A Journey In Black and Indian Love

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

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….

 

Standing in God’s Grace August 4, 2009

I’ve always considered myself to be a spiritual person and in the last week I’ve experienced God’s presence in major ways that I had not before. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I was going to Gatlinburg to celebrate my 35th birthday with friends and family. The plan was to zipline, go whitewater rafting and enjoy the presence of my friends. For the most part, the plan was followed but we opted not to go ziplining for several reasons, the main one  being the fact that I almost drowned after being pitched out of a raft on a class IV rapid. Let me explain.

Off I trekked with two of my friend and their families along with my family to the beautiful Smokies that you see above. My family and I enjoyed a day of tubing on Friday and on Saturday we went rafting with USA rafting. I had confirmed that there was only going to be class two and three rapids because I was taking my twins and I wanted something that would be safe. So off we go on the lower Pigeon River with my friend Sibbreena. I should digress for a moment and tell you that Sibbreena only went because I wanted her to go. She kept telling me how she was only going because it was my birthday. White water rafting was never something on top of her to do list but she said she wasn’t going to go on this trip and not do something crazy with me.  Throughout the safety talk she would ocassionally glance back at me and buck her eyes as if to say ‘are you all nuts?’ 

We finally got to our rafting spot and our guide, Travis, gave us the instructions we needed to navigate through our first few rapids. They were a piece of cake but I noticed the water began to have a lot more force behind it as we got further down the river. Sibbreena and I were at the front of the raft and were setting paddle pace. My twins were directly behind me and M was at the very back acting as motor man while Travis guided us.

Travis told us we were about to approach a class four rapid named the “Lost Guide” Supposedly the rapid got its name because guides would sometimes fall out.  We all laughed and told him we were not going to lose him.  I then asked about the class four rapid and mentioned how we were told there were only class two and three. Travis said it was the only four and we would be fine.  When we got to the rapid all I saw was what looked like a waterfall with the water flowing upside down. That’s the last thing I remember after seeing Sibbreena pop out of the raft like Jiffy Pop next to me  until  my faculties came back to me as I realized that I was choking on a mouthful of salty briney river water. The force of the water had pitched me out of the raft too. I looked up to see Sibbreena to the left of me and I began to scream for her to grab my hand.  Another current then drug me back under and when I came back up I was completely panicked. A thousand thoughts ran through my head, including the fact that I had lost a shoe, and to flip on my back the way they said to do in the safety instruction. When  I flipped on my back I  saw two things that made me completely freak out 1) I saw one of my children being plucked from the river. 2) I realized my raft was exremely far away and that the nearest raft to the left of us was quite far off.  When I realized this, another current pulled me back under and it was then that the thought occurred to me that I was going to die on my birthday with my children watching.

Another thing they taught us in the safety class was to hold our paddle up in the air and shout paddle so that if a raft was near they could pull us in by the t-bar.  I realized while underwater for the third time that I still had my paddle in my hand. I popped up out of the water and yelled paddle only to realize the rafts seemed to get farther away than closer. I’ve never felt so defeated before. I began to cry and scream for someone to please help me.  The current originally seemed to be taking us toward the banks of the river and I kept thinking that if we got close enough that we would be able to grab onto a branch.  As soon as I thought this was my way out, the current changed and began to shift us back to the center of the river. I finally heard one of the raft guides yell out “Swimmer!” But I saw no one jump in..(I figured out later we were the “swimmers” only we weren’t swimming at all.. we were being drug by the currents), he then yelled out “Rope!” They had told us in safety training that As soon as I saw the rope being thrown at Sibbreena who was to the left of me, I realized it was going to fall short. Thank God Sibbreena had the thought to take her oar and grab the rope with it.  That’s how they were finally able to fish us in. Needless to say when the rescue raft pulled us in I was in tears and shaking like a leaf on a tree on a windy day.  I thanked God for having protected me and my family. 

About the time we began to settle our nerves we were transferred back to our own raft where Travis told us we had to resume our positions. I wish you could have seen the looks on me and Sibbreena’s faces. I turned to Travis and said “You want us to do what?! You’ve got to be kidding me” But he wasn’t. Sibbreena and I silently resumed our positions  and the next rapid we hit was a class III. It was harrowing and I prayed aloud the whole time. Sibbreena told me later she hadn’t heard anyone praying so hard and loudly before. What she didn’t realize until much later was how the experience had shaken me in a way that words can’t explain. Later when we talked about what happened, she told me it was life changing for her as well but that she didn’t regret doing it.

Two more weird things about the experience.. when we got in the raft, Travis handed me both of my shoes that had been in the river..my first thought was “what the hell?! you found time to fish my shoes out of the river but not me?!”  The second weird thing is that the sunglasses I had on my face were STILL on there even after having been drug undercurrent three times. I think it was the straps on the helmet that kept them on. Either way I was surprised.

Since having that rafting experience I’ve not slept without being back in the water. It disturbed me so much that I’m constantly reliving the moments several times a day. It’s not healthy and I realize that despite how crazy others may think I am, my goal is to conquer that rafting route without falling out. It won’t be soon but it will happen one day. I know that if I don’t do it, I’ll have always let that moment define me in negative ways.  I am thankful that my family and friend are safe. Prayer does change things.

Three days after the rafting trip, I had surgery. I had already told the doctor’s I have had my near death experience for my life so they needed to be on point. I was in recovery and had been awakened and M had been brought around when I began to have severe chest pains and problems breathing. I was immediately whisked to the urgent care area where they tore my gown off, hooked me up to some electrodes and began to pump medication in me. I don’t remember a whole lot other than My surgeon suddenly appeared he began to use a fist to rub around in my chest. Another doctor (the anesthesiologist I think) was yelling out medication orders. I soon got physically sick and began to throw up. Well as you know there was nothing to throw up digestive juices which the doctors and nurses said was full of air bubbles. They seem to think the problem was from air being trapped in my chest wall. Before long I began to feel better but they kept me longer as a precaution. Again, I feel I was standing in God’s grace.

M doesn’t understand how these experiences have shaped my thought process about things and how scared I felt and still feel. He said our raft guide was very concerned about us hitting some of the many rocks in the river but that he felt assured we would be rescued with no problem because we had on our life jackets and there were many rafts in the area.  He said they immediately got my son out of the water as soon as he hit it. But what disturbs me is that I don’t recall M even asking if I was okay. Of course he said he did but I don’t remember that.

M’s sister told me the other day that he has always been an internalizer-even as a kid he would never talk to anyone and would brush things off.  I understand his nature but times like this it doesn’t work for me. I need him to understand the seriousness of all of this and how it has really screwed with my head. I’m a bit too close to death these days and I don’t like it.

Everyone keep me in my prayers. I’m sure I’ll be okay but it’s only been a week so I still have some things to sort out. Enjoy the pics from the trip.. 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.

 

A Fresh Blog Post. Hot Off the Presses. May 3, 2009

I’m finally back with a fresh blog post. The week has been very very busy and I had not found the time to write. Hubby has been promising to guest write for me but so far that hasn’t happened. Every time I ask him about it, he says he’s still thinking about what he is going to write about. Let’s all collectively roll eyes on that.

After three years of trying to get M realize that not everyone in any one race is the same, twice this week when I was telling him about a negative situation that happened (one involving a check from a customer for our business), he automatically asked “was it a black person?”  His question gave me pause and made me ask him why he automatically assumed it was a black person that was involved in something negative. He didn’t have an answer for me, other than to say “I was just curious.”

Now mind you, M and I have had many discussions about why crime rates may be higher in some areas than others or why there are so many black on black murders etc. We’ve talked about the socioeconomic connections and educational factors that contribute to downtrodden. But somehow, I don’t think he’s grasped it all. Even now after all of this time being here in the states, he hasn’t connected with many other blacks apart from my family (or Indians either for that matter…come to think about it.. he hasn’t connected with anyone).  He needs to be able to experience people of all races from all walks of life so that he can see that there’s not just one type of person in any ethnic group. I really want him to get to a point where he recognizes that crime has no face and no racial group is immune from being the victim of a crime or committing one.

Shifting the topic to one more positive, on Friday the kids had their Spring Fling. I was so excited because I saw more mixed couples there than I had seen in the entire city we live in. Other than M and myself, there were at least four other couples I saw that night and they were all openly engaged with one another and small amounts of PDA.  It shows the grand old south where we live is changing its guard a bit. I like that.

Okay guys, I’m going to keep this one short. I’m a bit under the weather and my bed is calling me for a nap. Until the next blog. …

 

Oh by the way.. some comments I haven’t yet gotten a chance to respond to  yet but I will later this evening.

 

A Looming Birthday-Oh What’s a 35 year old to do. April 20, 2009

The Mountains of Pigeon Forge

The Mountains of Pigeon Forge

I turn 35 in a few months. It’s a birthday I’m looking forward to, yet dreading. It’s not really the age thing. It’s the feeling of change that is coming over me. The last time I felt like this, I was about to turn 30. I could feel the change in the wind but little did I know that every aspect of my life was about to change- my marriage, my finances, my friendships-NOTHING was left untouched but I emerged from the ashes a stronger and wiser person.

I happen to believe that where we are in this very moment of life is where God wants us to be. When I’ve tried to change HIS plan, I always wreak havoc so over the years, experience has taught me to just ‘be still.’  When I do, it always turns out for the best.

Last year M and I went to Las Vegas for my birthday. It was a great trip. We saw Cirque’s “O” which is absolutely incredible.  This year we are planning a friends and family weekend in Gatlinburg. I’m looking forward to spending time relaxing in the beauty of the Smokies with family and friends. I want to shoot a little pool, shop, play board games, have some late night gab sessions with my girls, watch the guys in a grilling battle to see who makes the best barbeque and just fellowship and soak up the time with friends and family.

Aside from Dubai and St. Martin, The Smokey Mountains are my favorite spot to frequent. I love watching the blue haze that lingers over the peaks in the morning. I love the small town feel of Gatlinburg and all it has to offer. The hiking trails, the nature overall and the opportunity to raft is calling me there for some down time.  This place of beauty is what I want to share with my friends and family.

I’m trying to make sure everyone will be able to come and will be able to partake of the weekend festivities. So far the expense shouldn’t run more than $200 for a three day two night trip that includes food. I’m trying to be mindful of everyone’s budget.  Does anyone have any ideas?  We’re staying in a chalet where everyone will have their own bathroom in suite. I know how important privacy is and wanting to have the ability to choose when you want to relax away from the group. I’ll have everything worked out and the invitation letter going out to everyone by tomorrow mid-day.  Until the next blog…..

 

Indian Movies April 19, 2009

 

Faana

Faana

 

I mentioned in a previous post that M and I watch a lot of movies. Thanks to Netflix I can indulge in documentaries and foreign films that my local movie store doesn’t carry. I thought I would take the time in today’s blog to pass along some of my favorite documentaries and Indian films. If you’ve never watched an Indian movie before let me forewarn you that they are generally quite long.  Usually they are over three hours .

Tonight we watched Kal Ho Naa Ho: Tomorrow May Never Come.  In typical Indian fashion this movie was well over 3 hours long and it seemed to just fall apart at the end.  Last week we watched Dil Chahata Hai starring Aamir Khan. It’s a great film about three guys who have been friends since grade school. It’s a film about life, love and friendship. We also watched Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. Let me just say BOOOOOO BOOOOOO. I threw popcorn at my own screen. If you like movies that rank a 10 plus on the cheese factor this is it.

Here’s a list of my favs so far:

Slum Dog Millionaire (excellent movie)

Sarfarosh (three and a half starts)

Salaam Namaste (four stars)

Water ( Part of the Deepa Mehta trilogy Five stars)

Salaam Bombay (five stars. A very touching movie about a little boy thrown into life in the slums of Mumabi. It’s directed by Mira Nair who also directed Monsoon wedding).

Monsoon Wedding (four stars)

Fire (Part of Deepa Mehta’s trilogy five stars. The movie touches on the subject of same sex relationships. I think this movie was amazingly done)

Arranged (Five stars…movie about an unlikely friendship between an orthodox Jewish girl and a Muslim girl)

Faana (three and a half stars. It’s long..almost like two movies in one) 

Movies I could take or leave:

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

Earth (Directed by Deepa Mehta and part of her movie trilogy, Earth, Water and Fire)

Beauty Academy of Kabul (documentary)

What are some of your favorite movies with a foreign slant and why?  Until the next blog..

 

To Stay or Not to Stay..That is the Question April 17, 2009

  

At least once a week M and I have the same conversation. I want to move back to India or at least spend part of the year there. M thinks I’m nuts and is concerned about trying to rebuild a life there. He’s also concerned about our son’s allergies and asthma. I can understand the asthma problems in Delhi (smog and air pollution) and even Kerala (various greenery) but in Goa he seems to do well and we’ve found that the allergy flair ups usually come in spring and summer. I think it’s possible, M isn’t so sure.  We have this conversation at least once a week and it always ends the same-in non decision. It’s kind of like the should we have a baby or not discussion. We at least agree on that matter it’s just the timing of it all.

After spending so much time in India, I consider the country to be a second home for me and I miss the pulse and vibrancy of Delhi and Goa. I miss the quietness of Kerala at night. It’s very hard to explain but the country is in my blood now.

In addition to my full-time job, I have two businesses that can operate from virtually anywhere in the world. One is a voiceover business (if you’re interested, email me and I’ll send you the website link) and the other is a catalog and e-commerce jewelry and accessory business (www.paysonjewels.com) so I think we can survive anywhere.  I understand M’s concerns. He’s over 40 now and finding a job in India at his age can difficult since the country’s population is so young.

One of the other reasons I want to move is because I want my children to have a different kind of life. Every day you pick up the paper or watch the news, there’s been another shooting or some random act of death that can’t be explained. As a mother, I am keenly aware of the kinds of things my children are exposed to when they are at school and no amount of piano lessons, soccer or scouts can remove some of the peer pressure they are and will be exposed to as they get older.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naïve enough to think that we can move away from all things negative. However, say what we will about countries on the other side of the world but they have very different kinds of crime than we do here. We don’t hear about schools or hospitals being shot up the way we do here. And whether we like it or not, their kids are usually more educated than ours. There’s something to be said for this. As parents we want to give our children the best opportunities available to them. We want them healthy, educated and filled with integrity. We want them to hold on to the childhood innocence they have now before becoming stained with the negativity of the world. As parents, we are fighting like hell to do this with each passing day.  We’ve got great kids.. we know it and we want them to remain so.

We have a great number of decisions to make in the coming days…Until the next blog.

 

 
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