Category Archives: Family

Time to Face the Music: Tell the Parents!

I fell in love. I fell in love hard. After a few years of dating and multiple breakups in between we were finally together. However, even in the midst of these ups and downs I knew I needed to tell my parents. They didn’t need to know the exact details and certainly didn’t need to know all the details, but I figured they needed to know.  So, my parents have been in the loop regarding the seriousness of my relationship for the very beginning.

Within a few months of officially dating I told my parents I was serious about Shreemati and that I loved her very much. In fact my sister and mother both talked to Shreemati during this time. I felt the communication needed to be open and I needed to be up front with everybody. I needed Shreemati to know that I was for real and that I’d be willing to deal with the consequences. I needed my parents to start imagining this future and start dealing with it sooner rather than later.

As things progressed, Shreemati and I eventually visited Nepal.  It was an official introduction trip. She met everybody and everybody met her. It was a great time, however, later that year we broke up. We still had some issues to work out.  Things were not as smooth as we had thought. I didn’t tell my parents of this breakup. I didn’t feel it was necessary for them to know right away, but I was planning to tell them if it became “permanent”. I really felt like things would work itself out and we’d be back together again. I also figured that news of this breakup would affect their support later.

I bring  this up because I am reading about a lot of relationships where the guy hasn’t told his parents and the years are just ticking by. I know everyone’s situation is different. But I will say this, there does come a point where a man has to be a man and talk to the parents like a man and face the consequences. Its pretty plain and simple.

Dragging it out and just kicking the can doesn’t help in the long term. If you love her and you’re worked out all your issues (and you’re already living with her), then its time to deal with the consequences.  I don’t think its fair to the woman or to yourself to keep dragging.  Afterall its not like you just woke up one day and realized there would be consequences. You knew there would be consequence for  becoming involved with  a Western woman for the day you left South Asia.

One of my mangers gave me a book called “Eat That Frog”. It is a self hep book that provides tips on how to better manage your time and get things done.  The idea being that you do the most uncomfortable task first thing in the morning. That way you can enjoy the rest of the day doing the stuff you like to do. Similarly, once you’ve been dating for a year and you’re serious its time to eat the frog, tell the parents and enjoy the relationship.

I know it’s not easy. Believe me. I’ve been through it. But let me tell you this, even the most hard core parents will eventually bless your union once the grand-kids arrive.  South Asian parents (regardless of how traditional) will melt their hearts out when they see your offspring. So, it’s only bad for a few years!

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Festive May Went By Quickly

May is a very busy month for me and it’s not surprising why this blog was not attended to properly. May started with the Nepali Mothers Day then the US Mothers Day. In our home both carry weight. Then it was Shreemati’s birthday. We celebrated that with a husband wife road trip.

Then Thuli turned five! It’s hard to imagine that the little 6 lbs 7.5 ounc 21 incher is now already five and getting ready for kindergarten this Fall. We had a sleep over for her friends and that was hectic for me and my wife – but very enjoyable at the same time.

Finally as May turned to June we celebrated Kanchi’s first birthday! She’s crawling everyone and is become ever ready to walk. Keeping everyone around the house on their toes as she gets into everything.

With all these birthday parties Maili has been practising singing “happy birthday” to herself. Her’s isn’t for a while – thank goodness!

So, now we have somewhat of a breather. That should free up sometime for this blog. Looking forward to it very much.

Unwanted Girls of the Rich and Educated

I just read a heart breaking article on the BBC about female foeticide. This is the practice of aborting a baby once you find out its going to be a girl. This has already caused havoc in the girl-boy ratio in China (coupled with the one child policy), and India is not that far behind. You think given the poverty and the deeply ingrained preference for boys would be a large factor and it is, but this article mentions something very disturbing:

“In rural Bihar, information on sex selection is not easily accessible. Also, the poor cannot afford to pay for the ultrasound or the termination of pregnancy,” he says.

Ms Sinha says the problem of female foeticide is seen more in the middle class and affluent families and urban areas which have access to technology.

“In cities what we see is a daughter who is 16 and then a son who is six – so what happened in between?”

Yes, it’s the rich and affluent who are doing it more than the poor. The RICH AND EDUCATED!  This just makes me very upset. I would have thought with some poverty programs and education that we could defeat this thing, but when the rich and educated and doing it, then we have a larger problem.

Just plain evil!

Mothers Day in Nepal – May 3, 2011

Mother and Child by Araleya
Mother and Child, a photo by Araleya on Flickr.

Just a reminder to all you folks out there who many not be thinking about this right now, but Mothers Day this year falls on Tuesday May 3, 2011. There is still time to send your mom something for this special day. I’d recommend Thamel.com (I get nothing out of making this recommendation).

At minimum don’t forget to call her.

Deep Conversation at a Loud Gathering

This past Saturday afternoon we gathered the kids, piled into our car and went to the Nepali New Year celebration. We try to participate in these types of events as much as possible and we were all excited. We ended up having a good time. The girls loved the dancing, the deserts and the balloons.  My wife and I enjoyed reconnecting with some people we hadn’t seen in a while. We live in a pretty big metropolis and the Nepalese people are scattered all over. The ones we seem to get along with live the farthest (figure that one)!

I ended up having a pretty interesting discussion with one of the elders. This gentleman has been in the US for over 31 years. He helped found the local Nepali organization and is a very well-educated man. He has grown children in their thirties and of course all were raised in the United States. He made the observation that it’s hard to get his kids to think about marriage and getting married. Only his oldest (who is almost 40) is married he said. He said he has seen this issue with other families as well and is quite puzzled by it.

As we talked more about this phenomenon I felt like I had some insights. I think that the second generation grows up very confused about marriage.  Most in the first generation had arranged marriages and have very strong ties to that mindset. To the second generation  arranged marriage is basically an alien concept. As much as they may understand the system and the structure they never feel that it’s for them. (I could be wrong here, so jump in with your thoughts if you have a different view.)

Add to this their natural impulse (as Western people mind you) to seek out the “normal” love marriage and they grow up extremely confused.  As they age they have to balance the desire to please themselves vs. pleasing their parents. I think most just choose to forget about it and wait. After a point of waiting (past 30), they begin to become comfortable with a love marriage and slowly start to venture out and settle down with their partner of choosing. At this point the parents are way past worrying about this and just let it go.

I don’t know what this gentleman thought of my ideas but he certainly hadn’t thought of it that way.  It caused him to think a bit but it was loud and the music as pretty distracting so we didn’t dwell on these deep thoughts too long. We never talked afterwards, but hopefully I shed some light on why his kids are refusing to marry or even discuss marriage.

What do you think? Are you a second generation child of parents who had arranged marriages? Share your thoughts.

My Advice: Don’t Marry Outside the Culture

A few years ago my cousin, who was finishing up his undergrad in California mentioned to me that he had been in a relationship with one of his classmates. He said the relationship had been a secret for many years but he wanted to get some advice since the woman in question was American.  We had an interesting conversation and I was very eager to listen. He described the type of person his girlfriend was, he gave me some background information about her family and also discussed their possible future together.

At one level I was kind of excited that finally another member of my family was seeking to marry outside of the culture and deal with all that goes with that adventure. But there was another part of me that was very unsure and cautious. Perhaps it was the older cousin complex kicking in, perhaps it was my own insecurities coming into play, but the whole thing left me kind of perplexed about my own reaction to this news.

A few weeks later we had another conversation around this topic and towards the end of it, he asked me for some advice on what I thought he should do. Until this point it was mostly him talking and me listening with a few comments/suggestions here and there. When he asked me my advice, I felt I had to be honest. I told him about the complexities of any marriage and adding in different cultures, customs and religions made it even more complex. I told him that adding unknown variables to an equation only makes the solution more complex (we both have math backgrounds).  I think he got the picture of where I was headed.

Later on I had a conversation about this with Shreemati and she asked me what advice I had given my cousin. I told her that I felt that he should not marry outside of the culture, it was not a good fit for him and that it didn’t seem like the right thing to do. I went off about family, culture, identity etc.. As the conversation continued my position solidified even further. Now, I was against Nepali boys marrying outside of the culture and caste, full stop. No more discussion.

To be continued…

The Food Question

In the late 1990s when I had been dating Shreemati for just a few years (most of it long distance), I went to visit a friend. He had been married to an American woman for over 10 years and had a few kids as well. When I arrived at his house he asked me to enter through the side door that led directly to the kitchen. So I went to the side door and knocked. He answered and let me in.

While walking to the side door I was wondering why he was asking me to come by a different entrance. As I stepped into his kitchen I saw that he was in the middle of making a wonderful Nepali meal. It smelled awesome. And therein was the problem, it smelled.

He had closed the door leading to the dining room. His wife and all the kids were upstairs. He explained to me that his wife did not like Nepali food and could not tolerate the smell of the food. So, when he cooked he closed the door to the dining room, turned on as many fans as possible and his wife and kids would be upstairs with their doors shut as well. I didn’t know what to say, so I just went along. We ate and had a great time together. A little while later one of his older kids showed up.  He was hungry and started to eat with us. It turns out the little man did enjoy some Nepali cooking. But the whole thing felt like we were in some bunker, enjoying some forbidden fruit.

After the moment passed and I’ve reflected on this event quite a bit. The main reason being that I was very serious about Shreemati and food can be quite an issue in a relationship involving two different cultures. I know an Indian-Chinese couple here in town that cook separately. She cooks and eats her Chinese food and he cooks and eats his Indian food.  I can’t imagine the strain that would put on a relationship. Just like I can’t fathom why some couples maintain separate checking accounts, I can’t really get my mind around two different kitchens or, “bhanchas” as they say in Nepal.

To be honest with you food is important to me. Let me rephrase that, eating good Nepali food on a regular basis is important to me. My mother is a fantastic cook and I’m not saying because I’m her son.  All my relatives, neighbors and associates in our little corner of Nepal loved her cooking. Her “aaloo ko achar” was sought after by many, not to forget her “khasi” (mutton) etc. So, it many ways I’m very spoiled.

Very early on in our relationship I was always feeling out Shreemati on the food issue. Would she eat dal, bhat? Could she eat it on a regular basis? I found that she could but then as the relationship became more serious, I wondered if she would cook Nepali food, and could she do it well over a long-term time horizon. I mean sure I could cook, she wouldn’t ben the only one cooking at all times, but there is something about being able to share this skill or resoponsilbyt or whatever you want to call it, with your partner.

Honestly I didn’t know the answer to these questions when we got married. However, over the near decade we’ve been married I’ve discovered that she does indeed enjoy Nepali cuisine. She has learned to cook it, share it and enjoy it with me. In fact last night I came home to a house smelling like my home growing up. There was dal, bhat, tarkari, masu (chicken) and even some tomato achar. And it tasted fantastic!  Not only that the kids were all excited and around the table. And my heart jumped with warmth and love. After a long tiring day we all sat around the table, all five of us eating a typical Nepali dinner. I looked at my wife and just adored her for making such an effort to reach deep into my heart.  I’m so glad I don’t have to hide in the kitchen to cook  something that warms my heart and eat a lonely meal afterwards. I have an awesome Shreemati!

Image shared under Creative Commons license via Flickr (username magical-world)