A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for December, 2015

I for Integrate

Posted by Pepper on December 5, 2015

I’ve often written about the kind of fierce rejection I faced from Mint’s family in the beginning of our relationship. Getting them to accept our relationship was a long and painful journey. His relatives could not get over the fact that Mint had the audacity to fall in love, let alone fall in love with a ‘Northie’, a caste-less, cultureless, immoral girl from the dreadful city of Mumbai. That is really the perception some of them continue to have of me. I don’t bow down to their patriarchal ways, I mostly wear jeans and tees and I don’t speak Tamil. I am clearly an outcast. If they find out that I actually enjoy some scotch, bare my legs and wear tiny shorts, use abusive language, they would probably banish me from their world, but let’s not get there.

Right from our first official meeting, I had to bear the brunt of their rigid views. When I say ‘their’, please note, I am talking about Mint’s extended family. His parents are far more reasonable and compassionate. Unfortunately, my MIL’s prime desire has been to see me integrate into the extended family. She told me this repeatedly, that I had to take the effort and break the ice. I would have to work hard to make them like me.

I tried a fair bit in the beginning. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, because I had a huge language barrier. Also, I had no idea about the kind of expectations people had from me. The customs and traditions were alien to me. The first few times I visited homes of relatives, I was utterly lost and simply followed some of the women blindly. Before we left, most of the hosts would take me to a corner and offer me a tiny jar of vermilion. Not knowing what to do with it, I just dabbed some bit of it on to my forehead. After some frantic sign language, I was made to understand that I had to smear the red powder onto my thali (mangalsutra). Most women scowled at my lack of knowledge and understanding. I knew winning them over would not be easy. But really, how could they fault me for not being familiar with a custom that was unheard of in the environment I grew up in.

I still harboured some hope of bonding with the few people who did speak English. My first encounter however, served as a wake up call. In our first meeting, I walked up to Baldie (one of the eldest and most respected figures in Mint’s extended family). I knew he was conversant in English, so I smiled at him and asked him how he was. To my horror, he glared at me angrily and turned his head away. I couldn’t believe anybody could be this rude and insensitive. Instead of allowing myself to flare up, I calmed myself down and tried some more. Each time I talked to him, he would turn his head away and blatantly ignore me. In a room full of people, this was humiliating.

Sadly, he wasn’t an exception. I was beginning to hate visiting these relatives, because each time I was made to feel very unworthy of respect. The women would jeer at my inability to string together petals of jasmine, my inability to draw a kolam and most importantly, my inability to speak to Tamil.  A lot of the men would turn away each time I tried to talk to them. Some of them would give me curt replies and shower me with scowls. The first question Mint’s chittappa asked me was ‘You know Tamil?’. This was on the second day after our marriage and he very well knew I could not speak the language. When I replied in the negative, he spat out a, ‘Then waat you know?’.  I chose to ignore it, but the disgust and the snooty sense of entitlement in his tone is etched in my memory.

I thought I could connect better with the younger generation. I started to ping a couple of Mint’s cousins on Gtalk. I was right. They responded fairly well. I was in the process of becoming friends with one of his cousins, K. We would chat often. A couple of months later, I heard K make a statement that totally put me off. She said she was terrified of letting the others in the family know that she spoke to me. It left me shocked. Was the younger generation forbidden from mingling with me? So much so that the people who spoke to me wanted to keep our interactions in the dark?

What was my fault? Why did I deserve to be treated like this? They had already created enough number of scenes in the past. Here I was, trying to be more forgiving of the rejection, trying hard to break barriers and make them see the person I was, and all I was getting in return was a slap on my face? Only because I belonged to a vastly different region, background and community? And then it struck me. His family did not want to allow me to integrate. For one, they didn’t think I was worthy enough of them. For two, they wanted to keep their kids safe from my corrupt influence. I was seen as a threat, an adulterant.

All along, Mint couldn’t figure out why I was even trying to bond with those people. He told me they would never accept me, no matter how hard I tried. It was probably their way of putting across the message that there will be consequences if you dare to deviate from the norms and marry outside the community. That day, I decided to ignore the jerks and focus on the few good people. Yes, his family does have a few people who are very welcoming. These people always give me warm smiles, although we don’t speak a common language. We visit their homes and they shower me with love, gesture me to eat more, always present me with a little something when we are on our way out. There is a genuine fondness we share.

To date, this is how things are between us. Majority of his family is unwelcoming of me. A handful of them are warm and I make sure I reciprocate in my own ways. This time when my in-laws visited, we got around to talking about this subject. My MIL pointed out that I still haven’t integrated into the extended family, although it has been over 5 years. It sounded like an accusation to me and it made me blow my top (inside my head, as usual). I decided to be honest with her. I told her I was no longer going to be making any attempts. Those people treated me like crap. How long could I go unscathed? I didn’t deserve it and I wasn’t willing to put up with it anymore.

My MIL seemed quite taken aback by my honesty. She seemed to sympathize, but offered a different view point. She said if I continued to try relentlessly, one day they would soften. I told her in all honesty that they weren’t worth it to me. I would rather shower my attention, love and time on people who deserved it. At this point, we realised we couldn’t see eye to eye and decided to not pursue the subject anymore. I know for a fact that she wasn’t pleased with my ideas, but I am glad she was made aware of how I felt.

After all, any kind of integration needs some openness from both ends. If an opening doesn’t exist and you try to walk on to the other side, you will only hit the wall.

Posted in Lessons I learn | 19 Comments »

H for Hope

Posted by Pepper on December 3, 2015

I had all intentions of using the letter H to write about my Hyderabad trip. Unfortunately, the recent chain of events has left me quite distressed. I am talking about the incessant downpour and floods in Chennai. I am sure most people know that the city is going through some very tough times. It is practically battling to survive.

We got through the in-laws with great difficulty yesterday. They had been without electricity for a while. Thankfully, the water had not yet entered their home (last evening), but only the last step was not submerged. They also told us the level was rising rapidly, so the house could get flooded anytime. Their plan was to stay put on the first floor. Unfortunately, we got reports that said that the water level had risen up to the first floor in many of the houses in the area they live in. This worried us, because beyond the first floor, they have nowhere to go. This is when I wished they lived in a high rise apartment instead of a one floor bungalow.

All communication lines have been dead. We haven’t been able to reach them since yesterday. We hope and pray they are safe and not in any dire trouble. As of now, heavy rains continue to lash the city. The news continues to be grim. Here’s hoping and praying that everybody in the city gets some much needed relief soon.


Posted in Chaos | 11 Comments »

G for Goals

Posted by Pepper on December 2, 2015

2015 was a blur. The last month of the year is already here. For a change, the thought of a brand new year and a new beginning makes me feel excited and happy. I’ve laid out a list of simple goals I set out for 2016. Here they are:

  • Continue to go for walks
  • Include one other form of exercise every day
  • Laugh more
  • Bring in more variety for breakfast
  • Learn to feel less unsure of myself in a crowded room
  • Read more than what I did this year
  • Blog more than what I did this year
  • Worry less about the future
  • Change the bed sheets more often
  • Not feel conscious using lip colours
  • Continue using aroma therapy at home
  • Learn to invest in stocks
  • Take more pictures
  • Drink more water
  • Have coconut water more often
  • Utililse all clothes and outfits in my wardrobe
  • Moisturize my arms and legs regularly
  • Spend 2 minutes every day to deep breathe and connect with myself
  • Be more enthusiastic about celebrating occasions and festivals, other than Diwali and Christmas.
  • Call people home more often
  • Play more board games
  • Figure out my priorities in life
  • Try to do more for my angels, also known as my parents
  • Count my blessings before going to bed every night

Simple stuff, all very doable. I know my goals are not very well defined. But that is just how they are in my head. Just a hazy outline of what I would like to achieve. I am also not going to put undue pressure on myself to accomplish these. I want it to be more about a slow and gradual change. Let’s see how I fare. Have you set any personal goals for the next year?

Posted in Slices of life | 10 Comments »

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