Friday, May 1, 2009

Marriage made in heaven?

Whenever I tell people that my husband is Telugu and that we had an interregional marriage people (mostly unmarried women) go “OH! How sweet”…

I am a Bengali, who was born and brought up in Delhi, and am married to a born and brought up in Hyderabad Telugu. Thanks to the Internet, we met, fell in love and decided to get married. The fact that he belonged to a different culture and spoke an alien language was never an issue with me. I wasn’t much of a Bengali myself. Growing up, I was surrounded by Punjabi friends and was more at home with rajma chawal then maachh bhaat. My ex boss even began calling me ‘fake Bengali’. Can’t blame her really, after all I don’t fit into the typical Bengali women image at all. A typical Bengali is ‘supposed’ to love sweet (I don’t), Maachh (gave up non-vegetarian food at 19), and Bengali literature (My only exposure to Bengali literature were my school text books!)

So I considered myself to be the multi cultural woman, at home with all differing cultures, capable of adapting and adopting different ways of life…

The problems started when we started discussing the wedding logistics. They wanted the wedding to be in Hyderabad, I said Delhi, They agreed but only if the wedding was conducted in the typical Telugu tradition. I agreed. I was already learning the sine qua non of marriage – Compromising! The eight hour long marriage ceremony gave me a glimpse of the things to come. The muhurat was for 3 in the morning! And we were sitting in the mandap from 10pm! And it all ended at 6 am! I was later informed that the Pandit had actually taken liberty and cut short the wedding rituals!

As I made my way to the station after the marriage, leaving behind everything I knew, loved and understood, my sister whispered in my ears “Best of luck”. I knew at that moment that my life had changed forever; the adventure had begun!In the train I sat surrounded by my new family, all chattering away, laughing at jokes I didn’t understand. I must have looked stupid sitting there staring at their faces, I must have been trying my hand at telepathy I guess…What were they saying?? I clung to my husband, not because I was home sick (that hadn’t set in yet) but because I could talk to him. He spoke my language!!!!

In Hyderabad, a constant stream of my husband’s relatives came to inspect the new bride. Well, they were not too happy of course. They had hoped for a nice traditional Telugu bride, and here I was: the shorthaired, salwar clad girl from Delhi. They came, smiled and asked me “do you know Telugu?” I replied with the only word I had managed to learn “Kuncham kuncham” (A little). That satisfied them for the time being. …

Meal times were a punishment. The food! It was rice in the afternoon, rice for dinner, and at times even for breakfast! I missed my daily dose of chapattis! If I had to eat them, I had to make them myself. Well I decided that is was easier to learn to appreciate rice (thanks to my Bengali genes I guess!)…I also learned the art of drifting into my world of daydreams, while my eyes wore the look of intense involvement in the conversation-taking place around me, of which I couldn’t decipher a word!

And how can I forget those never ending rituals, which were very much a part of my husband’s family, but were completely alien to me. Before marriage, the one event that was remotely religious to me was Durga Puja, and that too had lost its sheen over time… I was a spiritualist who did not believe in Idol worship, who was married into a family whose idea of a vacation was going for a pilgrimage!

3 years have passed, I still communicate with my grand mother in law in sign language! Although my knowledge of the language has improved, I prefer to let people learn hindi instead. I have actually learned how to make dosas and ear curd rice…

I still crave to hear Bangla. I call and speak to my mother for hours, some times just for the pleasure of hearing the beautiful language that’s my mother tongue.

Now everything ‘Bengali’ appeals to me. I have re-discovered Rabindranath Tagore, I enjoy the neo-Bengali rock music. The ‘shakha pola’ are my ultimate fashion accessories; I could even smell Durga Pujo in the air last October! I have discovered the Bengali in me. Now a simple Bengali phrase heard in the bus puts a big grin on my face, now my interests lingers on the Bengali channels for a little while longer then usual….

I miss the much-hated Delhi winter chill, sitting under the razai, eating moongfalis and indulging in some heated adda sessions.

I am adapting to Hyderabad too, and it almost feels like home now, but can it ever replace the city and culture I left behind? This feeling has nothing do with regionalism and everything to do with a sense of identity. Inter-regional marriages are ‘sweet’ all right, but they are also lots of hard work and understanding. I have realized that my individuality means a lot to mean and I have also learned to draw a line on how much I am willing to compromise. I don’t ask my husband to learn Bengali and he doesn’t ask me to learn Telugu. Both of us have our distinct eccentric identities, and I don’t think either of us has to give up on our beliefs to make this marriage work…. Oh btw, I have told everyone that my child will have a Bengali ‘mukher bhaat’ (the first time the child eats solid food)!!

PS: Dare I say it? I am scared. I am four months pregnant and scared.
People who know me will ask why? After all I have been trying to have this baby for almost 2 years, and now that I finally have this life growing inside me, why this dread? No, I am not talking about the dread of losing this baby (I live that fear every day. A day havent gone when I have allowed msyelf to feel some connection with the baby. I guess I am just trying to protect myself).
I am talking about the dread of what life will be after these nine months. How much will I change? Will I cease to be the person I am, I was? I will be called selfish, I will be branded a bad mom, but I refuse to let my feelings be held hostage to other’s views. Life as I know it will change. Although I plan to go back to work within six months of my baby’s birth, things won’t be the same.
Will Mallik and I share the same relation? Will we have the same easy going laid back life that we have now? Will I retain the childlike enthusiasm that helped me through life till now? That helps me see everything through the eyes of a child? Questions like these scare me.
Don’t misunderstand me. I do want to be a mom and have this baby but i do have this gnawing fear of losing myself. I want to ensure that I will have an existence beyond my baby. Selfish? Yes I am. I refuse to grow old, bitter because I didn’t take care of myself. I know it is possible to live your own life and be good parents. I intend to do just that. I have always told all my friends not to let their lives revolve around their kids. It is time to walk the talk. I am not just someone’s daughter, sister, friend, wife, and mother. I am also me, an individual, I am all these relations, yet I am much more, just like everyone else is. Some women are happy being just someone’s mom, or wife. I am not.


Charlotte Heaven said... Best Blogger Tips

Wow, do I really understand. Especially that last completely hits home.

A Decade of BFNs said... Best Blogger Tips

You will find away to be mom, wife, and you. You are very strong. ((((huggs))))

ps and dh are a great pair!!!

S said... Best Blogger Tips

nice picture of the two of you.

its funny, I never thought of inter-regional relationships. I dated guys from my city (mumbai) and delhi, but knew I was just not going to be satisfied by anything but something different. Each guy I met was kinda the same. Hence, the inter-racial. I find that I can be as cultural as I want, without having it shoved down my throat, while also enjoying being an NRI. Btw, I was born in Orissa and my knowledge of verbal Oriya helps me understand and even communicate - on a basic level - with Bengalis! As we found out during our honeymoon in Calcutta.

I must admit though, I always thought too "ek dil cha hi aye thats made in india" (love that song, mostly because milind soman is in the video, haha). One thing that sucks is how much I miss home cooking. Small things, like bhel puri, masala dosas, lassi etc...And that sugarcane juice, shit, I can't remember what its called but it was soo yummy!! well, we get lassi here but the dosas aren't done right. Its just not the same coming from some dodgy road-side vendor LOL. :)

Re your last paragraph, you don't have to fit into a neat little hole. Your baby will change things with you and your marriage. But most often, in a good way. Labelling ourselves is something I'd never recommend. Because it limits us.

Take care

Nikki said... Best Blogger Tips

Everything that you say, I could have said! Including the interreligion marriage, and the new customs, and the multitudes of strange people asking "Telugu vocha?". Except I answer 'no" till date. Though I understand it fully, and can speak it decently well! ;-)

I get what you mean in your last paragraph too. I used to think that way too. But now I think a child would take DH and my relationship to a different level - in a good way. About the child like enthusiasm and seeing everything through the eyes of a child - that's totally up to you! Keep that child alive, and life will never get too tough. I learnt that from my mom. She still bursts into peals of laughter and kids about everything, and keeps the atmosphere around her totally alive and happy. Childlike enthusiasm in reality!.

Dr.Rutledge said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Chhandita,

You two look great together.

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Xbox4NappyRash said... Best Blogger Tips

Fascinating post regarding the cultural differences.

It's ok to be scared I think. Fear of something so massively life altering is natural.