A Journey In Black and Indian Love

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

She’s Almost Here!! August 8, 2012

Hi Blindies!
Let me start this blog with a big “thank-you” to each of you who sent us well wishes on our pregnancy. We found out we will be having a girl, news that thrilled “M.” Throughout the pregnancy, he has told me it would be a girl. In fact, he was so confident in his prediction that he refused to pick out a boy’s name. Originally, he said he wanted the baby’s sex to be a surprise but as excitement built once I knew, he caved in and wanted to know.
We’ve had quite a number of people who asked if he was disappointed we were having a girl thanks in part to the idea that all Indians prefer male children. While that may be true in some parts of India, it’s not true for Kerala. It’s a matriarchal society and as my sister-in-law said “girls are special.” At first I was slightly annoyed that people would ask such a brazen question but then I began to look at it from a different angle. I realized that part of me felt relief that they asked as opposed to continuing to carry around incorrect assumptions about what was “normal” in Indian culture and what was not. How else are people supposed to learn? The whole purpose of my starting this blog was to give a glimpse of what life is really like for mixed culture relationships like ours. We don’t subscribe to be anything but happy. Isn’t that what this is all about?
Generally, in Keralan culture babies are named only after the baby arrives and there is a baby naming ceremony. I guess you long time blog readers know that we don’t do anything the typical way. We’ve already got a name picked out for her (some blog readers know it) but for the rest of you, we’ll keep it a surprise.
In the coming months I’m sure you’ll probably be hearing from me first-hand about parenting issues in a multi-cultural relationship. Some of the things “M” said he didn’t have a preference on, he suddenly does. Something tells me this little girl is going to have him wrapped around her fingers. Since this is his first baby, I think he’s in an “ignorance is bliss” phase right now. He has no idea what he’s in for in the way of less sleep, crabby babies, toddler tantrums, poopy diapers etc. It’s kind of cute but having already been a parent of a newborn before, it’s also scary. After seeing his reaction to another Indian student winning the National Spelling Bee, I have a feeling he’s going to be a bit of a tiger dad (eek!) I’ll keep you all posted.
On another note, I’m excited to say we had our first Blindian Love meet-up last month. Five of the members made their way down to the Deep South to help “M” and I celebrate our baby’s impending birth. We originally were supposed to have a traditional Keralan ceremony, however, things fell through and Amma (“M”’s mother) could not come after the auspicious date was already chosen. We realized if she came on the auspicious date, then she wouldn’t be here to spend time with the baby. God always has a way of working things out and instead we had a “Blindian” celebration with soul food, Indian music, Henna tattoos, a sari tying contest and baby charades. Big thanks to Rashida, Maria, Renee, Jilliane, and Stephanie for traveling so far and surrounding us with so much love and support. “M” and I can never thank you enough.
On another note, the Facebook group is growing by leaps and bounds. We now have over 100 members in Blindian Love and about 40 or so members on the couple’s side. Couples in committed and serious long-term relationships are eligible to join Blindian Love Couples after posting for a while in the general group. We’re a no drama zone that has conversations on everything from religion to eating with hands and everything in between. If you haven’t had an opportunity to stop by the Facebook group, I would encourage you to do so. I’ve met some of the most awesome people through it.
In the meantime, I wish you all the best on your journeys lovelies.

 

Raising Hope, Hell and Two Beautiful Babies October 25, 2011

When falling madly in love, we imagine quiet dinners, adventurous outings, white picket fences and 2.5 kids. When we are thinking about those 2.5 kids and the dog named Rover, we rarely think about the realities of co-parenting. Sure, we may talk about what religion we will raise the children to be or how we would like them to be educated but how often do we talk about who’s going to be “good cop” and who’s going to be “bad cop?”

In my house I’m the bad cop. Much to my dismay, M spoils the kids rotten. He’s always saying “but they’re kids. This is the time they can eat whatever they want to” or “Honey why are you making them go to bed?” (uhm maybe because it’s MIDNIGHT?!)

M doesn’t grasp the fact that raising children here is so very different. No they can’t roam the streets alone like you see so many children in India doing…there are pervs on the streets. No they can’t eat big gigantic bowls of Fruit Loops for breakfast, lunch and then gum for dinner. They need to fill up on fruits and veggies and NO- Law and Order, First 48 and Criminal Intent are not appropriate viewing choices for ten-year-olds.

The foods here are filled with preservatives and considering our children are already genetically pre-disposed for obesity, it’s all the more reason they eat fruits and veggies and chill on the sugar. While I’m trying to make sure they choose healthy snacks, M is bringing gummy worms, candy bars and ice cream home. I’m telling them to go to bed and he’s letting them stay up after I go to sleep then they are dragging during the day. I limit t.v. time to two hours each day during the summer and weekends only during the school year. You get the picture. He’s like the cool uncle and I’m the overbearing auntie.

This may sound cute but really after a while, it’s a royal pain in the ass. It’s a constant discussion and even though I sit and explain to M how differently parenting has to be here in order to raise successful children, I can tell he just doesn’t get it. Fortunately, mama’s rules always end up winning out in the end but it’s not always easy. When I was cautiously observing how M. would be with children, I thought these shows of love and affection was so special. I wasn’t thinking how they would be if they were it was every day behavior.
Five years in, we’re making small steps of progress. I’ve finally gotten M to stop contradicting me in front of the kids. He’ll give me little looks but most importantly, we wait until after the kids are out of the room to make most decisions so we can present a united front. That’s not to say that M. doesn’t cave in to our daughter’s “papa pleasssssseee” or our son’s male bonding rallies because he does. It just means he’s more aware that kids these days don’t come in packages that you water, feed and bam…successful adult.

Culturally, there are things M can’t fathom having to deal with as a parent. Whether I like it or not, the kids’ bodies are changing and I would much rather have them hear from me or M about those changes than from other children or out on the street. No, those conversations weren’t easy but whether I like it or not, our children are exposed to so many things from friends and peers. I’d much rather they have the proper info than to be misinformed. M can’t believe parents have to have these types of conversations with children at all. Trust me, I wish I didn’t have to but life is life and being unrealistic won’t get me anywhere.

I may rail against M’s parenting decisions sometimes but I have to admit I have learned a few things about gaining new perspective.The fact of the matter is that there is no handbook to proper parenting and what may work for one parent, may very well not work for the other. M and I are carving out a new parental path here. IMHO, there just needs to be balance and consistency. Until the next blog lovelies.

 

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!!

 

Natural Born February 11, 2011

Filed under: intercultural relationships — Alisa @ 1:42 am
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Several months ago, I wrote a blog about hair I titled “Isn’t it All Good Hair?” At the time, I was simply musing about how intrinsically we connect who we are with our hair. At the time I made a comment about how I was contemplating going natural after having seen Chris Rock’s documentary “Good Hair.”  For those of you who may be unclear about what I mean by going “natural,”  I simply mean that I no longer use chemicals to straighten or modify my hair from its God given state. 

People go natural for many reasons. Some make the decision as part of a journey to connect more with one’s cultural background.  Others do it as part of a healthier hair regimen.  At the beginning of my journey, I fell into the latter category. I felt my hair was beginning to thin and wasn’t as healthy as it could have been. After several months of  cleverly disguising my curly locks meeting the chemically straightened locks I was still clinging to, I finally decided to do the “big chop.”   I cut all of the remaining chemically straightened hair. I was horrified.  The first three days after I cut it,  I felt completely naked. It was as though people could see my insides.  It was scary.

M loved and still loves the look. He said he never could understand why I didn’t leave it curly anyway.  I could go into a long individual post about the whole “European influence” of wanting straight, silky hair but I won’t. What I will say is that this journey has made me question things about myself that I never have before.  On a particularly bad hair day I bemoaned to M about how I didn’t think I was going to be able to go chemical free much longer.  He  looked at me, rolled his eyes and said ” what a life.” I  knew what he meant. We had many discussions about how my fear of messing up that prized silky chemical laden hair really prevented me from having some free moments in life. Instead of reveling in the warm raindrops of summer, I was running to avoid the drops. Instead of  letting the waters of the Caribbean, Arabian Sea, and the Gulf wash over my body, I tried to float with my head out of the water. It’s funny now to think back to some of these moments but they are also very sad because I realize these are the lessons I’m casting upon to my daughter–the baggage of not being happy with what God us.  One day recently, I wondered if our constant need to change our physical ourselves  is like saying quietly that God didn’t know what he was doing when he made us. Afterall, he gave us these wonderful locks of hair ranging from bone straight to thick waves. 

Shout outs to reader Truth who suggested Kinky Curly and Carol’s Daughter products to me.  Ironically enough, I have tried both of these and had forgotten you had even suggested them. I love love love Kinky Curly products. Kinky Curly is now in Target. It’s a hot commodity here and stays sold out.  The CD curl milk is okay. I really need to go back and give it another try now that I know how to really apply the products the way I need to.

I’ve posted a pic of the resulting big chop. The journey continues. Until the next blog my lovelies!

 

Black + Indian=Blindian June 1, 2010

Today, I read a post from an Indian American woman involved in a relationship with an AA male for the last five years. They are contemplating making another step forward and she is torn between love and family wishes and values.

Based on the little bit that the OP posted, I could tell this was a subject to which she  has given a great deal of thought. One of the things she mentioned in her post that grabbed me most was this line “It’s difficult when I have been ingrained in a culture that believes marriage is about two families coming together over similar values, lifestyles, and histories and that love is unstable and unreliable, something that will not be able to hold us together” 

Her words really made my mental wheels turn and I know I may get a great deal of slack for what I’m about to say but at least be open enough to know the thought process behind my words.  I think there is something to be said for arranged marriages. There are lower divorce rates and overall, arranged marriages seem to be more stable. Of course there are exceptions to this as there are in any generalization.

When we date are we not looking for people who share the same values and lifestyle as us? Yes, we want to have that euphoric feeling of love but speaking from experience, that feeling will only take us so far when it comes to enduring the ups and downs of relationships. That’s not to say that love is not important and does not have its place but I believe it is important to have shared values and lifestyles.  Do I think that you can be in love and have the things we desire as far as values, lifestyles and histories go? Absolutely! However, I also see the argument behind arranged marriages- IF all parties involved are okay with it. It’s totally different if someone is forced into a relationship because it’s what is expected of them.  I hope that everyone reading this understands that I believe in love. Love brought me and my husband together but so did shared values.   However, I also can see the argument behind arranged marriages. That being said, I only agree with arranged relationships if everyone involved is on board with the process. I’m a sucker for love and I believe there is a place to create new traditions and histories together but I also believe in respecting the ones that got us to where we are as long as they are not disrespectful or hurtful to others. Therein lies part of the problem with why arranged marriages are looked upon so negatively. When parents or relatives that are arranging the relationships are so ingrained in their way of approaching marriages, that they overlook the feelings and wishes of the person they are arranging, it becomes hurtful. I believe the intentions of arranged marriages and the idea behind them were good at some point but when people impose those their ways upon someone else, that’s a problem.   

Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many people who are thrilled to find couples that mirror themselves. I’ve also met so many people who are struggling to find answers to being in a Blindian relationship. For those people I say this, as I said to the OP. You already know that no one can make the decision that’s best for you other than you. I happen to believe that’s the healthiest attitude anyone can have when it comes to making major decisions.

Believe it or not, you are not alone . In the last four years that M and I have been together I have met at least four other black/Indian couples who actually got married but kept it secret for years. It’s such a sad way to live for them. There are always the questions and thoughts  of ” ‘why can’t you tell your family or friends about me? I’m a good person, they’ll like me just give them the opportunity to meet me and you’ll see'”…or “‘ I don’t like being anyone’s secret.'”  The thoughts of why and how they’ve allowed themselves to be in such a difficult place go on and on.  It’s inevitable that people on the outside pass judgment about relationships like this all the time (and for the record they are not exclusive to Black/Indian relationships). That judgement in itself can add a whole boatload of issues but I digress.

At the end of the day, people make decisions that shape their lives and the futures of not only themselves but of future generations as well.  This life is too short to make decisions based on how others feel you should live your life if it’s not something you’re completely 100% on board with. Make the decisions that you know in the end will bring you peace.  I’m looking forward to hearing your comments on this issue. 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….

 

 
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