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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.