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Sikh British mixed marriage

True story of a mixed couple who met and married in the '80s, at a time when there was even less understanding between the different races.

They have raised a family, but not without a LOT of difficulty.

This is written by a Punjabi lady whose family were extremely traditional in their response to the relationship. She also touches on the difficulties she experienced being accepted by her husband's family.

Saffron’s story 

 

I was delighted to discover this site, it’s as if I have dreamt of such a link through most of my adult life. A big thankyou therefore to Mixtogether.org. I am sadly not unfamiliar with many points and issues raised by members and my heart goes out to you all.                   

I am from Sikh Punjabi background. My husband is white British, his father was Scottish and mother English. We met as adults in  our late 20's, both had good education and professional jobs. I left home at approx 18 to work in a residential setting, which in itself was not acceptable.

 

I had a strong will ,but this was the consequence I believe of neglect, scapegoated by my family for their own difficulties and problems. I believe migration played a big part in the insecurities faced by families at  this time.

Moving on , I met ‘S’ in the mid/late 80's. We were very much in love. Visually we are very different as are many dual heritage couples, and that’s how we really see ourselves, as bringing a richness of culture and learning and valuing each others contributions.

 

It was 2 years almost before I had the courage to speak with my mother. My mother bless her could only comment by pleading that I should go from the house, as I went to see her at home. She said ‘do what you want to do, we cant find you a husband, go with the knowledge that it is alright with me, but don’t tell your father’. He was elsewhere in the house and she forbade me to see him.

 

There was a lot of emotional blackmail about health. We grew up with the scenario that we have a duty to our parents and should not think of ourselves.

 

My mother did go on to tell my father. I phoned soon after and although my partner and I were prepared for some difficulties, nothing can explain events thereafter.

 

My father said that I was no longer his daughter. He never saw me or spoke with me again. My 4 siblings (3 older sisters and a brother a little younger than I) chose not to have anything to do with me.

 

I was from the beginning more heart broken about this than anything. It has felt like they were a limb to me, cut away. The feelings involved- and the emotional impact on me- were devastating.

 

There had never been open and loving relationships in the family, so it was particularly difficult for me to find a way to express my feelings to them, but it was also more difficult because there was this incredible shutting of the door. I always call it that, with the key thrown away. This has been the hardest thing to cope with.

 

I was a child when I first left home to work and study. It was as if they knew I had survived and they didn’t need to care any more. In truth, I had not been coping over the years that I was away from home due to missing what I never really had...love.

 

It was a particularly frightening experience being alone and trying to survive without any financial or any other sort of support from the family. S and I decided to set the date for the wedding . We invited the family, on the months before the wedding. My brother, and the sister closest in age to me plus her husband came to the wedding. My father sent a little money with a traditional red thread tied round it.

 

There didn’t seem to be space to express any emotion on the day. I was the happiest woman alive, as I was marrying the man I knew I could not live without. There was a phonecall home later that night with my sister wishing me luck.

 

When we returned home after the honeymoon things begun to slip downhill. There was little contact with my siblings. I had not seen the older 2 really other than brief periods after I left home at 18. I really began to feel the sense of shame, if you like, from my family. Slowly but surely they completely disowned me. The shame wasn’t a feeling that I felt myself but was coming towards me. For instance, when I called home, or if I called my closest sister, people would rush off the phone.

 

In the end they all one by one told me ‘Don’t bring your husband here’, or ‘what do you want with me, can’t you see I have a family and husband to look after?’ I would be choked up with tears unable to speak, and if I did speak, they would shout ‘it’s your own doing. What did you expect?’ My head would be in my hands and the tears uncontrollable, headaches as I have never experienced.

My father died of a third heart attack later that year. I was not told until 3 days later, on the phone, by my brother, who persisted in telling me that my sisters’ husbands would block the way to the cemetery door if S came with me.

 

They had never met him, they never gave him the chance to show them how much of my culture and faith he respected. The funeral was very difficult, not least because I was not well at this time. I was not allowed to see my father’s body and not invited to be with the family. I was never a part of the grieving process with the family, and people were less than friendly to me at the guardwara.

 

Many questions still go through my mind about the funeral and being unable to be part of the shared grief processes with the family.

I went on to have 2 very beautiful children. As a couple we have put everything into them as there is no support from my family and he has no family on his side, no siblings. His mother sees little of the children and did not find it easy to welcome me due to my race but we don’t think anyone else would have been acceptable to her given her own isolation and love for her son. I know I make it sound ok, it’s never ok, you learn to give and take and try to understand someone else’s position. Its the position of my family I have struggled with, my own flesh and blood.

 


 My mother died some years ago. She fortunately did meet the children when they were younger, what felt like under cloak and dagger. S and I continued to be made to feel uncomfortable, never to be included in family life. Although I understood my sisters’ excuses that their husbands would make it very difficult for them if I saw them, I have never truly been able to except this because they had the option to still see me themselves.

 

When my elderly mother died, I was not told until 3 years later when I visited my brother with my husband. Excuses were made that they thought they might hire a private detective to find me as they didn’t know where I was. Out of sight out of mind I thought. Later in the same conversation my brother tells my husband that he has always had his work number. Such lies and deceit have not been uncommon.

 

You have very little status in the community or family, so slinging any of this is not difficult for them. As long as the so called Asian community can make you a bad person my family can rest assured that they did nothing wrong in cutting me off, they can lie to the majority community and fit in with their stereotypes of runaway girls, a label applied to Asian women who exercise choice.


 As a couple we have come through a lot, We have cocooned ourselves lately, its not been easy on many levels- least of all raising children in isolation of a family unit. However we also have to stand back and pat ourselves on the back, we have worked very hard on our little family, too hard sometimes. We have much to be grateful for. I work with families and I know all families have problems, its how we tackle them that matters, clearly.


There is so much more… I would like to help anyone who needs advice, I have no problem with being honest, we have to face things and raise awareness, we have to keep in perspective that ALL families and cultures races traditions struggle with their internal problems. Sometimes I have had a sense that some people have envied my courage to forge a new life without the guilt that I grew up with. Let’s look at the benefits, but also share the sadness.

I hope that I will have courage to say my final goodbyes to my family, this is something that I am working on through therapy, reading and friends.

 

There are few people with whom I have had the chance to share the grief that will be mine for a lifetime. I would like to offer to listen, our shared grief can be a healing too......

 

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