Below is a full transcript of our podcast episode, titled Interfaith Marriages in the Desi Community – A Sikh Bride Talks About Marrying a Muslim. The episode was hosted by PlanEvents.ca’s Kam, and the guest was Kamalpreet.
If you’re looking for a shorter version of their story, check out this featured story on the Blindian Project.
Scroll down to see the transcript and/or listen to the episode here.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 00:00
Welcome to the PlanEvents.ca podcast. This is your host Kamran, and Today is July 19 2020. I don’t remember if I mentioned which episode this was or not, but if I forgot, this is Episode 20. Once again, in today’s episode we’re going to be discussing a topic we’ve never discussed before, specifically as it relates to mixed marriages. So mixed marriage meaning bride and groom or bride and bride and groom and groom, or whatever the combo is, they come from different backgrounds, it could be religious backgrounds, it could be ethnic backgrounds, racial backgrounds, any sort of different backgrounds, talking about diverse couples today. And for this episode, we have a guest, her name is Kami. And here shortly, I’ll pass the mic over to her. But essentially, we’ll be talking about what her experience has been like, as she has gone through the, I guess you could call it the marriage process, specifically in marrying somebody from a different religion, similar ethnicity, but different languages. So I’m gonna go ahead and hand off to Kami. And by the way, if you listen to this whole episode, there is a bonus at the end. Okay, here we go. Here you go. Kami. Hello.
Hi. So, um, just a little bit about myself, I are, you know, my relationship I have been with my partner for a little over seven years now, we, we met when I was in my early 20s. And, you know, it wasn’t anything like, Oh, I’m going to be rebellious. And I’m going to find a partner outside of my culture or religion or, you know, background just kind of happened, I, you know, we met and the rest is really history. So they say, so, um, so that’s basically it.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 02:16
That’s your introduction. Can you tell us? What is your background? What is your partner’s background? And tell us a little bit about, once you give us back on both your backgrounds, you could share what your parents initial responses were like.
Yeah, definitely. So I come from a pretty traditional family where, you know, we were told no dating and, you know, no boyfriends and all that jazz. And it was pretty much expected for us to marry someone within our culture and religion. But so that’s a little bit of that I am Punjabi. We’re Sikh. I personally was born in India, I came to the US when I was three years old. And my partner, his mother is from Pakistan, and his father is from Bangladesh. And he is actually born in the US in Washington State. And so I feel that he is very, in touch with history. And he’s just very smart in in the way that like, he just likes random facts, and, you know, just likes to look up random things. So, because of that he was, I feel like he’s very in touch with just the Indian culture. And when I say Indian, I mean, you know,Pakistan, India, like Bangladesh, blah, all that.So, so I felt like he was pretty cultured. And, yeah, well, basically that. Where do I even begin? Um, his, his family is not. I’m sorry, his family is Muslim. You know, they’re from predominantly predominantly Islamic countries. So that makes sense. He is not necessarily fasting. I’m sorry, not fasting, practicing. I’m a he’s more like, this is part of my identity. So to say.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 04:36
Can you jump into telling sharing, like what your parents initial responses were? how did how did you bring the subject?
Oh, yeah, yeah, sorry. Um, so basically, my mom came to me one day, I think I was maybe 25 or 26. And she said, Hey, if you have anyone in mind, just let me know. It’s okay. And yeah, so I, a couple months later, my partner and I were like, Alright, it’s time to get serious if we’re going to continue this, then you know, we need to take the next step, which is to get the parents involved. So you know, I tell her Hey Mom, you know, it was just her and I, I tell her I do have someone in mind and the first thing she asked is, is this person, Gujrati? And I said no. And she said, Thank God, okay. And know that offense or anything, it’s just like, I don’t know if that was just her. And so then I tell her, I first I tell her, oh, you know, he has a really good job. He’s, you know, well, well, has a good background and education, he has some more values, and blah, blah, blah, you know, he was born here. Um, and, you know, I just let that sink in. And she was like, Okay, so what is he? I was like, well, he’s half up. You know, his mom’s from Pakistan, and his dad’s from Bangladesh. So yeah. And, um, and she was like, so. So he’s Muslim. And I was like, Yeah, he’s Muslim. Oh, my God. It was, it was tough. It was really tough. I like, she didn’t say no, but she didn’t say yes, either. It was such a tough conversation. And the next few days were really tough, just because she was crying. And she just felt like, you know, what are people going to say? And what is, you know, what are we going to do? What, how is your dad going to react and, you know, this, that, or this and that, and I just felt so heartbroken. I was just like, you know, at the time, I think we were together for four years or five years, and I was just like, How am I supposed to move on with my life without this person? I just could not imagine it. And, you know, then in there, I decided, I was like, No, that’s no is not an option. You know, a few months later, I tell my, my mom and I decide that it’s, it’s the best time to talk to my dad. So basically, I did, and she didn’t say anything. She was just like, Hmm, okay. Um, you know, he asked questions about like, Okay, well, like, does he go back to Pakistan? Or, you know, are the parents going to move back to Pakistan? Or, you know, what, what is that whole situation? Like, what are the parents do blah, blah, blah. And I told them that, you know, his, his mother works for the state and his dad worked for on the Navy base. And thankfully, they have good jobs. My partner’s Father, I think, got his master’s degree or pursued a master’s degree in the US and for his time frame, and I’m for that time frame. That was, that’s a huge it’s a huge thing, right. So my parents felt like they, they were good people, and they were from a good background. But yeah, definitely scary moments. I am so glad I am past those moments, just because it was so it was just anxiety all the time, because I didn’t know what that you know, my parents would think, but, um, they met my partner, I believe it was.Maybe, yeah, maybe like six to eight months after we told my dad, um, we met at like a Starbucks. And it was funny because my partner had gone to India for a friend’s wedding. And so, you know, he had a lot to talk about with my dad, and, you know, just the history and all of that stuff. I felt like that really helped the situation, just because he was able to relate to my dad. And obviously, you know, moms just want a nice person. So that’s, that’s kind of that’s kind of what happened. Yeah.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 09:26
So from the from the time you told your mom, about your partner, how long did it take for her to tell your dad?
I think it was. I want to say I think it was like maybe six months. It was a really drawn out process. But to be honest with you at the time, it felt just awful. But I am really glad that we took our time and took it easy.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 09:50
So it took about six months for your mom to tell your dad. So how long did it take from the time that you told your mom to the time that you know, your partner’s parents and your parents formalize the relationship? How long did that take?
Yeah, so the first, I think the first time that they actually met was maybe a year after my partner met my parents. And that was just okay. I guess a little bit of background. I was in school. You know, I was, and I was very early on in my career. So, you know, my parents wanted me to focus on that. And my, then my sister was getting ready to go to, you know, halfway across the country to go pursue her bachelor’s degree. And so it was just really bad timing, I want to say for lack of a better way of saying it.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 10:46
So it took took a year. So the a year from the day told your mom, a year later, your parents and your partner’s parents met?
I believe, wait, was it a year? I want to say it was between six to 12 months for sure.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 11:04
I only asked because from what I understand, I think it might have been a couple years, but maybe, maybe I just I just don’t know, as much as you
No, it was definitely not a couple years, it was it was it was between six to 12 months for sure.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 11:22
Okay, so it took some time for parents to come around. Can you share with the audience? what some of your parents common concerns were?
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 11:34
So that’s one question. I’d like that answer. The second part is, what kind of preconceived notions that they have about Muslim people? So those are two separate questions. We’ll go with the first one first.
Yeah, so the first question is about their concerns. They were worried that my partner or my partner’s parents would force me to convert my religion. And, you know, obviously, my family’s not super religious, but that’s what you know, what we identify by, we are Sikh. So that was obviously number one concern, and I, I am not, you know, a wishy washy person when it comes to my culture, or my background, or my religion, even if I am not like fully practicing. So, I already, you know, obviously, I established that with my partner, and I just had to make sure my parents understood that, and then they were afraid that, you know, Muslims can have multiple wives, like, he’s, he’s probably going to want to bring someone in later. And, you know, that whole situation. And I told him that, you know, his father didn’t do that. I don’t think his father’s father did that. Um, and I was like, he was born here, you know, he grew up here, he knows life in Washington, you know, he knows life in Seattle. so that’s just not the type of person he is. And so that was a major thing, not like one other thing that was pretty major is my dad, felt like maybe my partner would leave me after just a couple years. Or, you know, after we have kids or something, because of, you know, religious differences. Another issue, I think, I’m not 100% sure on this, but I think Sikhs are not supposed to be buried, when they die. They’re supposed to be cremated. And that’s just how things have been done. And so my dad was basically like, you know, if you marry him, they’re gonna bury you, your kids are gonna bury you. And that’s not okay with me. And, you know, at the moment, at the time, I just, like kind of chuckled to myself, and, you know, my sister and I laughed about it later. But it’s important to him, you know, it’s important to him how his kids are after he passes away, you know, um, and so, those what I would say were the top four concerns.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 14:28
Okay, so beyond the concerns they had, what what kind of preconceived notions Do you feel like they had about Muslim people and how did you go about kind of addressing those preconceived notions?
So number one, was the wives thing right? Like, oh, yeah, he’s gonna leave you at or not leave you but he’s going to bring in another wife and blah, blah, blah and but you know, converting situation. And I really feel like once he realized that, this is Not just a phase that, you know, hey, we’re in this for the long run, you know, and the more that like our parents started talking, I felt like, it just kind of clicked to him like, oh, shoot, like, you know what, these people are not like that his dad doesn’t have like 30 different wives or, you know, whatever the case is, I think that really helped. AndI, to be honest with you, I don’t know what my dad did behind closed doors. I know, my mom, she really looked into, my mom loves going on YouTube, and like, she loves surfing the web, it’s really cute, actually. But, um, she began looking into, you know, the Muslim religion and the culture and, you know, talking to my partner’s mom, and just talking about similarities, differences. And that helped a lot, it helped her realize, like, hey, these people are very much similar to us, you know, might take religion out of it. If they’re, you know, our cultures are very similar. And our values are very similar. And that I think that’s what’s most important to her. And obviously, you know, a job, education, all that stuff, too. So, and then I feel like, the parents talked, and I feel like my parents got confirmation, like, we’re not going to force your daughter to convert or anything. So that helped a lot. Yeah, yeah. I mean, they’re one big thing is like, what will people say? What are people going to think? That was a huge issue for my mom, at least? I honestly feel like they, they have seen a lot of people that I grew up with marry outside of our, our backgrounds, I have multiple Punjabi friends, Sikh friends that have married like, like Americans. So, so I think they just became more accepting. And it was actually really good timing, because one of my childhood friends got married to, to an Italian person. And it’s, you know, they saw how they have the Sikh ceremony that was another concern like, oh, are they only going to want to do their ceremony? What about the ceremony? You know, so? So that? Yeah, that helps.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 17:33
The other question I have is like, what about kids? Like, how do you plan on raising your kids? What kind of names are you going to give them like these are, I think these are the types of thoughts that run through parents heads. And my assumption is, you know, when a couple has not gotten married yet, and they’re going to get married, they have they come from different backgrounds, they might have certain ideas on how they’re going to do things, let’s say 10 years from now. But I think 10 years from now, that same couple might look back, and maybe they ended up doing things very different, or the perspective is completely different once you’ve progressed that far in life. So what are your plans there for both you, you and your partner?
That’s like the famous question that we always get. We are going to expose our kids to both religions. I have absolutely no objection to that. I think that’s how it should be. We want our children, our future children to have the you know, best of both worlds, so to say we want them to be exposed to both. And I know that some people in my partner’s family are religious, and that’s okay. If they want to learn more great, we’ll send them over, right? If my parents want to take our future kids to Gurdwara, or, you know, Nagar Kirtanor whatever the case is great, that’s fine. As far as names go, we’ve decided that we are going to try to find neutral names, nothing too Punjabi, nothing too Islamic. We’ll find a common ground. We don’t. I mean, kids are not we don’t have kids right now, and I don’t think we’re gonna have kids for a few years. So I mean, who knows things could change then well, maybe my partner will really enjoy a Punjabi name, or I’ll really like a Islamic names. You never know, names. Names are the last things that I need to worry about
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 19:40
throughout this process, so we’ve got about 10 minutes left, and I didn’t want to get through a couple other questions, too. Sounds like a big part of things working per se has been letting the parents talk things out amongst themselves, meaning Your mom talks to your partner’s mom, and your parents talk to your partner’s parents and they have their own conversations amongst each other. You’re not really involved, you’re letting them kind of handle it like adults. Like, can you tell us a little bit more about that? Like, how has that worked for you and your partner?
Yeah, and that’s exactly right. It’s more like, you know, the parents have their own conversations, and they call each other, it’s actually really cute. They just talk. The thing about that is I, I feel like it was the best way to do it. Because it allowed the parents to really get to know each other, and, you know, just understand each other’s families better. Um, you know, people would always tell me, oh, just go get married, whatever, go get engaged, whatever, like, who cares about what the parents say, they’re always going to do this. I’m glad we didn’t rush it. I really don’t care if I, if this is a situation for another 10 years, you know, obviously, I want to move on with my life, and take the next step. But as long as everyone’s happy, I think that’s critical to me and my partner, especially because we all want our families full support. Does that kind of answer your question?
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 21:17
It does. How did the parents communicate? If you know that sounds like your parents speak one language Punjabi, and probably the partner’s parents might speak multiple languages seem they come from different backgrounds themselves can share more information on that.
Yeah, yeah, sorry, I forgot to mention that. So, um, my so what growing up, I was actually the I have two other siblings, and they both don’t speak Punjabi at home. I’m the only one they understand Punjabi, but will respond in English. So my parents are pretty and also my parents have been here for so long, and you know, they’ve had to go out and work out publicly and you know, just venture out. So, my partner does not speak other languages. And so they communicate to him in English. The dads. Ah, so here’s the thing that my partner’s not understands Hindi. So my dad will speak in Hindi or English and my partner’s dad. I think he typically responds in English. But the moms it’s really interesting because my partner’s mom speaks, I think like three different languages English and Hindi or do and so my mom and his mom speak in like this, or do Hindi Punjabi hybrid. It’s, it’s really cute. But yeah, so so that’s how they communicate it’s they’re really old school both both sets of parents, are they they like to talk on the phone. Not so much texting or you know, Whatsapp or anything? They, they just they chat maybe once a month or a couple times a month. But yeah.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 23:10
So before we wrap up with like, the little bonus segment I mentioned earlier, I didn’t want to ask, don’t you know and speaking with you in the past, it didn’t seem like this was an easy process. It seems like you probably learned a lot about, you know, when it makes sense to put your foot down and stand up for what you believe in, as well as places where you are wrong. You know about your parents, maybe you expected your parents would act or respond a certain way. And they responded a lot more positively than you expect it to. Can you share like two or three really important learnings that you think that other people might find some comfort in who might be going through similar situation?
Definitely, my number one piece of advice is Go with your gut. As cliched as it sounds, I feel like if I took the advice of my friends or you know, people that I know or you don’t worry, if I tried to rush it, we wouldn’t be where we are and to be honest with you, I’m happy with how things are turning out, knock on wood. You know, your parents the best. You need to follow your gut don’t listen to anyone else. If you feel like your parents need this process to go slow, and you know, not rush and really ease into things do that. And that is number one. Number two, if you if you’re going through this process and your parent and your parents will try to convince you if especially you know like in my situation where I’m Sikh and he’s Muslim. If your parents try to convince you, you, you really need to think it through what’s what’s important to you, can you see your life without this person, if you cannot try to convince you why it interrupt. If they try to convince you to find someone, within your culture, within your within our religion, thenyou just need to take some time to think and reflect and make sure this is what you want, because this is a big step. Um, so that’s, that’s, you know, thinking through, that’s my second piece of advice. And number three, be patient, it will all work out what’s meant to be will find its way and I truly, truly, truly believe in that.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 25:44
Awesome. Do you have any final parting words, besides his words of advice before we wrap things up?
Um, I just cannot reiterate enough, the importance of following your gut and just do not let external factors get in the way or you know, you just have to go with your with your gut. That’s, I could say that a million different times, and still want to continue to say that.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 26:17
Awesome, thank you. So we’ll jump into the bonus surprise. So Surprise, surprise, I’m your host Kamran. I am the partner, Kami’s partner. I’m betting my parents are going to listen to this. And they will probably find some inaccuracies, and maybe some things she said about them. So I will try to correct those right here right now. For the record. I might still be wrong. I’m not sure. So I don’t think my dad has a Master’s. I think he I think he pursued a Master’s. But I had to stop pursuing it. Because he needed to like work multiple jobs to support to make a living here. So I think that might be wrong. The second thing is I think my mom knows four languages, not three, because she knows Bengali as well. So Urdu, Hindi, Bengali and English. That’s about it. I know I didn’t give like this excited surprise. I’m just not that kind of person. But yeah, if if folks have questions for Kami or myself, even though Kami is not a part of like the PlanEvents Instagram account, just send a DM to @PlanEvents.ca on Instagram. I’m happy to answer any questions. If you have you or anybody else, you know, who has gone through similar? Let’s just call them highly diverse partnerships, marriages, and you think that they would make a great guest let us know, you know, it could be people from different religious backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, racial backgrounds. And for those of you that believe in the notion of caste or community, it can be people from coming from like, same ethnicity, same religion, but maybe different sub communities or caste. So if you want to see people come on talk about those topics. Let me know. Anyways, I hope everybody enjoyed this episode. And thank you Kamifor being a wonderful guest and also a wonderful partner. Oh, anyways, Bye, everybody. Have a good evening.