So, this month India celebrates seventy years of independence. While, we have a long way to go as a nation and we still have enough to complain about, I believe that it is also time to celebrate the progress we have made across the years. And I thought there was no better way to celebrate our nation, than to acknowledge and celebrate the bonds that bring us together despite our cultural differences. Nobody exemplifies this more than the men and women that have tied the matrimonial knot despite differences in language, food and even religion. Throughout the month of August, the Times of Amma will be speaking to Moms who who are raising multicultural children and Moms who grew up in multicultural families.
Today, we speak to Shwetha K.J from the Malabar region in Kerala who found her soulmate in Raj, who is near Vizag in Andhra Pradesh.
Where did you both meet? We would love to hear your story.
Well, our story started from a prank call I made It was the year 2001, after my 12th board exams I was preparing for my entrance exams for Engineering which was in 2 days. I was really bored studying all day and I got Raj's number from a girlfriend of mine. She had chatted with him a couple of times over mirc chat ( ya the ancient mirc chat days) but hadn't ever called him. So while it just started as a funny prank call we talked for a while and he said he would talk to me for longer after I finished my exams. So we started talking and became friends. We hadn't seen each other (not even photos) for more than a year since we started talking but we were thick friends. After almost 2 years of being friends, one fine day he proposed (over the phone from USA) and I said 'Yes'. We had just met once until then and that too because he was leaving to the States for his Masters. We started properly dating and seeing each other regularly from 2006 after I moved to Bangalore for my job and Raj was working in the same city too. I told my family about Raj only in 2007 when proposals started pouring in . We got married in Dec 2012 with the consent of both our families. It was a long wait but worth every bit.
Which languages do you speak at home? Which language is your child most comfortable in?
Raj and i speak to each other in English . We speak primarily in Malayalam (my mother tongue) and English to our almost 20 month old daughter Disha. We are now slowly introducing my husband's mother tongue Telugu to her. Disha understands English and Malayalam thoroughly and speaks a few words in both these languages.
What would you call are the family’s favourite home foods?
Raj is from near Vizag in Andhra Pradesh and me from the Malabar region in Kerala. We love spicy food. I usually cook Kerala style food that I have grown up eating and I am glad he loves it as much as I do. He also loves the Andhra chilli chicken that I prepare. We both also love the yummy Andhra vegetarian dishes and I must admit I started enjoying vegetarian food after I got married and got to eat some traditional Andhra food at my in-laws.
What are some of your biggest cultural differences?
Since we both are South Indians there aren't too many cultural differences apart from the language. Just lot more festivals to celebrate but yes when the families meet its still a lot formal more cause of the communication barrier. Our families don't talk regularly to each other due to the same reason.
Did getting married to someone from another state bring you closer to your parents or did it pose a challenge?
I belong to a joint family and I was always close to my family. My parents,my siblings ,my grandma,uncles,aunts,cousins...they are my world. While convincing this huge family for our marriage took forever and there were emotional blackmailing sessions etc during that period, my family is still as loving and close to me post my marriage as they were before. I can't thank God enough for that.
What have the biggest challenges been as far as starting a bi-cultural family is concerned?
Getting our daughter to learn both the languages. Also the time and way we celebrate our baby's ceremonies like naming ceremony,choroonu (annaprasan) etc are different and celebrated during different months of the child's 1st year. But since our families aren't such staunch believers of these rituals we followed them according to our convenience.
What have been your greatest joys as a family from two parts of India?
Getting to celebrate both Kerala and Andhra festivals, learning about different family rituals, tasting the home foods that we both have grown up on etc.
Also Raj gets to watch all the beautiful Malayalam movies and thoroughly enjoys them ..I cannot same the same about Telugu movies except maybe the Bahubali series.
Regardless of whether its a inter state marriage or not, all marriages work on the same principles of giving each other love,respect and space and having the will to adjust and compromise when needed. Nobody is perfect and life becomes easy when you learn to love each other's imperfections.
Shwetha, we wish you and your throughly Indian family the greatest of joy.
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