Chetan Bhagat’s book-turned movie “2 states” is releasing this week. I have not read the book, however, the trailer and the promotions of the movie remind me of my own “2-states” marriage with my Tamilian husband. While I grew up in a typical boisterous Nepalese family, my husband grew up in a simple Tamilian Iyer family. Frankly speaking, our families as well as our upbringing are poles apart. Nepalese and Tamilians coming together is still the most preposterous idea. I still remember the looks of our relatives during our wedding – as if we had married some alien. Of course, we have had our own share of those Nepali- Madrasi stereotype remarks such as Tamilian’s dark complexion and Nepali’s small nose. My favourite is someone commenting that our kid would be a “Kaala- Chinki”. And it goes on…!
A cross-cultural marriage does have its own share of challenges as well as opportunities. First, when you marry your spouse, you also marry his or her culture, which influences every aspects of marriage. It is not that we do not have cross-cultural conflicts. Be it the acceptance by your spouse’s families and relatives, struggle with spouse’s language or a simple social interaction in our day to day life- there are several factors that couples of cross-culture marriages face. However, such differences can be easily overcome if the couples can leverage cultural strengths, and have a shared identity enabled with mutual love and respect (not only for each other, but also for each other’s roots). Here are my three key experiences from my cross-cultural marriage:
- “Accept and respect. We are all different”: While I and my husband are enjoying both Tamilian and Nepali traditions, our cross-culture marriage has worked well for our families as well. First, they became aware of another culture, and second, they got an opportunity to travel, which they would not have if we had not got married. Over the years, we have all learnt to respect each other’s traditions. Today, when I enjoy Pongal festival as a Tamilian Bahu, my husband equally enjoys Dasain festival as a Nepali Juwai. Undoubtedly, our cross-cultural marriage has exposed us to new foods. I am not a foodie per se, but I am a voracious eater when it comes to my mother-in-law’s Madrasi dish, particularly, her Sambhar Vada. Likewise, my husband loves my mother’s MoMo. While I love attending Carnatic music shows in Tamil Nadu, my husband does not miss a chance to go for paragliding in the mountains whenever he is in Nepal. Particularly, he loves those boisterous Nepali parties with lots of alcohol and food. In short, we are living a life enjoying two cultures.
- “Happiness is…learning a new language”: Between us, we have four languages: English, Hindi, Nepalese and Tamil. Trust me, those moments are extremely romantic when your spouse (who does not know your language) tries to speak in your language. While we amuse each other when we try to speak each other’s languages, at the same time, we are also learning a new language. As they say, “ You live a new life for every new language you speak.”
- “No matter where you are, you are always a bit on your own, always an outsider”: Both of us still belong to the society where marriages are arranged by parents purely by merit of caste, culture, and religion. No matter how understanding our parents are about our choices, we still meet relatives who are prejudiced towards us because of our appearances and background. As for example, we have Tamil-speaking or Nepali-speaking relatives. Despite our polite request if the conversation could happen in English or Hindu, at times, the other person continues in Tamil or Nepali. While such unsympathetic act rarely happens (after all, we all know that it is rude to speak in regional language in front of a foreigner), nevertheless, whenever we face such moments, we feel left out. However, such incidences also bring two of us closer as we find ourselves standing by each other and boosting each other’s mental and emotional strength. I particularly admire my husband when his relative speaks in Tamil, but he ensures that he replies in English or Hindi so I understand. Though insignificant, however such small gestures from the spouse help strengthen the relationships. As they say, “Out of difficulties, grow miracles.”
So these are my three experiences from my “2-states” or in my case, “2-nations” marriage . I have to mention that both I and my husband were lucky that our parents accepted our choice without any protest (of course apart from initial awkwardness). No matter how modern and independent we are, we still want our parents’ blessings when we are to start our new life with our partner. It gives me an immense pain when I hear about other parents opposing children’s choices. Some parents are not in speaking term with their children when they decided to go against parents’ wishes. Some parents ensure that their children sacrifice their love, and marry someone else from the same caste. Many parents believe that once married, love will automatically come. Perhaps, it is true, still that emptiness in life and bitterness towards parents remain forever.
Lastly I conclude by stating that nothing matters in marriage except mutual love and admiration for each other. As they say, “Love is moral even without legal marriage, but marriage is immoral without love.” South, North, East, West- nothing matters when two hearts purely and truly love each other. And I sincerely hope the movie “2-states” has done justice to the stories of thousands of cross-cultural couples like us.