One Studio, 2 In Laws, and 2 Stressed Out Newlyweds

This blog post is in response to GoriGirl’s post about hosting her inlaws. At the end of May, Satya’s parents came to the U.S. from India to visit and to attend our renewal of vows ceremony in August. The original plan was for them to stay with Satya’s brother and his wife, but plans changed in mid July.

When I heard that the in laws would be staying with us, I admit I freaked out a bit. How would it ever work? Could we all survive the next 6 weeks without severing relationships? How could 4 adults live in one room (it is 900 sq. ft. but still, no walls)?

Fortunately, we all made it through as a family. One benefit was that it allowed me to get to know my in laws better. I had never met them before May. Now, the studio actually feels a bit empty without them.

Below are my tips for living with in laws. Most are common sense and courtesy.

1. Give them as much independence as possible. For us this meant getting my father in law a senior pass for public transportation. It also meant checking out travel books from the library about our city, getting maps, and showing them how to find their way around.

2. Coordinate with other family members. Sometimes, Satya’s brother and sister-in-law would entertain the in laws for day or an afternoon. This gave us some time to ourselves.

3. Learn from them. My in laws were very generous in sharing their culture with me. My mother in law especially, made an effort to share her culture with me. She dressed me in her sarees, taught me some Kannada words, and told me about some Hindu festivals and practices.

4. Speak with them. I made an effort to talk with them and not ignore them. Every morning I tried to greet them with a smile and a “Good Morning” and in the evening I told them about my day and asked about theirs.

5. Do things as a family. Unfortunately, due to hectic work schedules and major stressful projects (planning a renewal of vows ceremony, doing paperwork for a green card) Satya and I didn’t have much time to do big, touristy things with them. Instead, we did things like play board games, and watch movies together.

6. Let go. My mother in law loves to cook and is fabulous at it. When she moved in, she took control of the kitchen. She cooked our suppers and even packed lunches for us!

7. Do little things to make them comfortable. Satya and I did things like install instant messaging and skype onto a home computer, bought flowers, told them about the local farmer’s markets (I think they enjoyed these much better than the grocery stores).

8. Plan time for yourself and spouse. Satya and I would take walks outside whenever we needed private discussion space.

Needless to say, I’ve been very blessed to have married into such a welcoming and easygoing family. My in laws truly treated me like a daughter. I realize though, that not everyone is as lucky. I don’t have any advice for situations where both parties aren’t cooperative.

Overall, it was a growing experience. We all got to know each other better. Also, having his parents here helped Satya relax during a very stressful period of his life. I’m looking forward to hosting my in laws again, although hopefully next time we will have a house!

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Back Again

Satya and I arrived late last night from our week of hectic planning and wedding celebration.  Sunday’s wedding/renewal of vows ceremony went smoothly and was very beautiful.  Monday’s ceremony at my grandmother’s nursing home was bittersweet.  My 90 year old grandmother has dementia.  I feel very lucky and blessed she was able to participate.  The whole weekend was very emotional and at times bittersweet (thinking about my grandmother, realizing Satya’s parents are leaving for India today, realizing again that everyone we care about will never be in the same place at the same time on this earth, etc.)

 

To everyone who eloped, my advice is to have some kind of traditional family ceremony.  It meant a lot to me to have my family all around and support me and Satya.  Satya and I both agree that the ceremonies did change something about our relationship.  We aren’t sure what, but we can feel it.  Sorry that isn’t very clear, but maybe some of you will know what I mean.

 

To all those in mixed relationships, I think that having the family ceremony is even more crucial because it allows the families to meet and get to know each other.  I think it reassures the families to realize that they do share so many values.  One of my favorite memories was of Satya’s birthday supper at an Indian restaurant.  His sister and parents took a lot of care to show my family how to eat the food, and to describe the food.  Everyone had a few good laughs together.  Another piece of advice is to have a family gathering after all the stress and emotion of the ceremonies.  Everyone is much more relaxed and ready to have fun.

 

 Satya and I are very blessed.  Our wedding count so far is 1 Jewish blessing ceremony, 1 ELCA ceremony, and 1 Catholic blessing ceremony.  Next spring will be the grande finale….1 Hindu ceremony in India.

 

As I get time and energy (I didn’t eat or sleep properly the whole week) I will write more about this past week.

Blog Vacation

I’m leaving for Minnesota soon for wedding #2.  I will return in about 10 days with plenty of new topics and posts (and hopefully fill in some of the Minnesota side of this blog).  I will definitely give a full account of our experience at the State Fair.

Laxmi Worship

Today is an important day for worshipping Laxmi. She is especially worshipped on Fridays during the month of August/September, Shravan.  This is an important Friday because it is the Friday before a full moon.

Why:  Laxmi is the goddess of prosperity and “all good things” as my mother-in-law says.  People pray to her for health, wealth, happiness, children, and other things.  Laxmi is associated with Vishnu, Rama, and Krishna.

Who: Women, especially married women.

How:  For this I’m relying on what my mother-in-law told me and what information I’ve found online.  Traditions vary by region, caste, and family.  Like the nag festival, sweets, sarees, and bathing are important.  (So far it seems like every festival is accompanied by these things).  Bathing is done before praying.  A new saree is placed on the altar.   The altar is decorated with fresh flowers.

Some websites say that fasting is important and that there are other dietary restrictions: no onions, no garlic (sounds like Jains rather than for Hindus), vegetarian diet (this seems to be followed everyday), and no bitter foods. 

This is also an important time for visiting relatives.  Married women return to their mother’s place. 

Click here to go to Padma’s Kitchen blog.  She has a great description of what she does and great photos of her altar. 

My mother-in-law also makes designs on the sidewalk for festivals.  Click here for more information about this beautiful tradition and for pictures of examples.

How do you worship Laxmi?  What is your favorite part of the festival?

Kannada Update

Last night I showed Satya and his parents some of the phrases from the ICC Kannada lesson.

One lesson was entitled, “Polite Phrases”, which from our perspective just teaches you how to apologize in many various situations.  The lesson has a clip art picture, the phrase written in English, phrase written in English characters, phrase written in Kannada.  The accented voice will read the phrase in English, and then read it in Kannada. 

Satya and his parents thought this was hilarious.  I asked, “Does anyone actually talk like this?”  His dad said, “Only people like you” meaning those who don’t know Kannada well.  They said the accent was all wrong and the phrases too bookish.  Satya was annoyed because the translations didn’t exactly match up. 

On the bright side, I now know how to say sorry in Kannada, “Kshamisi”.

Another error was in the Greetings section.  It had an example of someone saying “Goodmorning child” which they translated to “Namaskara _____” (forgot the word for child).  Anyway, Satya and his parents said that you never say that because it is giving too much respect to the child.  The child says Namaskara and adults say Namaskara to each other, but that is it.  What do others think about this?  Would you ever say “Namaskara” to a child?

My thinking is now that I will still use the program, but will have Satya sitting beside me to say what is right or what his family uses.  I am thinking I will also need to tape record him or his parents so I can copy  their accents.

I do think that from the program I can learn to decode signs and learn basic vocabulary.  I’d like to complete the ICC program and then complete the Mysore University online course, but know it will take a year or two and lots of discipline.

Lingayats Targeted for Conversion

To Lingayats, perhaps this is old news.  To those in the U.S. or married to Lingayats this may come as a shock.  I knew I was shocked and angered to discover that Lingayats are being specifically targeted by American Evangelicals for conversion.

 

 Satya is not shocked at all.  He’s heard of Christian missionaries settling near his home. He says that some people are initially tolerant of missionaries, until they discover that the missionaries are trying to convert them.  Then there are reactions such as the missionary being ignored, beat up, or of people converting for material benefits. 

 

Satya has a lot of patience.  This spring we attended Mass with my family and the priest was talking in his homily about the importance of worshipping only one god.  My family all cringed, but Satya was unconcerned.  He’s heard it all before and I guess it rolls off of him pretty easily by now. 

 

We both do not have a problem with Christians-I am Catholic after all, and he has attended Mass with my family a few times.  Satya grew up in a very tolerant and diverse environment-he has Christian and Muslim friends he’s known for years.  He attended a school founded by German missionaries.  It is the conversion part we both have issues with.  To me it is insulting and condescending.  Lingayats are not lost people without a history or culture nor are they immoral.  Satya and my in laws are extremely intelligent, kind, tolerant, and spiritual people. 

 

 My own view is that everyone should be left to their own devices.  The best witness to a religion is being a good person.  If anyone is going to convert in our relationship it will likely be me because I do not agree with the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church and I think that Lingayats know better how to live in a multicultural world.  If people ask, then tell them about your religion.  Do not manipulate people or bribe them.

 

Missionaries can destabilize an area and put their believers in danger.  If the missionaries or their followers anger a group of Hindus or Muslims then the Hindus and Muslims could persecute the followers.  The missionaries leave to return to their homelands and the local converts are left to face the wrath of their neighbors.  It also fuels the fire of the Hindu and Muslim fundamentalist groups. 

 

 

 Links

Baptist Press   This article is of Baptists bragging about their success converting Lingayats.

 

Joshua Project   This website shows which groups around the world are being actively targeted by Evangelicals.  Not only is it offensive, some of their information is blatantly wrong and/or condescending.  One of the links they list to learn more about Lingayats is www.everyculture.com

Here is what they say about Lingayats and the arts “Although Lingayats in past centuries were noted for their religious poetry and philosophical writings, today the chief arts are the singing and playing of hymns. There is no marked ability shown in the visual arts.” Who judges that?  How?

And about Medicine, “Lingayat priests (called ayya or swami) are also astrologers and medicine men, often dispensing herbal remedies to sick villagers. This is a useful craft for them to possess, rather than a learned profession.”  This is despite the fact that Satya’s family has numerous doctors and dentists.  The site makes Lingayats sound like a primitive tribe complete with witch doctors rather than a group of people part of the modern world. 

 

 

Here is a website of Indian Christians trying to evangelize Karnataka.  I do have some sympathy for their cause because they are trying to help people few are willing or able to, namely street kids and eunuchs.  Also, these are Indian Christians trying to evangelize other Indians.  Still, I’m uncomfortable.  I don’t think it is a tragedy that the number of Christians is falling in Karnataka.  Christianity won’t solve Karnataka’s challenges.  Neither do I think that Hinduism created those challenges.  This website has false claims such as that thanks to missionaries Kannada is a written language and its people speak English thus allowing them to compete with the rest of the world.  Kannada has been a written language for hundreds of years.  The people of Karnataka know English because India was a British colony.

      

 

 

Blog

 

This blog records acts of persecution against Christians in India.  Although it does do an important job of recording some injustices, I do wonder about the full back story of the incidents.  What was the situation like before the attacks?  Were the Christians providing a peaceful witness by being good people, or were they using questionable tactics to gain converts?  Were they in a location that wanted their presence? How long had the Christians been in the area-hundreds of years, or just a few? There is no excuse for violence, but usually there is a reason.

 

 

Conclusion

So where does this all leave us?  Would more education in U.S. schools about geography, languages, and cultures help?  Will the conversion laws in India be effective while still allowing those who genuinely feel the need to convert, convert?  How do we show tolerance towards those who themselves are intolerant? 

 

 

 

Learning the Kannada Alphabet…Vowels

Yesterday I finally had the opportunity to start using the ICC Kannada online course.  The first lesson was 15 vowels…Wow!  My ears are going to have to adjust to the subtle differences between letters. 

The lesson introduced the letter, showed a word with a picture with the vowel, and then showed how to write the vowel.  Writing was fun-the letters are beautiful and intricate.  A lot of the letters involve the same written motions (loops and curliques), so I think by the end I was starting to get the hang of it.  I will definitely need to stock up on index cards to make flash cards!

The last two vowels were confusing for me…the “ahm” and the “ahuh” (or something like that).  The example for “ahm” was “angi” (shirt) and the other was the word for sorrow.  I was confused because in the written word I couldn’t find the vowels written exactly like the alphabet letter…they morphed somehow.  Satya explained that the word for sorrow has the same hiccup sound people make when they are sobbing…it will be easier to remember now with that explanation.

I’m looking forward to learning actual phrases and sentences.

This weekend I am definitely going to get some index cards!

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