Saturday, February 20, 2016

My Intercultural Love: Melanie & Tejas


This beautiful masala couple just got engaged on Christmas Eve!

Introduction....

Tejas: Hello! My name is Tejas and I was born and raised in Pune, India. I came to the US in 2007 and now I live and work in the Detroit metro area.

Melanie: Hi there! My name is Melanie and I am a white American lady. My family is from the state of Oregon, but my dad was in the military so we moved all over the world. I have lived in 3 countries and 12 US states and like Bogart in a Casablanca I'm a citizen of the world. Currently, I am a social worker at a domestic and sexual violence program and I've been working in shelters the past 4.5 years.

Three words that describe you...

Tejas: Philomath, pragmatic and respectful.

Melanie: Plucky, intuitive, silly.

Favorite childhood memory...

Tejas: My friends and me would traditionally meet after dinner and play cricket, badminton, hide and seek or even go roller-skating on the streets of our neighborhood. Later in the night, we would often go hangout at the local street food carts, grab some snacks and ice cream and we’d just sit back and talk far into the night. I cherish those memories, and it makes me happy that even today, after all these years, we’ve kept the tradition alive.

Melanie: I enjoyed being a kid because it is more acceptable to wear costumes and be imaginative. I dressed up in full cowgirl gear as Annie Oakley when I did a book report on her in 6th grade!

Where/how do you feel most inspired?

Tejas: In nature! I’m amazed and humbled by the majesty of all things around us. It’s this beauty and diversity of nature that inspires me.

Melanie: Either in nature; or going to a lecture of some world renowned figure and being able to ask them questions.

Where/how did you meet your spouse?

Tejas: OkCupid! Only a few days after creating an account on OkCupid I came across Melanie’s profile and I had an instant crush on her. She was beautiful, she had a virtuous charm in her eyes and she had the cutest nose I’d ever seen, and we were a 94% match! I proceeded to read about her and was ecstatic to learn that she, too, was a science/astronomy enthusiast. I instantly messaged her, introducing myself and asking if she’d like to go see a planetarium show with me. She replied yes! We went on our first date to the Rock Creek Park Planetarium the day after Valentines Day.

Melanie: He messaged me on OKCupid and asked me to go to a show at the Rock Creek Park Planetarium on February 15th. He even messaged me Happy Valentine's Day before we even met and that seemed bold to me! At the planetarium, he knew the answers to all the questions the Park Ranger asked and I was impressed, but nervous. Instead of asking him to have lunch afterward I chickened out and told him I had to go marathon House of Cards.


How long have you been together?

Tejas: We first met on 15th of February 2014 and have been together ever since.

Melanie: 23 months and 4 days. We are engaged :)

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?

Tejas: Melanie’s a sweetheart - she's kind, caring, and empathetic. She’s passionate and dedicated to her career in social work and she loves undertaking creative projects – be it comedy, movie making or craft.

Melanie: Tejas is so kind and smart. He truly values family and respects my opinion. He never laughs off anything I like as "girly" and he identifies as a feminist. He is really creative and encouragess me to be my best self. And he is so handsome:)

Favorite memory together as a couple...

Tejas: Melanie and I moved to Michigan in February 2015 and we rented a two-bedroom apartment just so I could move out of the master bedroom and into the second for when my mom visits us in May, for three months. Although my mom didn’t mind Melanie and I sharing an apartment, she did not approve of any PDA – not even holding hands or occasional hugs, and most certainly not in her presence. We both understood her reasons for not letting us be affectionate in front of her and we sincerely respected that. So, we’d often sneak around house and behind corner walls, hiding from my mom’s line-of-sight, and we would, very stealthily, "xo" each other. We’ve been silly together on several occasions, and this is one of my favorite memories.

Melanie: When we go and walk in nature or go on long drives we can just talk for hours and it is never boring.

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?

Tejas: Being raised in India I had only known about American culture through movies, music, TV shows and popular stereotypes, and US being quite literally, traditionally and socially opposite than India, the American culture always seemed fascinating and interesting to me. Only after moving to the US did I get to experience the American way of life and appreciate the sheer diversity in human culture that the North American subcontinent encompasses.

Melanie: Only the basics. I've learned a lot from him.

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?

Tejas: My Indian friends in America were the first ones to know about us, and they were happy and excited for us. My elder brother was next and he, too, was happy for us. Only a few months after could I muster up the courage to tell my parents about Melanie, and surprisingly they took it fairly well. They weren’t super excited, but they didn’t freak out either. Phew! My mom, very calmly, asked me to respect the Indian tradition and not make any hasty decisions until they personally get to meet Melanie.

Melanie: I was a giddy lady gushing about him, so they were happy I was happy.


How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?

Tejas: I was quite an introvert and socially remote before I met Melanie, but in the first couple months of our relationship, we went to every possible science lecture, concert, and stand-up show in the city. We even made it a routine to explore and hike all nearby parks. I would personally never choose to do all those things so frequently, but with Melanie, it has always been a great experience and so much fun! I’m also very methodical and painstaking, whereas Melanie, she’s spontaneous and free-spirited. She is fittingly complimentary to my personality, and in so many other ways, she has enhanced my outlook on life.

Melanie: Tejas slows me down. I can be impulsive and rushed when I do projects. He brings up the quality of my output. His values are steadfast and less individually oriented and I love the feeling of being in a true partnership. 

Who proposed and how?

Tejas: We were on a week-long Christmas vacation in the big easy: New Orleans. We were both very excited to see each other after a long time, since we live in different cities, and were eager to escape the cold weather in the North. We had also booked a room at a downtown art hostel and thought we would get to meet all sorts of interesting people from around the world. The art hostel, turns out, was a shantytown inside a gentrified tire warehouse! It was disappointing, and doubly frustrating for me since I’d planned on proposing while we were in New Orleans. After spending two sleepless nights at the hostel we decided to move to a nice, quiet and clean hotel, and I resumed planning the proposal. In next few days we explored the downtown New Orleans, the French Quarters, Magazine Street, music venues and restaurants. All this while, I was constantly on the lookout for an appropriate spot to propose but sadly couldn’t find one. New Orleans, as expected, was loud and raucous and certainly didn’t fit my idea of an ideal place to propose. On Christmas Eve, we decided to stay in, so we got some food and we binge-watched Fargo (an excellent show by the way) then we just laid there talking and thinking how unexpected, yet fun and interesting, this trip had been. I seized the opportunity in that moment and I told her how happy I am when I’m with her and that I wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. It wasn’t what I planned, but when she said yes, it felt perfect.

Melanie: Tejas proposed last Christmas Eve. I can't remember what he was saying, but I cut him off and was like "yes,yes,yes" and gave him a torrent of kisses.

Describe your wedding...

Tejas: We are in the midst of planning our summer wedding - it’s going to be in a Planetarium!

Melanie: It will be in July 2016. We are having it at a science museum with the ceremony in their planetarium. My mom doesn't want me to go overboard with it, but it will be a celestial theme. Astronaut ring bearer, stellar flower girl, moon-walking.... oh my!

What does being married mean to you?

Tejas: In my opinion, marriage is just another popular social construct, like religion. I adore Melanie, and all I really care about is spending the rest of our lives together, being a family and making each other happy. 


What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?

Tejas: We want to be a family, have kids, adopt if we can, and retire early enough so we can travel and explore our tiny little planet.

Melanie: Retire comfortably ASAP: make art, enjoy nature, roll with the punches of life together forever.

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?

Melanie: Don't try to change them. 

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?

Tejas: Respect, honesty, forbearance and of course - Indian cooking!

Melanie: A deep appreciation for the written word. And Taco Tuesdays!

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?

Tejas: Lately, since we live in different cities, we Face Time everyday, and we frequently fly in and out to spend time with each other.

Melanie: I make YouTube videos and he helps me film, edit and produce them. They are super DIY, but we have fun. We used to love watching the Daily Show with Jon Stewart together.

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?

Melanie: Definitely the awesome Indian cooking! I love going to the festival celebrations here and can't wait for my first trip to India.

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?

Melanie: They like Indian cuisine and will hopefully come India with us!

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?

Melanie: Well...I found the Madh Mama blog because I was struggling with some aspects, but don't wish to speak of the publicly. But reading a lot of advice on merging two family cultures is super helpful.


Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...

Melanie: Having bare legs and not wearing any gold! Ha ha! Also Tejas had his arm around me while we were Skyping with his mom...tsk, tsk!

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?

Tejas: Introducing Melanie to my mom.

Melanie: We are long distance until the wedding so it has hard to have a hug every day, but we see each other every few weeks.

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?

Tejas: I learn something new about Melanie, and her culture, every single day. There is inherently an element of surprise and an eagerness to know more about your partner, and the absence of prejudice, which I think is the best part of being in an intercultural relationship.

Melanie: I like that Tejas doesn't watch any American sports! It just seems like such a time consuming hobby! The worst part is that I only speak English and some Spanish, but Tejas speaks so many languages!! I want to be able to better communicate with his family who are all in India. I can tell them I love them in Hindi though...

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?

Tejas: That intercultural relationships are harder to build and sustain.

Melanie: People sometimes just say weird things like "oh have you always had a thing for Indian guys?" like I fetishize his national origin. Or they'll say "however did you find him?" I always reply "Oh it wasn't hard, he's truly only 1 in 1.4 billion!!!" To me, he just happens to be Indian, but while it is an important aspect of his cultural identity it wasn't the defining reason why we came together. 

What are the biggest misconceptions about India / American women? 

Tejas: India is predominantly a patriarchal society.

Melanie: I guess that we divorce and can't cook!

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?

Melanie: I occasionally get some quizzical stares from strangers who tend to be in homogeneous groups of their own race. Sometimes I do worry that Tejas will be racially profiled for his complexion. Like a comedian made sure he wasn't from "one of the scary countries" when we were sitting in the front row at a comedy club. I worry for his safety sometimes with targeted attacks against brown people in the US who "appear" to be terrorists. On the whole though, no one in my family or friend circle has any qualms with our relationship.

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...

Melanie: Just be as honest about your relationship as possible. Don't take it personally if people's culturally specific reactions aren't supportive. I wrote Tejas' father a heartfelt e-mail that plainly spoke to my commitment and love for him and then he approved the marriage. I believe transparency is key, while also being sensitive to others' feelings. It is so worth it to be with the partner that is beyond your wildest expectations! Just remind yourself that it is a process and not something that comes through overnight!


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5 comments

  1. " I was struggling with some aspects, but don't wish to speak of it publicly." That's very wise, Melanie. On the internet many pass judgement and give advice without knowing you or your specific situation. Always trust your guts and your heart.

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  2. Beautiful couple

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  3. OMG you guys have renewed my faith in OKC! Despite the nutters who are on it :P

    ReplyDelete
  4. So nice to see one of these with both sides of the couple involved! Really cute

    ReplyDelete

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