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India is a country of a great diversity. The difference in cultures, languages and traditions of two places is sometimes so stark, that it is hard to believe that we follow the same constitution.
I am from Maharashtra and my husband is from Haryana – a very odd combination I am told by many. Being brought up in several places due to my father’s transferable job, I always considered myself an Indian. I never thought of myself as a Maharashtrian and of my husband as a Haryanvi when we started going out till almost a couple of years after we got married.
My husband was the first Haryanvi I ever met in life. I was part curious of his background and part charmed by his good looks. I had never in my life been to a village; while he had lived in village all his life until college. My family is a service class family with teachers and engineers and bank employees, spread all over India, while his family is completely into agriculture and concentrated within a 60 km radius of Delhi. I was a coffee person and he was a “chai” person.
We were opposites in the true sense of the word, nothing common between us except for a tryst in destiny which culminated into a lifetime of togetherness.
The way we met and our journey till marriage is like watching a Hindi movie. We met as a bunch of fresh graduate engineer trainees joining a leading Indian organization. He was there only for three months, leaving to join the Indian Air Force. I had a fascination for the Indian Armed Forces and here he was joining the coolest one of all. Although separated by distance our friendship grew deeper through letters and short phone calls till it blossomed into a fairytale romance of long distance and different backgrounds.
As envisaged, there was the typical Hindi movie drama when the parents came into picture. His parents were opposed to the very idea of “love marriage” while my parents were apprehensive about our different upbringing. However, as our parents finally agreed to bless our union and we thought that the tough part was over, planning the wedding ceremony was a completely different circus.
That was my first taste of the different traditions. But I was in seventh heaven with a happily-ever-after-type-of ending to my love story and though extremely difficult, I managed to convince my parents to do the marriage in the Haryanvi style. This obviously meant a bigger-than-planned hole in my Dad’s pocket, and my relatives declared that the Great Marathas lost the battle of Panipat once again.
I had never in my life seen the ladies in my family do so much as cover their head and I was to take a “ghoonghat” when I was outside the family home in the village. It felt surreal to me, like I was transported to a different era through a time machine. I was like a giggly little girl who was participating in a fancy dress competition as a bride – all decked up with saree, ghoonghat and gold for my “muh-dikhai”. As soon as the ladies would see my face by lifting up the ghoonghat, I had to make an effort not to squint my eyes or make faces at them. The ghoonghat soon slipped from the face and I would only cover my head – much to the dismay of the elderly women folk of the village. It only got blasphemous with time as I decided not to cover my head any more - it wasnt out of disrespect to anyone, but that was just who I was..
With our different job locations we had a long distance marriage and I felt like I was living three different lives. One was a traditional Haryanvi wife when we were at his family home in Sonipat, the other was a Fauji wife – a prim and proper lady and the third was a working woman with my own space, identity and career. In a tussle between all the three lives, I became a Marathi girl. I greatly missed the simplicity and transparency of the Marathi culture.
Yet, sometimes, I was in awe of our great nation, where in a short distance between Nagpur and Sonipat, we could see so many colors of the mankind, so many different traditions, and so many languages. Had I not married into a different state, I would not have known a different culture so closely.
There is of course an inertia in acceptance of something new and one only finds faults in it. However, the reality is that different cultures, different people open up your mind to different possibilities. Just as you find faults in a different set up, you start understanding your own culture better and realizing that it also has its own loopholes.
Traditions and cultures are never bad; it is their interpretation that makes them good or bad. And who interprets them – the people. People are much the same everywhere. A selfish person will be selfish whether he is in Haryana or in Maharashtra – just like a good person.
When I see our two year old son, to me he is the perfect amalgamation of two different people – and not two different cultures. He has brought the best of both of us together, signifying that while going ahead in life, our best interests lie in drawing strength from each other’s positive attributes while complementing the negatives. And just like that from a Marathi girl, I became an Indian once again.