From Dubious to Jamai

 

By: ALaw, Heena Shah, Manu Shah, and Kanak Shah

Meeting the parents was necessary but our relationship wouldn’t be predicated upon it  

Meeting the parents is a big deal in any culture. For South Asians, it’s essentially a prelude to getting engaged. You’re telling your parents that this is the person you can expect me to marry and it’s typically met with anticipation that a big fat Indian wedding is forthcoming for the family.

Yet when you introduce your Black partner to your Indian parents, that can throw up a plethora of very different emotions.

Meeting the parents wasn’t as significant for us as it might be imagined. The respective resentment and guilt we experienced had subsided by that point as our relationship was far from its infancy. Meeting the parents was necessary but our relationship wouldn’t be predicated upon it. However, a frosty meeting would have likely reignited the aforementioned feelings. 

There weren’t any nerves or anxieties on our part. In contrast, meeting their daughter’s Black boyfriend, and the acceptance of her partner from my now in-laws, was huge. For them, the journey had just begun. And it presented a range of emotions and cultural unfamiliarity that they would now experience.

They shared their experience of meeting their daughter’s Black partner and how, in retrospect, they look back on that initial meeting and the lead up to it.

 

We were curious, anxious and worried. Although much of how we saw the situation was just fear of the unknown.

We always saw our children getting married and marrying someone from a family like ours. They’d probably be Gujarati, but definitely Indian. That was especially important for our daughter because in our culture, she would effectively be leaving the family a

When our daughter told us she was seeing a Black man, that image we had held for so long was shattered.

We acknowledged that our daughter seeing a Black man was a reality but we remained in denial. Because of that, we didn’t want to initiate meeting you. That would just make it real. Out of the two of us, Dad especially resisted it. Nevertheless, both Faybas (paternal aunts), especially Savita Fayba as the family matriarch, and PL Papa and Champak Kaka (my father-in-law’s best friends) were key people who encouraged it. 

They told us to trust our daughter’s judgement as a sensible and intelligent person and Ben (older sister) told us we had to accept the path that she had taken as it had already been written. Whatever our views, we couldn’t change that. Today, we’re very thankful that they pushed us to let go of our stubbornness and narrow-mindedness.

If we’re honest, we were both worried about what people would say when they found out. With Dad working in the community, that added another layer of anxiety for both of us but we eventually asked Heena to meet you.

How we imagined you couldn’t have been further from the truth. We thought you’d be loud, obnoxious and basically as the media stereotypically portray Black people. The kind of image you see on MTV rap videos. We were also worried that you’d have a carefree, short-sighted attitude to life that wouldn’t make for a reliable or committed partner. The kind of person who lives for today and doesn’t worry about tomorrow. Was this relationship even going to last?

We had many questions. Were you educated? Were you articulate? On that one, it’s actually funny we even questioned it with the high English you use! We also wondered if you were family orientated as that’s very important to us as a family. These are questions we might have had if you were Gujarati, or at least Indian. But we would have probably assumed the answer to be yes in our pro-Gujarati bias. 

We were curious, anxious and worried. Although much of how we saw the situation was just fear of the unknown. 

Had you been Gujarati, we would have had less qualms about asking deeper questions. We’d have spoken to you in Gujarati and had questions about your parents and your original surname. As a non-Gujarati, that wasn’t applicable to you. When we think about it, in some ways, you not being Gujarati actually made for less formalities and allowed us to break the ice quicker.

You left a very positive first impression on us. Even baking an eggless cake for Mum as a practising Jain! We never discussed that first meeting after you left. I (Heena’s Dad) was still annoyed on some level. I had to concede I was wrong about you but I also still had to take my time in coming to terms with the situation. 

How we both felt did improve but we still had reservations and lingering doubts. That probably lasted until at least a few months after you got married. But we now accept we were wrong in how we judged you beforehand. So much of our thinking has now changed and we’re thrilled that you’ve become our Jamai (son-in-law).

 ALaw is Black British West Indian who lives in London with his wife and their son. Being born and bred in London, and as a teacher in an inner-city school, ALaw values and is familiar with the diversity a multicultural city can provide. With the rich and often unheard narrative of Blindian relationships and the challenges that can sometimes accompany the experience, ALaw wanted to share his story. And contribute to the conversation around Black x South Asian relationships as an experience that deserves to be celebrated and heard. In addition to the Blindian Project, ALaw writes at medium.com/@iamalaw and for musicfootballfatherhood.com, one of the UK's leading online parenting and lifestyle platforms and communities for dads.

 

 

 


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