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We Married During The Pandemic. Now My Husband Is Getting To Know My Parents In India, Via FaceTime

The author's wedding at the Longfellow House in Cambridge. (Courtesy)
The author's wedding at the Longfellow House in Cambridge. (Courtesy)

In spring, early in the pandemic, I got married. No family. No rings. No fanfare. Just two friends, their dog Morty, the justice of the peace and us. Our officiant struggled saying my name — Tanushree — and called me T. She read her script, asked us to repeat after her, and then declared us husband and wife. The entire service lasted less than 10 minutes.

The ceremony took place under a white trellis in the blooming garden of the historical Longfellow House in Cambridge. Early May brought purple lilacs and white roses. The museum was closed but the grounds remained open. There was no one around except our diminutive wedding party. Bunnies, squirrels and chipmunks scuttled around, driving Morty mad.

After our vows, Dan and I lowered our masks for pictures, thanked the justice and our friends (sadly, we couldn’t hug them), went home and ordered takeout.

Though we’d been talking about marriage for months, the abruptness of our decision hit us immediately afterward. For days we didn’t tell anyone, not even my family back in India.

When I turned 30, several years ago, they expressed concerns about my unmarried status and suggested an arranged marriage ...

We are an interracial couple. Dan is white and American; I am an immigrant from India. My parents are traditional in certain ways. I never spoke about the men I dated, and my parents never asked. When I turned 30, several years ago, they expressed concerns about my unmarried status and suggested an arranged marriage, even creating a profile for me on Indian matrimonial sites. It was easier to deflect their attempts because of the distance between us and, after few attempts, they gave up. Another worry was their community: “What do we tell people here, why you aren’t getting married?”

When Dan and I decided to move into together a year ago it became imperative I come clean with my parents. A full disclosure followed. They greeted the news cautiously. I knew it stressed them out. Unmarried couples cohabiting is frowned upon in India. So, while here Dan’s family invited me to family reunions and holidays, my parents in India barely knew Dan beyond a few polite emails. It was a self-imposed ignorance, a passive denial to acknowledge my relationship. I understood and respected the sentiment. I was careful about what I shared on social media.

The pandemic brought forth another anxiety as the death toll mounted, creating urgency for my parents to get to know the person I married. The uncertainty of our times made the possibility of them never meeting Dan a newly considered reality. The years away from India and my family weighed heavy on me. The choice to first hide my relationship, and then restrict contact, caused immense regrets. Was I right in thinking they didn’t want to know about Dan? Was I right in hiding our relationship from them? I wasn’t sure anymore. All those years, lost, and so much to make up for.

Marriage legitimized and legalized our relationship and broke away the mental barriers my parents had about Dan and me.

The lockdown enforced in India was one of the strictest in the world. My parents live in an apartment complex in Gurgaon that was further quarantined and placed in what was referred to as a "containment zone."

Now every Sunday morning, Dan and I FaceTime with them. It is a time when my parents are preparing for bed and Dan and I just only beginning our day.

After some initial awkwardness, we have come to cherish these calls. They tell us about their life there without a maid, and the division of labor between them. Dan is amused to learn about the overt reliance of Indian households on maids. I realize there is so much Dan doesn’t know about my home country, the culture and the problematic social and class structures.

My parents tell Dan stories from my childhood, delighted to have an audience which makes reminiscing, a necessary distraction from current events, more enjoyable. As I watched my mother enthusiastically explain to Dan a Bengali marriage custom of wearing a topor and mukut, conical headgear, I found myself smiling at the thought of us going home one day and celebrating our family together.

As a white male in America, Dan will never fully comprehend how it feels to be a brown immigrant in times like these ...

This past summer, the Trump administration announced a new executive order restricting H1B visas and green cards. It is a reminder of my precarious status as an immigrant here in America. News like this tends to make headlines in India, so my parents often ask. Our conversations around these topics grow more somber.

As a white male in America, Dan will never fully comprehend how it feels to be a brown immigrant in times like these, the toll it takes on my mental health and sense of self. But it has also allowed a new level of consciousness and closeness between us. He is now intimately involved in the administrative and bureaucratic struggles of my immigration process. The dynamic is another reality that our marriage forces us to reckon with and plan for. What our future holds remains uncertain.

No matter my personal and professional achievements the past few years — moving to a new country and building a new life — my marriage gives my parents a sense of relief they have long lacked. When I point out this diminishment, they brush it aside. It's annoying, but I also take comfort in their happiness.

"You finally have family there,” they say. “We can rest now.”

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Tanushree Baidya Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Tanushree Baidya is a business analyst and a writer. Her stories and essays have appeared in Kweli, Creative Nonfiction, Grubwrites and other places.

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