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Unity in Diversity Special : Jab We Met (A Punjabi-Bihari Love Story)

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, Manisha Mehani Kumar writes about falling in love, breaking up and getting back together and creating a Punjabi-Bihari family with a dash of UP, as well.

Where did you both meet? We would love to hear your story. I started working with a Life Insurance Company after my graduation and he was working with an International BPO. He used to have night shifts so the day was to finish off other work apart from sleeping. One fine day (in 2007) he visited my office due to some issues with his policy and the operations guy directed me to help him out. We exchanged numbers after the process and I said I will call once the required changes were done. The very same day my phone conked off and I gave it for repair and for two days he kept on trying and we finally spoke after three days when I called him to tell about his policy. He asked me to meet and have a coffee. I of course liked him during our conversation. We kept on meeting and in May I proposed to him because I was sure that he was the one for me.

He took his time and after an year he went to the US for training and setting up some process and his trip got extended. Before his trip we did not talk much and I moved jobs and was busy. Our relationship wasn’t working out as I wasn’t getting any commitment from his side. During his almost 2.5 months trip we mostly fought and I decided to break up with him. But when he came back, he was watching a movie when he realized that I am the one for him. This time he was sure and came back with so much of love for me!! And then in 2011, we got married and were blessed with boy-girl twins (Aratrika & Shaarav) in 2014.

Which languages do you speak at home? So I am Punjabi and he is a Bihari, I was born and brought up in UP and he in Bihar and Delhi. We mostly speak Hindi and English at Home. At his hometown he also speaks Bihari which I understand as I lived in UP where it is used, as well. What would you call are the family’s favourite home foods? ​I cook all type of food as I am a big foodie. His side mostly prefers Litti Chokha preferred and I cook ​it at least twice a month along with various other dishes. I love to cook Kadhi Rice and Rajma rice ​a lot along with Chicken and seasonal dishes like Makki ki roti and sarson ka saag and his family loves ​that. ​ What are some of your biggest cultural differences? ​In Punjabi culture we don’t have a veil (pallu) system while in Bihar a married woman has to ​adorn it post marriage in front of elders and always be in Saree, though my in-laws were fine with me ​wearing suit (Salwar Kameez). Daughters and brides are supposed to touch every elder's feet (Elder in relationship, even if ​that person is younger to you) while in Punjabi tradition we don’t let Daughters and Brides touch anyone's feet, as they are considered as Goddess Laxmi and we would not want to disrespect them. We also go to ​Gurudwara and there we are meant to only touch or bow guru Granth Sahib. Did getting married to someone from another state bring you closer to your parents or did it pose a challenge? ​My parents were fine as they met Saurav and found him a decent person and his family too and ​had no issues, we had few challenges from his side but he somehow managed to convince them. Both our elder sisters had love marriages so the ​acceptance was easy. I would like to add that my elder sister who is married to a Bangalorean did not have their in-laws attending their marriage and she was accepted only after 4 years ​of marriage and now they stay together. My younger sister is also married to a Marathi ​family and they accepted her from Day one. Our families are closely knit and have cordial ​relations What have the biggest challenges been as far as starting a bi-cultural family is concerned? I was born and brought up in UP and had my nani house in Bihar (as my maternal grandfather was posted there) and us visiting them every now and then has made me familiar with some of the cultural traditions of Bihar. For me, the biggest challenge was following those traditions and rituals, some of the most difficult were the fast of Teej, full fledged pooja etc.

Another difference was that of food habits and the way a dish is prepared. I remember how difficult the initial days were for me but I managed to blend both traditions together. Today, we celebrate both of our festivals. We go to mandir and Gurudwara and have both family’s delicacies together and my in-laws also support that. I remember having a traditional puja from my inl-aws side after 12 days my twins were born and we also had mandir/gurudwara visit and hawan after 40 days as per my mom’s side tradition. We don’t let my girl touch the feet of my mom's side family but she follows what is believed in in-laws side. I keep both Teej and Karwa Chauth fast every year and my in-laws are happy about it. What have been your greatest joys as a family from two parts of India? ​It is always a happy feeling inside that I have someone by my side who I think is made for me and ​loves me more than me, doesn’t matter what religion or from which state he is. Still I love ​celebrating and ​following his family’s tradition and he respects my family’s cultures and rituals. ​ ​I still use my surname in my name. ​At my wedding, we had our own traditional functions and they also followed our rituals. In our culture the sindoor/vermillion is filled in the hair partition/maang by the groom with the engagement ring while on my husband’s side they use Sindur Daan and apply vermillion through a piece of hemp. So practically I had two sindoor daan ceremony

Thank you, Manisha for that detailed account of how your families and you both came together. We wish your family all the very best. For more stories from multicultural families like Manisha's come join us on Facebook.For a look at the behind the scenes life of Team Times of Amma, take a dekko at our Instagram feed and join the conversation.

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