On Inter-Cultural Marriages

I am a North Indian brought up in the South. My husband was born and brought up in a small Maharashtrian town. We have, what we call an inter-cultural marriage. No, I am not going to get into the caste discussion because that is something we neither believe in nor give a damn about. We are talking about coming from different cultural backgrounds, having different mother tongues and basically just being brought up differently. And if I have to sum up all of my experiences, it would be in just one word - FUN.

It was never something we planned for. Though I remember, since childhood, if I ever thought about marrying someone from similar culture/state, I always felt like it would be kind of …ummm…boring. Not that I criticize similar profile marriages; any marriage based on mutual love, trust and respect is honourable in my eyes.  But for me, if we were to speak the same language and eat the same food, where would be the excitement of learning something new? And given that I am a hippie at heart always seeking new adventures and as many travel experiences as possible, marrying a person from a different background ensured lifetime supply of culture-tales at our very home itself!

I feel very proud of my two families for consciously choosing to build a home where differences melt given that ours was not a love marriage. And I feel so proud of couples who have consciously chosen to build a family with love and faith despite the differences in their cultures.

Let us discuss few important aspects of such a melting pot of a marriage, that probably would have or will concern us at one point of time or another in our lives:

1) Food: I think it’s all about finding a balance. Two days a week, I try to cook something Maharasthrian. Two days a week, I cook something North Indian. Two days are any other cuisine like continental, Chinese or even a Pizza takeaway. Sundays are our special meals day where we try to cook something elaborate, nativity notwithstanding.  

Brownie points, if you can learn to cook some special dishes from his culture (it’s the homemaker in me speaking!). For example, I never ate mutton before marriage, but now I cook Kolhapuri mutton like a pro.

Till you find a balance, Maggi zindabad!

2) Rituals: Family rituals intimidate me, especially because I am quite non-religious. But am I complaining about all the heavenly modak that I get to eat? No, Sir! :D

I am not sure how people who are from different religious background make it work. I guess the secret lies in balance and acceptance.

3) Language: Hindi is our national language. English is our official language. Repeat after me. If you still do not know either of these two languages, it doesn’t take an Einstein to convey to pick up your wet towel from the floor or we are going to order takeaway tonight; or even, you look hot, let’s get frisky tonight in sign language ;). Ultimately, understanding and speaking the language of love is all that matters.

I do hope I can learn Marathi though. I have always dreamt of being multi-lingual, but I’m so hopeless at it – the only two Marathi words I can speak with swag are Kombdi (hen) and Gaadhav (donkey)!

4) Children: I think in a healthy intercultural marriage, children do not grow with conflicting views, but with the best of both worlds.

I do hope we can bring up children who are more open, respectful as well as accepting of different cultures. One thing they will definitely be not is - Discriminatory. Nurturing an inter-cultural marriage at home means teaching your kids by example that being a good human being is paramount - more important than the caste, creed, colour or your ethnicity. 

Isn't that what we need the most in today's world - people who believe in humanity more than anything else?

Of course, being in the fauj just makes our life easier. If you want to see national integration in it’s true spirit, come visit a military station; the couples, the children, the soldiers, they know only one name – INDIA (Yeah, Chak De style!).

I spoke to some of my friends who share a similar story and this is what they had to say:

"My husband's background is a typical Banarasi Brahmin one and I am a Malayali Christian. Both of us are foodie. We relish vegetarian food and particularly non-vegetarian dishes. Food is usually not a problem with us unless my mother-in-law visits us. We go without non-veg food for good about a month in our house, though we manage to visit friends’ house or restaurants to fulfil our cravings: P Inter-cultural marriages are a compromise made for your beloved. It doesn’t matter what you follow, speak or eat till the time you are loved, respected and supported by your partner”- Priya

“I am from Lucknow and my husband is a Marathi. It is a different feeling altogether, to fall in love first, and then being accepted whole heartedly by the boy’s family who may have been expecting a girl from same state or language, at least. I got to learn their traditions and rituals. They have a very simple lifestyle. They have shown all their patience with me since I was zero in anything related to the culture or language. My husband has been very loving. Holding hands and always by my side. Earlier I was scared of the various rituals done in festivals. But now I am used to them.. In fact, I look forward to them.

I’m born and brought up in a fauji house. My parents had no issues. They just wanted a fauji, a good guy with a good family background, no other barriers. They liked him as my friend already. So when I told them about the marriage proposal, they agreed happily.” - Grace

“I am a Pahari born and brought up in Delhi and my husband is a Marathi. Like one is from the hills and one from the coast. I believe that for intercultural marriages, mutual understanding is important. I’m having no problems having married a man outside my culture. In fact, I feel I couldn’t have been happier and content as much as I am with him, because when we got married knowing that we were raised differently, we were ready for adjustments from the beginning itself, thus making us less stubborn in what we want from each other. Also both our families are very open minded and that’s why they arranged our wedding. Festivals are fun on both sides and we do fusion celebration. And as far as raising our child is concerned, the kid is lucky to experience variety in goodness from both sides of his grandparents. Upbringing is how we mould him which is again up to us, how better we make it…different customs are all the more fun.” – Sipika

“I am a Punjabi-Jat and my husband is Roman Catholic. My husband’s major worry is that the kids will be named Brijinder, Sukhwinder etc with a Catholic surname! Plus his is a family of purebred carnivores and mine are the exact opposite. Actually our wedding snaps have a picture like that in two states – in the church – one side Hot dresses, gowns and the other side – Pagdis and Salwar suits. But I’m quite glad that we married each other and couldn’t have asked for anything better. The good thing was that there were staunch elements (family beliefs) that we had to go through in order to get married, so no masala marriage. But just a lot of good, different fun.”- Kanika

“I am a Brahmin from Varanasi and a pure vegetarian..My husband is from West Bengal  and a hard core non-veggi. Our language, culture, everyuthing is different but still just because of him, I feel so blessed!” - Kritika

Beautiful thoughts. Aren’t they? They just make me so happy, that in this world of prejudice and discrimination, there is a ray of hope, however tiny it is. I’m glad in this life, I’m getting to bask in its fuzzy warmth.

Do you have an inter-cultural marriage? Would love to hear your story in the comments below!