A Journey In Black and Indian Love

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

Dealing With Exes April 25, 2009

 

M and I have been blessed that the aspects of our relationship which could have been an issue for us have worked out. Much of this is due in part to how we chose to handle things that others would see as obstacles. For example, my race and my having been divorced with children could have been a hurdle that had the potential to destroy our relationship considering the social implications for M. However, we chose to deal with issues head on.

 

 

Let me digress momentarily and use this opportunity to say I don’t know why so many Indian men lie about the relationships they are having with non Indian or outer caste or religion women. By lying they are only causing a great deal of hurt for the women who are falling in love with them. I think it’s childish and reeks of selfishness. To knowingly become involved with someone knowing your future holds an arranged marriage is asinine behavior. I hate to hear of women going through relationships that are built on a lie or limited information. Ladies if you are involved with someone and you find that you know very limited information about them perhaps you should ask yourself why. If their family doesn’t know about you and you’ve been together for a significant amount of time ask yourself why. (Blindian’s stepping down off of her soapbox now). Sorry folks but this subject really gets my blood pressure up.

Anyway, as I was saying, we chose to deal with issues head on. One of those issues dealt with my children. When M and I married, they were five years old. My ex husband originally wasn’t too keen on my packing up his children and taking them half way across the world to a country he knew nothing about. One of the things M did without my knowing he would do it was talk to my ex, P, man to man. M told him that he wasn’t trying to replace him as a father and that he was going to do everything he could to ensure our safety and happiness. M also told P that anytime he had questions about what was going on he was welcome to call him.

At first, P, wasn’t very receptive to M’s talk with him. He wasn’t ready for me to move on and was still having a difficult time with being divorced even though it was two years after the fact. We had spent nearly 10 years together in a marriage that I think we both were shocked to find disintegrate due to a variety of reasons. I had to sit P down and tell him that he needed to realize that most men wouldn’t have talked with him man to man like that. They would have basically gone about being with me without regard to him. Once he thought about what I said, he realized that M wanted nothing but to get along and for the kids to realize they were loved by everyone.  P and I had an amicable divorce and we agreed early on that our jobs were to show the children how to have a healthy functional relationship even if we were not together. We don’t believe in the back and forth drama that some divorced couples have. It serves absolutely no purpose when you are trying to raise healthy well balanced children. That’s not to say we don’t have our disagreements, we do but even though we are divorced, P still wants to see me happy.

My sister calls me, P and M Demi, Bruce and Ashton because we all get along so well. M and P get along quite well. We all still occasionally have dinner together and will sometimes catch a movie. The kids know that P and I won’t be getting back together but they love the fact that they two dads and three grandmothers.

It’s not easy but at the end of the day we realize that our common goal are the kids..who have their first piano recital tomorrow so I’ll wrap this up.. until the next blog.

 

The Real Reason Some People Are Against Interracial Relationships April 22, 2009

I recently made a post titled “Can’t We All Just Get Along?” The post got the attention of Tom, a white male married to an Asian woman. I was excited because Tom was not only my first male poster, but he also brought a fresh perspective to IR’s.

Today Tom made this comment “I know the people who say stick to your own kind are probably only stating it because they feel it will protect you from being hurt or rejected.”
 
Or… they say “stick to your own kind” because that is what they have always done; the reason being that they, themselves, are either too frightened or small-minded to venture out into the wider world.
 
People often subconsciously transfer their own fears and stigma onto others.”
 
 (the rest of his comment can be read in the original blog ).

When I read Tom’s words, it was like a light bulb went on. He worded my thoughts so accurately. Tom is very correct about how people subconsciously transfer their own fears and stigma onto others and how fear keeps people from venturing out. It’s like a social mania.

 Unfortunately, society has screwed so many of us up. We seek validation and approval from others without realizing how detrimental it can be to us. It’s like we’re puppets in a puppet show being run by the man behind the curtain. How many times have we done something in our lives, not because we wanted to but because we didn’t want to face the retribution or harsh reaction from others if we went against the norm?  This is why some people react so harshly to intercultural and interracial relationships.  It goes against what others have told them should happen and THAT makes them uncomfortable.

Black women have so much baggage laid upon us about dating outside the race. The way some people act, you would think we were committing cultural genocide. I honestly think that some Indians feel the same way…that their sons or daughters being involved with someone of a different religion, caste or creed somehow dilutes their heritage.  They don’t look at it as a new dimension or facet being added.

M and I are thinking about having a baby. We talk about it at least twice a week. M has no blood children and I am thankful he loves my twins as his own. I hesitate to have another child because 1) my twins are 8 now and going back to having an infant I feel would be difficult 2) my twins are a result of fertility drug treatments and even though they have been great kids, I am fearful of having another set of twins and 3) we travel a great deal and traveling with an infant is a whole new ballgame. I know these are probably selfish issues but I brought this subject up to say this.  If we do decide to have a child, we know we will raise it to embrace both sides of their culture. There’s no one culture superior to the other (contrary to many twisted beliefs).

Tom’s comment made me realize that some people hide their racism behind the cloak of “love.” But if they really loved you, it wouldn’t matter who you were with and why as long as you are happy and treated with respect.  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..

 

An Ode to Friendship

M and I had date night last night. We went to hear a friend of mine who is a blues singer. I was one of the two friends who showed up to support her. It wasn’t like they didn’t know she was performing. I had personally called and sent text messages to all of our mutual friends to remind them. Some said they were coming and didn’t..others didn’t respond. I could tell she was disappointed with the low turnout. As I looked around the club, it made me think about friendship and how as humans, we take our relationships with others for granted.

My friendships are precious to me. I surround myself with very few people that I can actually call friends. I have many acquaintances but in my opinion, the word friend is so overused.  I learned a long time ago that not everyone can wear the friendship label because like any relationship it requires work and not everyone is prepared to do the work of friendship. It means remembering birthdays or important dates, losing sleep occasionally while a friend talks through their issues and it means pitching in when needed.

I sometimes think that technology is a curse. With emails, text messages and the like, most people in society no longer take the time to handwrite thank you notes, or visit with friends the way it was done 30 or 40 years ago. We’re all just too busy. However, life is short and we all need to remember to appreciate those around us that stand tall and strong with us through any storm.

I’ve had friends who have traveled around the world with me to witness the traditional Kerala ceremony between M and I. That’s some love. I’ve had friends who have stayed up all night with me while I cried over a broken relationship. That’s even more love. LOL.

M and I differ on the friendship thing. He’s a loner and from what I’ve been told by him and his family, he always has been for the most part.  He can take people or leave them and will quickly call me an agony aunt when I’m nurturing a friend through hard times. It’s important for me to have friendships and if I hadn’t seen it over the last few years I wouldn’t believe that M could live without having friends. My dear sweet nerdy M simply reads, plays with the dogs, does Sudoku or watches television in his spare time. My ideology is that if he’s happy with his friendless life, it’s fine with me. My job is to be friend, wife, nurse and psychologist whenever he needs it. 

How do you nurture your friendships? Do you feel the art of friendship is changing? Until the next blog..

 

This Blog’s For You-My Open Thank you Letter April 16, 2009

This is my open thank you for all of the blog love that M and I have been receiving. In the two weeks this blog has been up, we’ve had more than 3,000 hits. People from all walks of life and nationalities have reached out to say they are enjoying reading our experiences and that they want to see more.  Your wish is my command.

I should have posted a “disclaimer” or announcement on this blog, that despite the fact the blog is titled “Blindian Love” the blog is not, nor has it ever been solely for African Americans. It’s for everyone who’s in love, who’s ever been in love or who will ever BE in love with someone who’s a bit different than you. This blog is merely a glimpse into my experiences as an AA woman who happens to be married to an Indian guy. I blog about our life together as a Black and Indian couple (thus the name blindian) in the hopes that our experience, as unique as it is will offer hope to others who feel there is little chance for them to be together. Hopefully, by seeing a little slice into our world, we symbolize the phrase there is always hope.

I love hearing from everyone. Not only am I hopeful that people are learning and gaining hope from our experiences but I am learning from you all as well. The emails and comments serve as support for me and M.  For example, Deb encouraged us to cling close to one another and remain a united front. A person who wishes to remain anonymous and I are fast becoming friends since she’s also an AA married to a Desi guy.  I even heard from an Indian woman sharing her experiences. These are just a few nuggets of what I refer to as blog love.

Feel free to ask me the questions that are on your mind and if you know of someone you think may be interested in the blog, spread the word or link it up to your blog or website if you have one. M and I are here to help and spread a little bit of Blindian love… until the next blog.

 

Interracial Dating-Can’t We All Just Get Along? April 13, 2009

I’m constantly scouring the web in search of information on intercultural relationships. I’m always interested in how other couples balance out cultural differences. I came across the above YouTube video on one of these quests. To say I am apalled at some of the things I heard on the video is putting it mildly. While I’m glad to hear the candidness of the interviewees, it doesn’t take away my surprise at how some people view African American women who date outside of their race.

In my never ending quest for information, I also came across www.blackfemaleinterracialmarriage.com  The website is packed full of inspiring stories for women dating outside of their culture.

While I was reading through the posts, something I read hit home. The author was talking about the importance of black women not being afraid to step outside of their race to date. I knew this was a problem but until I read her words, it just didn’t click how some women may struggle with this decision.  My grandmother always raised me to see the best in a person and to be open to dating and marrying anyone as long as they treated me with respect. I’ve taken this advice with me through my life and have dated everyone from a Pakistani to a Saudi as well as a Hispanic guy and of course Indian. I’ve never struggled with my decision to date outside of my own culture so I just assumed the problem was isolated. Apparently it isn’t.

It saddens me to think that many women won’t date someone because they are from another culture. I know that often we are raised to “stick with our own kind” but think about how many opportunities at true love could be missed out on just because someone’s heart is closed to someone who doesn’t look like them.

I know the people who say stick to your own kind are probably only stating it because they feel it will protect you from being hurt or rejected. However, if this is the only reason why you are choosing not to be open to other experiences (i.e. people) then perhaps you should rethink why your happiness is so connected to the opinions of other people.

I once had a co-worker tell me I was going to hell because the Bible specifically talks about how dating or marrying outside of your own. I pulled my Bible from my desk drawer and asked him what scripture I could find that in. He fumbled around and finally made an excuse to leave the room. To this day, I’m still waiting for him to tell me where he got his information from.  People will tell you all kinds of crap if they think it will help them get their propaganda across.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the whole argument by some people that we’re “selling out” or not supporting our black men the way we should. However, that argument in my opinion does not have legs to stand on.  I could go on and on about statistics of how many black men date outside of their race versus the number of black women who do the same. I could also go on and on about how women traditionally are the ones who stand by their partner unwavering and longer in times of hardship but I won’t.  At the end of the day, they are all generalizations and not everyone fits into that one neat statistical box.

The point of all of this is that people should be free to love who they want despite the differences that others may see as obstacles. If you’re interested in dating outside of your race and you haven’t, ask yourself why. Is it due to fear of the unknown or is it due to lack of opportunity. Is it because all of your life it’s been hammered into you that you shouldn’t date anyone that doesn’t look like you?  Whatever the reason ask yourself are you happy with not exploring other options available to you.  Until the next blog…

 

Family Holidays

Today M celebrated his second Easter here in the states. This year was much celebratory than last year for some reason. The kids had an Easter egg hunt yesterday and today family and friends celebrated the resurrection of Christ. I watch M closely at this gathering.

Even though he’s been here for almost two years I find that he is still a bit hesitant around my family, my mother specifically.  Watching the two of them is like watching two birds doing a delicate dance. My mother swears she still has problems understanding him sometimes even though M’s English is fluent. She’s still trying to feel him out to see if there is a motive behind him marrying her daughter. M on the other hand is simply sitting in the shadows watching. I know this because after every family gathering, he peppers me with questions about what happened and who said what.

Even after two years the conversation between M and my mom usually consists of no more than two or three sentences at a time and they are always the same. This, even as she says he’s her favorite son-in-law and how good he is with the kids.  

I think we will always be this way with each of our families. When I’m around M’s family I always struggle to find something to talk about other than the weather or everyone’s health.  I sometimes dream of the camaraderie that both families could have if everyone was open to learning about the other’s culture. I’m trying to convince my family to go to India with us later this year so that both families can meet and begin to embrace one another’s lifestyles. So far, I’m being met with resistance. It’s easier for my family to go there than M’s family to come here.

One of the things that frustrates me about my culture the most is the lack of desire to see and experience the world.  Many African Americans are hesitant about going outside of the country. Often this is connected to fear of the unknown. We’re afraid of violence or constantly worried something bad may happen.  Then there’s the assumption that traveling outside of the country is too expensive to ever be able to afford. I’m by no means wealthy but I’ve seen parts of the world others only see on television and the memories associated with those trips are something I wouldn’t trade for the world.  Now I can’t sit still long without having some type of trip up my sleeve. If I can offer a piece of advice to everyone afraid to travel, it would be to always keep your options open. Take the opportunity to explore the world and its inhabitants around you. It can only serve to help you grow as a person.

Even if my family does not decide to travel with us later this year, I still hope that we can get the two families together soon to celebrate in one big reception. Until then M and I are like the mainland to two very different islands.  

I’d like to know more about you my readers…where have you traveled to or where would you like to travel to if you could go anywhere in the world with no costs?  How did you find the blog?  M and I are hoping to hear from you soon.  Until the next blog….

 

My Taste in Movies Sucks-The World According to M April 10, 2009

Tonight we watched “Seven Pounds,” the recent movie starring Will Smith. I thought the movie was poignant. My husband thought the movie stank. This is the life of me and M. LOL.  Last month, after we suffered through the movie “Hard Candy” my husband turned to me, looked me dead in my face and said “your taste in movies sucks here lately.” All I could do is laugh. After “Hard Candy,” and the bomb “Jhoom Barabar Jhoom,” the day earlier, it was pretty hard to defend.

Thanks to our Netflix account, we watch quite a few movies. Last month we watched 10. Out of that 10 M liked 4, “Russell Peters: Red White and Brown” (if you haven’t seen this rent it. He’s a HILARIOUS Indian comedian), Madagascar 3 (yeah it was cute but he’s a 42 year old man and he seemed to enjoy it more than the kids. WTH? LOL), Street Kings (we both liked it) and “Mama Mia (Mama Mia?! OMG).”  We also watched “Dil Chahata Hai”  which he was pretty middle of the road on. Everything else he hated!

We are opposite in so many ways. He likes hard rock and country. I’m a R and B and jazz kind of girl. I like thoughtful and insightful movies (not girlie but just artsy) kind of like “Rachel Gets Married.” He’s a “Batman” kind of guy.”   I’m Bridezillas and Clean House kind of girl and he’s a CSI and Law and Order kind of guy. I am a basketball love and during NBA season he becomes a basketball widower. M couldn’t care less about sports. You get the picture. We are opposites. There I said it. We are complete opposites but we make it work thanks to this little thing called compromise. I suffer through his stuff (the movies, music etc) and he suffers through mine. LOL.

Some people think that because we have an intercultural relationship that perhaps we live our lives a bit differently than others. I hate to disappoint the people that think this is some type of exotic lifestyle but it’s not. LOL. We do the same things that most couples do. We just happen to look a little differently doing it. I cook the same food I would in any other relationship, only with the occasional curry thrown in.  We raise our children with the same values most parents try to instill in theirs- respect of others, integrity, honesty, and the importance of hard work and education.  So not a whole lot in our lives is affected by the fact that my husband is Indian and I’m Black.  I think the adjustment has been greater on my husband’s end than it has on mine. I chose to absorb myself into the Indian culture where I could and I personally think the negative stereotypes about blacks instilled a bit of fear into M. He will never admit this to me but I could tell he was really taken aback when he met some of the stereotypes face to face on his job. A few days into his job he timidly approached me to ask why the some of the blacks on his job has red, blue or blonde hair that was in strange styles and why the guys dressed with sagging pants and why they had to curse so loud.. or my favorite, why they had to sing and dance while they worked. His question made me think of this video where after he watched it, M said of the guy dancing style… “he’s got smooth legs.” LOL

I’ll be honest and say I struggled with the questions M had about the people on his job because some of them I couldn’t answer myself but I did compare it with Indians that are seen as being different in his society. It’s the same difference. Some people just choose to live their lives a bit more uniquely. Sometimes it goes against the grain of societal norms but it doesn’t make them any less decent. You may just have to dig a bit further. I will say this thought, –some of them gave my husband hell because of his accent or because he’s Indian. I explained to him that it’s just ignorance and the same level of ignorance exists in Indians who tease Americans.

Unfortunately, the only exposure M had to blacks prior to me was via the television (as he says Wesley Snipes and Louis Gossett Jr.  LOUIS GOSSET JR?! Where does he come up with this stuff??).  As I write this blog my poor husband is trying to prove to me his wordly knowledge of blacks. He’s throwing out names like Donna Summer, Miles Davis and- this is a quote (after I told him Michael Jackson didn’t count) “and that other black guy that sings.” OMG..my eyes can’t roll any harder.

One of the many things I love about M is the fact that he’s eager to learn about different aspects of my culture and American culture as a whole. I see him soaking the information in and comparing notes. He still has a lot to be exposed to and based on the names he threw out tonight….

I think after this blog, it’s time for me to take my husband through black culture 101 again.  Until the next blog….

 

Loving Hard and Loving Long April 8, 2009

Joined together by love

Joined together by love

I wish we’d meet again in another lifetime when things will not be as complicated as they are right now. I wish when you tell me that you love me, sadness would not fill me up. It’s a painful pleasure to see you every time. As much as my heart yearns for you, I die a little bit more each day knowing you are what you are to me, someone I can never have. But I do, I love you. I mean it more than you do.                                                                                                                                           -Anonymous

 

 

 

I found this poem the other day and I thought of all of those intercultural Indian relationships that may be hindered due to race. Loving someone is hard enough without the added stressors that being in an intercultural relationship brings. You have to learn to love hard and to love long. I’ll take a page out of my own personal life to share what I mean.

One of the things I’ve noticed about many Indians is their ability to take any kind of negative situation and brush it off as though it were nothing. It’s like a perpetual positive attitude. Sometimes this comes across as uncaring and crass. However, in talking to other people who are involved in mixed Indian relationships, this appears pretty common to them as well.

I’ll give you an example. I’m a broadcast journalist and I recently learned that two of my stories picked up some pretty nice (and if I may brag on myself for one brief moment-Prestigious) awards. One was an Associated Press award for best commentary and the other is an Edward R Murrow Regional Award for best series. This was big for me because I was competing against stories from 200 other stations in four states. When I told M today about the Murrow award, I may as well have told him I was going to the store to get bread. It would have garnered the same reaction and he swears I never told him about the AP award last week.

When I was recently diagnosed with a serious medical condition, it was the same way until I forced him to sit down and have the “what to do in the event of” conversation. It was only then that he was forced to face the situation. You see, my sweet, lovable flawed M is an avoider. I realized a long time ago that it’s nothing personal with me. He’s always been like this and I doubt he’s going to change anytime soon. Some people just prefer to avoid negative or sad emotions. I know there are things about me he probably feels the same way about.  You see, that’s the beauty of a marriage. If you are honest with yourself, it will always be inherently flawed in some way which makes you appreciate the edges you’ve both worked so hard to smooth even more.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the best way to succeed in a relationship is to 1) always express myself no matter how much it may hurt either partner. I happen to believe that holding it in is worst because to do so may cause a buildup of hostility later and 2) choose my battles. Some things just aren’t worth wasting breath over. In moments like these, I choose to remember why I’ve hung in here as long as I have and that wipes it all away.

The other lesson I’ve learned (and ladies PLEASE hear this) is that it’s best to keep your relationship business to yourself. I understand the need to vent (trust me I do) but our friends and family who love us dearly sometimes don’t know when they are loving us too hard. In other words, remember that when you are telling your friends or family all of your business, it could come back to bite you. The memories of friends tend to be much longer than ours and they remember every gory detail which they will kindly remind you of whenever they get a chance..especially if they don’t like your guy.

I learned in my last relationship to never tell all of the details because friends, in thinking that they are doing what is best, will bash your man and tell you what you don’t need. When all is said and done and you and your guy have patched things up, you never forget what they said and they won’t forget what you said either. This can create a great deal of tension in the friendship. I’ve been on both ends of this (the giver of the information and the receiver) and I can tell you that it’s no picnic.  When it’s you hearing the friend, you think to yourself ‘is she crazy, why is she still with that fool,’ or ‘this is too much drama for me.’

I remember one friend in particular who kept going back to a physically abusive relationship and each week I had to listen her cry and say no more only to see her go back, just emotionally drained me. So I stopped being the antagonistic friend and began to always put a positive spin on things. For example, I’d remind her to do a list of pros and cons or ask her what she felt she needed to do to make herself feel better. Never would I say anything about the guy or their specific problem. I kept it focused on her.  Is this always easy? Hell no- Especially when you have a friend who has a fool for a man. However, if you love your friend as much as you say you do, then ride it out with her. That’s what I did and eventually she left him. Later she thanked me for not bashing him (apparently she forgot about all the times I did).  Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t speak your opinion honestly IF she asks. What I am saying is be careful of your phraseology when you do.

Our mouths are the most powerful weapon we carry. Our words have the ability to heal, hurt, encourage or discourage and those words can tear everything we have apart or build the impossible. So ..when you and your guy have issues going on-talk it out whether he’s listening or not. Until the next blog remember to love long and love hard. double-hearts

 

The India Experience Part II April 7, 2009

 

 
 

I recently got a request for more information about my experience living in India. So for Sue-Ellen and Nathan, I hope the following blog helps with your upcoming trip.

India is a land of glorious contrasts. It’s a beautiful country with mountains and rugged terrain and in the southern part of the country the areas that border the sea are unspeakably gorgeous. There’s nothing like a day in Goa sitting underneath a palm tree, listening to waves crash against the shoreline.  

The vibrant colors of the saris, salwar Kameez’s and lenghas worn by the women of India burst loudly against a backdrop of often drab and dusty streets.  It’s spiritual, yet it’s that spirituality that has the ability to spark violent outbursts when two opposing views can’t meet in the middle. We’ve driven through religious protests in Kerala that were scary to say the least. It’s a country where there are extreme examples of poverty and shameless touting of wealth. Often these two worlds collide when one has to rely on the other for service.

For me, one of the hardest parts of being in India was the swings between the extremes. On the way from the New Delhi airport, you see hotels like the Radisson with all of its opulence surrounded on either side by people so poor that their homes are nothing more than lean-to’s with tarp or twig roofs.  I know that India is still considered to be a third world country and I knew not to expect the same things I saw or had at home. However, nothing could prepare me for seeing poverty at its worst.  That being said, even with its poverty, I saw something in India as a nation that I don’t see nearly as often here-the will and the desire to persist even in the extremist of situations. The people of India work their butts off every day. Many times they are doing the jobs you or I may turn our noses up at or flatly refuse to do. But Indians know they have responsibilities to their families and will do everything possible to handle what they need to. You see this in the roadside barbers, dentists, vegetable sellers and others. Mostly everyone has a hustle or gig to help them meet the very basic of their needs.

When we moved into our flat in South Delhi, we weren’t there 20 minutes before woman after woman was ringing our doorbell to see if we needed a housekeeper. This is the spirit of India that has helped the country survive for so long- the spirit that always finds a way to survive even in blighted situations.

For those traveling to India, my number one suggestion is to prepare yourself for the unexpected. In honor of this suggestion, I’ve made a list of things you shouldn’t be surprised to see in daily life.

1 ) Poverty– Kids, the elderly and disabled commonly beg for money. I saw this more in the larger cities up North than in the southern part of the country .

2) Unusual professions– Barbers, Dentistry is sometimes practiced roadside (yes dentistry). While we may find this to  be odd, you have to remember that not everyone can afford a dentist with a traditional office so the roadside dentists can fill an important gap in healthcare for the extremely poor.

3) Fast Food Delivery and unusual menu items– McDonalds, KFC, and lots of other places that we have here actually deliver there in India. One of my favorite fast food restaurants in Delhi is Yo China. They have some of the best honey potatoes and crispy chicken wings around.  Remember beef isn’t served there (at least not in Northern India. I have been able to get beef in Southern India). So in the place of traditional hamburgers, you’ll find things like lamb burgers.

4) Cows and monkeys everywhere. Remember cows are sacred in Hinduism so you will see them often roaming the streets, eating out of garbage and sometimes causing traffic jams for hours. Monkeys are just an annoyance.

5) Public releasing of bodily functions. I’ve seen more men peeing on the side of the street than I care to even think about. It’s something that is common. There are no roadside restrooms or convenience stores like we have here so the guys just whip it out and go. I’ve even seen pooing on the street but that’s only been twice thankfully.  I have noticed that there are signs that warn against public urination so clearly people know there’s a problem with this.

6) HORNS HORNS EVERYWHERE.  In larger cities like Delhi and Mumbai horns are used like air being breathed in. People are constantly blowing their horns as a warning to someone or a ‘get out of the way.’  Again, it’s such a problem that there are signs up prohibiting horn blowing but I’ve always noticed that even in those areas, people still beep their horns.

7) Meat hanging out on the open. One of the most disturbing things to me as a person was to see meat or other food hanging in the open uncovered. In a city like Delhi where flies rival the number of people, I couldn’t help but think of the germs, etc. The very first time I went to IME market was in the winter so seeing fish etc out in the open wasn’t a huge deal. But when I went back in the spring when the weather was warmer, the flies were covering practically everything.  If thing like this bother you, avoid going to markets.

8) People and peddlers. There are tons of people in India so at any given time night or day you are likely to see people.  For some people it’s surprising to see the number of people on a road at any given time but it shouldn’t be. Just as we live day to day and have somewhere to go, so do these people. As for the peddlers, they are common in larger cities like Delhi. I’ve had people try to sale me everything from toilet paper to flowers, to spinning pens while sitting in traffic. This is their way of making a living so don’t be surprised if you are approached. If you don’t want anything say no (pronounced Nay in Hindi).

9) Not every place in India has a Western style toilet. Be prepared for this- especially women. It can be a little awkward if you are not accustomed to squatting. I had an experience in Goa with a place where I was wearing a really long ankle length skirt that I had difficulty holding up to where part of it wouldn’t fall into the sandas. Let’s just say I wound up completely undressing from the waist down in order to be able to urinate properly (TMI I know.. lol)

10) Shopping. In most markets you will be able to negotiate price. Often, the shop keeper will start with something absolutely ludicrous and you will have to negotiate the price down to what is standard. Here’s a little forewarning. The moment they find you are western, your price goes up. I found in the beginning that if I saw something I wanted I would let Manoj negotiate for me. I would whisper or speak low to Manoj to convey my wishes. Only after the price was confirmed would I openly say something because my accent would give me away as being a westerner. Unfortunately some people see “walking sucker” stamped on your forehead if you are western. It’s only been here in the last couple of visits that I’ve done my own negotiations. I’ve found once they hear me speak a bit of Hindi, they don’t try to screw me as much on the price. M only intervenes if the shop keeper is being too aggressive or he sees me getting frustrated.

11) Weather – If you can, avoid going to India during the summer unless you can stand extreme heat. Notice the word EXTREME. It’s not a dry desert heat. You get monsoon rains at the same time and that pushes the humidity level up. Sometimes the heat and humidity are so high, it’s hard to breath. I’ve found that February and Sept-November are my favorite times to visit because the weather is much more pleasant.

I do have a tip concerning clothing when you visit. For men, you won’t see men in shorts too often so keep this in mind. Women, please please please leave the short skirts, spaghetti strapped shirts and shorts at home. This is considered to be disrespectful and will only get you stares and whispers.  Also keep in mind that cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Goa are a bit more lenient when it comes to attire but often the villages and other smaller cities are more conservative.  In Delhi I often wore Western style clothes (crop pants and short sleeved shirts) and had no problems. In Kerala and other places I wore things similar to salwars or ¾ length sleeves. All I’m saying is to be sensible and respect the area you are in.

I think that’s about it for my tips. If I’ve missed any, feel free to add your own. One thing I do encourage everyone to remember is that YOU are the visitor in their country, not the other way around. Don’t expect them to speak English or carry your type of currency or have the same type of cultural mannerisms you are accustomed to.

 Unfortunately, I often see people from other countries come in to other countries and try to act like they are at home. You have to remember that things which may be different or odd for you are not necessarily so for the people of the country you are visiting. For them, this is their way of life so please respect it. Remember, visiting India is about accepting all the country and its people have to offer. There are jerks in every country on the globe so if you run into one in India who you feel may treat you differently because of your skin tone or accent or whatever, take it with a grain of salt and move on. Consider it their loss not yours.  Until the next blog….