I had a prototype for a husband since the time I can remember. He was going to be tall, tan and handsome with the archetypical Indian hairstyle. He was not going to be a lawyer, engineer or doctor for sure. So when I was at the US consulate to come to America, and the guy at the counter swore I was going to marry an American, I smirked. There was no way I was going to marry an American. I was going to come back to India and marry my prototype. Fast forward to 2008, and I was at the alter marrying a sort of tall, curly haired African American man who was an engineer. He was far from the Indian prototype.
I had known him for five years by then, and I knew what I was signing up for- or I believed I knew it. I met my mother-in-law when we were dating, and it went pretty good I thought. I was a nervous wreck and my boyfriend thought the perfect introduction would be when I was just done hiking the mountains with him. So here I was meeting my potential mother-in-law in shorts and t-shirt all sweaty. It went well I think, although I believe she expected an American girl and here I was a direct export from India. I never expected an American mother-in-law either in my defense.
My first introduction to his extended family happened in July 4 2008, few months after our marriage. In India, this would have happened before our wedding. The aunts and uncles had to approve the girl before you married her. Although I knew I did not need to impress them since I was already married and I was sort of sure he would not divorce me over their disapproval, the Indian girl in me really wanted to be approved. So I wore my best jeans and t-shirt and made my first American event- the BBQ. My husband is not the greatest introducer, in fact in more situations than not, he hardly introduces me. His aunt welcomed me home, who I did not know at that time was his aunty. She called me her niece so I assumed she must be some aunt. I sat in an available chair, and I was lost. In India, they would have been at my beck and call, catering to my need. Of course I was the daughter in law to the family. Here I was sitting with my husband and was expected to plate my own food.
After being in the United States for over 7-8 years by then, you would assume I would have no culture shock-Wrong answer. I was shocked and baffled. I had never been to an American event before that and needless to say I was hoping they would feed me like we feed people back home. Plate your food and sit and watch you eat and feed you more as your plate emptied. So my husband plated food for us, and being shy I decided it was better to nibble his food. I also found out that peach cobbler was an acquired taste. I love sweets but peach cobbler is not my cup of tea.
I heard my husband tell his dad that his wife was Indian, and he had to specify it was India Indian and not Native American. Meeting his dad was another adventure. We went to meet him and his family for his birthday. I remember the door opening and noise decibels increasing. I wanted to run for my life. I am Indian from India, and if noise level goes beyond a certain decibel you run for your life unless of course it includes music and dancing. There were at least ten women who were really excited to meet us and were talking at the same time. The smartest thing my husband did on that visit was to hold my hand the moment we got off the car. If not for his shackles on me, I would have run like a lunatic. They sure would have thought, she isn’t just India but she is a crazy Indian girl.
In India when the family gets together, you talk and you eat and you talk more. The men sit together and talk and the women do the same. Here in America, I have learned when you get together you either watch TV or you play games. For the last five years of being married to my husband, every time we went to his family events I saw them play Dominos and the noise increased with each game. They wonder why I don’t join them when I watch them so attentively each year. I don’t know how to tell them when the noise goes up, my brain shuts down along with the rest of my body. I am not about to be the Indian girl who lost in Dominos. I have to hold our flag up.
Living in California I believed everyone who lived here has tried Indian food. After all, there is an Indian restaurant in every corner. Having lived my entire life in India, I wasn’t going to not have Indian food at my wedding. I might wear a white dress, but three essential parts of my existence; Bollywood music, Indian food and Indian attire were part of my wedding in abundance. Boy was I surprised when they wondered what we ate, and how spicy it was. I could understand the older generation not knowing about my food, but when the younger lot asked me the same I was surprised. I wonder why I was surprised, since my husband did not eat real Indian food until we started dating, and he had lived here his entire life.
It’s been five years since I have been married to my husband and it has been a fun ride. He introduces me to all things American and I train him on all things Indian. I say train because we have our quirks, and some of our doings make no sense unless you are of course Indian. But we relish our differences and quirks, often teasing the other until the next quirk unfolds. It is a 24×7 sitcom in progress at our house. As for his family, they may not plate my food for me or feed me until I drop, but I know they love me just as much as my family does.