We at JOYN are one community and really one big, crazy family. But what we love doing a lot here is learning about things from all the cultures that we come from. It is small things and more often than not, it makes us laugh out loud. The other day during lunch we were all making animal sounds as we know them in our cultures! Turns out, a lot of sounds that we associate with animals are different for Tibetans, Americans and Indians! The dog's bark is "woof" for Americans, "bhow" for Indians and a sound in Tibetan that really cannot be justified via spelling!
So last month, when we were all busy planning that big promotion we did for Valentine's Day we also thought about asking our "Westerners" what it means to "love" in India. Founder, Mel Murray who has been here with her husband David for four years now, and Head of our Delhi operations, Tony Moon who moved here with his wife Janine soon as they were married, have some interesting insights to share:
On their lives with their respective spouses in India
Mel: If we don't sit on our back porch every night and talk through the ups and downs, challenges and wins, and dream a bit together, we won't survive. Having a shared vision for life makes a marriage work. We rarely have "bad days" on the same day: thank God for that! Date nights are a must. India has caused us to grow, it's like drinking from a fire-hydrant. We are often pressed on every side, but we have each other. With each other, we can do almost anything. Our struggles include feeling exhausted at the end of the day and feeling that we are giving each-other our "leftovers" since running two businesses as a couple does not leave us with much energy. But we are loving every moment of it!
Tony: We came to India as newlyweds so we don't really have a reference point for what marriage looks like outside of the craziness and colour of India. All I know is that we could never survive here if we didn’t share a love for the people and for the community that we are building, it gives us grace for each other when life feels overwhelming (which it often does!). It is often said that living in India brings all your character flaws bubbling to the surface, and while that is very true, it also has the opposite effect of making you dig deep and wring out all the compassion and love that you can find within yourself just to get through the day. And it’s such a privilege to witness all those attributes coming to life in your spouse. I often watch Janine and the way she interacts with people and think, ‘wow, what an incredible girl I married.’ I am reminded daily of how amazing she is!
About the culture of love in India
Mel: The love culture in India, where we are, differs greatly from the culture we were raised in. You "choose" love in America. In India, your parents choose that love for you. But in the end, love is still a decision. Some Indians really understand this well and some Americans still don't seem to understand this. Love is a decision. Marriage isn't to make you happy, it's to make you a better person. I respect India's idea of choosing to love someone and learning how to love someone, however I've rarely seen love as a true partnership in India. The roles seem to be defined different than what I'm used to and the oppression of women seeps into many aspects of marriage. To be honest, all my friends here desire a husband like David, that treats me with equality and respect, allows me to be me, encourages me to become all who I want to become, is my biggest cheerleader, serves me, cares for me, honors me above himself. This seems to be rare anywhere you are, in India, or in America. I am one lucky girl.
Tony: As with everything in India it is such a land of contradictions and love is no exception. On the one hand, as Mel mentioned, arranged marriage the cultural norm, and making a decision to love someone aside from your feelings is a totally acceptable practice. I don’t know if I would sign up for letting my parents and relatives choose my spouse (disaster!), but I respect it, and have seen many happy marriages birthed this way. On the other hand, India is the land of Bollywood romance and drama and love triangles galore. One of our guys once told me that he and his girlfriend used to listen to Bollywood love songs together and both weep because of how much they identified with the lyrics. I find it quite sad that most of these passionate displays of love are for forbidden romances, often because the parents would disapprove of the partner’s caste or social status, but I love the depth of emotion and vulnerability that people are willing to show for the ones they love. I want to learn that.
Any other thoughts about love...
Mel: I LOVE being in love. 16 years!
Tony: I think love can look different in any culture, but it should always have the same attributes – kindness, selflessness, patience, humility, forgiveness…these can be found in the heart of a family living in a slum in Delhi or just as easily in a New York apartment. Its about preferring someone else above yourself. I want to see that in India, women valued as equals to their husbands, to be loved and cherished. Husbands to be valued, and to be instilled with confidence to be good fathers.