Happy New Year my dear offbeat readers! I´m utterly excited to introduce our first intercultural couple feature this year. Do you believe in love at first sight? Today´s love story proves that no matter which era you live, falling head-over-heels in love at the very first sight still happens to random people irrespective of distance, religion, and culture. But is it really random or is it simply meant to be?
The Offbeat Couple
Lauren is English and Abhiram is Indian. They´re currently living in Nagpur, Maharashtra, India. Lauren is a couple of months shy from qualifying as a registered pharmacist but could not stand being away from her husband any longer. Abhiram is a consultant mechanical engineer. They´ve been married for 8 months. You can read about their love adventure at English Wife, Indian Life.
What makes your marriage offbeat?
I guess we are all of them, interracial, intercultural and interfaith. I was born in England, I went to church as a child and I celebrate Easter and Christmas. My husband was born in India and is a Hindu, he goes to a temple and celebrates the numerous Hindu festivals.
What made you end up in an intercultural/interfaith marriage? What was your motivation in deciding to marry someone of different culture or faith?
We fell in love instantly; just like the age old ‘love at first sight’ we fell in love in the most modern of ways, ‘love at first type’. We met online, not via a dating agency but on a vegetarian forum. Even though we have been brought up on different sides of the world, our beliefs about the world are the same. It was just meant to be I guess, regardless of our cultures.
Tell us about the wedding. Did your different religious or cultural background affect how you planned the wedding?
Well, we didn’t really have to plan our wedding. We got into the car, drove to a market, bought two garlands and a pot of sindoor, drove to a temple and got married.
We had what is known in Hinduism, a Gandharva marriage. This is a simple love marriage. The bride and the groom get married secretly without the knowledge of their parents (even though both sets of parents approved). The only condition of this marriage is mutual love. The marriage just involves the exchange of garlands and application of sindoor onto the brides hair parting (a red powder, a symbol of marriage). There is no need for witnesses other than God himself. Is there any other superior authority? It was such a romantic day.
We are currently planning our big fat Indian wedding, I wasn’t going to miss out on that in a hurry. My family are coming from England to India for the (what I am told) five day event. I know that I will have to take a backseat when planning this wedding compared to if I were getting married in England, simply because I don’t know what a Hindu wedding requires and don’t speak the language. I am sure that my new family will guide me through everything and it will be simply beautiful!
What are your biggest challenges and how do you solve them?
The biggest challenges have been moving away from my family and the language barrier between me and my in-laws. My husband went to an English speaking school and lived in the USA for a while so there is no problem there, it is just when we are all together as a family and everyone is laughing, I don’t get the joke.
What compromises are required in order to make your marriage work?
I am still in the adjustment stages of living in India and with my in-laws. It is a far cry from my one bedroom flat in England where I did everything myself. I have to learn a new language, eat new food and get accustomed to having maids… even the beds here in India take some adjusting to (they are unbearably hard!). I love my husband more than I can express so these adjustments are completely worth it. It is always good to remember that these things take time and someday soon I will feel completely at home.
Are there any marital issues that come up due to different religious background? How do you address them?
I have had an interest in Hinduism since I was a small child so I am enthusiastic to learn more. I get a bit uncomfortable when I do not know what to do or how to behave in religious circumstances. In Hindu culture it is customary to touch the feet of your elders, I don’t yet know when it is appropriate or to whom it is appropriate. The first time I met my grandmother-in-law my husband touched her feet and everyone then looked at me. I had no idea whether I should do it or shouldn’t… in sheer panic I just gave her a massive hug. Now I tend to follow what my husband does and try to keep in mind that people will understand my ignorance because I am not from these parts.
Did you ever encounter people who frown upon interracial marriage? How did you deal with them?
I once started talking with a lady on the train to London. She was very interested in my plan to go to India and asked me so many questions, she was really lovely. She then, being the social butterfly she evidently was, turned to another passenger and told him I was moving to India to marry an Indian. The look of distain on his face was a picture. I am not completely sure whether it was because this random woman started to talk to him or it was because I was going to marry an Indian. All-in-all I have had mostly smiles and very few frowns, maybe it is a reflection on how multicultural England has now become.
How did your in-laws and extended families from each side react to your interracial marriage?
(Some in-laws are committed to their cultural identity and can’t appreciate foreign culture therefore they become critical towards their daughter/son in-law. Did you experience any of these issues?)
I get on really well with my in-laws, I even live with them! My husband’s grandmother was the only one who had her doubts at first. She was worried that I would not wear a bindi or a saree (respecting their caste). I do both and now she is really happy about our relationship, she even calls me up to tell me that she misses me. One of the first things she said to me was ‘oh I thought you would be wearing hot pants or a miniskirt, I am happy you are not’. I guess I went against the cultural stereotype she held!
My family were a bit worried about the fact I will be living so far away from them but once they saw how happy my husband makes me, they themselves couldn’t be happier for us. Skype and Facebook have been a God send.
What are the benefits of an intercultural/interracial marriage?
The main benefit is you get to experience another culture and understand it. I remember a line in the movie ‘thirteen’: “You know, if everybody married someone from a different race, then in one generation there would be no prejudice.” I like to think that is true.
What are the things that you learned about each other’s culture? How does learning about each other culture benefit your relationship?
We have bonded over the belief that we have been married before, in our previous lives (a Hindu marriage means that you will be married in the next seven lifetimes). There is also a lovely Hindu custom where the husband applies sindoor (a red powder) to his wife’s hair parting daily, it is a romantic and intimate moment.
I am also excited to bring Christmas and Easter to my home in India as well as celebrating Hindu festivals such as Diwali.
If children come, of which culture (and religion) do you plan to raise them?
We want lots of children and I just cannot wait to start a family. I plan to try to keep the balance of English and Indian culture by taking them to England often, celebrating all the religious holidays and help them appreciate both sides of their heritage. I want them to be freethinkers and make up their own minds about God, just like my husband and I were free to do.
What’s your favorite way of spending time together?
At the moment my favourite way of spending time with my husband is to go out and drink coconut water together, watch a movie or ride around Nagpur on the back of his motorcycle.
What are your secrets in keeping the romance alive?
We are both naturally romantic. I think it is important to always be excited to see each other, I countdown the minutes until he is home from work.
What advice would you give to those planning for or are new to interracial/interfaith marriage? Would you recommend intercultural/interfaith marriage?
I would recommend it to those willing to learn with an open mind. I don’t really think it is something that many people decide to do; I think that once you fall head over heels in love with someone, regardless of their culture or faith, you want to marry them. When you look at the bare bones of any religion, they are all the same: have love and compassion for all things.
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- Ghanaian-Chinese Intercultural Marriage – Challenges Are Easier Solved if You Find the Right Person