Mixed Marriages and Mumbai
Hello everyone on this sad day for Mumbai. I meant to post yesterday but we got caught up in watching the horrific events as they unfolded before us on TV. My heart goes out to all those affected by this tragedy and we are praying that the hostages are all returned to safety before today is through.
To divert our attention away from this sad indictment of what can happen when cultures misunderstand each other, I thought I would tell you about how Pankaj and I came to be together, against the odds.
Some of you have asked about what it is like to be in a mixed marriage and others have asked for our ‘love story’ so here goes:
Our ‘love story'
Well, it all began back in 2000; I went to work in Kolkata. It was the first time I had ever visited India and I was very excited and stimulated by what I found. I had been in the country for a short time when a friend of mine, who I’d studied with on my Masters course, invited me to stay with him and his family in Delhi. A friend of mine from Kolkata and I caught the overnight train to Delhi – a 16-hour journey – 2nd class AC and were met by my friend and his wife at the station. It just so happened that that weekend was his wife’s birthday and they were throwing a party for the occasion.
The party was well underway when a tall, smiley man wearing a red sweatshirt walked in and seemed to be extremely popular as lots of people congregated around him, various exclamations like “Pankaj, hey where have you been”/” what time d’you call this?” “Hey stranger, how are things? Can I get you a drink?” It was this sudden commotion that caught my attention and made me wander over in that direction. Being my friend’s guest from out of town I was called over to meet the handsome stranger, who oozed confidence and was so warm and friendly. He greeted me with a lovely smile and gave me a good firm handshake. I think you can tell a lot about a person from their handshake, don’t you?
Anyway, the evening wore on and we sat around singing, one person was playing the guitar and there were a few key singers who knew lots of gazals and couplets (Urdu songs and poems). Pankaj and I talked a little but he was mostly occupied with other people. It was this first impression though that stayed with me when I returned to Delhi to live about a year and a half later.
We sort of picked up where we had left off, mutual friends of a friend who through his social network and by virtue of the fact that Pankaj and I lived pretty close – in neighbouring colonies – we were sort of thrown together. As is the Indian way, whenever I was invited to a party, it was felt that I should be escorted home. I was never allowed to get a taxi alone. So, Pankaj and I hooked up as party buddies – he would pick me up sometimes but always drop me home. This continued for a year or so until we knew each other well enough to meet independently of the parties. We started to invite each other to movies and art galleries, photo exhibitions and treasure hunts. People started speculating about us, were we an item or not? I would go to his house and meet his family. I became known in his family and would borrow a sari from his sister-in-law for a Diwali party and would sometimes be invited to eat lunch with the family on a Sunday if we were going somewhere afterwards.
Before we knew it we had become quite solid friends. Our story is a long story so I will have to miss out bits and fill you in later.
The question may have already entered your mind – what was Pankaj’s mum thinking? Well, it became very apparent that she was well aware of the closeness of our friendship when she started asking me when my contract ended and did I miss my family back in England. She lined up a long list of prospective girls for Pankaj to meet and started eyeing me up in a completely new way.
In terms of when we finally officially started ‘going out’, it happened after Pankaj’s birthday on the 26th October 2003. I was going to Vietnam the following day for a training course and it must have been the imminent separation which spurred us both on to come clean and admit our feelings for one another, which I think we had both been in denial about as everyone else seemed to know before we did.
Between then and when we finally tied the knot in February 2005, there were many hurdles we had to overcome but through patience, a willingness to be open to how things work in a different culture and sheer determination, we managed to pull it off and bring Pankaj’s mum round to the fact that the wedding was going to happen anyway. Once we had won her over, our relationship grew and today his mum and I are like best friends.
She threw herself into the wedding arrangements and gave in to some of our demands so we were able to reach a compromise and have both a Hindu ceremony during the day and a western style reception in the evening. It was a beautiful day and people came from the UK and other parts of India to witness our union.
Since then we have had our fair share of ups and downs but most of these are not the result of being in a mixed marriage, more the process of getting to know each other that all couples go through when they first start living together. I would say that each year our relationship grows and we become closer. We have the good fortune of being able to appreciate the best of the east and the west and for the most part we concede when one way of doing things seems more appropriate or logical than the other.
Challenge: Find words/phrases in the post that mean:
1. for the majority of the time
2. do something with willingness and enthusiasm
3. prompted us into
4. be honest and open about something
5. give you the information/update you
6. came together
7. an official couple
8. giving a party
9. got married
Replies to the last blog and answers to the challenges before the end of the month. I am off to a charity bazaar now – you get loads of these events organised by the expatriate community close to Christmas. I imagine there’ll be lots of local craft items for sale. Thanks for all your birthday greetings and book recommendations – I have already ordered a few titles online!
Speak to you all soon,
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