Masala Guilt

In this blog I have talked a lot about my experience of being a gorri women married to a Punjabi Indian man. I have talked about how I feel, what I go through, the good and the bad. Today I am writing about the effect of our masala union on my husband. 

My husband’s life plan before he met me was to come to the United States to do his masters degree. He thought that he may work a year and then go back to India with a leg up on the employment world. His parents did not want to see him go to the United States. They begged him not to go! He is their only son. They are a very close family.

He never planned to spend his life in the United States. He had planned to go back and take care of his aging parents. He wanted to make good money so that his family could be more comfortable and have the better things in life. His father and mother both worked for the Government, so they were very much middle class. My husband wanted more for them. He went to the United States to help him achieve that goal.

My husband is very Punjabi. He loves his culture and his country. He loves his food and traditions. He misses the music and the simple chance to speak Punjabi. He loves the United States but Punjab will always be his home.

When we met and started dating and than decided to marry it changed his entire plan. He was living in the United States with an American wife and an American born child. He started a career in the United States. Thoughts of going back to India suddenly seemed unlikely. 

When his father became suddenly ill my husbands world fell apart. My husband had the make the choice of working to help pay for treatment or coming to India to say goodbye. The doctor had told him that his father would survive the cancer, but sadly he was sicker than we all thought. My husband left on a plane one day after hearing that his father was terminal. Sadly his father passed while my husband was still on the plane. He regrets this part of his life, and its hard for me not to feel guilty. If he had followed his plan and gone back to India after college he would have been there for his father. My husband has never really shaken off the guilt of not being there with his father when he needed him.

My husband lives in two countries. Physically here with my daughter and I in the United States. He is also mentally in India with his mom and sisters. On all of our computers we have both USA time and Indian time. He worries and stresses about their safety. India is not the best place in the world for two women living by themselves with no male in the home. His mom has chronic problems with her lungs from TB and asthma. Whenever she has an attack and my sister in law calls panicked at mamma ji not being able to breath we panic. We spend entire days and nights pacing and worrying not knowing what to do or how to help. It is a powerless feeling. 

We are in the process of sponsoring his mother to come here , which will take over a year, but the process of bringing his sister here is alot harder, and would take many years. We have even talked about moving to India. We spent some time there in the past and my husband knows how hard it would be for me to live there and be independent. Being a gorri in India, I was not able to be anonymous and independent on the streets. I do not know enough Punjabi and it would be hard. Its not impossible many expats do it, but it is not the life he wants all of us to live.

I admire my husband for his strength. He is the head of household of his family both in the United States and in India. For the most part everything goes smoothly, but when things go bad then it is heart breaking.  I look forward to the day that his mom can come here and we can be united as a family and my husband can finally live in one timezone.

I know that my husband made the choice to make his life in the United States. We discussed all of these issues when we were still dating. He is the one that decided to marry an American. I can not shake the feeling that by marrying me he went against all the dreams he had and his parents had for him. Maybe that is the reason that I work so hard to adapt to his culture, learn Punjabi, and cook the foods of his people.To make up for the guilt I have for separating him from his land and people. Everyday life is wonderful, it is just those days when I see that horrible lost helpless look on his face when something is going on at home, and all that guilt comes back.

To other Masala couples, Do you ever feel that their spouse is divided between their home with you and their home abroad? 

If you are living away from where your family is, do you feel the guilt living away from your family? 

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Masala Relationships: How do They Work?

Ever wonder what it take to make a Masala relationship work? What adjustments are needed from both people? 

Here are some reflections from my own masala marriage. 

Sometimes when I tell people that I am married to a man from India I get the reaction “ how does that work?” or “it sounds like it would be hard”. I always shrug off the comments with just a quick canned response, “ we make it work”.  If I were to stop and truly talk about the complexity of an inter-racial/inter-cultural/inter-religious marriage it would take a lot of time. The ultimate truth is it is hard! It’s worth it but it’s a challenge. If I had married and had kids with an American man, life may in fact be simpler. The reality is that I did in fact fall in love with, and married a man from India and with that union came many adjustments for both of us and our families.

My life has changed in so many different ways as a result of being married to a Punjabi. I have had to learn a new language, a whole new style of cooking, a new culture, a new religion, different clothes, new traditions and social beliefs. I have to keep a balance of my own beliefs and traditions while also embracing his. To ignore the stares from people, and standing out at Punjabi gatherings as the only Gorri ( American) in the room. The struggle to define my own identity while also creating a masala or mixed culture for our daughter. If I had been like so many of my friends and married an American I would most likely not have these struggles. No new language, religion, culture, or food to learn.

I would not trade my masala marriage for anything in this world. I do not resent having to learn and adapt to our unique relationship in fact I find it beautiful and I feel blessed. Blessed to live in two beautiful cultures and traditions. Blessed to learn a whole new style of cooking and a whole new language.  I feel blessed to raise our daughter with this unique multi-cultural identity.

In summary a masala marriage is difficult at times and requires effort that not everyone is ready for. It requires a person to be able to adjust and adapt. To be able to see the beauty in their own culture as well as their partner’s culture. To have a strong sense of personal identity and an accepting nature! To know what is most important to you, and to stand firm in your beliefs while also understanding the needs of your partner’s beliefs. To not lose ones self and feel resentment, but instead come out stronger.

A masala relationship is truly beautiful but requires true effort as well.  The couple must have a strong sense of commitment to each other and a willingness to communicate openly and honestly.

It has been five years since we started on this Masala journey and we have both made many changes in our lives along the way. It is a process, and we will keep working on this relationship.

Why I Love Being Married to an Indian #3: The Food

So far in this series ” Why I Love Being Married to an Indian” I have written about my top 2 things I love the most:

1. The Holidays!:  https://mymasalalife.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/why-i-love-being-married-to-an-indian-1/

2. The Clothes!:  https://mymasalalife.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/why-i-love-being-married-to-an-indian-2-the-clothes/

 

Now here is my third addition to the series: THE FOOD!!!

So many yummy choices to choose from!!!

I am not alone in my love for Indian Food. According to an article I read in the New York times, there are over  8,000 Indian restaurants in the United States alone! It is an incredibly popular genre of food especially in places that have high levels of Indian immigration. The highest density of Indian restaurants are in California and New York, but you can find them almost everywhere. I completely understand why this food is so popular! Indian Food is Delicious!!!! 

Relative Distribution of Indian Restaurants in the United States

Most people enjoy Indian Food because of the rich flavors, creative uses of vegetables, and wonderful curries and sauces. Indian food is a wonderful choice for both meat eaters and vegetarians alike. Whenever I dine with Vegans and Vegetarians, Indian food is almost always a safe option for all of our dinning needs.

I love the fact that by marrying into the Indian culture I have had the great privileged to learn a whole new wonderful style of cooking!

I cook Indian food for my family about four times a week. The other days of week we eat a mixture of foods ( American, Italian, Mexican, Chinese). I make mainly North Indian Punjabi Food, but I also love trying out other types of Indian food as well !

Here is a number of reasons why Indian food is awesome!

This is Butter Paneer, a super creamy dish made with homemade cheese, so yummy

1. Delicious:  Indian food is never boring! I have never had an Indian dish that was plain or bland! All the food is an expert balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy! The rich sauces go great with plain rice and flat bread.  

This is Saag, which is made from Spinach and mustard greens! It is so tasty and so good for you!

2. Vegetables: Indian dishes make even the most basic vegetables interesting and yummy! Carrots,  peas, potatoes, Okra, eggplant, spinach and so many others become wonderful tasty dishes worthy of a main course. When I was growing up vegetables were a boring side, now they are interesting and exciting. 

Simple garbanzo beans can become delicious!

3. Cooking Indian food is often cheaper : I like to budget, and I am always trying to find new ways to decrease my spending. Cooking Indian food saves me a lot of money. I cook a lot of died beans like garbanzo beans (chanas), lentils (dal) , red beans ( rajma) , and black eyed peas ( Rangi). I use the pressure cooker and it cooks these beans in about 15 minutes or less. A one dollar bag of beans becomes a meal for the whole family that is nutritious and inexpensive. The wonderful indian gravy’s made of onion, chilies, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and spices makes these dishes so yummy and so cost effective while being incredible healthy! 

My husband helping me trim all the greens for Saag! never thought this much green would taste so good!

4. Healthy and Balanced: If you avoid too many of the tasty Indian fried foods and yummy sweets, Indian food can be very balanced and gives you good sources of fiber, vegetarian sources of protein, and vitamins. 

Ginger: Present in most curries helps in digestion and is high in antioxidants that fight cancer

Turmeric, miracle spice!

Turmeric (Haldi): Also present in most curries is a miracle spice that is known as a powerful anti inflammatory, has been used in weight loss and treatments of cancer and arthritis. 

Lentils ( Dal) a staple in many Indian households is a wonderful food that fills so many nutritional requirements. 1 cup of dal is %36 of needed daily iron,% 62 fiber, %35 protein and low in calories! 

Nasreen eating Indian food at the Gurdwara!

I still love the food I grew up with, but I feel really blessed to be able to learn the art of Indian cooking! Indian cooking really is an art! These recipes are passed down for generations! The perfect blend of spices and tastes! I love cooking Samosa,Paranthas, Butter Chicken, rasmalai, Chanas, Aloo Subzi, momos and so many other dishes. My daughter gets to grow up eating Mexican, American, Indian, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Greek and everything else in between. Food really makes life more interesting and by marrying my husband I inherited a whole new set of traditions. What can I say,  I love my Masala life!

If you are interested in some of my Masala recipes here is a link to a few of them:

https://mymasalalife.wordpress.com/category/masala-cooking/

 

 

Why I love Being Married to an Indian #2: The Clothes

My first ever Salway Kamiz given to me by my best friend

Its hard to see but I made this suit. This was before I went to India and got some made. It was a simple white one!

The shops have so many fabrics and designs! You simple buy the fabric and for a low cost in India the suit will be made for you just as you like it by a tailor! So many options, this curvy girl was amazed!

I love Indian clothes! When I met and married my husband a whole new world of Punjabi suits, chunis, Indian Jewelry, Tiikas, Bindis and Anarkali dresses. All these new options opened up in front of my eyes. I have never tied a Sari but I would like to sometimes. I have mostly worn Punjabi suits and Anarkali dresses.  Suits come in so many colors and designs!  All custom made, you just pick the fabric and the style and it is made to your size and shape. The shops holding all the designs are huge! No worrying about getting the size right, you can literally have any of the patterns, fabrics, and colors you like.

I love how chunnis flow down!

This was so refreshing for a plus size girl like me.  I was so used to going to a store in the USA and being so disappointed by a lack of clothes in my size on the shelf. If the American store did have my size it was usually shapeless clothes that made us curvy girls look even bigger.  I was in heaven shopping in India . I looked to my sister in law who was shopping with me and I was in shock. “ I can pick anyone I want and it will fit me?!, Are you sure!” , She was like yeah! It was amazing!!

simple cotton suit for hot summer days!

A Suit can also be worn with a sweater if it is cold or too tight hehe

Not to pat myself of the back or anything but I look cute in suits. I am what you call curvy, so most jeans and shirt outfits make me look too sectioned off. Punjabi suits make me look slimmer and they are just so glorious and comfortable!

Me in an Anarkali dress!

Punjabi suits are called Salwar Kameez , but most people just say suit. A traditional suit is made with a long decorated tunic top. This can be any fabric from cotton to silk. Some suits are simple for the house others are more decorated and are called party wear. They come will all kinds of embellishments from embroidery, to mirror work, beads, and all kinds of shinny accents. The length of the tunic varies. Some people like it long and some like it shorter, but it almost always covers the butt. The tailor can custom design the neck line and back. Some are made to zip up for that fitted look others have a low neck line in the back to show a little skin! Anarkalis dresses are also popular. They are more expensive and often have netting in the design. They flow like a dress.

My Salwar is Patiala style with the pleated look

The pants worn under the suit is called a salwar. There are two main types, fitted or pleated. The fitted ones are Pajami pants. These look great under longer suits or Anarkali dresses. They look especially nice if you have thin legs. The more traditional style of salwar is called Patiala style. This is named after Patiala a city in Punjab India, where my husband’s family is originally from before they moved to Chandigargh. This type of salwar is my favorite. The fabric is gathered at the ankles, and gives it a pleated look. The Salwar is tied with a draw string.

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I love bindis, the little jewel between my eyes

Traditionally a chunni also called dupatta ( long scarf) is warn with the suit. This can be drape in all sorts of manners, or can be worn to cover the head. I used to hate wearing a chunni, because I had issues keeping it up and it kept slipping. Then I learned the beauty of pinning it in place with safety pins, and now it is quite easy to manage. Chunnis are great because they serve so many purposes and they are beautiful. So lets say you don’t want  your tummy to show, you just drape it the right way and boom you look stunning! They are also great for breast feeding moms. Your wearing it anyway and in public you can just drape the really thin material over your child for privacy and they don’t get to hot. This helped me a lot in India while we were visiting. I have used mine for covering my face for going on the motorcycle on dusty polluted days! My husband told me a story about how one day him and his mom were traveling by rickshaw and they went threw a swarm of bees and his mom put her chunni around them and they didn’t get stung, and the driver did. You can use it to keep the sun out of your face, or even in a tight stop wipe your child’s face. I love the fact that when you are wearing a suit you are always ready to go to Gurdwara, because you have the scarf  with you to cover your head .

Ready for motorcycle ride through Chandisgargh, the many uses of a chunni

Ready for motorcycle ride through Chandisgargh, the many uses of a chunni

 

 

My Mother in law giving me the beautiful jewelry set it was quite an honor to be wearing such history!

Nasreen styling in her suit

My bangles

I also love Indian jewelry. When we went to India my mother in law gave me a beautiful set of jewelry. It had been passed down several generations of family from daughter in law to daughter in law. It included a beautiful gold ring, necklass, earings, and beautiful 24k Tikka. The Tikka is my favorite, its is the jewelry that is attached to you hair and goes down to you forehead. I also love all the matching bangles you can buy to match all the Indian suits. My husband loves to arrange them for me in interesting and beautiful designs. It is just something that he does for me, mixing the different ones into a beautiful design.

Over all I just love Indian clothes and I always look forward to Indian Party’s and going to the Gurdwara so I can wear my beautiful suits. I find that unlike so many other cultures that are shedding their traditional clothes for jeans and shirts, there are an overwhelming amount of women in northern India who still very much prefer Indian clothes! These women wear suits nearly every day, and I don’t blame them. The clothes are beautiful, comfortable, and totally unique and stylish! I am so glad I have the opportunity to learn about and wear these beautiful clothes. IMG_8499