Editor's Note :
As India celebrates seventy years of independence, 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 in our Unity in Diversity Special Series, Dr. Pooja Kapoor talks to us about her marriage that is a blend of her own roots from Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh to her husband's who is a Tamilian from Mumbai.
Where did you both meet? We would love to hear your story.
We met in Mumbai while doing our post graduation from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) Mumbai. We were batch mates and started out as just friends. He was such a gentleman and it didn’t take me much time to fall in love with him. He supposedly fell in love with me the day I chased him around the basketball court in our campus and beat him up for applying cake on my face on someone’s birthday party. He says he felt he would always be safe with me. His belief got cemented when he saw me in the gym everyday. (I am actually pretty tall, huge and bulky, Mountain genes maybe). He once invited all of us over for Ganesh Chaturthi Pooja where I went wearing a traditional suit. The night before this, we all had gone clubbing. He says that day he knew he wanted to marry me because he realised that I could so easily be both modern and traditional. We had a fun year in college going out with friends, dancing (also a bit of drinking), trekking, overnight trips, doing projects together, studying, and taking exams together. We were together for about two years before we decided to get married. His family was supportive from the beginning itself. It took some time to convince mine.
I am from a very remote area in Himachal Pradesh called Lahaul and Spiti. My folks have never ventured out much. I think it was only till Delhi that they had ever travelled. So it was a little difficult for them to believe that I gone beyond the Tropic of Cancer and fallen in love with a “madrasi” as they say. My own parents were actually fine with this since the beginning itself. It was my infinite relatives who took time to get convinced. And my father being the youngest in the family needed to get everyone on board for this relationship. But once they saw what a wonderful son in law I had chosen for them, there was no turning back. I think they now love him more than they love me. I have no regrets!!! We even had two marriages. Why would anyone ever complain right??
Which languages do you speak at home? Which language is your child most comfortable in?
We mostly speak English and Hindi at home since we are in a nuclear set up. We recently spent about a month and a half with my parents after which my daughter had started understanding certain instructions in my dialect. Then we spent about 10 days with her paternal grandparents where she had started understanding a bit of Tamil too. Earlier my husband’s aunt used to live with us and she used to speak more often in Tamil. So maybe Meera remembered some of that too. At home, I do sometimes try and talk to her in my dialect but it is Hindi that she is most comfortable in. We live in Chandigarh where Punjabi and Hindi are the main spoken languages. She will get to learn Punjabi too. Yay for that!!
What would you call are the family’s favourite home foods?
I make both types of cuisines at home, Lahauli food and South Indian food too. Our daughter still doesn’t really have a favourite food per say. But as a family I think, Momos would be our favourite food. My husband simply loves the different versions I make. And I am hoping the little one also grows up to like them as much as we do.
What are some of your biggest cultural differences?
Religious practices, hands down! My in laws are a little too religious. There is a different God to be prayed to everyday. There are specific days when they don’t eat non-vegetarian food, although they have never levied any restrictions on us except on a few special occasions maybe. But sometimes it gets a little over board. The number of temples I have visited post-marriage is way more than what I have visited in my entire life. I agree there is nothing wrong with this. I am not an atheist but we were not raised with so much religious influence. I remember going to monasteries to pray but we never did it very diligently. Maybe that’s what you call a cultural difference. There are customs that I am supposed to follow like wearing a “Tali” (mangalsutra), two mundans (hair cutting ceremonies) for the baby etc which do not happen in my culture.
Did getting married to someone from another state bring you closer to your parents or did it pose a challenge?
It definitely brought me closer to my parents, specially my mother. I needed someone to bitch to after all. (laughs)
On a serious note, this marriage definitely brought me closer to my parents. I call them more often to discuss things. Sometimes I even call them up to ask how a certain thing is done on our side. For example, when my baby had to be started on solids, I called up my mother to ask if there was anything special that she fed me as a baby. Apparently, she did not.
What have the biggest challenges been as far as starting a bi-cultural family is concerned?
We were both working when we got married and having a baby was not on our priority list. My own parents were pretty cool about this. Rather my mother kept telling me that there was no hurry and that there still was time. (I was 27 when I got married apparently for her I was still a kid). But my in-laws wanted us to have a baby soon. So they started asking us for it after one year of marriage. I was even asked if I didn’t like babies. (Laughs again).
Right after having the baby, there were lots of differences in opinion. Let me give you examples. My mother and my father-in-law and aunt-in-law stayed with us for a while. So I used to get absolutely contrasting opinions from the two sides. Mum asked me have more of rotis as it was good for the body, in-laws asked me to have more of rice. In-laws asked me to have lots of dry fruits while mother said they were heavy to digest. In case of baby, mother said massage should be done after bath while in laws said before. Mother asked me to bathe the baby twice a day irrespective of the weather. In laws said it was too cold for evening baths.
But now that we live alone, we don’t get much of these. It is more like “you are sensible enough to understand what is good for the baby”. As of now, I have not faced any major challenge as such.
What have been your greatest joys as a family from two parts of India?
Our biggest joy is the two annual holidays that we get. As I have already mentioned, my parents live in a very remote area, which is practically cut off from the rest of the civilisation due to snowfall for about 6 months of the year. We live in a proper village set up and we have cows, sheep and donkeys at home. My in-laws live in Mumbai, which is one of the biggest metropolitan cities of our country and a city that never sleeps. My place is cold throughout the year so we are always wearing sweaters and woolen socks while Mumbai has fans and ACs running throughout the year. Meera gets to experience both worlds. She gets to see the contrasting set up of both places. She gets to enjoy two holidays every year to two different worlds. She is a little small right now to understand everything but I cant wait for her to grow up and see these worlds for herself. she gets to experience two very very different cultures. And oh, did i mention the varied cuisines she will get to eat at home itself?
My married life till now has all been about adjusting and getting used to their customs and traditions. And I have no complaints. Yes, there have been occasions where I have questioned my husband as to why I have to do a certain thing but nothing has ever been forced upon me. I eventually do it with my own will. I understand the fact that one little act of mine makes a whole family happy. I would definitely want to make some changes to my in laws but I would not change them for the world.
Thank you Pooja for sharing your filmy love story and just how harmonious your blended family is.
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