Posts Tagged ‘ African-American ’

MULTIRACIAL MASALA!

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.

 

 

She is today but a dream- soon to be reality!

Today is a new day, a new story, a new beginning. My husband and I are starting a new journey into the unknown. As we fill out the last few sections of our adoption papers, I am nervous, excited, scared and yet very happy.  A dream I had for years is finally taking shape, and now it is our dream after months of discussions and talks. Phew!  As I fill the remaining sections, I wonder if she is even born and yet here I am anxious to hold her in my arms. My maternal instincts have been on an overdrive since I first went to an orphanage as a fourteen year old. I met this little guy with cleft palette who clung on to me.  The emotions I felt that moment were so surreal. I wanted to take him home with me, but I was smart to know I was miles away from being a mother.

IMG_4290My first stint with motherhood began four years back. On a sunny December morning in Chennai, India, I was embarking on my first blind date of my life. I was nervous, excited, jittery- all of the above as I packed all my gifts for my date. My blind date was special- she was a little three year old I had seen pictures of since she was a few months old. I had seen her grow in those bi-annual updates I received of this child I was sponsoring from an orphanage in Chennai. Her name was Methilda, and I feel like I have grown with her. I was a new college grad, in my first job when I decided I wanted to sponsor a child.

Little MethildaSo here I was going to meet my little girl whose picture I have flaunted as my own for years. I took my husband with me so he could meet my daughter. That’s right- she was mine before I married him, ain’t no sharing in this aspect! We got to the orphanage, and were taken to a room where Methilda was with a bunch of other little kids. I was overwhelmed beyond I had ever experienced. Now, I am far from the emotional crying kind. I make people cry! I really have to be upset to cry and I have never experienced crying with joy in my lifetime. For the very first time, I was fighting back tears as I held her in my arms. I bought her a Minnie mouse from the US, and a bunch of chocolates anticipating competition. I distributed the chocolates to the children in her class, while she walked around with me. We spent a lot of time with those children, taking pictures, talking to them and just enjoying the innocence in the air.

As we walked back, I saw a little girl hold my African American husband’s hand and walk.  They had no language in common and yet this little girl was talking to him and he was listening. She insisted she walk with him. I translated some of it but the rest they were having a conversation.  That day when I got to hold Methilda will always be special. Her smile lit up my world for those two hours, and nothing mattered but her.

As my husband and I start this journey into the unknown, we know it is not going to be easy. There will be trials, heartbreak and tears- I was warned of all that by the agency. I am prepared for the battle ahead of me. Here we are round 1 of many more to come, but we will survive. I know it will be worth it when I hold her in my arms. Until then, she is a dream waiting to become our reality!

Aliens in the Inter-racial zoo

alien_in_UFO_cartoon

Every time my husband and I walk down the street in metropolitan California, we get stares.  People forget personal boundaries sometimes in their quest to know if what they are seeing is actually true.  We are the eighth wonders of the world- Why? Because he is African American and I am Indian. People do a double take on us. If we would have let them, they would have tested the authenticity of his Afro to see if he was true blood African American. Although I am Indian by birth, I am my own cocktail and most often mistaken to be South American.  So here we are walking down the street where you see Asians with Caucasians, Asians with African American, Caucasians and African Americans but the stares come our way. In this interracial museum, my husband and I are the weirdest exhibits.

We have had our share of fun. Once in Wal-Mart, we had an old man who was so close to us that we could smell the garlic in the food he ate. Do we matter so much? I guess we do.  I guess Indian women are not usually seen in inter-racial relationships, so African American and Indian is not expected. I want to ensure I say this- Just because I am with a black man, does not mean I like all black men or as they call it I am not into all chocolate. I detest the line ‘Oh you like chocolate’. No I don’t, I like one kind and I am married to him.  Don’t compare my Godiva with Hershey’s- it is not the same!

I have had people ask me did you always want to marry African American man. Sure I wanted to since the time I was born. Walking down the street in India I hoped to marry an African American, because that’s what I saw around me. I want to shoot the person who made the line, ‘Once you go black, you don’t go back.’ It’s not true at least not in my case. If today I were not with my husband, would I want to be with another black man? Sure if he looked and talked like Denzel Washington. But they don’t make too many men like that. In which case, would I want to be with someone just because he is black? Not really!

I am an exotic Indian bird nabbed by an American. Men want to know how he managed this feat considering my people are not known to go outside the culture. Women wonder how he managed to get me to marry him. I am no Angelina Jolie that Brad Pitt was waiting at the corner for me. We are two normal looking people who fell in love and got married.  There are people waiting to see what this offspring of ours is going to look like. They assure me it’s going to be beautiful. I am collecting money for every assurance I get.  I call my baby a specimen- has to be if all the visitors in our inter-racial zoo are waiting to see him/her.  You need to be special to be a spectacle. Mine is not of royal blood with five names after him/her, and it sure is not a Jolie-Pitt or any other famous last name. So the most logical reason, it is a never before seen specimen- what we call an alien. If you ever read, “an alien has been born” in the newspaper, you know who made it!

I boarded a roller coaster named America!

I was waiting at Chennai airport to board my first flight ever to come to America. After 23 hours on a flight, I could see the San Francisco skyline from the flight. It was beautiful, all lit up on a cold July evening. Was I prepared for my American life- sure I was. When you are a teenager, you know it all. And I knew America. How could Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and Friends be wrong? Friends had to portray real America- they lived in New York, hung out in a coffee shop for most part and Hollywood movies: Oh yeah, I sure knew America. I knew English real well, I wore jeans and t-shirt, and I love pizza and hamburgers- I was American already.Image

DISCLAIMER: Everything in this article portrays India before 2001.

A day after we landed in America my mom and I decided to go to 7-11 to buy some sandwiches. As we walked there, this African American man looked at us and said “Y’all are pretty!” The complement totally passed by me as I gave him one of my “excuse you” looks. How dare he say I am pretty, the balls on that man! I wanted to fly up to him and punch him for calling me pretty. Anyways I was smart to realize that at 5’5, there was no way I would even dent his 6’5 frame. So there I was angry that this random guy called me pretty! I came from India; we never smiled at strangers on the street, so pretty was not acceptable.

My first day in college was trickier. I was a tomboy, who up until 2001 wore big jeans, bigger shirts and had short boy cut hair.  I went to college dressed exactly like that: big jeans, shirt and short boy cut hair. I used to be a popular girl in my high school, so why would I change my style in America? The girls stared at the fiasco I was. It took me three years to shrink my jeans to proper size, big shirts changed to right size shirts. While hair grew long too- that was partly because of a challenge. I would trade my horse tail mane for my cool spunky cut any day.

I had to mentally prepare myself to be a girl. Even though I was a tomboy in big clothes, I still got asked on dates. Dates did not exist in my vocabulary. I wasn’t sure why these guys I met wanted my phone number. Some were real slick: Do you want to give me your number so we can study? Sounds legit right! Not really. That study session was all about what do you like to eat, do you dance, do you want to go out for dinner-  I had no idea how dance and eating had anything to do with electrical engineering. Well, It took me two years to get past making excuses like,” my mom has cooked for me”, or “I don’t eat outside”, versus just saying blunt no. Dates scared me and I dreaded eating with a fork and knife. It took constant reminders of which hand the fork needed to be and which hand the knife should be.

Starbucks, why were you so impossible. I wasn’t invited to the coffee renaming session when Frappuccino, cappuccino replaced coffee. On one of my unaware dates, this guy took me to Starbucks. The whole time I told myself, “I can do it, Be cool, its coffee, there is no fork and knife”.  I looked at the menu and I was stumped. I thought it was going to be in English. Frappuccino, Cappuccino, espresso- I stood there stumped pondering on this new language. So I did the easiest thing ever- I ordered coffee. I hate black coffee. In India coffee comes with milk, sugar already in the coffee and that’s what I ordered at Starbucks. My Starbucks coffee came with nothing but black water. My “date” showed me the milk area. I did not know milk came as half-half, whole and fat free. It was too hard to decide so I skipped milk. Sugar, well I thought a bag of sugar equated to a teaspoon of sugar, so I put two bags. I walked out of Starbucks accomplished that I had made my first American coffee. Not really!! First sip and it was bitter, but I did not want to throw the coffee the guy bought, so I drank most of it until my bus came to save my soulwoman-freaked

My American journey took almost three years in the making, before I could confidently walk into an unknown territory knowing I can handle this. 12 years since I first landed in San Francisco and I still get culture shocks. Ordering food still brings out the immigrant in me. Even a simple question like wheat or white bread leaves my head in a swirl, perplexed if I really need to choose. But I do, and I have realized all it takes is a breath of air. A gasp of fresh air and I am ready to choose sourdough!