Imagine a loud social Punjabi girl falling in love with a docile introverted Tamilian boy. This was the story of our marriage but it surprisingly didn’t have the “2 states” drama like Chetan Bhagat’s novel. The families readily agreed to the alliance and it was sealed with a lavish Punjabi wedding in Delhi.
As they say the wedding is only the tip of the iceberg, the real journey starts after it. There are a number of differences that strike only after one starts living together. The Tamilian husband wanted to stay home every weekend after a hectic work week and enjoy simple home cooked food. The Punjabi wife on the other hand, wanted to dress up and try a new restaurant every week. They stayed home one weekend and the wife was miserable. They went out to party the next and husband was too exhausted to go to work on Monday morning. Over time, they came up with an arrangement where both were happy – Saturdays at home and Sunday’s outside.
The concept of time and punctuality varies across cultures. One day an invitation to a friend’s house party came for 8:30 pm. The Punjabi wife insisted on following Delhi standard time and reaching an hour later at 9:30. Hearing this, the Tamilian husband was bewildered arguing that 8:30 meant 8:30 and they should turn up on time. Since they stayed far, they started early, reached the friend’s house at 8:20 pm, waited in the car for 10 minutes so as “not to be early”. They rang the doorbell but there was no answer. They tried a few times but with no luck and finally called up the friend. She said “Are you here already! Sorry I just got home and am in the shower! Please can you come by 9 pm?” So they went back to the car and waited. The Punjabi wife, thrilled at being proven right gloated while her husband sat bemused wondering what happened to “being on time?” Hence, going forward, she was in charge of when to go to a party (late) and when to return (one of the last ones).
Based in Gurgaon, the vivacious Punjabi girl successfully punjabified the Tamilian boy over time. Being surrounded by her Punjabi relatives filled the gaps with drinking many pegs of scotch under the pressure of “You have one drink only with enemies” and a marathon feast on every visit. His mother in law’s famous meat-chawal, grilled fish tikka and mutton keema sucked out the remains of any Tamilian blood in him and totally transformed him. So this is the way things were – the way the girl wanted – for the first 7 years of marriage.
Suddenly one day, their life was uprooted from Gurgaon and they shifted base to Chennai. This was due to the husband’s work and the wife felt as misfit as SRK amidst Deepika’s family in Chennai Express.
Her first experience was interaction with a house broker who showed houses with a wash basin in the middle of the dining room, proximity to the temple and no servant quarter. After tedious scouting and lots of effort they found something they liked. An apartment close to the beach, a big attraction for any Delhiite!
However, there were many things to be done around the house to get it in shape. With broken Tamil of the husband in a distinct Hindi accent (which was often made fun of by his office colleagues) and lack of knowledge of the local language by the Punjabi wife, it was indeed challenging. But soon the wife mastered the art of sign language with broken English thrown in to get her work done. In fact the time she learnt “Tamil teriyada” (I don’t know Tamil), she found it easier to get around.
Being based in Chennai also meant being surrounded by husband’s relatives. It was the Punjabi wife’s turn now to get tamilified. All these years she had said we don’t get to spend enough time with your extended family and so God had finally given her just what she wanted!
They welcomed her happily and made her feel extremely comfortable. But some cultural differences were evident as she got the hang of things. Like leaving her shoes outside the house every time she went to someone’s house. She recalled Carrie Bradshaw’s statement from one of her favourite sitcoms Sex and the City, “I can’t take off my shoes, they complete my look!” Soon she stopped matching her shoes to her outfits and happily mingled with the family.
The first time the whole family got together, it was a pot luck dinner. She wondered what 5 different families would make besides idli and dosa. But how wrong was she? There was lemon rice …and tamarind rice ….and not to forget the famous curd rice to add variety. Hot chips were a part of the meal and while she was always told by her mom to stay away from them as they were junk – here everyone from 8 to 80 was happily gorging on them. So, she had her first taste of lemon rice with chips. Over time her taste buds took a liking to rice and now she teams it up with a variety of items and not only rajma and chole.
Their Hindi speaking son was greeted with blank stares when he spoke at school. Soon he picked up a few Tamil words and delivered them in his Hindi accent, much to the amusement of everyone around him.
The Tamil husband, Punjabi wife and hybrid son are now happily settled in Chennai for over 2 years. The son has idli-dosa every second day but the moment he claims his favourite food is rajma-chawal; his Punjabi mom does a little Bhangra in her head!
Chennai is the oldest city, with lots to offer – a delicious variety of food, welcoming people, beautiful temples and a rich cultural heritage. The city of Chennai has embraced them with all its heart and warmth exuberates in the weather and it’s people. Looking back, what started as a culturally mixed marriage has turned out be a great cocktail. Appreciating and assimilating differences truly opens life to far greater experiences than living in similarity.