We actually lived through meeting my husbands family for the first time last week at my husband's cousins wedding. Yes, that's right, we survived it. Yes, we had our doubts. In the end, I'm still glad we went.
On the day we flew out, we experienced VERY HEAVY DELAYS due to inclement weather. Now, for those of you who have flown with a 4 year old (or any small child for that matter), you know that being delayed in an airport for 13 hours is pure HELL! Our connection was in Atlanta, which is a HUGE airport and there were so many people with delayed flights that there were no seats available and you could hardly even walk without constantly bumping into someone. We were stressed, tired and hungry. Our daughter had an upset stomach from the stress, all over her clothing. Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to pack extra clothing for her in the carry-on as well as wet wipes! Poor thing. We were so exhausted that my daughter and I used our carry-ons as pillows and laid down on the airport floor to sleep. One older gentleman told my husband that he had never seen a pregnant lady sleeping in the floor with her child in an airport in all his years of flying. He even offered me his seat, what a sweet man. I was so exhausted I couldn't even sit up in a chair and preferred the floor!
We finally reached our destination 14 hours later than we were originally supposed to. The airline (I won't say which one) lost our check-in luggage and we were without our things for another 15 hours. Therefore, we missed the grah shanti and mehendi that day as a result. It was probably best that things worked out that way since the grah shanti was in the family home and would have been even more awkward being in such close quarters with PIMIL for the first meeting. We slept most of the day and then traveled into a big desi shopping area of the city. We had masala dosa (my FAVORITE!), pav bhaji, and gulab jamun, purchased saree's, anarkali's, sherwani's and jewelry while we were there! It was a nice way to unwind from the traumatic trip there.
The wedding ceremony was at 9am the next morning. We purposely arrived a little late so that everyone could get calmed and settled before we came in. Our daughter was so excited and my FIL kept calling asking when we were coming. He met us at the door of the beautiful, HUGE white mandir (temple). The first thing he did was hug me and kiss me on the cheek and then take A. from my arms and hug and kiss her as well. The two of them were inseparable the entire weekend. He told me outside the mandir doors, with tears in his eyes, how thankful he was that I had decided to come and how proud he was of me, that I looked beautiful in my anarkali dress, 22k gold, mangalsutra and bindi. PIMIL's older brother also met us at the door and he was such a kind, sweet uncle. They then ushered us inside the mandir where we were swarmed by all my husband's aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends. Well, all except for PIMIL and my husbands sister. Yes, they were not so anxious to meet us. We were both actually surprised by his sisters reaction, she has been mostly supportive (at least over the phone) and now face to face was standing by Mommy Dearest. Interesting....
Then, my FIL (notice I've decided to no longer call him PAFIL at this point, he's been upgraded ;-) put his arms around PIMIL (notice this acronym hasn't changed ;-) and ushered her over to us. She stood there with a stern, sour look on her face and just looked at me. I really don't know what came over me (maybe pregnancy?) but I leaned down, since I'm about 12 inches taller than her, and actually hugged her. Yeah, I really don't know why I did that. She just stood there stiff as a board. All of PIMIL's brothers and sisters were coming up to me and telling me how happy they were to see me there and not to worry about PIMIL. Several of them seemed so concerned that I would think they were all nuts like her. One of his uncles said "We are not like that, OK. We don't care what color you are, we are accepting. We don't know what her problem is, she's just crazy." See, there you go, I'm not the only person who thinks she's crazy! They doted over our beautiful daughter and expressed their sadness that they had not known about her until now. Two of my husbands uncles were so upset they had tears running down their cheeks. I heard them tell my husband (in English-I think so I could hear the conversation) that he had always been their favorite nephew and that they were so hurt that he didn't feel comfortable telling them about what his mother was doing. My husband reiterated that she had forbidden any family to know about his wife or his daughter. They told him that they are also his family, never to forget that and that any problems he is having in the future they want him to feel comfortable sharing it with them, that they could have helped with this situation years ago. At the reception, my husband stood next to his mother and tried to hold her hand but she jerked it away. She also never spoke to him the whole time.
Before I go any further here, I would just like to tell you, all my readers, that you cannot know how much it meant to me to see that this wonderful boy that I fell in love with so many years ago, this absolutely wonderful husband of mine does actually come from a nice family. Unfortunately, the closest family members that I will ever be dealing with are his father, who does tend to be passive-aggressive and lets PIMIL wear the pants and control everything, but is a very nice, loving man. Then PIMIL, who is just completely looney-tunes. And there is my sister-in-law, who seems to be very much like her mother. She actually called the bride days before the wedding complaining that she didn't think it was right for them to invite us to the wedding without FIL and PIMIL's permission. Sounds like the apple didn't fall far from the tree there....
After the wedding we were treated to the most wonderful lunch at the temple. Then, we were invited by my husbands uncle to come back to their house for the evening with the rest of the family for pizza and snacks. Before arriving my husband says to me "Uncle and Auntie have a pretty big house, so stay close or you might get lost". I just thought he was joking until we pulled onto the property and I started laughing. I said "Is this a joke?" I lost count once inside but it was like a 20 bedroom mansion! This was no "house"! At that point I felt a little out of place but they quickly put me at ease once inside because they were very dear, sweet people. The other aunts and uncles also took PIMIL aside in the conference room of the home and talked to her about her behavior and how she had handled the situation poorly. Not sure it really helped, she never spoke to me the entire weekend and sat at every function with her arms crossed and a pout on her face like a 2 year old.
Once we were leaving the mansion everyone came to the door to see us off and our daughter ran up to my FIL and gave him a great big hug. Then she turns to my husband and says, "Daddy, where is your Mommy?". My husband points to her in the crowd and A. takes off running up to her and gives her a HUGE hug around her neck. That was pretty much the only time I ever saw a smile on PIMIL's face. And that's when things started to change towards our daughter. The next day at the reception PIMIL was getting A. mango lassi and pani puri and being very sweet to her. I must say I was happy to see that, even though I am still very cautious.
Aunts and Uncles were very upset to find out that we were staying in a hotel instead of with other family members so the last night of the trip we stayed at my husband's Aunt and Uncle's home. This is so unlike American families (at least mine). Staying in a hotel while attending a wedding is normal, but in the Indian culture it is offensive. I worried about it, but I'm so glad we stayed with them that last night. His Aunt fed us like we were kings, took care of us, and then sent us off to the airport with more nuts, dried fruits and snacks than I could possibly pack into my Vera Bradley. I really loved his family. When we left his uncle cried when hugging my husband. I actually saw a tear on my husbands cheek, too. I think they just felt so bad for him with what we had been through and hadn't seen him in about 6 years. We promised we would visit again soon.
The aunt's and uncle's gave us a large sum of monetary gifts, a very large Toys-R-Us gift card for A. as well as a beautiful necklace with her initial on it, 6 Indian dresses, and enough love to last us a lifetime.
The flight back home was all on schedule and much more enjoyable. My husband thanked me for being brave and deciding to go to the wedding. He told me he knew how much it took out of me to make the trip being pregnant and how stressful it was to meet everyone all at one time. He told me how much it meant to him that I was willing to give the rest of the family a chance after everything that has happened with his mother. I appreciated that. I knew that I had to give it a chance and since they extended the invitation, what would it hurt to accept, right? The love we received from his extended family helped mend the pain from years of abuse from PIMIL.
Oh....and the bride truly was the epitome of an Indian Princess Bride. I would also like to point out that the mother of the bride (PIMIL's sister) was also sitting very stern faced during the wedding ceremony. I later found out this was because the bride had a love marriage...yes, evidence of desi parental failure, HAHAHA! And not only that....the groom was South Indian! Oh no! What could be worse?.....CAUCASIAN maybe!!! I just had to add that in there didn't I? Yes folks, that's right, love marriage to a meat-eating South Indian. Who cares what you eat or how dark or light your skin is? Come on people, we have wars, disease, famine in this world...real issues. Will some Indians ever get past prejudices? Just for the record, I think my Gujarati husband is very handsome. Yes, he is light skinned (still darker than me of course), that never mattered to me. Ever. And also, for the record, I thought the groom and his meat-eating South Indian family and friends were very, very beautiful people. More so than my husbands family, even though I thought my husbands family were very nice. It's just funny to me because the Northern people think that they are more beautiful because they are "lighter skinned" than the Southern people. Honestly, in most instances I didn't really see where they were that much lighter at all but maybe I just don't have a clue. I know I'm going to get lots of backlash on that one but you know, some things just really need to be said. SOUTH INDIANS YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE! Don't let anyone make you think any different.
That's all I have to say about that....at this time ;-)
- The Milky Chai Life
- This blog is written about my Indian/American culture-blended life. I am the American part of the equation and my darling hubby (DH)is the Indian (American born) part. We have two amazing and beautiful daughters who keep us constantly entertained and busy. I hope to post here about the things that I love; food, family, health, all things beautiful in this life and even a few things that are not so wonderful, like my in-laws. I refer to them as PIMIL (Psychotic Indian Mother-In-Law) and PAFIL (Passive Agressive Father-In-Law) here. There may even be an occasional posting from my DH here. Enjoy! You may also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org