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 are raising multicultural children and Moms who grew up in multicultural families.
Today in our Unity in Diversity Special Series, Charu Sareen Gujjal talks to us about her Punjabi-Kannadiga family that began thanks to a mutual dislike of coffee.
Where did you both meet? We would love to hear your story.
Ours is a very simple story. We met through a common friend when we were studying in college. It was the time when orkut and yahoo were great social networking sites. And so we got connected through that. We used to exchange mails and chat on a regular basis. One random day we realized that our colleges happen to be in the same campus. That's when we decided to meet.
Our first meeting was at Barista. While we met at a coffee shop, we realized that we both don't like coffee. With this simple similarity, things simply clicked. We grew fond of each other and one fine day he proposed. It was the time he had finished his post graduation and got his first placement. I was still studying and so needed some time.
For the next two years we were in a long distance relationship. Once he was settled in his job and I completed my post graduation, we decided to take this to the next level. That's when our families decided to get us married.
Which languages do you speak at home? Which languages are your children most comfortable in?
We speak both Hindi and English. Our kids are learning to speak both, too.
What would you call are the family’s favourite home foods?
We eat both South Indian and North Indian cuisines and have favourite amongst the both. In North Indian, rajma rice and South Indian, Anna, Bede Saar and Tamdi (which is dal, rice and tomato chutney) is our favourite.
What are some of your biggest cultural differences?
Since we both have been born and brought up in metro cities, we are very flexible when it comes to cultural beliefs and customs. We celebrate festivals of both sides with equal enthusiasm. The only difference is my side of family believe a lot in horoscope whereas his side doesn't believe in that.
Did getting married to someone from another state bring you closer to your parents or did it pose a challenge?
Our parents never had a problem with inter-caste marriage. Their criteria of choosing the right partner included education, individual nature and compatability between the partners. Caste and culture has never been on their list. Post wedding things didn't seem to change. Our bond with our parents emerged stronger day by day.
What have the biggest challenges been as far as starting a bi-cultural family is concerned?
Language has been the biggest challenge. My husband has been born and brought up in Delhi, so he is well acquainted with Hindi and English both along with his native language, Kannada. However I have never been to South before marriage and never knew a word of Kannada. Language poses as the only challenge for me when I go to South. Although we speak Hindi/English at home with immediate family members, I feel knowing their native language would help me gel well with the distant relatives of his side.
What have been your greatest joys as a family from two parts of India?
Greatest joy is that we get to enjoy both the worlds. We relish both the cuisines and celebrate popular festivals of both the states. We even dress up as per the traditional attires of both the cultures. It's great to learn and explore the best of both the cultures and teach our kids about them.
I just want to add that inter-caste marriages aren't unique or difficult. What matters most is compatability between the partners and families. If there is no compatibility, even same caste marriages would have less possibility to be successful. What's required is to have an open mindset and an acceptance towards each other's cultural beliefs. Once we learn to respect that, such difference do not pose any challenge.
Thank you Charu for sharing your simple love story and straightforward words of wisdom.
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