When I first started researching the issues that Bear and I would face as an Intercultural couple, I learned many things. Most of all the resistance that his family would have to such a union. The resistance could range from all out war, to something more of a simple disapproval. So many blogs advised that the best thing we could do was seek the assistance of an elder in the family who approved or at the very least understood and wanted to help get approval from his parents.
And for the most part this is still very good advice. The only problem with this is that the elder generation in India is not always going to be so approving.
At the time, when we were trying to decide who best to enlist to help us, we were thinking about who Bear felt the most comfortable with talking about his feelings or issues. And this is still valid. But we kind of stopped there. We did take into consideration that this person should also be open to it, but we didn’t delve into that chosen person’s personality to make a more informed decision as to whether they would be able to accept our rather odd union (or odd by Indian standards being that I’m older than Bear).
So we went to Bear’s Grandfather on his Father’s side. Mainly because Bear felt the closest to him, he felt that he could tell his Grandfather anything and his Grandfather would listen and try to help. And for the most part he was right…until Grandfather learned of our age difference. And that is where everything fell apart.
You see, the younger generation of India is a bit more receptive and open to these things than the older generation. I had thought that it wasn’t necessarily about the generation but more about experience of seeing the world and living in it. I thought that Grandfather would see that age doesn’t matter, it’s a person’s values and the strength of the relationship that do. And to some extent he does, but he couldn’t get past that tradition of the man being younger and this was our downfall.
After that, relations with the entire family became strained to the point that no one was willing to listen to Bear. Even his brother, whom he was once close to as children, was opposed and sided with the family.
And then one day, Bhabhi (this means brother’s wife in Urdu – a dialect of Hindi – in this case it is Bear’s brother’s wife) called me on behalf of the family and tried to talk me out of marrying Bear. I took it in stride, expressed my sorrow at the family’s pain and my role in it, but reaffirmed that I had made a promise to Bear and to God to stand by him and that I never break my promises. Every question she asked me, I answered with respect. We debated for two hours. And every time, my answer was the same. After the call, I was emotionally drained and not sure how to take the call. I had only Bear’s perceptions of Bhabhi to go on.
I had always tried to explain to him that perhaps he didn’t know the whole story, but he is his parent’s son and we are all protective of our own family. So while he cared for and liked Bhabhi, there were some small hard feelings for her too. I wasn’t sure what the good was by talking to her, but my feeling always has been that talking is the best thing to do in any situation.
And then Bhabhi called me again two days later when her husband was at work and Bear was gone. And we talked some more. And two days later we talked again. And then I called her the day after that. Bhabhi and I slowly started getting to know each other and realizing that we had similar thoughts on certain topics. Our feelings were the same. Our values. Our love of laughing. I found myself liking Bhabhi very much and for the first time in my life, I started to become excited about having a sister of my very own (after having 5 overprotective and stinky brother’s who would pester and pick on me unmercifully…the brats).
And then Aai (this means Mother in Marathi – in this case it is Bear’s mother) became unwell. This happened the day before yesterday, urgent calls were made by Bear’s brother telling him that Aai’s failing health was Bear’s fault. Bhau’s (Bhau means brother – in this case it is Bear’s brother) reaction was understandable. He was feeling torn between the parents who he wanted to respect and the brother that he wanted to help and couldn’t. He’s also stuck here in the US on a contract with a new child and could not go home to help his mother or father the way he wanted to. His frustration and fear for his mother’s health reached a breaking point and he and Bear argued terribly yesterday morning. Bear then asked me to call Bhabhi and check on Aai’s health. So I did and Bhabhi and I talked and talked and both of us were frustrated and feeling sad and fore lone.
And at one point, out of sheer frustration and fear and exhaustion and stress, I broke down and cried to her. “Bhabhi, I don’t know what to do! I made him a promise I cannot break but I don’t want Aai this sick either!! What am I going to do?” And I cried and cried as if it had been welling in me for months and finally had a release. And Bhabhi kept saying “Relax Aurora sweety, please do not cry, I am here, please do not cry”.
Eventually it stopped and I apologized to her for my outburst and told her that I hated that she was stuck in this position with every one coming to her bursting with their emotions when she should be the one being taken care of and loved (she just had her youngest daughter less than two weeks ago). She told me that she is here for all of us and never feel like I cannot cry to her; she is here for me for whatever may happen. And that was the end of the call. I spent the rest of the day feeling lost.
What to do?
So Bear and I decided that no matter what, we were staying together. We discussed the problems that were arising and the things that were being said and the possible outcome of our continuing to marry. We decided that we were stronger together and happier. We really can’t live without one another now…he breathes and I exhale…we are so close. And then we prayed for Aai’s health.
We both spent the day a little depressed and worried.
And then, late last night, Bear received another phone call from his brother. His brother asked him if he would be willing to speak with Bhabhi (brother’s wife remember?) and Bear agreed.
And this is where things began to change.
Bhabhi listened to Bear. She discussed things with him. They had an honest to goodness real conversation. Bhabhi talked TO him instead of AT him. And Bear realized that Bhabhi was the one person (and perhaps by extension – his brother as well) that understood best what it was he was going through. And he learned that she felt that his relationship with me was not the horror that everyone was making it out to be. Bhabhi had experienced American culture, had American friends, and had worked with Americans. She saw us for what we are…diverse and sometimes crazy but also very loving with our own set of traditions just as worthy – if different – from India. Bear’s perception of Bhabhi began to change; he began to see her in a way he hadn’t seen before. He began to understand that she may have faced similar issues when marrying into his family, that only being in our situation now he could understand better where she had been coming from. Bhabhi became our Soldier of Good Fortune in this war and Bhabhi essentially saved us all.
Yes, you read that right. After talking to Bear and finally understanding what the whole family was hearing from Bear for 8 months but not LISTENING too, Bhabhi then explained it to her husband in a way HE could understand and accept. And then HE called and talked to Bear’s father in a way that Baba (this means Father in Marathi) could understand.
And so it was that this morning, we got a call separately. Bear from his brother and I from Bhabhi, telling us that Baba accepts our marriage. He will talk to and get the acceptance from Aai. Everyone now feels who cares what others say as long as we are happy? And to them Bear’s happiness is THEIR happiness.
Bhabhi and I agreed we are both the best things that could ever happen to this family. We will make them stronger, healthier and happier in their lives. We will show them the love that they need and the happiness that comes from laughter and being together. We promised each other to always work together and never give up; in helping this family become more open to one another. In learning how to talk to one another.
But ultimately, it was Bhabhi all along who was the saving grace. And even though she doesn’t know about this blog, I wanted the world to know what a wonderful sister I am going to have.
I’ve already told her myself.
Love to you all!!!!! I am so HAPPY!!!!!!!!!
More to come….till then….remain happy, healthy and wise!