Saturday, December 5, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Allyce & Gaurav


This fabulous Punjabi-Canadian couple lives in Punjab in a big fat joint family, along with their bunny Maggi!


Introduction....
My name is Allyce and I’m from a smallish city outside of Toronto, Canada. I’m the oldest of 4 siblings in my big crazy LDS (Mormon) family. My husband, Gaurav, is a Punjabi Hindu from Chandigarh, India. We met in my hometown, at the same college that my parents met at! This past winter, he went to India to visit and then wasn’t able to return because of visa issues. By being separated, we realized that we can’t live without each other...so a month later I packed up everything and came to India. One month after that we got married! For now we live in Chandigarh with his parents and our bunny, Maggi, but who knows what our future holds...

Three words that describe you...
Emotional, resourceful, inquisitive.

Favorite childhood memory...
My favourite childhood memory is still an ongoing thing. Dancing in the kitchen with my mom! Whenever we’re cooking, cleaning, or making her latest craft idea we almost always dance and sing. Her favourite thing is to make up her own words to songs, the more silly the better! Like that line from Sheryl Crow’s ‘If It Makes You Happy’, instead of “If it makes you happy, then why the hell are you so sad?” she sings “If it makes you hairy, then why the heck are you so bald?”. The more any of my siblings or I liked a song the more she would butcher the lyrics just to tease us. She’s so full of silliness, my mother can make me laugh even when I’m angry or sad. 

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
I feel most inspired and motivated after being alone in the car or the house listening to loud music just letting it all go, clearing my mind. I feel so fresh and light afterwards.


Where/how did you meet your spouse?
My husband and I were in the same small program in college, but he was so shy in class that I never even heard him speak at all until I saw him at a classmate’s birthday party on December 15th, 2012. One of the other guests at the party was a bit intoxicated, following me around and bothering me. Gaurav stepped up and rescued me, and told the guy to leave me alone then stayed with me to make sure I was ok. We sat in a room at the party together and just talked and talked for hours. We both felt such a strong connection that since then we’ve been attached at the hip.

How long have you been together?
Since the day we first spoke, almost 3 years.

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
He’s very loyal and protective of his family and friends. He’ll do anything for the people he cares about. 

Favorite memory together as a couple...
This is such a hard question! We have so many great memories exploring both Canada and India together. One thing that sticks with me is when we got our first place together and we tried to shop for spices - it was a really funny experience. He didn’t know the names for the things he wanted in English and I didn’t know the names in Hindi. With no way to describe half of them except “it’s a brown powder” we figured it out by going to the store and just smelling all the spices. I’m sure it was as funny for onlookers as it was for us!


What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
I had sort of a cursory idea from reading novels and watching a few Indo-Canadian movies but I didn’t know very much about it before we met. Even if I had read or watched a hundred more, it never would have prepared me for experiencing the culture firsthand. There’s a huge difference between fiction and real life.

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
My dad works at our (former) college so there was no hiding it from my parents at all, even if we wanted to! 

For Gaurav’s parents, we worked up gradually to telling them. He started by telling them he made a good friend who was helping him a lot with navigating life in Canada. Next I met his sister on Skype. Mostly over the next couple years he talked to them slowly - working up from friends, to dating, to we want to get married. I think it really helped that we didn’t give them one big shocking reveal. We gave them time to process that I was in his life. I’m not what they envisioned for their son, but we gave them time to rethink that vision and accept me without feeling forced.

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
It really has made me reflect much more deeply on my personal values and opinions. To explain to other people from another culture about why you think something or why you feel a certain way about something first you have to understand why yourself. It has made me question many things I took for granted and opened me up to whole new perspectives on life. 

Who proposed and how?
No one did really, it was just generally decided all along that we both only wanted to be in a relationship if it was eventually leading to marriage. 

Describe your wedding…
Our wedding was very small for a Punjabi wedding but still (I think) lived up to the standard of a loud, fun, flashy party. We chose to have only about 75 guests partly because my family wasn’t able to come due to our sudden plan changes. Gaurav’s whole extended family all stepped up and filled in so I didn’t feel like I was alone. It was a bit of a whirlwind planning it all in only a month but we pulled it off!


What does being married mean to you?
Being married means there’s no more “I” anymore...just “we”. 

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
We still haven’t decided! Stay in India or go back to Canada...is the big question right now. All we know for sure is that we want to enjoy exploring life together.

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
My in-laws gave us the two best pieces of advice. First, only one of you can be hot-headed at a time, if one is hot the other has to stay cool. If both are hot you’ll boil over! Talk about the problem once everyone is cooled down. 

Second, “You don’t have to do everything alone. If you have an issue you can’t resolve ask us (your parents) for help. We are experts, we have 30 years experience in arguing!” 

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
Gratitude. He was raised to assume that people in a family are expected to do certain things as their duty - whether they want to or not. There was no need to feel grateful, so saying “please” or “thank you” didn’t really happen. I was raised to know that my parents are doing things for me, especially after becoming an adult, because they love me and they want to - not because of any obligation. I express gratefulness for everything they do and I never take it for granted. My husband is now more grateful of all the big and little things both his parents and I do for him.

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
We love to go for short trips away just the two of us. Both in Canada and in India, this is our favorite thing to do. It doesn’t have to be far away, fancy or for more than a day or two, but the main thing is to just relax and enjoy being together. We create our own little bubble; nobody else, no responsibilities, no chores, no worrying about anything - just thinking about enjoying the moment together, trying new foods and seeing new places.


In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
I feel pretty immersed in his culture right now. Living in India - it’s pretty hard not to be. I live in a vegetarian joint family and my mother-in-law doesn’t speak English, so I’m working on making my Hindi better. I wear sindoor, gold bangles, and anklets everyday but I wear western clothes on about 40% of days. I participate in everything the family does, holidays, pujas etc. but I also celebrate my own culture.

One personal change that his culture has done for me is helped me in being able to ask for and accept help instead of trying to do everything on my own and keep all my feelings to myself.

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
My family already loved Indian food before I met my husband so they are quite happy to eat things we have made. I brought my mom and siblings back clothes and bangles from India on my last visit that they like a lot too. They love to hear about what India is like and I can’t wait for them to come visit sometime.

(Allyce's little brother wearing a kurta pyjama)

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
In terms of daily life, it’s been a bit of an adjustment for me living together with my in-laws after living independently for almost 10 years. At first, I felt a bit constrained and the lack of privacy bothered me, but over the last few months we have reached a good place in terms of compromise. It’s also difficult because his parents are pure vegetarian and my husband and I are both non-vegetarians. We go out to eat non-veg but we miss cooking some things at home.

In a general cultural way, the idea that I should serve my husband his food, obey him and automatically adopt everything from his family’s culture just because we are married makes me crazy. My husband knew who I was before we got married. He knew my religion, my culture, my ideas, my feelings. Why would he want me to be different? 

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed…
I find it difficult to know who I should touch the feet of and not. My general guideline is family members are always yes, and if my husband is there I follow whatever he does. If he’s not there, then I feel very self-conscious and second guess myself “Should I? Shouldn’t I?”. If I can avoid it I usually do!

(Allyce & her SIL)

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
The last few months have been very challenging. I’m adjusting to India, living in a joint family, being married, working on improving my Hindi, feeling homesick at times, and feeling bored out of my skull at times because I haven’t been able to work yet. Lots of things happening all at once but we have each other and we have our backup team (his parents).

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
Best: You both get to learn, try and see so many new things you otherwise never would have.
Worst: Sometimes you have no idea what the other person is talking about!

What are the biggest misconceptions about Indian men?
The one we have come accross the most both in Canada and in India, is that Indian men only try to marry white girls for immigration purposes. We’ve both received multiple comments on the subject ranging from the misguidedly well-meaning to just plain mean.

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
A few people, friends and relatives, haven’t been the greatest to us but we have been very lucky with our close family and friends. For the people who didn’t like it, our general attitude has been not everybody is going to like our relationship but that’s their problem and not ours. WE got married, not them.

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
The last three years have taught me so much! Here’s my top 3 wisdom nuggets:

Your way isn’t always the only or best way of thinking or doing something. Be open to re-evaluating your ideas, and you might find your partner’s culture to have a better solution or you might find the solution somewhere in the middle of both cultures. 

Really think about what you can and can’t do before getting married. It’s easy to think in the romantic haze and excitement of an early relationship that you can convert your religion or give up meat, but it’s completely different to live that your whole life. Be yourself, your spouse loves you for yourself. If someone wants you to change everything about yourself or will let his parents force you to change then it’s not worth it. 

Be sensitive to your in-laws’ feelings. You can only have a good relationship with them if you work with them and treat them with love and respect. They might have had a completely different vision for their son/ daughter’s life, just because it’s different than yours doesn’t make it any less valid. Listen to what they have to say and compromise.


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6 comments

  1. You both look amazing. .Great blog

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  2. Such good humour and wisdom at the same time, it's very nice to read ! - Pad

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  3. Oh Allyce, this is so lovely! So glad to see this post live! Such an inspiring person you are, and a truly lovely couple. ♥

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  4. Oh Allyce, this is so lovely! So glad to see this post live! Such an inspiring person you are, and a truly lovely couple. ♥

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  5. Beautiful!!
    I can definitely relate to a lot of this! Yay, Allyce, you are doing so amazingly! :D xx

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  6. Thanks! ❤️❤️❤️

    ReplyDelete

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