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Having An Interracial Relationship In A South Asian Family
Four years ago, I met a boy. A boy who happened to be half Filipino and half Italian. A boy who was not Indian. And, let me tell you, it was confusing in itself. I grew up hearing my parents tell me that they wanted me to be with someone Indian, and I also assumed it was what I wanted because it would be easier. But he intrigued me so much, so I could not, and more importantly, would not write him off because he was not Indian. I wasn’t going to avoid the whole concept of an interracial relationship.
Fast forward a few months when it was time to tell my parents. I was terrified. I never hide things from my family, even if it means arguing until I get them to understand my viewpoint; it is how it’s always been. But, my parents surprised me! They were so on board, which I definitely didn’t expect. My mother said two things that resonated with me: one, that they trusted the woman I had grown up to be, and trusted my choices and judgment, and two, that they would rather me be with a wonderful guy who makes me happy even if he is not Indian. It was an emotional moment for me to witness my parents put my happiness above everything they had envisioned.
When the time came to discuss moving in together, my parents surprised me again. It is not unknown that living together before marriage is a big no-no for most of the Indian community. I kid you not, I felt like I was going to throw up the night I brought it up with my mom because I was certain I was going to hear a big, fat no. Yet, my parents took the same open-minded approach to address this step we were ready to take, and gave us their blessings even though it was so different from their own traditions.
As our relationship has progressed over the years, my parents have straddled the line of traditions in our Indian culture and those in American culture so well. Being in an interracial relationship inevitably comes with an abundance of question marks and many tough conversations. However, what has helped us the most is keeping an open line of communication with not only one another, but also our families.
The journey for the two of us has luckily been uncomplicated, and I attribute a large part of that to the deeper understanding Justin possesses being biracial and a product of an interracial marriage himself. We had to discuss our views on religion, for me Hinduism and for my fiancé, Catholicism, cultural traditions, and how we want to assimilate them into our future family’s lives early on. Luckily, we were on the same page about how we wanted to face these issues, and our families have always been supportive of how we want to tackle them, too.
It is not easy being in an interracial relationship, but then again, it is not easy being in any relationship. There are definitely many extra layers to address and peel away, and so many heavy conversations to tackle. Yet, at the root of it, he and I share the same core values and understand the vision we have for our lives together. The support of both of our families has made it easier to figure out the issues that have stumped us.
I think what has made the biggest difference for me was not hiding anything from my family in those beginning days and letting them be a part of this from day one. They were able to get to know Justin and witness us grow from that point forward. I believe this helped them see how beneficial this relationship was for me. To be honest, I think this helped us grow as a family even more when they put their faith in me and my judgment.
I have loved every aspect of this journey, and learning about Justin’s Filipino roots, as much as I have loved teaching him about my Indian ones. Finding parallels in our roots has also served us well, like realizing how similar Indian, Filipino, and Italian family dynamics are. When our families met, they all clicked instantly, because they all share similar family values. Learning how to cook various Filipino foods and desserts is one of my favorite parts of our different backgrounds! By the same token, introducing Justin to Indian food and converting him into an avid chai drinker gives me so much joy too. We will never run out of things to teach or introduce each other to. Our future kids will have a unique upbringing, and that is the beauty of our multicultural roots being intertwined.
Written by: Harshini Sahani is an incoming Obstetrics and Gynecology resident physician who resides in New Jersey with her Filipino-Italian fiancé and their fur-baby, Ollie. She was born in Delhi and raised in America after moving here as an infant with her family. She is also a food blogger, stylist and photographer as well as recipe developer and content creator who enjoys cooking and baking as a way to express herself. Harshini absolutely loves to create recipes that are inspired by her Indian roots and that give twists to both Indian and American classics. Follow her on Instagram @mintforthesoul to check out her recipes.