Guest Post: “I don’t look at my daughter as Indian or Canadian. I look at her soul.”

Alexandra, the white Canadian blogger behind Madh Mama, thought all of the ignorant comments about her marriage to a South Indian man would end once they had a child. But they didn’t, and it has been one of the biggest challenges for her — especially as hearing things about her daughter hurts her deeply.  

Have you heard something about your interracial relationship or biracial children that you’d like to write about for Speaking of China? We welcome all kinds of guest posts (including love stories) — check out the submit a post page for details.

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I often forget that my husband and I are from different cultures. We have so much in common, so many shared interests. We are going on our 9th year together, and I could trace every freckle and scar on his body with my eyes closed. The kind of familiarity that you have with someone you know inside and out.

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In reality, we are from vastly different cultures. I was born and brought up in Vancouver, Canada, by a small tight-knit family with European ancestors. My husband is from Hyderabad, India, and descends from the most conservative and devout Indian clans – the Tamil Iyengars.

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I always dreamed of having a child with him, in a romantic way. I wanted to expand our family and raise kids together in a way that combined our similar values. I wanted to grow myself by becoming a mother, and I wanted our bond to deepen even further by becoming parents together.

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Being a rare mix, we have had a hefty share of ignorant comments. At first, it was people saying things like we “just want to try out a different race“, then it was “he’s only with her for a green card” (I’m not an American, so I don’t even have a green card), then it was “she’s corrupting him with her Western values“, then it was “they’ll never make it to the altar“, then after we got married it was “how can they function with all these cultural differences?” Supporters and believers in our relationship were few and far between. We became desensitized by these kind of comments and learned to expect them. For a long time we didn’t even know that other couples like us even existed, so any negative experience just brought us closer together, since we were the only two people who understood what we were going through.

I thought all of that would end once we started a family together – that by having a child, people would realize that we are committed for life. Especially to other Indians, who assumed that by me having white skin, it automatically meant I was not cut out for motherhood, have no family values, or that I would divorce him.

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When we had our daughter, it was the happiest moment of my life. It was incredible. She looked like every single person in our families – combined. Watching her grow up and see how her personality has developed has been astonishing. She is nurturing like me, quick like her dad, a great dancer, and eats any cuisine. She is the most global child I have ever come across. She is classically beautiful and looks like she could pass for any ethnicity. She is adventurous and loves to travel and do new things.

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I think the comments started when she was about 6 months old. One of our Indian relatives asked me if we intended to raise her “Indian or American” – as if we had to choose. Then, I got a few comments from white Canadians about how tanned my daughter is, with a weird side-eye glance to prompt me to tell them her ethnicity. When we were visiting Italy last year, everyone thought she was Italian. So much that one old Italian lady pointed to my husband and asked “Is he the father?” when he was standing right in front of her. We have stepped inside an Indian restaurant where every table looked at us with disgust, so much that it scared my daughter. The latest comment we got from an elderly Indian relative was when my daughter was feeling shy. She said, “Maybe she doesn’t like Indians“. Appalling, since she certainly adores her father and many other Indian family members. It stung a lot.

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The thing is – I expect comments about myself, but when it is directed towards my child, it hurts me deeply. And it surprises me, because I forget that we are an intercultural family, raising a biracial child. We live in such a multicultural world. We celebrate all festivals and holidays, even ones that don’t belong to our respective cultures – like Chinese New Year and Greek Easter. We have lots of intercultural friends. It’s only when we get ignorant comments that it occurs to me that the multicultural world we live in – is one that we have constructed for ourselves. That the majority of people out there do not mix, that they tend to stick to their own culture, and either out of fear or ignorance – and they do not step outside it. That global families, such as ours, are a minority. However, I hope that my children and grandchildren’s generations see love before color. Because that’s what the world needs – more love…a love that transcends borders and limitations.

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My daughter is only 2.5 years old now. I haven’t really figured out how to tell her that sometimes people might question our family – more than others – because we are different. I know I will tell her that doing things differently doesn’t mean we’re wrong, but just that a lot of people won’t understand us. I want her to be confident in who she is. I want her to not be scared of this diverse world we live in, to see the beauty in being different and blaze the trail from there.

I don’t look at my daughter as Indian or Canadian. I look at her soul. I look at her as my child. The child that God sent me to raise. She is both cultures; but at the same time – she is everything. She is anything she wants to be.

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Alexandra Madhavan fell in love and married her soulmate. Then she inherited a big, fat South Indian family. She shares her unfiltered view of what it’s really like to be a Firangi Bahu at Madh Mama.
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31 thoughts on “Guest Post: “I don’t look at my daughter as Indian or Canadian. I look at her soul.”

  • February 13, 2015 at 9:07 am
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    First off, their little girl is absolutely adorable – she looks so young and carefree and innocent in the photos!

    I think all interracial couples face concerns, especially at the beginning when my husband and I started dating. My husband’s father, although accepted me and really liked me, was scared that I would go back to Canada and leave my husband with a broken heart.

    With that being said, it is unfortunate that people some people have no concept that their words are hurtful and can sting.

    Reply
    • February 19, 2015 at 3:25 am
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      Thank you Constance.
      Yes, she is such a carefree kid!
      That is so funny – my MIL thought the same thing about me!
      I totally agree, and the reason why I wanted to write this was so that people can understand that what they say to mixed couples can be hurtful. People really have no clue!

      Reply
  • February 13, 2015 at 1:24 pm
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    I love love love her blog!
    Sweetest daughter pictures ever! So natural so classic yet so personal.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • February 13, 2015 at 1:53 pm
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    What a beautiful child! I am surprised and upset to learn about all the trouble people around are giving, and what specific things they say. We have a different situation here in China, where the belief is that if a Chinese (which they consider my husband to be) and a foreigner have a child, then that child is somehow smarter and better than other children. They are delighted to see us and our daughter and quick to point out that she is a “hun xue” (mixed blood) and how lovely she is.

    I wish all cultures looked at mixed race kids in a positive way. I learned a lot from this post and I hope that with more education and more exposure, these ignorant set-in-their-ways people will wake up and choose to see our world as wonderful for its diversity and what can happen when cultures mix together.

    Reply
    • February 19, 2015 at 3:11 am
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      @kimberly – that is so amazing to hear that biracial children are seen as superior…we need to move to China! LOL 😉

      Reply
  • February 13, 2015 at 6:17 pm
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    Such a beautiful little girl! <3
    And a wonderful post.
    It's difficult when people seem to think that because cultures are different, they're also mutually exclusive. Growing up in an eclectic mix of cultures and people helps work against that, but not everyone is that lucky to get it naturally. I have hope that more and more people will gradually realize that in the end, people are people and "different" doesn't necessarily mean "bad".

    Reply
    • February 19, 2015 at 3:23 am
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      I totally agree…I grew up in a very multicultural atmosphere, as well as my husband – his parents are mixed inter-regional Indian. It has been so normal for us that it shocks us to come across people who are so negative…about something they know nothing about.

      Reply
  • February 14, 2015 at 3:48 am
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    Oh my goodness, she is absolutely adorable. What a great post! I have 4 mixed kids myself and I often joke that we are just doing our part in turning the world mocha! 😉

    Reply
    • February 19, 2015 at 3:12 am
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      @leslie – Absolutely! Here comes the next generation of fabulousness! Get ready, world! 🙂

      Reply
  • February 14, 2015 at 11:57 am
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    It’s so complicated. Like Kimberly, my son receives a lot of positive attention for being biracial (we also live in China). People sometimes make strange or somewhat inappropriate comments but so far nothing I’ve really found offensive. I think some people say things out of curiosity or just to make conversation. The truly nasty stuff, I believe, comes out of a place of fear. What people don’t understand or what is unfamiliar to them, scares them, and the result can be bitter or hateful comments. It’s hurtful, but be grateful you are more open and accepting of the world than such people. How sad it must be to have such a limited view of other people and cultures.

    Reply
    • February 19, 2015 at 3:15 am
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      @ r zhao – I totally agree….I pity people who only stick to their own culture, who fear stepping outside it. They don’t know how many amazing things are out there….They are truly limited.

      Reply
  • February 14, 2015 at 12:51 pm
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    “then that child is somehow smarter”

    They may be on to something.

    Reply
  • February 16, 2015 at 3:58 am
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    “However, I hope that my children and grandchildren’s generations see love before color. Because that’s what the world needs – more love…a love that transcends borders and limitations.”

    I love that quote!
    And for your little girl, she’s so gorgeous!

    I’m sorry that things are tough…hopefully someday there will be more love for interracial romances and marriages than how it is now.

    Stay strong, Alexandra.

    Reply
    • February 19, 2015 at 3:21 am
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      Thank you 🙂
      I hope so too…every time I see a couple like us, I want to immediately hug them!

      Reply
  • February 16, 2015 at 5:31 am
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    Having experienced a degree of racist comments myself (but obviously not the same scale as your family is experiencing), I tell myself that it is the problem of the OTHER person, not mine.
    THEY are the one getting all uptight and upset.

    It is the narrow mind-set of the other person and they feed off my reaction – it pi***s them off no end if I don’t react.

    It can be tough at times, but the comments they make are irrelevant, as are they.

    In a loving and secure relationship, regardless of background or cultural mix, the opinions of strangers don’t matter. Children pick up on the emotions and reactions of the adults closest to them, so this is a valuable lesson you can teach your daughter.

    Good luck!

    Reply
    • February 19, 2015 at 3:20 am
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      @sorrel – I totally agree. In the beginning, when we were dating, it bothered me but then I got over it and ignored it. But now that we have a child – who is really so happy, pure and innocent – it is bothering me again. And now she is so verbal, I would just die if I saw her upset, and I also don’t know how to explain such people to her. I am trying to find the words….I hope I can give her confidence.

      Reply
  • February 16, 2015 at 7:12 am
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    AG,
    Is it an issue if the woman is the one proposing?

    Reply
    • February 16, 2015 at 7:45 am
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      @Laura

      Nope.

      Not at all. In west, only unmarried queens have privilege to be the one proposing.

      She must be Ukraine Queen. Just kidding.

      This is actually good for Chinese guys since they are so passive in their courtship.

      Reply
  • February 16, 2015 at 12:07 pm
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    Just makes me so sad. I have seen that we (Indians) can be really cruel in our comments. It must be so much harsher for you and your family. Even though I am an Indian married to another Indian from different community, I hear so many stray comments. I wonder why they could not keep their thoughts to themselves, at least keep their mouth shut in front of kids.

    Reply
    • February 19, 2015 at 3:17 am
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      @Rachna – exactly! What hope do we have, when many Indians would prefer their own children to marry ONLY from their region/caste. Even a Tamil/Punjabi couple would be facing the same thing as us.

      Reply
  • February 16, 2015 at 1:17 pm
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    You have a beautiful family! And the phrase “I look at her soul” is what caught me!
    Your girl is blessed to have the diversity at her doorstep. And people who have always judged you or your relationship have a poor life for themselves! I urge them to please keep this innocent lovely lil girl away from their opinions and judgments.

    I wish you all the luck and love! Remember, it’s you and your family’s happiness that matters 🙂

    Reply
  • Pingback:Q&A About "My Intercultural Love" on Madh Mama | Speaking of China

  • March 3, 2015 at 12:29 pm
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    Thank you for writing such a good article. And the photos’ are perfect. I am very inspired by your writing.
    What a beautiful family. Be kind to yourself and each other, the rude people are so sad and ignorant; we must never become like that – confused – and to me you and your family are not confused, but very clear.
    You might enjoy this website:
    http://www.wopg.org
    words of peace global … some multicultural families appreciate this website and people who understand will always appreciate your family. ❤

    Reply

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