Maybe not Freshly Pressed but I definitely Came Clean!

Recently I was contacted by Sowmya Rajaram at Sunday Mid Day about a piece she was working on regarding Intercultural Relationship Blogs where one half of the couple is Indian.

She wanted to interview ME for her piece!

I mean….WOW.

I mean….GASP.

I mean….Cool BEANS dude!

As well as ……

And then reality hit and I realized that the only way I could do the interview was if I did it as Gori Rajkumari.

Bear and I are happy with our relationship and we are very forthcoming about everything that we experience.  We want to share what we go through so other’s can learn from it without feeling alone and scared about consequences.

Essentially, we wanted to give other’s a chance to view this life in a way we couldn’t view when we started off dating.

And I think we’ve done well at it.  Sharing and getting the word out that it’s not all Roses but it’s also not all Thorns.

BUT….the thorns that we do experience are generally related to people or experiences outside of Bear and myself.  And to save THOSE people and still be able to express our thoughts on these things we’ve decided to keep the blog anonymous.

Or as close to it as we can get.

So, I wrote back to Sowmya and explained that I would love to be interviewed but that I must ask that no real names or pictures be used for her piece.  And she responded in the positive!!

And so it was that Gori Rajkumari and her Rajkumar have made it to the big league.  Kind of.  🙂

Bhabhi Made It Better….

Swinging Sisters

Swinging Sisters

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!

Best,

Aurora

Intercultural Marriages…some challenges faced.

Hindu Wedding

Hindu Wedding

Note: I am attempting to talk Bear into wearing that nifty wedding hat thingee that has a cool fan like thing of cloth at the top but he is steadfastly refusing.  He’s a pooterhead.  That’s ok though, I have found a way around it.  I’ll just have my Dad gift it to him.  🙂 Muahahaha.

While we haven’t officially announced the official engagement yet, (or wedding for that matter) I am a consummate researcher and prefer to study something to death rather than not know anything.

It was because of my previous studies, even before Bear and I became serious, that when we did become serious I was more prepared to make hard line decisions.  Mainly because I had already researched them, thought them out and made decisions on them….you know just in case.

Eh-hem not like I thought he was eventually going to cave in and propose or anything.

Moving along….  🙂

So, where was I?  Oh yes…when Bear and I became serious I had a decision to make about our future on more levels than just one.

Life Decisions

Bear’s culture, history and religion are very important to him.  He’s very open minded and accepting, however there are some things that he wants out of life and I can’t blame him because I have similar wants and needs.

Like, I wanted to continue to celebrate my American/Christian traditions.  Trees with lights and decorations at Christmas.  Painted eggs and gum hanging at Easter (Thanks to Leese for pointing to me that this sounds scary and nobody ‘get’s it’.  My grandfather started this tradition when I was a kid…he would do all the normal stuff, hide eggs and baskets…but he would also tie packets of juicy fruit to the tree outside and one always had money as a wrapper so we called it gum hanging.).  Observance of Thanksgiving…even though I am a veg eater now and can’t stand that nasty evil vile disgusting totally gags me with a spoon Tofurkey.

It was important that future children learned both my heritage and his.  I wanted them to have the same opportunity I had, to make a choice in my religious life.  To have the opportunities to learn anything I wanted (as long as it wasn’t a cult…that included anything that Tom Cruise belonged to—darn it).

Fortunately, Bear and I found that we had the same ideas and beliefs with regards to all the essentials, all of the things that were important and ‘deal breaker’ rules in our lives.

That’s not to say that we haven’t run across our own little snags along the way.  Two stand out in my mind the most.  My first name and the Manglasutra(s).

My First Name

Recently, a post on Gorigirl.com Forums ( Your Indian Name? ), someone brought up the topic of the Indian MIL and FIL wanting the new bride to take on a new first name.  Yep, you read that right…apparently in some families (especially in Maharashta) the bride is given a new first name by her husband and/or In-Laws.  I brought this topic up with Bear and he said that his brother’s wife did do this…however his mother did not so it is not necessarily a family tradition.  But he liked the idea very much.  I remember I had asked him to tell me what name he would give me, but it was only so that I could know….you know?  It was such a new concept, that thinking about that topic was odd enough, thinking about how some girls go by a different name entirely after their marriage?  HUH?

So Bear told me the name he would like to give me.  Anjali.

Beautiful name isn’t it?  Yes it is.  And it fits me as well.  But my name is the name my Daddy chose for me and I’m a tad bit attached to it.  So, I told Bear that while I love the name he would give me, I didn’t think I could do that.  And I really did think about it for some time, Played with it.  Toyed around with the idea.  But no matter what I did I would always be “Aurora” to my friends and family…why confuse them more than their poor brains can handle?  Hehehe Seriously, Also, I already had enough to adjust to, I didn’t think I could handle remembering to listen for “Anjali” being called over “Aurora”.

This hurt Bear a little bit.  I hadn’t worded my request for the information properly, and (communication is the key people) he misunderstood and thought I wanted the name because I planned on changing my name!  So he was hurt and a little sad to learn that I didn’t have any plans to do that at all.  This created tension for me, because I knew I had hurt him and I knew I couldn’t give him what he would like to have.  AND that I had led him to believe for a short while that he would get it.  Without knowing I was doing it…but still…that’s what happened.

Now everything is ok.  Like Bear says “What’s in a name?  Anyway, you were Aurora when I fell in love with you…so why would I want to name my love something else?”

Manglasutra

Bear and I had many conversations about what exactly we planned on getting for the wedding.  We had already discussed that it would be cheaper for him to get my wedding Sari there in India than it would be to buy it here (US).  This included his Sherwani, shoes and a few other items.  The items we would probably buy here would be the gold wedding bands and the Manglasutra.  Bear wanted to be able to purchase both for me, the daily wear Manglasutra and the big huge bawdy gold one that is for the wedding and special occasions only.

Right now the cost of Gold per ounce in the US is $962.  (Current Gold Prices)

However, Bear wanted me to double check for the Manglasutra here.  I assumed it was for price and style.  And in some ways I was right.  I thought he was looking to conserve money…remember here in the US, while guys will buy their girls jewelry they pride themselves on getting a good deal even if that means letting go of some quality (not all but some).  So I was not entirely used to just how important and special the Manglasutra was.  I started thinking he was attempting to save us some money, seeing as how things are a little tight right now.  So there was some discussion about not even getting the wedding version now.  Also, I sent him pictures of the one’s that I found here and liked.  I liked them because of the style of the pendants; however he was looking at the entire Manglasutra (including the beads and the amount of gold on the strand).  He expressed some concern on the amount of gold and I assumed that he meant the pendant because that’s the only thing I was really looking at when I looked at the Manglasutra…I figured a strand of black and gold beads is just like any other.  This lead to hurt feels on my side because I had picked out excessively small pendants.  However, the strands had more gold than black beads (which, in my defense I wasn’t looking at).  So when Bear brought up the fact that there was too much gold, I thought he meant the pendant and began the downward depressive cycle of “this sucks” and then started the girl martyrdom of “we’ll just get a plain black bead strand with no pendant…those are cheaper”.

Note: SEE???  See how important communication is here people?

He finally understood what the problem was and was able to correct me.  His fear was that I would have to wear that gold laden Manglasutra in India and he knew his country.  I would be a white woman….already enough to draw attention to every beggar and pick-pocket within 5 miles…but if I also had a daily Manglasutra with too much gold on the strand?  On the highly visible strand?  Well…that would be like a putting a bowl of candies in front of a five year old and telling him “No”.

Essentially…Uh huh.  Whatever.  MINE MINE MINE.

Back to the story line, I had gotten emotional and all assumey and it caused little problems between us.  Which we got resolved mainly because Bear is the most insightful and psychic human being I know.

Either that or he just knows me eerily well.

I like to pretend I’m somewhat mysterious so it works out better if he’s psychic.

Plus this is my blog and if I want him to be all cool with psychic powers and superhuman strength than I can.

So there…NEENER NEENER.  😛  LOL

The Marriage!

YAY!  This was probably the easiest choice I’ve ever had to make…and also the hardest.  I spent a good part of my childhood dreaming about my own wedding and planning it out.  Most girls have.

I spent months trying to decide how to incorporate a western Christian wedding with an eastern Hindu ceremony.  I found a few sites that offered some really excellent ideas…but I don’t know.  Something just didn’t feel right anymore.

And I realized one night what it was.  It was after watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I was contemplating on the difference between Buffy and Angel relationship and Buffy and Spike….

NoteFor a while I was a firm supporter of Buffy and Angel, but later I realized that Spike really worked his butt off to get a soul and make Buffy happy.  Relationships do not always work just because they were fated too…sometimes even soul mates have to work at it.  See?  BTVS really CAN be converted to solve any of life’s little problems!!!  Plus…Buffy just rules.  Also, I like it when Spike calls Angel a namby pamby nancy boy.  Funny!

Oh…right…back to the blog.

……and then it hit me.  I wasn’t happy with my old ideas of a western wedding because in those little day dreams I had always been marrying some non-descriptive boy.  In real life, I was marrying Bear, who was full of life and spice and was helping me make changes in my life and I in his.  We weren’t traditional in the non-traditional sense.  We were starting our own traditions while enjoying and still practicing some of the old ones.

So, I decided that I would prefer to have the traditional Hindu wedding…only.  And to have a western reception and style of wedding ceremony first, reception next, entire shin-dig a few hours…and then DONE.

So that is what we are doing, we are having the traditional Hindu Ceremony with a few changes.  My Brother will bring me in instead of an Uncle because I don’t have one.  My father will still give me away to Bear…even though he swears he’s going to do it while begging Bear to “Take my Daughter…PLEASE!”

Below, I’ve included what each ceremony is called and a small description of it.  Most likely our wedding will be held at Arya Samaj temple in Anaheim and the wedding ceremony’s that they perform tend to be a little less dramatic with KHUP less of rituals to be performed.  Arya Samaj Wedding Ceremony

While various regional steps are followed by different sects of Hindus across India, the following 13 steps form the core of a Vedic wedding ceremony:

  • Vara SatkaarahReception of the bridegroom and his kinsmen at the entrance gate of the wedding hall where the officiating priest chants a few mantras and the bride’s mother blesses the groom with rice and trefoil and applies tilak of vermilion and turmeric powder.
  • Madhuparka Ceremony – Reception of the bridegroom at the altar and bestowing of presents by the bride’s father.
  • Kanya Dan – The bride’s father gives away his daughter to the groom amidst the chanting of sacred mantras.
  • Vivah-Homa – The sacred fire ceremony ascertaining that all auspicious undertakings are begun in an atmosphere of purity and spirituality.
  • Pani-Grahan – The groom takes the right hand of the bride in his left hand and accepts her as his lawfully wedded wife.
  • Pratigna-Karan – The couple walk round the fire, the bride leading, and take solemn vows of loyalty, steadfast love and life-long fidelity to each other.
  • Shila Arohan – The mother of the bride assists her to step onto a stone slab and counsels her to prepare herself for a new life.
  • Laja-Homah – Puffed rice offered as oblations into the sacred fire by the bride while keeping the palms of her hands over those of the groom.
  • Parikrama or Pradakshina or Mangal Fera – The couple circles the sacred fire seven times. This aspect of the ceremony legalizes the marriage according to the Hindu Marriage Act as well custom.
  • Saptapadi – Marriage knot symbolized by tying one end of the groom’s scarf with the bride’s dress. Then they take seven steps representing nourishment, strength, prosperity, happiness, progeny, long life and harmony and understanding, respectively.
  • Abhishek – Sprinkling of water, meditating on the sun and the pole star.
  • Anna Praashan – The couple make food offerings into the fire then feed a morsel of food to each other expressing mutual love and affection.
  • Aashirvadah – Benediction by the elders.