Meeting The Punjabi In Laws
Updated: Jan 9
I am fortunate that my in laws accepted me marrying their son, from the very day that he decided to tell them that he broke up with his long term girlfriend and was now dating me. I recall my partner making the long distance phone call to India so that he could break the news. We had been dating a couple of months by this time and he still hadn't broken the news he wasn't with his ex girlfriend.
Anyone who has been in a long term relationship would know the fear of breaking the news to your parents who thought he or she was the one. This is the very fear he had, as they had also told him they would support his choice to marry outside their culture as long as he did so by a certain age and showed that he was responsible. He was afraid that they would now ask him to opt for an arranged marriage as he was well and truly past this age. His parents had assumed that the girl he had been dating would be the one he would marry, but it turned out she was never actually that serious about him. It was a blessing in disguise because we then met and had the same life goals that it felt like we had been together for just as long.
When he finally made that call I could hear they were in shock and very concerned for him. How could he leave his long term girlfriend to then suddenly date another girl from the same culture. They were concerned he would make the same mistake with me as he had with her, although they begrudgingly accepted us dating and warned him this was his last chance. Whilst they weren't specifically against our relationship they needed time to warm to me and see that their son wasn't just fooling around with his life.
Related Article: Why I Love My Indian Family
We both ended up proving everyone wrong, and now his family absolutely adore me, although I certainly have had my moments yet they still accept me. Those who frowned upon our relationship at the start, now envy what we have. Those friends of the family that weren't that close to us, all assumed that our marriage was a business transaction. Whereby I was being paid to help my husband gain permanent residency so he could then marry an Indian wife and move abroad to start a family. We are fortunate that we got to marry for love as arranged marriages are still very much prevalent and usually expected.
Eventually his visa to stay in Australia expired, so rather than renewing it he left the country and we decided to elope to India. Rather than continuing to pay for costly visas we decided to marry so that I could sponsor his permanent residency as his spouse.
I ended up living with my husband and his family in Punjab for approximately 12 months in total over the course of a year and a half. This is what solidified my relationship with his family in particular his parents. Meeting me and seeing that I was genuine and that I made the effort to move abroad temporarily to help their son. It also helps that they are educated and open minded people with my father in law being a retired Army Officer and my mother in law a retired English Teacher.
We both come from family's of a similar social standing which makes it easier to associate with one another. It is more challenging when you date a Punjabi who is of a higher or lower social standing as they are very status conscious. It can create problems and they may not be as open minded about an interracial relationship.
My father in law was the one who always spoiled me making sure I had the comforts I was accustomed to and bringing me home sweets and treats. Even if my husband was against him bringing me sweets, he would do so anyway. If I asked him to bring me one sweet he would always bring me at least two or three! Although that didn't mean my mother in law didn't also spoil me in her own way. She would always find a reason to come into my bedroom when I was sick or had a fight with my husband. She would usually pretend to empty the bin in the room or suddenly find a need to sweep the floor when it wasn't the time she would normally do it. That was her way of checking in on me but doing it on the sly although I knew that's what she was doing.
Related Article: Why I Love Punjabi People
What I love most about my in laws is that whenever my husband and I fight, they won't immediately take his side. Although being raised in the same culture they might have the tendency to think the same, they will always make their own decision as to who is right or wrong. So if he yells at me simply because he is in a bad mood they won't let him get away with it which is a breath of fresh air. It is nice to know that your in laws see you as a valued member of the family. They also call me their daughter in Punjabi rather than their daughter in law.
It isn't only his parents who have accepted me, his younger brother has also accepted me as his bhabi jii, or sister in law. In the Punjabi Culture your elder sister or brother is viewed like a mother or father figure. So my brother in law didn't even need to know who I was, he just accepted that I am his older sister and respected that. Even if I had my moments.
When I first met my in laws I had just had the longest flight from Brisbane to Delhi with a 12 hour stop over at Singapore. Then after arriving at Delhi, had a 10 hour drive to Faridkot. So I was exhausted and emotionally drained and didn't particularly want to meet the entire family the minute we arrived. Though they were all so excited to meet me that the entire family waited at my in laws home for me to arrive, despite it being 10pm. My husband was also drained and has a quick temper, as do most Punjabi men, so he told me in the car on the way from the airport to not cry, suck it up and meet everyone.
If you didn't know I manage Bipolar so when I am exhausted or haven't been looking after my health I get emotional and leads to bouts of depression if not quickly managed. So telling me not to get emotional only exacerbates my emotions. When we arrived I was teary eyed and everyone was confused as to why; didn't I want to be here? Which is why I wanted to meet everyone once we had some rest and were fresh eyed. Though it took me a couple of days to recover. This tends to happen when I rush around for days on end, with no sleep, lack of healthy food and exercise.
After it passed and I was settled in I met everyone and each day we had more and more visitors come to greet me. Punjabi's are easy going and warm friendly people, so it is pretty easy to please them, flash them a big smile, greet them in Punjabi and embrace their bone crushing hugs. Then sit and listen to them gossip over a cup of cha which is Punjabi for a cup of tea. I did this up till our wedding day and then after our wedding day it was our turn to return all those visits.
Related Article: What It's Like Living As A Joint Family With My Punjabi In Laws
Out of respect I always ensure to bring a gift for my in laws each time I come to India even if it is something small and my husband tells me not to bother. As it is the thought that counts. This is a good idea for anyone who is meeting their in laws for the first time, unless of course it is not customary to do so. They will always refuse the gift at least once or twice before accepting it. Children naturally are always thrilled to receive gifts and their smile says enough. It is usually easy enough to please children in India as many don't own much and spend most of their time playing outdoors with friends. Which is how it should be.
Though with that said many children also tend to be spoiled by parents yet are always gracious to accept gifts. So I like to pack some creative gifts in my suitcase such as kids colouring books with paint or markers. Oh and don't forget stickers most children love stickers. It's a nice gesture when you visit family who have young children and it's affordable. This will give you something to do with them and immediately make you the new favourite Aunty! Parents also appreciate it as it keeps them busy during the visit.
Once you marry into the Punjabi Culture you will find that you have an extended family you never even knew about from across the globe. I hope those of you who have also married into the culture have a positive experience with your in laws. These days my relationship with my in laws is much more comfortable, I can tell my mother in law when her singing is really bad or when my father in law does something silly. They also laugh at me when I am upset with my husband after a massive argument over nothing or I've got an aspect of the culture wrong.
Have you married into a Punjabi or Indian family?
How was your first time meeting your in laws?
I'd love to hear your story so leave your comments below in the comments field.