A Journey In Black and Indian Love

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

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!

 

MMMM.. The smell of a Curry Filled Home. June 26, 2009

Yesterday I mentioned I had prepared South Indian Shimp Curry for dinner on Father’s Day. M loves seafood (me not so much). I also made salmon croquettes and of course some rice for the curry.

I cook curry often but today was the first time trying the South Indian type curry. I must say it turned out pretty good.  I used curry powder, tumeric, coconut milk, chili powder, tomatoes and a few other items that escape me at this point.

I try to always blend our cultures even in the kitchen. This is a wonderful way to expose the kids to things they would otherwise turn away from. They love trying new dishes when I prepare them. Often I have them help me so that they can learn the fundamentals of cooking. I learned the same way at my grandmother’s knee and my kids love it. 

I’ve posted up a youtube video of an Indian cooking show. The clip is for one of my favorite dishes, dal makni.  I love it with tandoori chicken and parantha. Hopefully seeing it will inspire some of you to experiment in your kitchen.  Until the next blog.

 

Smooth Times on a Rocky Road June 24, 2009

M and A at a Jazz FestivalI begrudingly admit that I was one of the over 10 million viewers who watched the Jon and Kate Plus 8 fiasco last night. It made me think about how many people I know who are going through relationship issues. Even M and I are coming off a week long rocky patch where everything he did annoyed me and everything I did or said annoyed him. It’s the path that every marriage takes. How you walk that path defines you as a couple. I’m thankful that we choose to walk slowly ..together recognizing that every day won’t be a picnic.

Before I got married, my great aunt who has been married for more than half a century gave me a bit of advice. She told me that marriage wasn’t always going to be easy and that there were going to be days where I wanted to unscrew his head off and vice versa but for us always to remember what connected us. That would be our bonding thread through everything. So we take one day at a time. Some days we love harder than on other days but we never stop working on our unity. We recognize that as parents we have an obligation to show the children healthy and well balanced relationships. M is an excellent dad and a good husband. He’s working hard at continuing to adjust to the cultural differences. It’s hard to believe that he’s now been here in the US for two years. My how time flies!

Speaking of fatherhood..We celebrated Father’s Day by watching movies (Defiance, Passenger, Grand Torino and the Wire). I prepared some of M’s favorite foods including Shrimp curry south Indian style. He was in heaven. I was raised to believe that you feed a person’s soul by cooking with love. I wholeheartedly believe that food can be more than just a stomach feeder.

Suprisingly enough, my mother who was so adamantly against my marrying M called him and wished him a happy Father’s Day and to say thank you for being a good father to her grandchildren. Shocked is not the word. We’re still surpised that she called.

I do hope all is well with you readers. Begin gathering your favorite Indian or soul food recipes for me..or any great recipe. Next blog is about cooking for a home full of different taste buds. Until the next blog…

 

A Much Needed Mini Vacation June 8, 2009

Hi Everyone!

I’m finally back to reality after combining a business trip with a much needed getaway. We just got back from Atlanta…took the kids to the zoo and to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. I love Atl but driving there is nervewrecking, not just because of the other driver, but because of how confusing it can get. With the exception if two places, we got lost everywhere we went. LOL. 

M seemed to be at ease because everywhere we went, we saw other Indians. Where we live it’s a rare sighting. He was shocked at how many other Indians he saw. What was so great is how many other interracial couples we saw. It seemed that everyday we saw at least three or four other IR couples. It’s a great sign about the direction of things. Until the next blog!

 

Finally!! A guest post from Hubby May 17, 2009

 

After threats to withhold his favorite wings and fries, a few emotional blackmail attempts and a few stares, I finally got hubby to write a guest post. What follows is what my act of convincing produced.  It’s his random thought process about interracial marriages:

Inter-racial marriage/Dating………
Why is there a big talk about inter-racial marriage and Indians?Does anyone really know what type of racial divide we have in India? It’s not the color of your skin. It’s the religion and the caste.Now you might think it is only in hindu community that caste and religion matter so much but .it is not. It is wide in the Christian and the muslim community too.
You can be dark skinned and still be from the higher caste. You can be fair and be from the lower community. End of the day, it is your religion and caste and you are expected to stand by it. Now in India you’d even face problems when you generally date or marry for the same religion but a different caste.
 Marriage in the Indian community is essentially between families not just the two people. Marriages are generally arranged. Even when it is a love marriage within the same religion its still mostly arranged.  Family elders meet and get to know of one another and then proceed.  Now normally anyone would say it is a love marriage but unfortunately it is  still arranged.
Now about dowry.  Does anyone know really what that means.It is life time maintenance money to the husband to look after their daughter.
Fortunately I was born into a progressive thinking family who did think marriage is between 2 people not the family.  Basically I never had problems with my decision. I belong to a higher caste and I am proud of it. But i was never taught in my home that there are two types of segregation in human society. I had friends from all strata of the society. I am a Hindu who eats beef,–but that does not mean my family eats it. I was schooled in a catholic convent. I am happy with whom I am married to.
I dont think marrying from another culture like me would be a norm with all the Indians you all come across.Every area in India has their own do’s and dont’s. If you know what to look for then maybe you can find someone to treasure. It’s actually a complicated situation.
As far as someone who wants to go ahead with this sort of releationship, let me tell you that there are some areas and communities that are more tolerant and understanding than some others. Best of luck for all who’s still searching.
  
 

Breaking the Ice with Mom in law May 13, 2009

Sorry I’ve been delayed with the latest blog post. I spent the weekend working in the backyard and preparing our first mini garden.  The kids are excited about the possibilities of the fruits of their labor.

M and the kids treated me to a really nice mother’s day. I got breakfast in bed with orange cranberry muffins, bacon and fruit. I also got cards, flowers and the opportunity to sleep in, which if you are a parent, you know is an absolutely priceless gift. I didn’t get a chance to see my own mother even though we live less than two miles away from one another. She was out doing her own thing. We did take her gift to her on Saturday. We’re up to a record number of words between she and M. I think they passed around 15 words instead of their usual five.

I don’t think M and my mother will ever have the kind of relationship that she and my ex had and still have. I understand they are two totally different men but the chemistry is definitely far more different than I feel it should be.

M is always on edge around my mother. I think that comes from his knowledge of her previous disapproval of our relationship. Their conversation never goes beyond Hello how are you. This bothers me because there is no extension on either of their parts to get to know the other better.  I know that she no longer dislikes M. She knows that he is a good dad and that he’s good to me.

I do think my mother is more interested than she pretends to be. I’ve heard her mention a few things that indicated she’s been doing research on the culture. Initially she thought M was going make me wear an abaya and bow to him and all of his requests. LOL.. Brahahahaha she doesn’t know her daughter very well.

I’ve invited my mother to come to India with us in December but she is basically refusing. It is my dream that my family and M’s can one day break bread together. Right now the dream seems so far off.

On other brief updates. I’ve finally decided what I’m doing for my 35th. I’m having a friends and family weekend in Gatlinburg. Laughter, fun, games, river rafting, shopping and bbqing are all on tap. Given some things going on right now I felt the need to be surrounded by those I love the most.  I’m looking forward to a new year.

Until the next blog….

 

Surviving an Interracial Relationship May 6, 2009

 

Paper Dolls

The other day I was thinking about what it takes to keep a relationship going strong-especially when it’s intercultural or interracial.

Tips:

The following are my own opinions and based on both personal experience and observations.  They are merely suggestions on what can be done to help make not just an interracial relationship better but a relationship period.  Feel free to add your own advice as well if you’d like.

Leave the bags at the airport- In other words, if you’ve got old relationship baggage, don’t bring it into your current relationship. You’ll have enough to overcome without adding extra fuel to the fire. It’s not fair to either of you if the other is constantly reliving the mistakes of another person. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t remember the experiences because they may have very likely shaped you into who you are now.  However, instead constantly carrying around the weight of a previously broken relationship, use it to make you a better and wiser person the next time around.

Don’t chase your tail. – Sometimes the situation will arise where one person in the relationship may decide they are not ready to fight for the relationship against family or society the way they thought they were. I’ve heard absolute horror stories from people whose families are badgering and threatening them day in and day out if they don’t make the decision that is alignment with what the family wants.  If you’ve talked to your SO and they are not willing to choose the relationship over the family, then accept that and move on with your dignity intact. You want someone who is going to stand strong for the relationship, so don’t beg, don’t plead and don’t cry (in front of them). State your case once (maybe twice if they didn’t get it the first time) but don’t keep putting yourself in the position for continuous heartbreak or false hope.

Be Sympathetic- If your SO is catching hell because of their relationship with you, try to place yourself in their shoes. They are likely trying to please everyone under the sun.  Remember that their family values may be very different from your own. For example in India, they are raised that the family (mom, dad, elders etc) makes the major decisions and you are not to go against family. Can you imagine how heart wrenching that is to go against the very thing ingrained in you? Now, that being said, to avoid this situation, if they know their family is going to give them hell about their relationships then perhaps they shouldn’t start relationships if they know they will never go against family wishes.

Be Honest Even It Hurts Like Hell. – I have this thing about liars. I can’t stand them.  It’s so frustrating to find that someone has been lying. For, me it feels so insulting-as though the person didn’t trust me with the truth or thinks that I’m naive enough to believe anything. Lying is disrespectful not only to you, the recipients of the false information but the person lying is disrespecting themselves. The way I see it, is that we are all adults. If we can’t communicate with one another in an honest fashion, why even deal with one another? I know that people are sometimes less than honest because they want to avoid hurting the person they are lying to. However, nine times out of ten, the person is going to feel even worst when they find out they’ve been lied to. At the end of the day it’s really not worth it.

Communicate Even When it’s Tough.- One of the biggest problems that I’ve noticed in intercultural relationships that don’t work out is that there are usually lots of unanswered questions. For some reason people are afraid to ask the hard questions associated with other cultures.  They don’t want to talk about the uncomfortable issue of race, the role of family and the expectations each have for the other. One of my first serious intercultural relationships taught me this lesson. I asked very few questions about the person’s culture and the few I did ask, he lied about. Had things not wound up the way that they did, I could very well be married to another man, living in Saudi, having to dress in an abaya  everyday in 1000 degree heat with no way to come home to the US if my husband didn’t give me permission. …  which leads me to my next tip.

Do Your Own Research- Embracing your SO’s culture can be a beautiful thing. It will help you understand more about what makes them tick. I know that I was blessed to be able to live in India and to be able to go back and forth as much as I did. Not everyone has these resources, however, if you have the opportunity to experience your SO’s homeland, do so. I promise it will be a real eye opener. If you aren’t able to travel to their native surroundings scour the internet and library for information on their culture.  If you area has some activities related to their background..go..learn.. and have a good time.  For example, if your SO is Jewish, visit a synagogue or a Jewish cultural event.

Offer Support- Rocky times in a relationship are inevitable. Like a tide they will ebb and flow. It’s part of the growing process. How well you and your SO deal with your problems says a lot about how well the blossoms of your relationship will bloom. You’ve chosen one another because there was something about the other person that attracted or intrigued you. Always remember what those first moments together were like and why you chose one another. If your SO is having a rough day, be the ear they need or the shoulder they need to cry or lean on.

Stop trying to breathe life into a dead corpse-Know when the finish line is in sight- If we all looked back on our failed relationships, if we’re honest with ourselves the writing was probably on the wall long before we let it go. If the handwriting is on the wall for your relationship and you see that things are not working out  and you’ve tried without success to repair things.. it’s time to let go. Often we get settled into a comfort zone that is hard to break free of even if it doesn’t feel so good. We’re afraid of the unknown and what it may bring so we stay in relationships we know are no good for us. If you know you deserve better and you’ve asked for it and haven’t got it…let it go.. If you know you are no good for your SO and you are holding them back or causing them a tremendous amount of pain.. let it go.

My blog readers, I’m not a guru, nor do I claim to know it all. The advice I offered above is all gleaned from my own personal and sometimes very painful experiences. If just ONE person walks away from reading this with a new and improved perspective on how to make their relationship better, I’ve done my job and the two days it took me to write this post was worth it. Until the next blog..

 

Copyright © 2009

 

 
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