Which traditions they’ve kept, and which ones they’re passing on to their children.
By Amornrat Sidhu
Marriage is already fitting together the puzzle pieces of both your lives – your respective personalities, family members, and individual lifestyles – into one big beautiful picture. Now let’s mix it up further. What happens when someone marries outside their cultural, religious and racial background? Which pieces of their puzzle do they keep, and which don’t fit anymore? What would the big picture look like now? Spoiler alert: it’s still beautiful. We’ve asked community members in these ‘mixed’ marriages what their own beautiful puzzle looks like.
Suphanit ‘Shubleen’ Singhsachakul (Thai-Indian; Sikh) and
Shaochun Chen (Singaporean-Chinese; Buddhist)
Shubleen and Shaochun met via LinkedIn Singapore, and have been together for over six years. They’re married and currently live in Singapore. Shubleen gives her take on their life together:
“Marrying someone outside of your society does not mean that you must give up on your values and beliefs. In fact, being with Shao has made me actively practice our version of the ‘Indian’ way of life more consistently, for example:
Seva (selfless service)
Shao’s and my top-most priority is ‘seva’ or selfless service. It was a major part of both our lives growing up and we have continued this journey together. We regularly visit orphanages and homes for special needs children, volunteer, mentor, and donate often. Within one of our projects, Shao and I, with our international network, managed to exceed our goal of raising funds to help underprivileged children in orphanages in Thailand, from 100 children to 300 children.
We visit the gurudwara together in Bangkok and Singapore. I love listening to shabads and reading the meanings on the screen, and Shao surprisingly does the same. He’ll meditate and then start reading the meaning of what’s being said on the screen which has the English translation. We also keep the tradition alive of going to Harminder Sahib and doing seva. Lastly, I have the Sri Guru Granth Sahib in Shao’s family home in Singapore as well.
Kirat Karni (honest living)
Shao has taken the time to learn about Sikhism, doing extensive reading and research. He relates to the pillar of Kirat Karni the most because of his values, and the importance he places on having a strong work ethic. He intends to keep such Sikh teachings in our lives.”
Niti Srikureja (Thai-Indian; Sikh) and
Axel Firer (French; Catholic)
Niti and Azel met through a mutual friend, and have just recently gotten married. Currently, they reside in Bangkok. Niti gives a peek into their life together:
“Axel is very happy to share his French culture in our marriage, so we get to learn about each other on a deeper level. However, he loves learning about Indian, Sikh and Punjabi culture. He has to put in a lot of effort to immerse himself in my life and all that is important to me (and that is very much tied to my Indian roots), but he does so willingly. Here are some examples of how:
All the Events
Axel is there for all family events. He visits the gurudwara with me, whether it is for the wedding of a friend of mine, or a regular visit. For example, he was there for my nephew’s amrit chak. He wanted a very small wedding, but was happy to embrace the ‘big fat Indian wedding’ vibe and enjoyed himself. Whatever our culture and how we express it, he’s there.
I have very strong ties to my family and relatives. Axel, from the beginning, adopted the terminologies of respect and warmth to address my family. He addresses my tayaji, my masi, and all my family members just as I would.
The kitchen is the heart of the house, and I guess our heart is Indian? I like my daals and sabjis and he happily enjoys them with me on a daily basis. When we go out to eat, that’s when we go for more Westernised choices and experiment.”
Kruti Fayot (Thai-Indian; Hindu) and
Sebastien Fayot (French; Secular)
Kruti and Sebastian met at a random art gallery opening in Bangkok in 2013, and it has been a wonderful adventure ever since.They now have a five-year-old son together. Kruti reveals what their life is like raising their son in a mixed family:
“Mixing our two backgrounds and upbringing in a marriage creates a recipe full of surprises, laughter and challenges. I am happy to build my own little fusion world where we celebrate both our cultures and traditions and fuse new ones together. Here is how we celebrate mine in our own unique way:
Language and Peers
My son takes Hindi classes with a teacher in the town we live in. We’re lucky that there’s an Indian community in the area, so he is sometimes able to play with other kids who come from different parts of India and understands the diversity of culture that is within him.
Although my husband still eats naan and sabji like a sandwich, my son will lecture him and say “Papa, that’s not how we eat in India, okay!” [Laughs]
Holi, Navratri and Diwali
We try to celebrate the big Hindu occasions in our own way. During Navratri, for example, I have found the legend of Mahishasura and how he was killed. We read the legends almost every night for nine nights until Dusshera, where we might doa simple puja and I cook either traditional or fusion Indian food. We also have started to go to a small Garba night which is organized by the Indian community in my town. Furthermore, my son likes to learn about the Indian deities with my parents.
Honey Gilani (half-Thai and half-Indian; Sikh) and
Aziz Gilani (Pakistani; Muslim)
Although they ran in totally different circles, Honey and Aziz’s love story started when they were introduced to one another by a mutual friend. They are married and currently live in Pakistan. Honey talks a little about their life together.
“Being in love is a wonderful thing and what’s even better is to be married to someone you love wholeheartedly. After we got married, it was hard because there were differences in religion, traditions and sometimes even values. We had to open ourselves to a whole new world, so compromises and adjustments were inevitable, such as:
I had to learn to be open to various prayers and dos and don’ts in his religion and culture. He had to learn to be open with mine. We got married in the gurudwara, he visits the gurudwara and the Thai temple with me and my family, and even performs religious ceremonies during the Songkran festival.
He speaks English and Thai with my family, and I speak Urdu and English with his.
Cassandra Sachdev (Chamorro; Catholic) and
Saran Sachdev (Thai-Indian; Sikh)
Cassandra and Saran were introduced to each other by a mutual friend on a night out. Now they are married and have a 2-year-old daughter. Cassandra opens up about their own family traditions.
Greetings and Respect
In our household, we try to encourage her to greet her elders respectfully and treat them well, which we think is increasingly important these days. We continue practicing the Sat Sri Akaal greeting when we see Saran’s parents. With our daughter, Simran, who has a Punjabi name, I insist that she touches his grandmother’s feet as a sign of respect when we do visit Thailand.
We don’t celebrate Diwali on our own. There is one big celebration that involves the whole Indian community here in Guam at one of our hotels, so we attend that.
Gurudwara and Church
We are open to attend each other’s places of worship. Guam does not have its own gurudwara, so we usually visit the gurudwara when we visit Thailand.
Even the typical, conventional marriage is straining. Throw in different religions, different countries, and different races, and you have added obstacles in what is already a very strenuous journey that you will share for life. However, it seems that the choppy waves, the howling winds, and the missed routes are worth it—for love is love, and there would be no one better to chase sunsets with.