The topic of intercultural relationships seems to be a popular one at the moment, particularly relationships between Indians and foreigners. Therefore, I thought I’d talk a bit more about my relationship, and how I find being married to an Indian guy.
We’ve been married for almost year now, so his family have gotten used to and accepted me. I get along great with his friends, and they in turn treat me really well. They appreciate me for appreciating their culture, and trying to fit in. They even find me and my bad Hindi amusing at times.
The biggest problem I have is with strangers’ reactions to our relationship.
The fact that I am married to an Indian is greeted with shock by many Indians. I can read the expressions on their faces. Usually, it’s something along the lines of “why would she choose to marry him?”, as if my husband isn’t good enough for me.
The situation isn’t helped by the fact that I’m taller than my husband. I’m quite tall by Western standards (175 centimetres/5 feet 9 inches), but I’m very tall by Indian standards. I’m way taller than a lot of Indian men. Normally, I would prefer to be with someone taller than myself, but love is blind!
The point that I’m getting to though, is that I unfortunately and frustratingly tend to get treated with more respect than my husband.
The way a person is treated in India is very much based on their position in society. In fact, upon meeting someone, the first thing that an Indian will usually do is determine that position, then act accordingly. That is one of the reasons why Indians ask so many intrusive questions, such as “what do your parents do?”, “have you been to college?”, “how much do you earn?” (yes, they really ask that!), “are you married?”, and “do you have children?”.
There is a general rule though, and it’s based on skin colour and gender. White men have top position in the pecking order, followed by white women, then Indian men, and lastly Indian women. In my experience, if I go out somewhere with a gora (white man), he will be the one that gets the attention from waiters, shop assistants, and Indians in general. If I go out with my husband, Indians will usually defer to me.
There have been so many times that I’ve had success complaining about something where my husband hasn’t. There have also been many times where a place has willingly opened its doors to me and my white skin, but has resisted letting him in. I’ve even managed to make an unreasonable traffic policeman behave properly by reprimanding him.
Although I try not let it bother me, it does upset me occasionally. I see my husband as my equal, and I wish that other people would as well. It’s not fair that he should be treated as second class in his own country.
For me, this is probably the hardest thing about being married to an Indian and living in India. Unlike adapting to my new surroundings, it’s not something that’s likely to get easier either. My husband says that it might improve once we have children and look like more of a family. Hopefully, it will. Let’s wait and see!