A Journey In Black and Indian Love

A Peek inside the marriage of an African American woman and her East Indian spouse

An Ode to a Special Father June 18, 2011

Five years ago my children were spending their first lengthy amount of time with their new stepdad- M. We had temporarily put our lives on hold to move to India in order for me to work on a media project and to spent time in M’s country. We were deciding whether the States or India would be the best place for us to establish our newly formed family.

Ultimately, we decided to settle back here in the deep south of the U.S. but I wouldn’t trade those months in India for anything in the world. Not only did I learn so much about my honey’s beautiful culture but my children forged an unbreakable bond with the man they now affectionately call “papa.”

After all of these years, I can finally openly admit I was secretly “auditioning” the ready-made family thing with M. My dear sweet hubby had been a bachelor for 38 years when we married. He was accustomed to doing what he wanted, how he wanted and when he wanted with no regards to anyone else. Suddenly, he meets this woman who’s divorced with not one but TWO kids and his world is turned topsy turvy. I don’t think I could have handled such dramatic changes as gracefully and as lovingly as M. has.

I’ve never heard him complain. Not when his pockets went from supporting a family of one to a family of four virtually overnight. …not when we’ve had to cancel or change plans because of a sick child or childcare issues…and not when the kids have us both strung out to the max. M has walked two miles in monsoon rains to get medication for our son and he’s been one of their biggest cheerleaders. He’s always said from the beginning that he’s not trying to replace their biological father, he just wants them to know whatever they need–he’s always here for them.

In return, the children have showered him with love. They light up when he walks in a room and I have no problem admitting he’s the “good cop” and I’m the “bad cop.” He spoils them and gives them all the things mommy won’
Watching this kind of love on a daily basis has made me look more closely at the relationships between fathers and their children. There is a big difference between being a father and being a daddy. Anyone can donate biological fluid to the mission of procreation. It’s yet another thing to spend sleepless nights, frustrating homework sessions and rollercoaster days with a child. M is a Daddy.

My kids are blessed. They have two dads. One biological and one brought to them as a result of love. Both dads love and nurture the needs of the twins in beautiful ways but this is my thank you to M for being such an incredible father. I know it hasn’t been easy but you’ve made it look like a piece of cake. I love you M and Happy Father’s Day from me, P and G.

 

A Taste of Home March 30, 2011

When M and I met, I was the type of girl who always ate the same things over and over again. It was rare for me to venture out from my preconceived notions of what constituted great flavors. Then I moved to India and despite the suitcase full of food I brought over to satisfy the kids’ palate, it wasn’t going to be enough. I had no other choice but to expand my taste buds (and cooking skills) along with my mindset toward the culture. I’m glad I did.

The heady, full-bodied spices of Indian food beckoned me into a world of taste I’d never experienced before. I finally fully understood what the phrase, “A taste of home,” really meant.  I knew M’s taste of home (fish curries, biriyani, etc) was drastically different than my taste of home (fried chicken, dressing, etc) and one was no more important or tastier than the other.  They were just different…like we are. But just as we make the differences in our personalities work within our marriage, we do the same thing with our meals.  At least two to three times a week, I cook something “Indian.”  The rest of the week is filled with a blend of Americana, Mexican, and Italian foods. .  If I must say so myself, I’m becoming quite the Indian cook thanks to a variety of recipes and lots of experimentation.

My time in India gave me an appreciation for foods I had not had in years. When I was growing up, my grandmother would always get fresh vegetables from the local farmer. I learned to shell peas and shuck corn under my grandmother’s watchful eye.  I watched her carefully cook and can these foods. My grandmother’s way of cooking with love stayed with me and as a result, I love to cook…I always have, but somewhere along the line canned goods and boxed meals became the norm. For a busy working mom, they were quick meals with decent tastes.  Only during special occasions or holidays did I find myself dedicating the time and love to cooking a meal.  Then I moved to India where sound of the vegetable walla calling out each morning became the norm. If you want a canned good there, you really have to seek it out.  I was in awe of the fresh veggies I saw neatly lined up in bright bursts of color. I wondered why we didn’t see more of this in the U.S.

Then it hit me. We Americans have a very different attitude toward food than Indians do. We gorge on food and it becomes the focus of holidays, occasions etc. We’ll take any excuse to eat and we want it fast. While Indians celebrate, they don’t always celebrate with feasts of so much food that they can barely wobble out. Instead, they focus on a few dishes filled with lots of flavor.  While, M. enjoys eating as much as the next man, he’s always commented on how we always have so much food at different events. He says he will never understand America’s obsession with food- the very thing that’s supposed to nourish our bodies –not help ravage it.

I came home with a new attitude toward tastes, cooking and food in general. My spice cabinet and drawer are lined with the likes of cumin, turmeric, tamarind, fennel and more exotic blends.  Now, like my grandmother, I cook from scratch with the freshest ingredients possible. I have earned my mustard seed burn stripes to prove my dedication to perfecting my curries.  I take my time cooking and savoring my meals.  My reward has been a 20lb weight loss and a husband who jokingly says his AA wife shouldn’t be able to cook Indian food as well as an Indian woman.   Until the next blog!!

 

India Trip Report March 27, 2010

Well, we finally have another trip to India under our belts. Out of all of the trips we’ve taken, I have to say that this one was by far one of the strangest in terms of things being out of whack for us.

I should have known things would be different when we got to the airport at 5:45 for our 6:15 flight. I can’t tell you what threw us behind because I honestly don’t know but fortunately we were able to make the flight with few problems. The trip was longer than usual because Continental has changed up the route that we generally took. It was an uncomfortable flight and when we finally landed in Delhi we discovered that my cell phone and a couple of bottles of medication were missing. We knew it was on the flight we had just gotten off of and we immediately went to the Continental office but they claimed nothing had been found.

Fast forward from the CRAZIEST taxi ride I’ve ever had and we land at the B and B which starts 8 days of M griping about everything he possibly can. “The soap is too small-what is this sample soap?!”, “The water is too cold.” “They want us to pay 40 ruppees for this?! Are they crazy?” blah blah blah.

I finally had an utter meltdown on him about the 6th day in because I couldn’t take the constant whining anymore. He was coming across as a spoiled Americanized brat.  Sure, I had my own complaints but it was only about the traffic and the way the drivers were insanely navigating through the streets. At one point during a particularly rocky rickshaw ride, it suddenly occurred to me just how much God protects us on a daily basis. Here I was riding in an aluminum can with no seatbelts in traffic where no one obeyed traffic laws, where everyone was racing to cut the next person off and it occured to me that I could die in this situation. For some reason in India, I become much more of a risk taker because I know certain things are related to culture and there’s very little I can change.

One of the best parts of our trip was my meeting with my in-laws.  For you long time blog readers you may remember me saying there was one sister of M”s whose husband openly told me they were against our marriage from the very beginning but he never told me why even though I asked repeatedly. I only met the sister and her husband once after our marriage and it was three years ago. Since then, whenever we visit India, I have refused to visit because I wanted an answer about why they were against our marriage. I don’t do fakeness and the last thing I was going to do is meet with someone who didn’t care for something that is such a major part of my life.

Anyway, since the last time I refused to meet with them, they pulled the kid card on me, meaning they kept telling me through M how disappointed their kids were because they had not met their American auntie.  When I have learned about M’s family is that they don’t believe in apologies the way I do.  Rather than apologize and say ‘we’d like to meet with you’, it was easier for them to use their children as a catalyst for another meeting. I’m okay with that because I understand.  I honestly believe they didn’t think M and I would last for as long as we have. Much of it has to do with M’s past as a wild child. They didn’t think he was ready for such a huge committment. I have since found out that the other reason is because I was a divorcee with two children, taking their precious never married brother.  ROLL EYES.

Anyway, I digress. We met with a great number of conditions on my end. I confess I was nervous for a number of reasons.  I shouldn’t have been. The visit was awesome.  I could tell M’s sister was a bit nervous too but evenutally we all warmed up to one another.  The kids are absolutely adorable and I immediately took to my niece Manya. They are both bright loving children.

M”s sister tried to stuff me with food. She even fried chicken for the first time because she thought I would like it. I later asked Manoj if it had anything to do with the stereotype that black people love fried chicken and he was mortified. He said “no way! If she knew there was a stereotype she would never have prepared it.” At one point when I was in the kitchen helping his sister, she said to me, “I like you, you’re all about family.” 

The  night before we left,  M and I took them all out for ice cream. The brother in law and I talked business, politics and family.  He told me, ‘  Even though we only met twice now, we’re close.’  That meant alot to me.  When we were parting from one another, everyone welled up a little bit.  Manya and I blew kisses at one another and I gave all of them big hugs which they aren’t accustomed to. I explained to them that I’m a hugger and do that to show them I love them. The kids just lit up at that.  Manoj’s sister and I exchanged a few whispers with one another and off we went.

We took lots of pictures of the trip and I even recorded a rickshaw ride. This brings me to my next piece of gut wrenching, sickening news. I lost my camera on the trip home.  The last place I remember defintely having it was in the Houston airport where I was trying to convince Manoj to take a picture in front of the big cowboy boots they have near the tram.  He refused so I took a picture of the boots themselves. We were on concourse B and stopped at the McDonalds which according to my investigation since, may have been where I left it.  I’ve called both the airports, talked to lost and found at Continental and even called the McDonalds where an employee working that day remembered seeing a small black bag that was left behind which she says she moved to the counter where they leave things passengers leave behind in case they return. She says she remembered a man picking up the bag. I have no way of knowing if it was mine or not. I can only hope and pray that the report I made both via phone and through Continental’s lost and found form online will lead me to the return of the camera. I’ve let everyone know they can keep the camera, I only want the sd card. I’m even offering a reward for it. I was looking forward to sending the pictures to Manoj’s mom because they would bring her so much joy.  Right now the only tangible memory I have from the trip is a newspaper I bought back home with me.  So sad.

I’m tentatively planning another trip to India in the next three months and this time we’re taking the kids with us.

I think I’ve written enough for this post. I hope everyone is well. Until the next blog….

 

A Holiday Recap and Facebook Page Update January 16, 2010

Hi everyone! It’s good to take a moment to catch up with you all. M spent his third holiday season here. This year we decided to do something a bit different and go on vacation.  We spent 10 days in Gatlinburg, celebrating Christmas and the New Year.  It was the best decision I’ve made in a long time because we needed to unwind and decompress as a family unit. We enjoyed nature drives to Cades Cove, shopped, did part of the Roaring Fork Nature trail (the other parts were closed), played mini golf, went to Wonderworks (and interactive science museum) and basically just slept when we wanted, played board games and read alot. Unfortunately, I was sick the entire trip. The crud hit me the evening we got there and  lasted the whole trip. Even though I didn’t feel my best, we still had an awesome time.

 We had the pleasure of spending part of the trip with one of my closest friends Sibreena and her two daughters. They came up for three days of the trip and my mother and her boyfriend came up to spend the New Year with us. I was shocked my mother even made the decision to come up but I’m glad she did because she got to spend time with M and I and the kids. I think seeing us as a family unit put her mind at ease a bit. She saw that the kids and M horsed around and talked together as they would with anyone else and equally as important, she saw that we’re just like any other couple. We laugh and joke ith one another and occasionally snap at one another just like average people in a relationship. Mom saw there’s nothing different about M from the average Joe. He has his particular ways like, he watched CNN and Law and Order fanatically and drank tea and coffee like crazy. He has an affinity for reading and put hot sauce on everything because one of his gifts was a gourmet hot sauce set that had about six different kinds of hot sauce. He and my mother’s boyfriend bonded over this and their love of garlic.

My mom was able to get a glimpse into the relationship I have with my in-laws when she heard me talking to my niece, nephew and sister in law. We had spoken to my mother in law earlier. I’m not sure why she had the look on her face that she did when I was talking to them. We speak to the kids only in English since they are learning the language in school and the sister in laws speak a blend of Hindi, Malayalam and English depending on who they are talking to. We talked about their school and teachers and a party they had over the holiday. I think hearing the conversation somehow removed the veil of mystery my mother had somehow created in her head about how I am with M’s family.

One of the best moments came when my mother (I think to her very own surprise) realized M has a sense of humor when he made a joke about some  potatoes (long story) that had us all in stitches. She playfully told him “M, now I’m ashamed at you I can’t believe you said that!” and laughed as she repeated her punchline. They talked about real estate and the Christmas Day terror attack.  

On the flip side, the worst moment came when my mother made a off color joke about “Indians and their spices and having everything smelling like curry and you know how they are.”  That’s the reader’s digest version of her comment that has been seriously censored for the sake of the blog. When she said it, I immediately swiveled around and said, “You seriously need to cut it out. That was so inappropriate. What if someone in his family made a remark like that?!” She looked surprised when I proceeded to continue to lambast her about ignorant and racial remarks and to think about her own feelings. Surprisingly enough, she actually half way apologized and tried to smooth over the situation. From that moment forward I didn’t have another problem out of her the whole trip.  She did get a little upset with M about letting the kids going out for a walk in the snow with no coats or hats on but even I upset about that, especially since one kid  was still recovering from a cold. 

The funniest moment of the time with my mom came when the New Year rolled in.  My mom, the kids and my niece and I were all standing on the balcony watching three different firework shows from the deck of the chalet. When the New Year rolled in, M looked at my mom, then looked at me and actually shook my hand and said “Happy New Year Babe.” I of course was shocked at the formality but I didn’t say anything. However, the SECOND my mom walked back into the chalet, he quickly grabbed me and gave me a big kiss, saying “Happy New Year!” When I asked what the handshake was all about, he said “Babe I couldn’t kiss you in front of ma.” LOL.  I told him I was pretty sure my mom realized that we kissed and then some since we were married. When I told momma about it later, she thought it was funny that he was going to such extremes to show respect for her.  Believe it or not, my mom, M and I all went shopping together while the kids stayed home with my mom’s boyfriend since he had a cold too. It was a pleasant time.  This trip was beneficial in so many ways. Two people who are important in my life came a step closer to letting their guard down with one another. To me, that was one of the best gifts I could have been granted.  I’ve posted a few of the trip pics above. I hope you enjoy them. 

Now, on to the facebook page information. At the suggestion of reader, I’ve created a facebook page for other blindian couples. The name of the group is Blindian Love. You can find it in the Facebook group search function or email me at blindianlove@hotmail.com and I’ll send you a group information. Right now the group is set up where members have to be approved. I did that to keep out the crazies and any negative comments. Like this blog, I hope this facebook page becomes a place of support and knowledge. I want people to be able to comfortably share pictures and information with one another without fear of any type of negativity or judgement. I hope everyone understands my decision to control the membership for this reason. I’m looking forward to seeing some of you all on Facebook! Until the next blog my lovelies.

 

Isn’t It All Good Hair November 11, 2009

New Hair Nov 09

New Layers for Me

M and I were anxiously waiting to see Chris Rock’s movie “Good Hair” but unfortunately it came and went from the theatre in my town within a week.  Now we have to wait to see it on video.

M says one of the things that he wishes he had known about being with a black woman was all that we go through with our hair. Now let me just say that over the years I have gone through all kinds of hair styles. I’ve done it all.. braids, weave, natural, wigs, twists and yes even a jheri curl!

I admit, I’m pretty bad..I run like crazy from the rain when I don’t have an umbrella (to which M says is a sad pitiful way to live. LOL) and I always wear a shower cap in the shower.  I remember being in high school when the hip hop rap group Salt N Pepa were at the height of popularity. They had a severe asymentrical bob that was chopped short on one side and left long on the other with a “stacked” look on the back. I begged my mom to let me get my hair cut like that but she refused so I had to be creative and pin my hair back to get the “look.” 

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve toned down my hair style bravery and now go with the more safe and easy maintenance styles. I’ve learned in my travels to India to take ethnic hair products. When we lived there, I spent several weeks desperately searching for anything that would work on my hair. I had failed to even think that I would need to pack extra when I was preparing to go there.  I was one desperate sista and it was one lonnnngg difficult hair summer. Fortunately, my daughter’s hair was in braids which made things much easier.

Essence magazine has a great article in last month’s magazine about the hair drama we as women go through. It’s thought provoking and it makes you think about the little insecurities we all carry within ourselves unknownly. I recommend it as a read for anyone regardless of your ethnic background.

M’s first real experience with ethnic hair came when it was time to take our daughter’s hair down during the time we lived in India. M volunteered to help with the process then tried to bail out a mere 30 minutes later. Bless his heart, he kept getting her hair tangled as he was taking it down. Thankfully, he didn’t let that experience scare him away completely (notice I said completely). On his off days this past summer he was responsible for combing Peyton’s hair. He did the best he could and I must say, a much better job than I expected. One day I came home to a hair surprise. Peyton’s hair was combed and I actually asked M if another woman had combed her hair because he did such a good job. He had it done in two neat braided pony. I didn’t even know he knew HOW to braid.

Then there was the time I decided to sport a style where my hair was pulled back and I had put a little chignon comb piece at the back. M, the kids and I were in Goa and the hotel we stayed at had a slide for their pool. As I slid down the slide for the first time, my first thought as I hit the water was ‘OH NO my hair piece!!” I could just see it floating in the pool and people wondering what kind of creature it was. M said the first thing I did as I came out of the water was touch the back of my head to see if it was still there. Thankfully it was.. ..However, on the flight back to Delhi I wasn’t so lucky. M put his arm around my neck and as he did, he knocked the hair piece off. It literally rolled under the seat behind us. We couldn’t reach it no matter how hard we tried and unfortunately, much to my horror, M had to ask the guy sitting behind us to reach under his seat to get it. The guy did it with such a straight face that it made me feel even worst. That was the last time I wore that hairpiece in India (notice I said in India not the last time period…LOL).

Anyway, I’ve shared my embarrassing stories with you to say that as women, we go through so much to conquer the idea of what others think we should look like which is one of the points of Chris Rock’s movie. As women, we put ourselves through insane processes to have longer hair, different texture hair, or different colored hair. Unknownly, we pass these hair insecurities to our kids. Not good..I admit.  M is astounded at the amount of money I spend on hair each month..and to think I’m mild compared to some women who are at the salon every week.

I’m threatening to cut all of my hair off  a la Solange Knowles but I’m not brave enough yet.  This week, I had layers cut in my hair. I doubt I’ll wear this style on a regular basis since it would require more time than I have in the mornings but it’s nice to have a temporary change. 

I’d love to hear your hair stories..good or bad..or funny.  

 

Happy Diwali October 18, 2009

 

M is from Kerala and doesn’t celebrate Diwali but I’d like to say Happy Diwali to all of you who do. I posted the above link because 1) I am thrilled to see an administration that acknowleges this festival given the high number of Indians who live here. 2) I love the brief history given by President Obama about Diwali because even those who don’t celebrate now have this knowledge of why the festival is important to many Indians. 

If you do celebrate Diwali, I would love to know your traditions and how you celebrate. Until the next blog lovelies.

 

July 4, 2009

I came across this post as I was purusing through blogs that other day. Hello Ji is Hello sir in Hindi. If you’re interested in finding out more about the Indian culture and an Indian’s perspective on various issues, this is an interesting place to start. 

I’m interested in your comments and thoughts after reading this particular blog post.

http://helloji.wordpress.com/2008/04/03/missing-daughters-of-india/#more-263

 

Until the next blog, Happy Independence Day everyone

 

 
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