Being A Married Couple In India Is Hard
Being in a bicultural relationship has many challenges as I have written previously in my article The Difficulties Of Being Married To An Indian, however the challenges you face are even more so whilst living in India. You wouldn't even necessarily consider most of these issues unless you were faced with them personally. Especially if you are native, as you probably wouldn't even fathom people treating you in the manner they treat us. These challenges will vary between regions of India, however I refer to Punjab specifically.
By far the biggest challenge living in India as a foreign bride is that people stare - constantly. It is just not common to see a Caucasian Woman with an Indian Man given the arranged marriage is still prevalent in Indian society. Particularly so in rural parts of Punjab. Indian men will stare at me like I am the Hollywood Porn Star that they grew up with as a teenage boy. Many will even approach me to either say hello or to sneakily take a photo of me. It doesn't exactly help when I am excessively paler than most Caucasian Women. This behaviour is especially confronting for my husband who cannot tolerate the attention that I am given. Which means that we cannot go out alone together if we want to have a dinner date. In the event that we do go out it will be with a group of friends or family so that it detracts some attention away from me and to provide support for times when things get out of hand.
Whilst some men will simply stare at us there are many men who will take it that one step further and try to touch me in some manner or even just try to befriend me. Naturally not many husband's would take this very well. There is nothing you can do to make these offenders see sense and they will only continue to grab you or keep vying for your attention so it's best to move on quickly or as my husband prefers, to avoid the situation by not going out in the first instance. I have had men grope my bust and behind, make lewd or crude hand motions towards me, or holler something explicit at me in English.
I have read many articles about other foreign brides living in India who receive more respect than their Indian husband. However this is quite the contrary living in Punjab with my husband being given more respect than myself in almost every instance. Such as when we go to the local supermarket, I will hand over the payment yet the change is always given over to whomever is accompanying me at the time. Which is usually my brother or husband. Or if I am seeking assistance in a store and the representative speaks English he will always address my husband in Punjabi. Unfortunately women are just not seen as equals and men will always be favoured having the social upper hand. Although this does differ depending on what region of India you are from as Caucasian Men & Women have a higher social status than any Indian in other regions.
Being in a relationship you would expect to be able to display your affection for your partner without having to give it a second thought. In Punjab one simply does not show any form of affection towards their partner in public or at home. Only behind closed doors is it acceptable to show your affection. Displays such as kissing or holding hands are frowned upon, even touching one another in a fond way is not acceptable. This makes it difficult to bond as a couple not being able to even display the smallest of affections both in public and around the home. I have not once witnessed any married couple, even my parents, display any sign of affection for one another - not even the slightest touch. I recall that I couldn't even pretend to kiss my husband for photos on our Wedding Day. I would have to make sure there weren't people around to sneak in a quick photo of me kissing his cheek. We however could hold hands which was surprising to me.
As I have mentioned in many articles previously, gender inequality of the sexes is prevalent in Indian Society and impacts the social aspects of your relationship substantially. Making it difficult to socialise in public as a married couple such as attending social events like a wedding, where men and women do not mingle. This is an important part of bonding as a couple to be able to socialise together at social events. Which is challenging to do when you both attend a function together yet do not interact with each other once you arrive because men and women are seated separately. You will find many social events in the Punjabi Calendar have men and women separated.
Unlike the Western Culture where many would go out for a social drink to unwind at the end of the day or the weekend it is not acceptable for women to drink. It certainly would not be acceptable for women to even attend a bar with their husband. As the Sikh Religion does not allow women to drink alcohol it is frowned upon for any woman even if she is not of Sikh Religion to do so. Especially if she is married to a Sikh, this will only impact the family's social status in the community. Once a young cousin of mine decided to play a silly prank on me and told people at a party that I was drinking. It did not go down well for him as people started questioning my moral's and so I had to tell my husband he was spreading rumours about me. As you can guess he never played a prank on me again after that incident. Being a foreign bride I have been to a couple of restaurants before where only men would usually attend as it has a bar situated inside. It's just not seen to be socially acceptable for a woman to attend as it will create gossip within the community but more so as she should not even be near alcohol consumption. Particularly because men can be lewd and out of control.
Unfortunately I also am a financial burden when it comes to socialising as I usually incur surcharges when out with my husband or family. This typically only happens with smaller businesses who think that because I am not from India I must have money. Despite that I am dressed like a Punjabi and am with my Punjabi husband. Therefore they always try to charge my husband or me more for certain things. Sometimes this can be when dining out and there are no set prices. The price that a friend paid the other day can suddenly increase dramatically the day we happen to visit! Though it is mostly beggars who overcharge. Punjabi's are superstitious and most of the time don't refuse beggars. Usually we end up paying an extra zero more than everyone else. This can put a dampener on going out when there are already so many challenges and then to expect to pay more is ludicrous. You would normally expect this to happen to tourists only.
So as you can see the opportunities to bond as a married couple are few and far between with the Punjabi way of life. If you do not take the time to schedule in alone time it will only feel like you are drifting further and further apart. It can be easy to slip into the daily way of life and allow that to happen.
Have you had difficulties being in a bi-cultural relationship?