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, Aswana writes about falling in love and creating a blended family with her Tamil-Brahmin husband despite her Malayali Syrian Christian roots.
Where did you both meet? We would love to hear your story
Love is never deliberate. We first met when I was in high school and he was in College and we kept bumping into each other over the next 2 years. By then I was in college and working part time at an education fair during my holidays and there he was sauntering about at the fair every day with different friends. Finally my best friend cornered him and asked him if he was stalking me much to his embarrassment. He denied it entirely, wiped that silly grin off his face and asked me out on a date. The rest as they say is history!
Which languages do you speak at home? Which language is your child most comfortable in?
We speak to each other in English for the most part. After Agastya our culture preservation instincts jumped in. Srini speaks to him in Tamil while I speak in Malayalam. His comprehension of Malayalam is quite good, now I get why it’s called a mother tongue in the first place. English however still reigns supreme in our household.
What would you call are the family’s favourite home foods?
Srini comes from a strictly vegetarian home however he went to a boarding school from the age of 6 so he eats a lot more meat than I do while I am a seafood person. I love South Indian cuisine while he prefers North Indian and Continental. We do a continental breakfast, south indian lunch and dinner is either North Indian or Continental. Some of our common favourites are dosa and biriyani.
What are some of your biggest cultural differences?
I come from a Malayalee Syrian Christian family whilst Srini hails from a Tamil Brahmin household. Our wedding was the one time that we felt some untold grief as a family. The two of us organised our wedding with a little bit of help from our friends. As lovely as it was there were a few clouds hanging over that perfect day. I wasn’t allowed to get married on my father’s lap as customary in Tamil Brahmin weddings since he was not a Brahmin. It was difficult to have authentic ceremonies on both sides for the lack of absolute acceptance of each other’s communities in an inter religious wedding ceremony.
Did getting married to someone from another state bring you closer to your parents or did it pose a challenge?
We started seeing each other when I was 19 and he was 21. I don’t know if it was the thrill of imminent discovery or sheer carelessness or the confidence of our families acceptance but within the year everyone knew. Time heals everything I suppose. Our families knew for 5 years before we got engaged and then married 2 years later. My dad was my biggest supporter from the beginning, he was floored after he met Srini . My mom took a little longer to come around but when she did it was wholehearted. They are all one team now and I’m often the outsider!
What have the biggest challenges been as far as starting a bi-cultural family is concerned?
I always thought to myself, too much life lived with this man. What can life can’t throw at us that we haven’t already seen until we had a baby. Parenthood has been such a transformative experience. While we essentially have the same life values it has been a lot more challenging than we imagined. We decided to chin up and look the other way when we are given unsolicited advice about everything from custom to baby rearing.
What have been your greatest joys as a family from two parts of India?
Neighbouring states, different planets. We celebrate and crack up over the diversity every single day Having said that there are so many similarities as well, we get the subtle cultural nuances, humour, cinema and then some more. However having everything times two should surely count for something. From religious to cultural celebrations we are never short of occasions to celebrate.
Thank you, Aswana for sharing your wonderful blended family's origin story
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