I often reminisce about the visit by my American wife and her entire family—her parents and her sister—to India almost twelve years ago. That visit, once again, proved my belief in the power of love, a power that can shatter generations of rooted prejudice and bring two extreme ends of the world together.
I was there to marry my wife, again, but this time Indian style. Six months before I was married in Michigan. Only two members from my side of the family were present—my eighteen-year-old niece and my fifteen-year-old nephew. My parents in India were not there. They had simply refused to accept the fact that I was in love with a “White American.”
Living in a small village in India, with exposure to America mainly through their black-and-white fourteen-inch television set, my parents—born when the British were still ruling their country—still harbor deep-seated beliefs and resentment toward those rulers—Anglophobia, as it’s called. This belief is reinforced annually by Bollywood movies released around August 15, India’s Independence Day, depicting the evil, broken-Hindi-speaking British general, or “gora.”
So, we decided it would not be prudent to even try to invite my parents to our wedding in Michigan—a wedding they did not approve of. While my niece and nephew stayed with us for about two weeks, I was busy with the wedding plans and a new job I had started. My in-laws were the ones who entertained my niece and nephew. They took them to the Michigan Wolverine stadium. To a Tigers baseball game. And to downtown Detroit.
And very quickly, these two kids saw what I had seen. People everywhere have all the same emotions. Parents love their children the same way. Mothers are just as protective. They do shed tears here. They do laugh loud enough to snort. Butter does indeed melt in their mouth—every time.
These emissaries went back and conveyed the message. And my parents warmed up at least slightly to my wife and in-laws.
We finally visited India for our Indian wedding. By all measures, it was a small wedding. My father invited only about a thousand people from around town. My father-in-law and I were dressed in suits, American style. My wife, my sister-in-law, and my mother-in-law all dressed in bright Indian, traditional wedding clothes. This event occurred after we had been in India for about ten days, and my meat-and-potatoes kind of father-in-law was the only one who had not complained even once about the spiciness of Indian food, the humbleness of our residence, or the roughness of our travels. And when I saw his six-foot-one Polish frame leading a dance circle, clapping his hands to the loud and fast Indian music, with many of my relatives joining in and my parents looking on admiringly, that is when I knew—that after all, love had prevailed. Without ever being able to communicate with them fluidly, my parents, against all odds, had fallen in love with the Americans.