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!
Five years have passed,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. Now that Danny is here, I atleast have someone to talk with in Bengali!