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En Español: An unlikely marriage


Illustration by Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

En bordado cultural: Un matrimonio improbable entre un hombre Mexicano Americano y una mujer hindú

Fueron muchos y en varias ocasiones los que me dijeron que casarme con una mujer Hydro era cosa imposible. Mas fácil sería ser aceptado en la Universidad de Harvard. Más fácil lanzarme como astronauta y rascar la faz de la luna. Sí, mucho más fácil sería hacer semejante cosa que casarme con una mujer Hydro. ¿Y qué es una Hydro? En pocas palabras, es apodo para una persona de la ciudad Hyderabad, India. Un apodo para aquellas personas de familias tradicionales en las cuales arreglan bodas y no creen en matrimonio por amor. Un apodo para aquellas mujeres que solo se casan con personas desi, musulmanes, y que son hablantes del lenguaje urdu. Y un apodo para decirle a un hombre Mexicano Americano, criado cristiano, sin ningún conocimiento y práctica del subcontinente indio, y sin caravana de tesoros siguiéndome, que tal anhelo era algo imposible.

Ya subiendo las escaleras del escenario, en lo que marca el primer día de nuestras fiestas de boda, recuerdo todas estas advertencias. Presiento sus miradas fijas, fuertes, y curiosas, ese mar de caras que me estudian a cada paso que doy, y me ajusto la turbina y el sherwani para entonces voltear a verlos. Enfrentó a la familia de mi esposa Hydro. Algunos han escuchado de mí y algunos han conjurado todo lo malo que han visto en las películas para llegar a cierta conclusión de quién soy yo. Pero aquí estoy, en pleno desafío, después de laborar tanto para entender los detallitos y las grandes verdades de su cultura—aprendiendo y absorbiendo lo más posible para que la vida de mi amada no sea tan difícil y su gente no le dé la espalda.

Al fin, las puertas de la sala de recepción se abren, y me entregan a mi esposa. Llega majestuosa en su palanquín resguardado por sus hermanos, primos, y tíos. Los mismos que algún día fueron barrera para nuestra unión y ahora son sus pilares. Ella sonríe y luce hermosa en su lehenga rojo con bordado dorado, mientras su bello rostro resplandece con joyas de oro y una dupatta que adorna su pelo. Una explosión de henna pinta sus manos y palmas con tradición y sentimiento. Sus ojos grandes y oscuros me buscan, con pupilas que destellan, como para confirmar que esto no es solo un sueño, una aurora que ha de esfumarse.

Mi dulhan, mi novia, llega al escenario y me extiende su mano para que la reciba. Un gesto romántico en cualquier boda, y aún más extraordinario para nosotros. Si supieran nuestros invitados cuantas batallas culturales han estallado y cuantos valores forjados en dos continentes tuvieron que ser sumados en pocas palabras o en un suspiro. Si supieran que detrás de toda esta celebración se ha jugado un ajedrez con trocitos de corazón en cada jaque. Si supieran que ya son varias las capas de mi identidad que se suman al esfuerzo. Si supieran que ha tomado ya una década para llegar al presente.

Cultural embroidery: An unlikely marriage between a Mexican-American man and an Indian woman

Written and translated by Jose Miranda

I was told, numerous times, that to marry a Hydro girl was impossible. Easier to get into Harvard. Easier to become an astronaut and grace the face of the moon. Hydro, short for a person from Hyderabad, India; short for a lady from a traditional family that arranges marriages, whose folks don’t believe in love marriages; short for women who only marry their own desi; Muslim, Urdu-speaking, Hydros. Short-hand for an impossible aspiration for a Mexican-American man raised Protestant, without a lick of Urdu, lacking a caravan of wealth and sponsors behind him.

Ascending the steps up the stage on our first day of marriage, the admonitions echo from memory. I can sense their eyes scanning me as I affix my stole and sherwani and balance my turban. I face my audience, a teeming sea of stern, curious faces behind me: My Hydro bride’s family. Some have heard of me, some have pieced together bits amalgamated from Hollywood movies to draw conclusions of the stranger, the outsider, marrying into the family. But here I stand before them, having done everything as culturally respectful as possible, digging deep into the culture to grasp its deeper truths—seeking to absorb their values and philosophy into my own and hoping to garner support and mitigate opposition to save my bride from being shunned by family and community.

The back doors to the reception hall open, and my bride is brought atop a palanquin, carried by her brothers, cousins and uncles. All the people who once seemed to stand firmly against this union, now our pillars. She beams brightly in her red and gold ornate lehenga, her lustrous big eyes and her lovely face accentuated by the traditional gold jewelry and the dupatta crowning her head. Lavish henna runs up her hands like an explosion of sentiment. Her eyes connect with my own and we try to ascertain that this is in fact real, that this far-fetched moment is coming to fruition.

My dulhan is brought to the stage and I stretch my hand to hers. A most romantic and iconic moment in any wedding, and for us even more extraordinary. If our guests only knew how many careful cross-cultural battles had to be waged, how many beliefs forged on different continents and over millennia had to be harmonized into few non-inflammatory words; if they could only appreciate the deliberate, emotional chess board constantly flaring in the background; if they only knew how many layers of my identity had to be erased or repackaged to not offend sensibilities. I wonder what our guests would say if they knew it took a decade to allow this moment to happen.

Jose Miranda is a doctoral student at the University of Iowa, pursuing a degree in teaching and learning: language, literacy and culture. He works for the Belin Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. Jose hails from Chicago, Illinois. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 279.


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