Lovin’ and livin’ la vida local in India — five foreign brides share experiences

Published: April 29, 2013
Indian husbands

Several wives cited the closeness of their in-laws as a main comfort following their marriage to Indian husbands and their relocation to India. Photo illustration

VANCOUVER DESI

What does it take to fall in love with an Indian, marry him, and move to his country to live with him? The Hindustan Times caught up with some foreign brides to get their thoughts on curry, desi languages, and driving on Indian roads.

Christine, 36, Thiruvananthapuram

A Swiss wife has brought her Malayali husband back home. It may sound strange but that’s what happened after Christine convinced husband Antony that she would support moving their family to India.

“I wanted go back to India but was a bit afraid. When my wife backed me I felt it is time to pay back,” said Antony.

After graduating, Antony travelled to Switzerland to study hotel management. During his internship, he met Christine. He was working at her father’s resort in Interlaken, Switzerland when they made the decision to pack up and relocate.

“I never brought her here . . . she brought me to my country,” Antony said.

When the couple married, Christine’s exposure to India was limited to the “land of snake-charmers and spices.” And during their wedding ceremony at Palayam church in Thiruvananthapuram she shook hands with everyone, including her father-in-law, but later she realized it was not the way Indians do.

Now, more than her husband, she’s an Indian. Her children, Alexis, 6, and Darius, 2, speak Malayalam besides English, Swiss and German. And she enjoys cooking Malayali dishes.

“Here, family bonds are strong. And you never feel loneliness or depression,” Christine said.

On top of raising a family, she working as a guest relations manager with a travel firm in Thiruvananthapuram.

Although their move seems to be paying off, both Christine and Antony have a word of caution for others considering doing the same.

“Please don’t go for immediate gains. And don’t take things lightly. Chart out a long roadmap with a vision and everything will be perfect.”

Dominique Lopez, 37, Chennai

She is Dominique Lopez, a French, and he is Siddharth Lulla, hailing from a Sindhi family of Dehradun.

They met for the first time at a party in Paris in 2003.

“It was not love at first sight. But we kept in touch,” she said.

When Dominique came to New Delhi for a wedding — her friend was getting married to Siddharth’s friend — they spent time together. Friendship slowly began growing into a relationship. She recalls the times when Siddharth would come to Lisbon, where she worked as a demographer. Siddharth works for a technology company based out of Chennai and travelled for work. It was in 2009 that they decided to say ‘I do,’ with a French wedding in Paris, followed by an Indian one in Dehradun.

“Since then Chennai has been my home. And I’m happy for it despite some sacrifices I had to make,” she said.

Love and family bonding are the two things that keep Dominque rooting for India.

“My in-laws are so understanding, loving and caring,” she said.

On the flip side, she misses French culture, fashion and her friends.

“But we visit Paris twice a year and my parents visit us here in Chennai every year.

Dominique lost her freedom to drive, as naviating Indian roads makes her nervous. But she does not regret giving up her career as she kept herself busy with freelance work before the couple had a baby six months ago. She is also learning Bollywood music and dance.

Would they ever move to France? Dominique says the thought never crossed her mind.

“Not yet,” she said.

Dr. Olga Sharma, 40, Phagwara, Punjab

From Russian to Punjabi — and from skirts to salwaar kameez — it was not an easy transition for Dr. Olga Sharma, a native of Bellerose presently settled in Phagwara near Jalandhar.

Having studied together at Bellarose Medical University beginning in 1992, Dr. A.D. Sharma and Dr. Olga Sharma tied the knot in 1996. The couple stayed in Bellerose for four years after that but then decided to permanently settle in Phagwara.

“It was the love, commitment, along with the support from my husband and in-laws, that helped me to adapt Punjabi mannerisms,” said Olga.

Initially scared of oil and spices used in Punjabi cuisine, she gradually developed a liking for desi aromas.

“The colour of saag was repulsive but now I love eating saag, makki di roti and have an expertise in cooking Punjabi chicken curry,” said Olga.

She was also petrified at the thought of dressing up in Punjabi attire but having tried it couple of times, she started liking salwaar kameez.

Well-versed in Russian and English, Olga is equally at ease with Hindi and Punjabi as she makes queries of her patients every day in these languages.

Her husband A.D. marvelled,”Even a Punjabi girl would not have made such adjustments.”

The couple have three children who have double names (Indian as well as Russian): Anirudh Nikita Sharma, Aryan Alex Sharma and Arjun Matewai Sharma.

Irina Chikova, 32, Dharamsala

Irina Chikova had never thought of marrying and settling in a far-off country.

Born in Moscow, Irina was interested in art, dance and paintings. During her five-year course in fine arts at an institute in her native city, she once visited the Indian Culture Centre in Moscow. It was at this moment that she decided to learn Kathak.

Subsequently, she was  selected to participate in a cultural exchange program and arrived in India in 2002. She lived in New Delhi, learning the classical dance. During her stay in she learnt about the Tibetan painting art, Thangka.

“To learn the art I decided to come to Dharamsala,” said Irina. Searching for suitable accommodation led her to Rohit Panchkaran’s house. Rohit was a law professional practising in Dharamsala court.

“It was our first meeting. I liked the accommodation and decided to stay, not knowing that it was my destiny,” Irina says.

Love blossomed slowly.

“With passage of time our conversations turned into long meetings. It was the time when we started understanding each other and finally in 2010 we decided to get married,” said Irina.

“Usually Indian society doesn’t accept a foreign national easily. Though there were some hitches in the beginning, everything went smoothly for us,” said Rohit.

They tied the knot in 2011. The long stay in India helped Chikova to adjust in the new culture.

“I am familiar with the Indian culture and tradition as I was here for long,” said Irina, adding that she knows a little bit of Hindi but language was never a barrier. “Sometimes, however, it becomes difficult to communicate with my mother-in-law but I’m learning the local dialect also.”

Tamta (Nini), 26, Kundli, Sonepat

The match of Arun Khatri, 28, a Jat boy from a village in Sonepat and Tamta (Nini), 26, an orthodox Christian from Georgia, may sound different but many draw inspiration from them. Today, Nini, who has an MBA from Black Sea University in Georgia, lives at Kundli village with her brother in law and his family and has mastered the preparation of Indian, especially Haryanvi, food.

Arun pays utmost respect to his wife’s religious beliefs, culture and customs.

“When I was working in Gurgaon as a software engineer, I met Nini on Skype and our months of web chat culminated into love and Nini invited me to visit Georgia to introduce me to her parents,” said Arun, who presently runs an export business.

Nini said “My parents couldn’t say no after meeting with Arun, who presented his case honestly and innocently.”

On being asked on why she chose an Indian boy as her life partner, Nini said, “It was love, which connected us and the rest followed.”

Arun said, “Though we started liking each other, we both were of the opinion that our love would blossom into wedding only with the parents’ nod.”

On being asked about her two-and-half-year experience of living in India, “People are warm and hospitable here but are a bit conservative, while back in my country, we have an open-minded society,” she says.

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