Growing up in a Christian family and society is supposedly an advantage because you’re surrounded with people who believe in Christ and who follow His teachings. Marrying a Christian gives you that blind hope of safety because you expect your partner to apply Christian principles in everyday life otherwise why would he call himself a Christian? But what if after marriage, you’re forced to live with an abusive husband? Would you stay until you earn the “most martyr wife” award?
You most probably would refuse to live with an abusive man for life and eventually would quit. After divorce, expectedly, you’d turn to your family for support. What if your Christian family isn’t ready to give you that love and understanding that you so need and instead, ostracize you? Would that suffice to drive you to become a Hindu?
The Offbeat Couple
Rohit and Kristy’s marriage is a product of an e-dating but only with a more interesting story. They didn’t meet through an online dating or a social net working site but through an online game that they both enjoyed. Once again love proved to beat distance and race because after three years of long distance relationship, they tied the knot in January 2011. They live in Amritsar, Punjab, India.
Rohit is a database administrator while Kristy is a freelance writer who now swears to continue pursuing the criminal justice career she paid way too much to get a degree for. But before she gets to chase criminals, she shares about how she had fallen hard for an Indian and her life as a American Punjaban PI.
What makes your marriage offbeat?
Rohit is an Indian Hindu, I was born in America and raised Holiness Christian. I converted to Hinduism during our marriage ceremony.
What made you end up in an interracial marriage? What motivations made you decide to marry someone of a different culture and faith?
After a long, abusive marriage and being exposed to multiple abnormal relationships I completely swore off marriage completely. I no longer had any use for American men nor respected the majority of them.
Due to the marriage and subsequent divorce I became ostracized from the majority of my family and sought online methods of meeting people who could relate to my situation. In an effort to do something fun and take my mind off of things I went to chat rooms and met Rohit over a game of Yahoo pool. We did not use real names and cultural backgrounds were not discussed until we realized we were spending 6-9 hours together each day and thought we had become good friends.
Tell us about the wedding. Did your different religious and cultural background affect how you planned the wedding?
We were married in Amritsar in a Arya Samaj ceremony. Before the ceremony I converted to Hinduism. We had a scaled down, but traditional Punjabi wedding with a total of 5 days worth of ceremonies. Since I arrived only one week before the wedding his family broke the wedding and reception ceremonies up by a week to allow me to rest in between.
What are your biggest challenges (as an interracial couple) and how do you solve them?
Our biggest challenge has been adjusting to the differences in culture. I am quite stubborn and very outgoing and Rohit is very shy and reserved. He follows old Indian customs of not wearing certain colors, women being escorted on every outing (in which the husband is fully responsible for taking care of all aspects of the woman’s safety while seeing to it she obtains everything she needs). I am used to thinking about wanting something and driving to the store to go get it which is not done here. Second on the list would be communication. Rohit is almost fluent in English but there are times we do not understand each other. I barely speak any Punjabi and have difficulty conversing with other members of his family.
Are there any marital issues that come up due to different religious background? How do you address them?
Though I converted to Hinduism willingly there are still issues that arise. With Hinduism there are no specific set rules and many things he does not know himself. When it comes to how or why something has to be done he is not always able to explain it to me which I find frustrating. This has led to some frustration and irritability which may relate more to communication than to faith.
Did you ever encounter people who frown upon interracial marriage? How did you deal with them?
We see people every time we go out who look at us and laugh or snicker at the difference in skin color or the mismatch they perceive between us. India is typically a very judgmental country as relates to marriage. Every detail is nit picked from skin tone to weight to education to religious sect and more. Roughly 80% of marriages are still arranged to ensure that children wind up with a suitable partner. In Hindiusm it is believed that a marriage lasts for 7 lifetimes and they do not readily let someone into the family they feel will bring any kind of negative attention.
How did your in-laws and extended families from each side react to your interracial marriage?
My mother freaked out thinking he was Muslim at first. It took some time and some gentle conversations before she was ready to accept that this relationship wasn’t going away. Then she decided to get to know Rohit and now she really likes him. My father was more accepting since his best friend of over 30 years is Indian. My in-laws seemed to welcome me with open arms and have always treated me more like a daughter rather than daughter in law (there are differences in Hindu tradition). Some extended members of the family were hesitant but are gradually accepting. Rohit and I are not the first intercultural marriage in his age group in the family which I think really helps.
Do you and your husband live with your in-laws in the same house? If so, how did you find the arrangement? The joint household culture in India is blamed as the reason why Indian mothers-in-law have the attitude of controlling their daughters-in-law. What can you say about this?
As we all know, mother’s-in-law are dreaded in any culture. I was brave enough, or stubborn enough you might say, to give up all I had in America and move to India to live with Rohit, his parents, and his Uncle, Aunt, and their 2 kids! I have only lived with them for 3 months but in that time I have learned without a doubt people are the same everywhere, it’s just that Indians have a much different set of challenges to face. Just like nuclear families (those that live separately from relatives), joint families argue and get on each others nerves. Sometimes days go by that they do not speak to each other and those that are not in the home can go even longer. Eventually they all wind up talking again as if nothing ever happened.
That being said, my mother-in-law is one of the rare few in this world who I find amazing. She is a very sweet, down to earth woman who I don’t believe even knows what real anger is. She almost always has a smile on her face and no matter what the circumstances she does what is right. As she says, she’s going to do her duty no matter what because that’s what God says she should do. I have not found her to be controlling in the sense most Indian mother-in-laws are portrayed to be. I did get lectured by 3 family members once for trying to do my own laundry, but in every day life I can come and go about the house and do as I please. I cook when I want to and if she had plans to cook she puts them away and hands over her kitchen. If I need something, she always does it for me without a thought that I’m old enough to do it on my own.
I think emerging mindsets on freedom and independent choices along with the booming education systems in India has more to do with the perceived controlling of daughters-in-law in India. As little as 20 years ago the education was not as highly developed and girls were still geared to be wives when they grew up. Part of that meant that when they moved to their new home the mother-in-law was responsible for teaching them how to care for the home, cook the meals the family preferred, etc. Now that women are being educated and establishing their equality in India these traditions are not as favored, but the mother-in-laws don’t always realize that. I truly believe it’s due more to a shift in the nature of women and less about mothers-in-law being controlling. I’m sure other women would disagree though, as they would have more first hand experience than I do on this subject.
What are the benefits of an interracial marriage?
I feel the biggest benefit is that each of us was able to find the mate that offered exactly what we wanted and needed in our lives. Marrying someone from a different culture gave us each the chance to rid ourselves of expectations based on our upbringing and broaden our horizons to receive more from life. I personally knew Rohit would never be, nor act like the American men I had been surrounded by my whole life.
What compromises are required in order to make your marriage work?
I’ve had to give up American food, learn to eat with roti’s and my hands and give up a lot of the comforts of the American lifestyle, temporarily. Rohit has had to give up the ideals of Indian women who typically cook, clean and care for every aspect of a mans life more than Martha Stewart could ever imagine. Both of us have had to learn to look at each other as complete equals and no someone who grew up in another culture. Those differences are always there but if we continually see each other that way we could never bond completely. The culture would actually become a wall of expectations which is exactly what we strive to avoid.
If children come, of which culture (and religion) do you plan to raise them?
We do not have children yet, however I would rather raise any children we do have based on Hindu principles than Christian. Both religions teach the importance of family and unity with others, however I feel the Christian lifestyle, especially in America, is predominantly selfish and distant and the majority do not live the life they proclaim for others.
What’s your favorite way of spending time together?
We love watching movies together, Hollywood and Bollywood, which is how we spend most of our time. We also go out to eat, walk at the park, and shop together.
What are your secrets in keeping the romance alive?
We always make time for each other. We surprise each other with messages – on FaceBook, on post-it notes, etc.
What advice would you give to those who are planning for or are new to an interracial marriage?
Be realistic. Your new relationship will not be like any other relationship you have experienced. Take the time to learn about your new partner and their culture/faith/ideals and be prepared to accept the good and the bad. No relationship is perfect so when you hit a bump, take a step back and think about what is really important then talk to your partner about it in a calm, rational way.
When nineteen-year-old Harriett Gold, from a prominent white family in Cornwall, Connecticut, announced in 1825 her intention to marry a Cherokee man, her shocked family initiated a spirited correspondence debating her decision to marry an Indian. Read more about her story, To Marry an Indian: The Marriage of Harriett Gold and Elias Boudinot in Letters, 1823-1839.
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