Most Indian Moms on Instagram are familiar with the @bihari_gal where Shweta Sonali serves up ethnic fusion fashion - like a Saree with a shirt for a blouse but styled to perfection. Shweta also occasionally shows us glimpses of her life as a Bihari wife and mother married to a Tamilian. Shweta also blogs about Bihari cuisine here and about her son and parenting here.
Here she is with her story, as we celebrate the multicultural families that personify India’s unity in diversity.
Where did you both meet? We would love to hear your story?
It's easier for people to think that we have a love marriage. But I am probably the only one in the history of Bihar to have an arranged marriage with a Tamilian Iyer brahmin.
Ananth found my profile on a matrimonial website and reached out to my father as his contact number was updated there. My father told me about him and I looked him up...and straight away said that he came across as very nice but seemed to be far away from my league; He was not only very well read but also wrote very well. He had travelled the world where I have hardly 4 cities in India to count for. He knows 8-10 languages all in their own accents, while I have two languages to show for Hindi and English and I can barely scribble few lines when needed.
But my father insisted that I should talk to him and meet him once . Eventually I agreed.
Then a month later he called while he was driving back to Bangalore and we ended up talking for a few hours that day, after which he insisted on meeting the next day. And we did meet mid-week. When he came to drop me off after dinner, I told him that he was a really nice guy and I liked the time we spent that evening but I don't see us marrying.
Ananth is just half an inch shorter than me but I look a lot taller.
I was not sure how my family or myself would respond to that. And told him the same.
He managed to convince me to give it a week or so…
It's a really really long story but to cut it short, the rest is history.
Two months later our parents met and the wedding was fixed for Jan next year.
Since neither of our parents were in Bangalore, we both practically ran around like maniacs and had the most budgeted tamil wedding. My mummy wanted to have something of our side as well so we had a function (called Tilak-Phaldan) and also during the wedding we had a small ritual related to vermillion ( a very important ritual for Bihari weddings). But arranging our wedding together gave us enough time to know each other well and an insight into one another's perspective.
Which languages do you speak at home? Which language is your child most comfortable in?
We speak English, Hindi and Tamil in our home. While I understand hardly a dozen or so Tamil words, my son understand all three languages. He is one year and five months old. And now and then speaks words from all languages.
What would you call are the family’s favourite home foods?
I am eat non vegetarian food while the family cuisine is vegetarian. Ananth eats egg and very rarely chicken. My son eats all types of food from curd rice to eggs and fish. He happily takes on the food preferences of those he is spending time with. I make it a point to make south Indian breakfast twice or thrice a week.
What are some of your biggest cultural differences?
When the families meet we have to be the translators. My parents do not speak English , while Appa can manage okay hindi and Amma understand quite a lot of words. So that might could be seen as our biggest cultural difference. We pretty much do everything else including both sides of customs and beliefs.
Did getting married to someone from another state bring you closer to your parents or did it pose a challenge?
Marrying Ananth brought my family a lot of happiness and more closer to me but Ananth being Ananth ( as a person) has everything to do with that.
What have the biggest challenges been as far as starting a bi-cultural family is concerned?
The biggest challenge so far have been for me is to be a good daughter in law , to remember stuff that needs to be done as Tamil rituals are quite different from what we have and while I believe in God, my contribution to festivities and rituals before wedding have been limited to eating cooking and dressing up and going as far as to do what has been told.
I still have much to learn and I am getting better at it
What have been your greatest joys as a family from two parts of India?
The diversity is what gives us the much needed space...and still enjoy all the festivities and it also has helped us to get away with only good parts (or rather what we like ) with the customs and customs of both the sides..
Thank you, Shweta for sharing the unique story behind your multicultural family. We wish you and your family, all the very best.
For more stories from multicultural families like Shweta's and more stories on Motherhood, the different versions of a Mother's love and the many iterations of life as a mom, do join the Times of Amma community on Facebook and Instagram.
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