an awesome Indian fashion magazine selection, as well as kids' toys. They have a small store in GVK Mall, which is always packed with locals. Their books are much cheaper than they are in the West! (250 rupees for a new bestseller = $5 CAD)

GVK One Mall, Road No. 1, 
Banjara Hills, Hyderabad
Phone: 040-44767725


InOrbit Mall
This shopping mall is probably the most Westernized in Hyderabad, and it has a beautiful view of the city. It is very popular with a lot of the "new money" kids who work in the booming IT industry in HiTech City, which is just a stone's throw away. It is great for people watching to see these young kids who think they're the coolest people on Earth. The mall has a Crossword bookstore, as well as the British brand Accessorize and Shoppers Stop, Kalanjali, Biba, FabIndia, Mebaz, MAC and The Body Shop. They also have a nice kids' play area too. And, if you're craving Western fast food, they have Starbucks, Baskin Robbins, Dunkin Donuts, Dominoes, McDonalds and KFC. (The Indian version of Western fast food is WAY better than you get in the West...McAloo Tikki, anyone?)

Opposite Durgam Cheruvu, Mindspace, 
Madhapur, Hyderabad
Phone: 040-65357221



Shilparamam is a giant arts & crafts village that has hundreds of vendors. This is a great place to get souvenirs from. The artists will also be crating many of the things they sell, so it is fascinating to watch. They have a great selection of hand-carved religious iconography, as well as beautiful hand-painted Christmas ornaments, and wooden kids' toys. There is an entry fee to get in, and be prepared to bargain! It helps to bring a local with you, because many people don't speak English inside.

Hi Tech City Main Road, 
Madhapur, Hyderabad
Phone: 040-64518164


Lepakshi is similar to Shilparaman in the sense that it displays crafts and handiwork from Andhra Pradesh, however it is a free-standing store and less overwhelming than a large crafts village. There is also no bargaining here. They have a wonderful selection of hand carved wood, and also illustrations. Their items are very well-made and timeless.

Opp. Telephone Exchange, 'Hasthakala Bhavan', 
Musheerabad, Hyderabad
Phone: 040-27668178


Charminar is the grand bazaar in old Hyderabad near the historic Mecca Masjid. It is a great place to explore, shop, and take photographs. During wedding and festival seasons, it is packed. It is famous for it's bangle shops, costume jewelry, pearls, and fabrics. It is also a great place to get pure attar perfume. Charminar is very far from central Hyderabad, so it's more like a day trip to get there. It's a really fun place to go with a bunch of girls! You'll bargain like anything here, and it is better to dress like a local.


This little alley is a jam-packed bazaar located in Secunderabad. It has a great selection of bangles, bindi's, costume jewelry, and household items. It's a more central place to go if you don't want to go all the way to Charminar for a bazaar experience, and the haggling was not as bad.


Abids
Abids used to be the biggest shopping area in Hyderabad - kind of like Times Square for shopping. It has a variety of stand-alone boutique stores that is great to explore. They have a lot of shops that sell textiles, sarees, electronics, costume jewelry, and shoe stores. There is also a really nice Hanuman Temple near Abids. Also worth checking out is the Samasthan Gadwal Handloom Centre.


Good Earth is a beautiful home wares shop that has table linens, pillow cushions, and plates. They use traditional Indian motifs in a modern, simplistic way. If you are attending an Indian wedding, something from their store would be a great gift for the bride and groom. Their store also carries clothing upstairs, and Amrapali jewels.

8-2-686/D Road No 12, 
Banjara Hills Hyderabad
Phone: 040-2333-8000


Kathiawar is my go-to shop for higher end shampoo, makeup, and nail polish. It's kind of like the Indian equivalent to Sephora. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable. I like to go to their Secunderabad store because it's right near Mahankali Street.

Gandhi Statue Square, M G Road,
Secunderabad
Phone: 040-66566234


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Happy shopping, dear readers!
What are your favorite shops in Hyderabad?


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