It was a bit of a surprise when my sister brought home a man from another culture and religion, but it just goes to show that true love is colour blind!
Away at College
It was the 1990’s– my sisters Shanti and Canti were both attending Bournemouth University.
Shanti had met this lovely man named Robert Palmer while away at university. Robert is now Shanti’s husband, and the father of their two children: Simran and James.
However, my sister’s marriage to Robert was anything but normal for my family. It shook things up, to say the least.
Our Traditional Marriages
My parents had an arranged marriage when they were 11 and 13, same as their parents.
The difference for us kids was that we grew up in the U.K. London, England. We lived in an area that was predominately white working class and that meant that some things would be subject to change in our family’s traditions– marriage being one of them.
At one point, my mom, keeping to tradition, tried to marry off my sister to a lawyer called Shiva. He invited us to his family’s flat– a high-rise somewhere in West London. Our families sat opposite each other, having cups of Indian tea as is common for these meetings in our culture. We were doing the “get-to-knows”, as per custom when one family meets another pre-marriage.
It went well.
Shanti approved of Shiva and they got engaged almost immediately.
Fast forward to some time later and Shanti ultimately told my mom that this man wasn’t for her and the marriage wasn’t right.
Shanti and Shiva obviously broke things off after that.
My Mother’s Reaction
My mom had to be the one to tell the family that the engagement was broken off and that sent her into a bit of a depression. The whole ordeal was so hard for her that it led to her being on antidepressants for 6 weeks after.
Things really changed for my mom at that time. The ending of the engagement veered from her traditions in a way that was very difficult for her to deal with. She suffered a kind of sadness because my sister had originally said yes to the marriage.
Since Shanti okayed the marriage, my mother had made some soft introductions only to turned around and say to the whole family, “Actually, my daughter has changed her mind.”
The whole situation brought horrible shame upon my mother which eventually led her into depression.
What Our Family Didn’t Know About Shanti
Parallel to that time, what we didn’t know, was that my sister Shanti was a raving (and still is a raving) alcoholic. She would just run around and get drunk at University.
Yet, there was one man at the time with the ability to pull her out of her stupors.
Her white knight, with said ability, was Robert Palmer.
I remember, some time ago, being in the living room with my family at my parent’s house– Shanti and Canti were there as well since they had returned home from school for a brief period.
Canti went to turn off the television turned to my parents and said, “You know, Shanti has something to tell you.”
My sisters were obviously in cahoots because what we didn’t know was that Rob, Mr. Robert Palmer was waiting outside the house at the top of a small slope.
Turning off the Television
The television being turned off was a BIG deal in our house. The message in turning it off was clear: I’d like you to meet someone.
And it was very serious.
Opening the Door
I remember Shanti going to answer the door. We all sat there in silence wondering what the hell was going on.
Then, in wandered the first white man, or rather the first white man who had been introduced to my father as a suitor for his daughter. It was the first time this had ever happened in my father’s household.
We all sat there flabbergasted and in total silence.
An eerie silence.
My parents just stared at him.
Finally, it was my mum who said, “So, when are you getting married?”
A Massive Change
It was my mother’s voice to pierce through the silence and pull everything back to reality– as if it had been wound down and now had been wound back up.
Conversation whizzed around the room and that was the moment Rob came into our lives.
Accepting the White Man
It ultimately became accepted that there would be white people in our family. Robert saw to that.
Any of the accusations or threats that my parents would walk away or disown their children if they brought home someone who wasn’t of the same religion and social standing all went up in smoke when Robert walked through that door.
It was a turning point.
It was either accept Robert or lose a daughter and my parents knew that if they lost one they might lose another.
Changing the Family Dynamic
So, this is how we came to meet and accept Rob.
I recall that being the day that a lot of things changed for our household.
It was the start of rising feuds in our family because Rob was to be the first white or rather a non-Indian person to come into the family. That rippled throughout our extended family including close cousins, aunts, and uncles.
Rob had simply changed things and it all corresponded with what would happen in the future to our family and how people fell out or fell in together.
And so was the day a white man entered our home, changed our family dynamic, and became the husband of my sister.