When I first got married, people often said that my husband and I should have our own reality show. I admit, how we worked through cultural differences was often quite funny.
My husband is Indian. A Kashmiri Pandit from the Indian side of the LOC (Line of Control), to be exact. I met him while I was working in India for Amazon. The company sent me to Hyderabad in 2005 to help open a new office–the first Amazon-owned customer service center in India. Previous to that time, Amazon had only worked with outsourcing companies. This was the dawn of a new era when Amazon would be in a foreign country and run things in their image rather than someone else’s. I was honored to be a part of it.
I arrived in Hyderabad after a harrowing trip through Paris. Twenty minutes into my flight from Paris to Hyderabad, the plane started smoking. There’s nothing like seeing flight attendants running down the aisles with fire extinguishers to make you feel safe and comfortable while 30,000+ feet in the air. My immediate reaction was to lay my head against the seat in front of me and chant, “Om Kali Maa, Maha Kali.” (I had been a devotee of Kali since seeing her in a dream as a teenager; this fact made the trip to India even more emotional and spiritual for me–although it was supposed to be all about work).
Finally the decision was made to turn the plane around and try to figure out what caused the smoke. After six hours of trying to stay awake in the Charles DeGaulle airport, the airline finally decided to cancel the flight. After an aggravating weekend in Paris, the urge to return to the United States, and bursting into tears on the side of the road, I finally made it onto a flight that SAFELY arrived in Hyderabad. Jai Maa indeed.
Since I was in India for work, the first two months were spent doing just that–nothing but work–well, except for the occasional tourist or shopping trip. After weeks of all-day office work and evening conference calls with people in the U.S., I needed some downtime. My co-workers and I decided to take a weekend trip to Bangalore (a place that has become my favorite city in India, although Hyderabad will always have a special place in my heart).
During this weekend trip, I went to a get-together for a Bangalore teammate’s birthday. At the party, I met Deepak, the man who would later become my husband. He offered to show me around Bangalore, and we had the best time ever. My favorite memory is of meditating in front of the largest statue of Shiva in all of India. It was an epic experience.
Deepak and I kept in touch after I left Bangalore. We even saw each other again as I made other trips to Bangalore and he visited Hyderabad. But I had to leave. After six months, I was to return back to my life in the U.S. Neither one of us wanted to be apart. It was with these strong feelings that Deepak asked me to marry him, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Well, not exactly. The immigration process is a nightmare for people in love, but I’ll save that for another post.
Deepak finally arrived in the U.S. in February of 2007. That trip would be the first time he had traveled outside of India. It was culture shock to say the least. Although we both spoke English, those cultural nuances would often cause misunderstandings. Like the time he told my nephew to put the groceries in the dicky. Saying this to a teenage American boy was definitely cause for twelve-year-old-type innuendo and laughter.
For me, there was the month where on separate occasions, he basically called me a homely fat cow. Let me explain.
When he stated that I was fat, I was still in that American frame of mind that immediately took that as an insult, as a negative criticism of my looks. To him, it was just a statement of fact, not a judgment on my appearance. To him, a person can be skinny or fat, which has nothing to do with one’s beauty. I understood that. Still, it took me a long time to see things his way when it came to that perspective. I still count this initial misunderstanding and later clarity as a huge contributor to my lifelong process of body acceptance. For that, I thank him, even when I wanted to smack him when he had first said it.
Then there was the time he called me homely. I immediately took offense. To me, homely meant “not pretty, plain or unattractive.” To him it meant “being familiar with the home”–in other words, a Domestic Goddess. I definitely enjoyed that much more than the fat comment.
Lastly, he called me a cow. I nearly blew a gasket! He explained that he worshipped cows, and for him to make the comparison, it was like calling me a Goddess. I’m still not sure, even after almost nine years of marriage, if he was being honest or backtracking when he realized his faux pas. Still, I’ll accept any time someone wants to call me a Goddess. And I definitely made sure to tell him to NEVER, EVER call an American woman a cow unless he wants to be slapped.
I could go on, but I’ll leave that to a different post. Right now I’ll just say that I love India, and I found love IN India. I’ll just say that I’m glad I live with an open mind and respect others’ differences. And we make beautiful babies.