An old apache blessing goes something like this:
Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth for the other.
Go now to your dwelling place to enter into the days of your togetherness,
and may your days be good and long together.
What an absolutely beautiful wish for all couples who decide to tie the knot and begin a new life together! Many times this new life is begun against all odds, based on a decision to build a dream together. However, when the time comes, many couples have found, that all the world does not always love a lover.
Our focus today is therefore, on this unique relationship between couples from different communities, different religions or different states who have fallen in love and married, in some cases, despite family objections and possible social disapproval. The common thread that runs through all their relationships is their link to a certain place called Mangalore.
To these couples, whether pork and seafood can be served on the same table as rasam or dhoklas is the least of their worries. What concerns them most is finding a common meeting ground for the blending of two beautiful cultures and these couples work hard at it. They are mature and intelligent but not necessarily ultra-modern. Caste consciousness and traditions may have taken a backseat in their relationships, but values like commitment and love, rightly occupy pride of place.
Their answers to our questions are candid and forthright ? just the way we like them. Despite cultural/ethnic differences, they have made a pledge based solely on love and the big question today is ? Does love conquer all?? Let?s find out for ourselves.
The Shetty’s (Ramesh & Jaya)
Ramesh Shettigar is from Kinnigoli, Mangalore and a Banker by profession. He is married to Jayalakshmi, a Tamilian. Apart from being an academic coach for CBSE students, she is also an accomplished compere and homemaker. They have been married for 21 years.
The Pereiras (Ashok & Roopa)
Ashok Pereira is a Mangalorean and a Software Architect by profession. He is married to Roopa Majithia, a Gujarati, formerly a Marketing Analyst and now a homemaker. They have been married for 12 years.
The Mendons (Lorna and Praveen)
Praveen Mendon is from Udupi, Mangalore and a banker by profession. He is married to Lorna Mendonca, also from Mangalore and a teacher by profession. They have been married for 24 years and are looking forward to their silver celebration next year.
1) First meeting. (was it love at first sight, met at a friends place, how long did it take to actually talk to each other, how long did the courtship last)
Ramesh & Jaya: We still have not succeeded in deducing if it were love at first sight or something more divine. Well, one thing is clear. Destiny charted our paths and brought us together.
Ashok & Roopa: On the phone, then a courtship, and three years before we got married.
Praveen: It was love at first sight for me. I met my wife first at the Bombay University campus and I just decided that she was the one for me. I started throwing hints slowly but it took some time for us to get serious. Our courtship lasted for 5 years till we tied the knot.
Lorna: Well it was not love at first sight for me. I liked him the first time we met but that was it. Then slowly the frequent meetings got me to grow fonder till one day I decided that he was the man for me. Then it was all bliss.
2) On family reactions. (degree of opposition from family members if any, how long it took to win over the in-laws, your present relationship with them).
Ramesh: I had spoken to my parents regarding my decision and they were fully supportive of my choice right from the beginning. They got along very well with Jaya until their demise. However, I had to convince Jaya?s parents and relatives. Later, I realized it was a remarkable feat as my father-in-law was a perfectionist especially where his favourite child Jaya was concerned. Today I share a warm and beautiful relationship with them.
Jaya: Born to Tamilian parents, I knew it wouldn?t be smooth sailing and so I didn?t expect a green signal right away. Since it was an inter-caste marriage, my father was anxious and concerned about my decision . But I, being the apple of his eye and heart, he couldn?t refuse to meet Ramesh and his family. Once that happened, the bridegroom was given consent to wed the bride-to-be. I got along very well with my parents-in-law. They are no more but I still spend my summer vacation with Ramesh?s family in Mangalore.
Ashok & Roopa: We had no opposition from both sides. In fact, we all continue to be close
Praveen & Lorna: Of course there was a bit of opposition at first, which we expected, as it was an inter-religion marriage. But things got sorted out once both families knew that we had decided to go ahead. Today we both share a wonderful relationship with our in-laws.
3) The big wedding(s) (If belonging to different religions did you have two weddings, explain the experience, your feelings)
Ramesh & Jaya: We decided to have our wedding in the Arya Samaj and followed all the rites and rituals of both the Mangalorean and Tamilian communities.
Ashok & Roopa: We had two weddings – “his” and “hers”. I showed up for the Gujarati wedding and she showed up for the Mangalorean catholic one. We planned them separately and made sure to tell the other the time and the place, what clothes to wear and whom to invite from our respective families.
Praveen & Lorna: Since ours was an inter-religion marriage we had to have the marriage at the Indian Embassy (we got married in the Gulf). This was followed by a short temple ceremony and later a church ceremony. Then of course a gala reception for all. It was indeed a day to remember. Friends and family were so co-operative.
4) Is the individual more important than the traditions/customs? (how much influence do the respective customs and traditions have on your lives)
Ramesh & Jaya: Traditions and customs are a part of our South Indian heritage. There are a lot of similar tradtions/customs amongst Mangaloreans and Tamilians. In this 21st century, being practical is the key to successful living. We both respect our traditions and customs but we feel that the individuals i.e. the partners must rise above all traditions. We have imbibed the best of both and have made our marriage highly successful.
Ashok & Roopa: They both have tremendous influence on our lives. And most importantly for our children. They both need to know that God is sacred, and there are different forms of that being. The family as a whole, celebrate all customs, and traditions that relate to both religions.
Praveen & Lorna: In our case ?the individual? always came first. We got married as two individuals and with us came the traditions and customs. Traditions and customs can never die as we are brought up with it. We however are not very rigid as far as customs go but we make it a point to follow and keep up the tradition in our own way.
5) Food for thought (was it difficult adjusting to the change in food habits, what food did you learn to like, can you dish up your spouse’s favorite delicacies?)
Ramesh: Jaya is an excellent cook apart from her other hobbies and achievements. I too enjoy the different delicacies that are a part of Tamilian cuisine.
Jaya: I was a vegetarian by birth. But I had no problems in adjusting after marriage as my in-laws were very particular that food was cooked according to my taste. Though Tamilian cuisine is very different from Mangalorean cuisine, I learnt the Mangalorean style of vegetarian and non-vegetarian cooking. Today, I?m happy to say that I not only cook all the Mangalorean delicacies which are Ramesh?s favourites, but also relish Mangalorean food myself.
Ashok & Roopa: We’ve learned to adjust. Now back in Bangalore, she can enjoy her mom’s food when she needs to, and so can I. I’m not a fussy eater, and I know if hunger pangs strike me, I can get what I want. And so can she.
Praveen: Fortunately we are both from Mangalore so food was no problem. Besides Lon is a perfectionist and an excellent cook. Every day is a surprise for me. I don?t cook but I enjoy good food!!!!
Lorna: Food was no problem as I was the one who was to do the cooking. I enjoy cooking and like to try out new recipes. Fortunately my husband loves my cooking and finds it difficult to eat elsewhere now.
6) Language (Do you speak your husband’s/wife’s mother tongue? What language do you speak at home?)
Ramesh: Jaya speaks Tulu fluently and she can converse in Kannada too. But, I can never speak in Tamil.
Jaya: I was determined to learn Tulu and now I speak it fluently. At home we speak both Tulu and English.
Ashok & Roopa: We speak English at home. And so do the kids. At some point, they will learn to speak Gujarati, Konkani, Hindi and hopefully Kannada too. We?re terrible linguists, so anything other than English would be a blessing in disguise for the kids.
Praveen & Lorna: We don?t speak each others mother-tongue but we do understand a bit. At home we speak only in English and Hindi so for our children English is the mother-tongue.
7) Is religion an issue? (Do you give freedom to your partner to follow his/her religion? Do you celebrate all religious festivals or only a selected few?)
Ramesh & Jaya: Religion was never an issue as we both belong to the same religion. But we are sure it wouldn?t have mattered. We have never been coerced to follow any religious rituals. We live our lives very practically and follow basic rituals wherever necessary. According to us, any ritual brings the family together, adds colour to life and gives you joy. Though born into a Brahmin family, my father was a very practical human being who lived with principles like Work is Worship, Be good & Do good, so there was no room for too many rituals. My husband Ramesh, fortunately, had similar views. We celebrate all religious festivals with a lot of pomp and joy and await them as we enjoy planning arranging and conducting all festivities together.
Ashok & Roopa: Yes, we give total freedom to each other to follow our religion. And yes, we also celebrate all religious festivals.
Praveen & Lorna: Religion has never been an issue from the beginning. We both respect each others religion and also participate in each others religious functions. We as a family celebrate Diwali, the traditional way with oil-lamps and festivity and also celebrate Christmas with equal pomp and splendour. We feel privileged and so do our children as we get to celebrate so many festivals!!!!!!
8) At least one aspect of your spouse’s community that you dislike ? Hey folks, lets be honest here 🙂
Ramesh & Jaya: Both of us have never differentiated between our communities and have learnt to respect and accept each and every bit of each other. We have learnt to imbibe the best and ignore petty issues. We are very proud to say that, even though, there are lots of adjustments to be made in mixed marriages, the alliance struck by the two partners must be strong and should involve a lot of simple but honest beliefs, broadmindedness, an open heart, the will to understand each other and all those who are in the bigger picture.
Ashok & Roopa: Please serve non-vegetarian food if you could … (that?s Ashok) but hey, I can always order out!
Praveen: Nothing really, but I do feel awkward at times when my mother-in-law and others speak in Konkani when I am around.
Lorna: There?s nothing to dislike. I like them and they like me. As Praveen says, I too feel lost when my in-laws speak in Tulu but it?s only momentary.
9) Friends – help or hindrance? (What role do friends play in your marriage?)
Ramesh: Friends have always been our greatest well-wishers.
Jaya: I can never forget the day when Ramesh?s friends volunteered and spoke to my parents. We both believe in the adage ? God gives us relatives, but friends, we make by choice.
Ashok & Roopa: None at all.
Praveen & Lorna: As we said before friends have been very co-operative. As we are in the Gulf and away from family, friends do play a very important part in our lives. They can never be a hindrance.
10) Society – (Are mixed marriages accepted more now than ten years back?)
Ramesh & Jaya: Yes, they are more accepted now, though the reasons could be varied.
Ashok & Roopa: It would seem so. We haven’t had any challenges.
Praveen & Lorna: Yes, in our opinion, today mixed marriages are accepted more and are more common. Society is changing fast and children travel round the globe so they meet people from different walks of life.
11) A popular opinion of the younger generation is that mixed marriages are the perfect solution to Indian social problems. Your reasons for agreeing/disagreeing.
Ramesh & Jaya: The younger generation is forced to generalize, as the number of mixed marriages are on the increase. Probably the success of mixed marriages also lead them to this belief. In this particular phase of the millennium, their outlook is definitely more optimistic.
Ashok & Roopa: It ain’t anything about mixed marriages. It is all about the institution of marriage in general. If you and your partner are understanding and are friends and partners in every sense of the word, and your immediate family is understanding and the same, there ain’t no social problems with or without mixed marriages. The same principle applies to any marriage.
Praveen & Lorna: We agree that the younger generation do believe that mixed marriages are the perfect solution to Indian social problems. We see it in so many films too. However one thing we can say is that today marriage is a bond of love and togetherness no matter what the religion.
12) “Marriage is an alliance between two families rather than an union between two individuals”. Your views on this.
Ramesh & Jaya: Our culture demands a unison between two families. The bond strengthening a marriage is by and large the two families. If there is amicability between them, it can work wonders. Marriage is indeed an alliance sought by two individuals. We assert that we as partners in this proposition of marriage, can hold the reins and steer ahead to enjoy bliss, peace and healthy living.
Ashok & Roopa: Nope. The alliance between the families can be wonderful, but the two individuals are an integral part of that. The sentence should read “Marriage is an alliance between two individuals AND a union between two families”.
Praveen & Lorna: According to us marriage is two individuals getting together. It?s the individual that matters?..with the individuals, families come in. If two individuals are happy with each other then automatically the family is happy too.
Compiled by Shaly Pereira for Mangalorean.com
(Our sincere thanks to Ramesh & Jaya Shettigar, Ashok & Roopa Pereira, Praveen & Lorna Mendon for their valuable input and cooperation).