Love Story: Unconventional Iyengars

Gorgeous Alexandra, from Canada, is one of my favourite bloggers so I am really excited to share her beautiful love story with you! It’s been nearly a decade since she found her soulmate, and together they have created a beautiful family! If you want to learn about Foreign daughter-in-law/Indian mother-in-law dynamics, she is your woman! Alexandra is passionate, fearless, fabulous and has proved all the naysayers wrong! Here is her inspiring love story…

My husband is from one of the most religious and conservative sects in India. They are said to be the “purest” in their lineage. He is an Iyengar Tamil Brahmin. There are many priests in his family. His grandfather came from a small temple town in Tamil Nadu, where many residents still do not even let in non-Iyengars into their home. And he also married me. And we have 7 tattoos between us. And we are artists by profession. He is what I would call “an unconventional Iyengar“.

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Back in the day, we were just students in love. He picked me and I picked him, our paths crossed and the direction of our lives was changed forever by a love that seemed so destiny charged. It’s safe to say that I had no idea what I was getting into. It didn’t matter to me then, and it still doesn’t. Life works in mysterious ways. Love works in ironic ways.

We met nearly nine years ago and had been together ever since. Like a missing puzzle piece – only from two different continents. We were both international students, far away from home at a famous art school in the USA. In retrospect, we were both running from something. Being an only child, I wanted my independence away from my parents. He was running away from both a family and a culture who placed no value on his artistic dreams. Needless to say, we ran into each other’s arms.

We started off as friends, then best friends, then we were dating for a very short time before he asked me to marry him. And then 6 months later, we were on a flight to India, which turned into an extended stay. And I have never been the same since…
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Everyone thought we were crazy. Nobody thought we would end up together. People who didn’t know us thought we were too different (in terms of culture and skin color obviously, because if they really knew us they would have known that our values were the same…) And now, being together for nearly a decade (our first of many) it has been incredibly satisfying to have proven these people wrong, to live successfully the way we want to, free of society’s rules.We put our families through the ringer. My parents decided to accept it and hope for the best. His parents accepted it but wished that I would eventually go away. My mother still eats naan and rice like a burrito, which drives me crazy. My mother-in-law still gets scared that I’m going to divorce her son, because there is “so much of divorce in western culture“. Funny things like that is what keeps our daily life interesting.

After India, we lived in New York and San Francisco, before moving back to my native Canada. We settled down, and finally after 5.5 years of being together, we decided to get married. Mentally, we were already married. We had already been through so much together – accidents, family deaths, losing jobs, relocating. The marriage served as a purpose to unite our families and also to celebrate our love and our journey. Not only that, but we got married three times in three months (talk about making up for all those years!) I’ll never forget seeing our parents sitting in the front row, all holding hands at our wedding and tearing up.

We went to India again for our honeymoon which was beautiful. At every chance we get, we are always heading back to India to discover more. I always had this dream to see the Taj Mahal on my honeymoon – kind of coincidental since I ended up marrying an Indian! We also visited Fatehpur Sikri, amongst other places. When we were there, I noticed all these couples praying for fertility. It was when we were there that I decided I was ready for a child. It was a sudden decision, but it just felt right. So, I went into the sacred tomb of Salim Chishti and prayed to God to bless me with a daughter. Nine months later, we welcomed our daughter, Maya Josephine Madhavan.

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Now she is 2.5 and the second best thing that has ever happened to us (the first was meeting each other). She has her father’s quickness and her mother’s gentleness. She looks like everybody in the family, combined. Every single person. She is literally a walking symbol of our love. She is the best of both worlds, and we lead her by example of being the best of both our cultures.
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Alexandra writes a fabulous and fearless blog detailing personal stories about her unconventional Iyengar family @ Madh-Mama.blogspot.in
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Love Story: Life As I Know It

Gorgeous Sarah is 29 years old and lives in Canberra, Australia. We started speaking a couple of weeks ago, during our first conversation I hadn’t laughed that much in ages!! Sweet and funny, Sarah also as a pug baby, called Apu (you know, like the monkey in Aladdin)!! Even though she has been married for over two years, Sarah only recently started speaking to other western women with Indian husbands. She has made some interesting observations since falling in love with an Indian and speaking to other ‘gori wives’… 

I have been married to a Punjabi man for just over 2 years now. I met him when I lived in Darwin, we both worked in the same shopping centre, and I was crazy about him from the first moment I looked at him.

My friends immediately said, “you do realize he is an Indian don’t you, that’s disgusting” and well, no I didn’t realize. I didn’t really know anything about India or Indians; I thought they all wore turbans!! The only thing I knew for sure was that butter chicken was an Indian dish. I didn’t know why my friends were disgusted, I thought he was beautiful! It was then I found out about the stereotypes of Indians, as a person who would never judge someone because of their race, that didn’t stop me from fancying him!

While we lived in the same state, neither of us had guts to talk to the other. It wasn’t until I moved to Sydney, and he moved to Townsville, that we come across each other again, this time on Facebook. I couldn’t find him at first, I spent ages looking for him on his friend’s Facebook page (my husband was super jealous when he saw that I had added his friend!). So anyway, the rest is history.

The first time we lived together, we had to share house with other Indians, it was quite uncomfortable. I remember feeling that I didn’t belong there, they spoke their language and looked at me as if I were an alien. I had already falling in love with this man, so I stuck it out.

There was a lot of tension and jealousy between me and the housemates, especially when I first moved in. They had lived in an empty house, with nothing but mattresses to sleep on. I arrived to the house, a stranger from another culture with a king size bed, big flat screen television, washing machine etc. The guys of the house watched me as I unpacked, they’d never experienced living with an Aussie girl before. It wasn’t long before we moved out and got our own place, thank God.

Eventually we got engaged, and then married. We’ve had my in-laws stay with us a couple of times, my mother in law has taught me have to cook my husband’s favourite dishes among other Indian things. I have been so blessed to have been accepted by them with open arms.

 

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One night, after a few nights of having my in-laws with us, my father in-law started crying, which instantly made me cry, but I had no idea why! He then started to tell my husband how they are all so lucky to have me as their daughter-in-law, so I cried even more!! My in-laws are amazing, and I have such a close relationship with my brother and sister in-law. Earlier this year, I spent six weeks in India, was wonderful.

When we were first married, I was living in a bubble, I thought I was the only white girl who married an Indian. I didn’t think it was a big deal, I don’t think my marriage is superior because it is an intercultural one, we are just two people who love each other. Then I started coming across other western woman who have married Indian men, these ‘gori wife communities’ started popping up. I was so excited to find other women who could relate to me and my marriage.

I soon realised that there were strange dynamics going on between some of the ‘gori wives’. There are some who I adore and could share my deepest feelings with, but I have also stumbled across a whole heap of woman married to Indian’s who have shocked me, and I cannot help but laugh at their behaviour! Living their life to try and convince the world that their relationship is the most perfect, that their husband is the best and viciously gossiping about the other ‘gori wives’. Why are some of the ‘gori wives’ behaving like this? I believe they are trying to prove to everyone that their husband really does love them and they aren’t just being used for a visa. I honestly think that these are the women who  aren’t sleeping at night because they have doubt themselves!

My life isn’t perfect, and I’ll never try and convince you otherwise, I’m just an Aussie in love, and he happens to be Indian (as pointed out by my ‘helpful’ friends the first day I saw him!).

Inspired to share?

Make Your Own Sindoor

How To Make Your Own Sindoor (Recipe)

I wear sindoor everyday, I love it, but lately I have started to have concerns. What is in that scarlet power I wear on my head everyday made of? Synthetic dyes can cause hair loss, I have seen a couple of aunties with sindoor bald patches, and someone like me, who already has a high forehead, really doesn’t need that! More worryingly, some commercial brands of sindoor contain lead oxide (a dangerous neurotoxin) and mercury sulphate (which can cause skin cancer). These things can not only be harmful for the women wearing the sindoor, if she falls pregnant, these chemicals can also harm her unborn child.

No, I am not pregnant, but it is something to be aware of. Whilst I know that there are trusted brands of sindoor available, I thought it would be a lovely idea to start making my own. I have found several recipes and with some trial and error, I have produced my own (with a little fragrant twist).

Rose sindoor…

You will need:

  • 1 part turmeric
  • 1 part calcium hydroxide (a white powder), also known as pickling lime or chuna, available in India and overseas.
  • Rose water (alternatively, you can just use water)
  • Rose petals (optional)

Mix the turmeric and calcium hydroxide together, then add the rose water until the colour changes from orange to brick red. As simple as that, your homemade sindoor is ready to apply! 

The more calcium hydroxide you use, the deeper the red colour. I didn’t use too much of it because whilst it is non toxic when applied externally, it can cause skin irritation if it is too concentrated, so please be careful and wash off immediately if it becomes too itchy!

Once the paste dries it does return to it’s turmeric orange colour. You can simply mix it with a little more rose water (or water) and it will return to the natural red colour and will be ready to apply again.

8 Types of Hindu Marriage (plus the 9th type)

8 Types of Hindu Marriage (plus the 9th type)

The different types of marriages are described in Ancient Hindu literature, but not all of them have religious sanction, some are only acceptable in certain castes and a couple are completely prohibited.

Hindu philosophy states that marriage is not only two people uniting, but two souls uniting and this union lasts for many lifetimes. Some of these methods of acquiring a wife are not pleasant, thankfully, those ones are recognised as wrong.

1. Brahma Marriage

The Brahma marriage is widely considered as the best type of Hindu marriage. The father of the bride finds a suitable man who has completed his studies and gives his daughter to him in the form of a gift (kanyadan).  The ‘gift’ is adorning with gold, jewels and expensive clothes. The grooms family should not ask for anything from the brides family, this type of marriage opposes dowry (money the grooms family demand from the brides family) but sadly it still occurs across all castes and classes. 

Dowry is now illegal in India but it’s estimated that an Indian women is murdered every hour because her family was unable to meet her husband and in-laws’ demands for higher dowry.

The Hindu scriptures consider this marriage as the most honorable, because there is no physical force or lust and ideally no exchange of money. This is the most common Hindu marriage.

KANYADAN |Indian marriage ceremony | purple wedding | intercultural wedding | foreign bride |love |marathi brahmin ceremony | love

Our kanyadan ceremony, my dad giving me away to my husband.

2. Daiva Marriage

This type of marriage occurs if the brides family cannot find her a groom. The father of the bride resorts to giving his daughter, covered with treasures, to a priest. The priest then performs a sacrifice to complete the marriage. This type of marriage is exclusively for the Brahmin caste, only a Brahmin can perform sacrifices as priest. It is now quite rare that a family will give away their daughters to priests.

3. Arsha Marriage

This type of marriage is not considered noble, it is basically a business transaction. The father gives away his daughter after receiving a cow and a bull from the bridegroom. The boys suitability is not always considered, the condition of the cow and bull are more important.

4.  Prajapatya Marriage

This type of marriage is an orthodox union, the purpose of the marriage is religious duty. The father of the bride blesses the couple with the a sacred mantra, on the condition they both do their civic and religious duties. The husband and wife are seen as equal parties in the marriage, remaining dutiful together and living a Hindu lifestyle.

5.  Gandharva Marriage

This is a love marriage. A voluntary union of mutual love between the bride and groom. This type of marriage is usually done in secret, without the knowledge of their parents.

The Kama Sūtra says this kind of marriage is the ideal one because it is passion and love which brought the couple together instead of social compatibility or financial gain. There are hundreds of examples of this type of marriage in Hindu mythology, the original Indian love stories. However, other Hindu texts find this type of marriage inferior because it does not always consider social acceptability (allowing inter-caste marriage for example).

6.  Asura Marriage

The bridegroom pays for his bride and the amount he decides to pay depends on the social status of the brides family, known as ‘bride price’. Sadly, this form of marriage is still popular among some castes of Hindus and tribes of India. The social compatibility of the groom is not considered here, greed is the deciding factor.

Manu is said to be the father of humanity, he was the first man on Earth, the same man a Christian calls Adam. The father of humanity condemns this type of marriage in the Manusmriti (The laws of Manu), “The father of the girl should not accept even the least amount of price, accepting a price out of greed, he becomes the seller of children.”

7. Rakshasa Marriage

This type of marriage involves the forcible abduction of a girl from her home after her family have been killed.  During ancient times, tribes looked upon women as war prizes and took the women of their defeated enemies as brides. This didn’t only happen in Ancient India, this occurred in many other early civilisations. This type of marriage appealed to the nature of the Kshatriya (warrior) caste of men. Women would have been the reason for many battles. The poor brides would cry and scream during the marriage, the word rakshas means demonic.

8. Paishacha Marriage

This was the most awful form of marriage, a man steals the chastity of the women whilst she is either sleeping, intoxicated or unable to consent. Once this has happened, it was thought during the time, she has no alternative but to marry him. Paishacha literally means ‘goblin, the men who do this are literally goblins. This reminds me of those ‘modern’ men who prey on drunken girls in nightclubs, those men who take advantage of girls who are barely conscious. This vile  behaviour has obviously been happening for millennia.

The 9th type of marriage…

This type of marriage is not usually mentioned as one of the eight types of Hindu marriage but it also existed in Ancient times, the times when the Hindu Gods and Goddesses walked the earth, the mythical times we learn about in story books. What I find interesting about this type of marriage, unlike the others, is; the boy doesn’t acquire a wife, the girl chooses a husband.

When a girl decided that she wanted to get married, her father would organise a Swaymvara. Swaymvara literally means ‘ones own choice’. Invitations were sent to eligible men across the land and those who were interested in seeking her hand would meet on an auspicious date, at an auspicious venue. The suitors would all try to impress the girl and prove their worth. Once the bride had seen enough, she would select her champion by putting a garland of flowers round his neck.

For reasons I cannot explain, Swaymvara is usually ignored and not added to the eight other forms of traditional Hindu marriage. Swaymvara shares a close resemblance with Gandharva marriage. The difference is that the father allows his daughter to choose her husband whilst Gandharva marriages usually involve the lovers marrying in secret.

In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Sita chooses to marry Lord Rama after he shows he is stronger than the other suitors who gathered for her Swaymvara. The Mahabharata, another Hindu epic, tells of Draupadi’s Swaymvara. She asks her suitors to prove their skills by shooting a rotating fish through the eye by only looking at its reflection in a pool of water. Draupadi rejected the fit suitor who shot the fish in the eye and married the second successful suitor, Prince Arjuna.

Think about this:

Has patriarchal society simply ignored the 9th type of Hindu marriage to serve its own purpose?

Putting a garland on my husband

Garlanding my champion