A Journey In Black and Indian Love

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

Isn’t It All Good Hair November 11, 2009

New Hair Nov 09

New Layers for Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Family Reunion September 29, 2009

My great aunt and M

Labor Day weekend,  M and I attended my family reunion on my grandfather’s side. This was the third reunion he’s attended since he’s been here in the U.S.   I love my elders. It occured to me this past weekend how welcoming my relatives at the reunions have been to Manoj. No one told looked at him strangely or mimicked his accent. In fact, I have one great aunt (72 years old) that absolutely adores M. I’ve posted a pic of the two of them above.  She made a beeline for him at this most recent reunion within seconds of speaking to me.  She spent more time posing for pictures with him and telling him how much she adored him than she did spending time with some of our other relatives. This was my momentary eutopia where everything was they way it SHOULD be. There was lots of unbiased love for him. More importantly, M loves her and finds her attention special.

It’s always disappointing when I hear of families that don’t accept the other mate from the other culture. Even though my mother is much more accepting toward Manoj and calls him her favorite son in law, I have recently noticed that there is still a small underlying level of uncomfortableness she seems to have around him.. almost a kind formalness if that makes sense. He’s been here for more than two years now so somehow I don’t think that will ever change.  I think the only reason I only recently noticed her kind formalness toward him was because of the stark difference in how my extended relatives treated him at the reunion. They didn’t try to change up a joke or drop any of the cultural colloquialisms just because they were in front on him. My mother does it all of the time. It’s not that she’s not kind towards M, nor is it a situation where she doesn’t respect him. She does. It’s just a bit difficult to explain the difference. I think perhaps part of my mother’s behavior may lie in her lack of understanding about other cultures in general, not just M’s. When she was so upset about the intial marriage between M and I, she kept saying how she just didn’t trust foreign men.

On the other hand, my MIL is as loving and as I say, “cool as a fan.” Anyone else see the irony in this?

I awaken each day with the hope and dream of a grand gathering between M’s family and mine.. a couple of days of learning and communication about one another’s cultures and a realization of how we really are more alike than anyone thinks. Although I know this is a long shot, I never give up the hope. Until the next blog my lovelies.

A

 

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.

 

Long Time No See June 1, 2009

I can’t believe it has been so long since I’ve had the opportunity to write on the blog. I appreciate all of the comments and the outreach from people who like the blog.

This past Memorial day, M and the kids and I went camping with several other members of my family. Overall, the weekend was okay except for one major glitch. My youngest aunt called M, Osama as he was walking out of the RV thinking it would be a cute joke.  Thankfully, M said he never heard her. However, other family members did and laughed. I immediately put her in check and told her the remark was extremely tacky. I also asked her how she would feel if someone from his family called her a derogatory name.  She didn’t say anything but I got my point across very very clearly to her and the family members who laughed. I am thankful that M has such a cool personality. He takes everything in stride and never holds a grudge.  I did notice that M and my mother had more camaraderie. Thankfully, despite the sporadic ignorance on the part of my family, he said he had a good time.

In more happy news, we booked our family vacation to Walt Disney later in the year. It’s going to be a busy year of travel because we just recently signed for some commercial property for our business and we have to take a trip to China and we’re thinking of combining it with the one to India. I think the kids are more excited about Disney than anything else. Here’s a tip for all of you who have been thinking about going to Disney some day.. Now is the time! Disney has some unbelievable package deals right now.

I don’t know if I mentioned this before but M is by trade a mechanical engineer with a concentration in automobiles. He was working as a process engineer when he was laid off a few months ago. Thank God we were preparing for something of this nature. It’s been months now and M complains daily about how nothing is panning out for him because of this economy.  Thankfully, we were preparing for something of this nature. We’re hoping the opening of a brick and mortar wholesale business will be successful. In the meantime, I try to keep M’s spirits up. Not having a job is emasculating for him and I try to make sure he knows that I understand and I don’t hold anything against him. As far as me and my kids are concerned, he is still the head of this household. That being said, M now feels that because he’s not working he cannot take part of major money decisions. We have to go back and forth three or four times before he will finally make a decision on an issue related to money. It’s frustrating.  I want him to remember that no matter what happens, he’s still the husband and father. That doesn’t change because of job status.

We live in an area that isn’t as open to racial diversity as it claims to be. I think being Indian is making M’s job search a little more difficult. The way I see it, is that those people who won’t hire him because of how he sounds or because he’s from a different culture are the ones missing out and if someone doesn’t want you for asinine reasons, it’s not the place for you anyway. I’d much rather work in an environment where people respect differences.

Sorry it took so long to post a new blog… more to come so until the next blog…

Blindian

 

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..

 

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