Are you in an Aviyal Relationship?

sindoor.jpg My baby cousin at UCLA still hasn’t forgiven me for joining Facebook. His objection is not that I’m too old for it or that I lessen its “cool factor” with my elderly presence—he just hates the program and apparently I was the last person he knew and cared about, who was not on it. That had more to do with pragmatic causes than most anything else; I was happy on Friendster and consummately preferred it to MyAss or the more “global”/Brazilian Orkut. I didn’t have time to maintain profiles on a plethora of time-sucks. And most relevant of all, I couldn’t be bothered to get an “alumni” email addy from either of the schools I managed to graduate from…and once upon a time, you needed such official stuff to participate in the Facebook-orgy.

Not anymore. And so a few of you began inviting me to join it and I pointedly ignored such requests…until one of you was Facebook-stalking a guy you thought was sooo cute.

“What’s his friendster link?”, I asked.

“He’s not ON friendster…he’s only on Facebook!”

“Well, then I can’t see him.”

“But you just HAVE to see this one picture…I have a feeling you know his friend.”

“You know how I’ve never been a bridesmaid?”

“Yeah what does that have to do with anything??”

“I’m signing up for this bullshit right now, so A) you best marry his ass and B) I best be in some sort of poufy outfit, twitching out of boredom on an altar in a year or three.”

“Omg, whatever you want, just SIGN UP”…and so I did. But I didn’t bother uploading a pic or filling out my profile, not for a while. Then, I was asked to write something about social networking and I needed more information about FB, specifically a sense of how intuitive it was to use. I noticed, upon logging in, that I had been “poked” approximately 40 times. I also noticed that several of my far-flung friends were considerably more active and in touch on FB than they were on Fster. This puzzled me until I realized that they were destroying all of their free time defenestrating each other via “SuperPoke”, proving their music IQ via some guessing game which was far superior to the one on my iPod and playing Scrabble online via the hyper-addictive “Scrabulous”.

Well, I saw her Facebook…and now I’m a believer. I will happily eat the words which initially expressed indifference towards this program. The recent app explosion transformed FB for me, from a site to ignore to one which I am now constantly logged in to…which brings me to this post.

Now that I am spending a ton of time on there, my inner, dilettante-sociologist is hyper-stimulated. There’s so much to discover, like…

  • How annoying today’s youths in high school are (incoherent and illiterate comments on group walls)
  • How thousands of others also speak shitty Malayalam (via the Ende Malayalam Sucks group)
  • How several of you first discovered SM! (via the SM Group, natch)
  • How people are utilizing Web 2.0 to create support groups for Inter-desi relationships (!!!)

Here, read all about it. I’ll post the group’s “description” for you:

Aviyal Couples Type: Common Interest – Dating & Relationships

Description: This group (also a support group) is for all the desi people that are in a relationship (dating, engaged or married) where your partner is Indian but is from a different state in India or is from a different religion or caste. This type of relationship can’t be called interracial, so it can be called an ‘Aviyal Relationship’

For example: An Indian from Mumbai is in a relationship with an Indian from Bihar or an Indian from Tamil Nadu is in a relationship with an Indian from Kerala e.t.c or an Indian who is Hindu is in a relationship with an Indian who is a Christian or an Indian who is a Jain is in a relationship with an Indian who is a Brahmin e.t.c
* Aviyal – a south indian vegetable curry that has a mix of different vegetables. [Facebook]

I didn’t even realize there was a term for this situation—one I have been in for almost half of my dating life. While I tried valiantly to date Malayalee boys, “just to make it easier” on all 349 people who were potentially involved with such an alliance, I went to a college that had no Malayalee male undergrads and didn’t attend our local (read: more than 100 miles away) Syriac Orthodox church. I was far more likely to encounter Punjabi Sikh guys at U.C. Davis/Fresno/Modesto/Yuba City and predictably, that is what I often dated.

I had been making Aviyal all the way through college and I had been oblivious to it!

Whether by circumstance, i.e. being one of a handful of South Indians at a school dominated by Northies or by choice, i.e. just plain falling for someone, this is a cocktail we will see more and more of, no matter what our respective parents think of such emotional collisions. One of you, who comments regularly, is a Tamil married to a Punjabi; sometimes, the comments which inform me of this detail also contain other bits of information, which illustrate how challenging such a union is. I’m assuming both parties involved are probably Hindu, which makes things nominally easier, but when you add interreligious components to the conflict…sometimes, that is exactly what you get: conflict.

When one of the only Malayalee girls I grew up with got married about a decade ago (she was a bit older than us…because I remember that even her younger brother was two years older than me), it caused quite a stir, since she, a Namboodiri, had fallen in love with a Mallu Christian she had met at school. This was the source of much discussion and concern, as our parents pondered whether this was a harbinger of their own future disappointment.

Years later, I felt compassion for her, once I realized what the “odds” were like…it’s difficult enough finding a match who is Malayalee, finding one who is Mallu and of the same faith narrows the pool considerably—especially when you take caste or in the case of Christianity, multiple denominations in to account. It may seem counterintuitive, since Kerala’s Christians comprise a disproportionate share of Malayalee Americans, but yes, it’s hard to find a suitable boy. My father never forgave the Catholic church for what they did in the 17th century, so the thought of me marrying one was inconceivable. MarThomites were out because they were anti-feminist-Mary-haters who shamelessly chose not to revere the dead. ;)

We were fiercely Orthodox and unlike many Malayalee couples, both of my parents were Orthodox; my mother didn’t “convert” to marry him. So for me, Orthodox it would have to be.

Do you have any idea how many single Orthodox Malayalee boys there are in America, who are over the age of 32?

Approximately two.

I have a Sikh friend who is a few years older than me, who is also single, because he’s rather Orthodox himself, and most Sikh girls he encounters want someone sans beard and turban. One of you posted a NYT Vows link recently, all because the groom was Muslim and the bride was Hindu and yes, I’ll admit my non-existent eyebrows rose heavenwards upon reading it, because that’s what I’m conditioned to do. We are marinating in aviyal, whether we know it or not (pass me the drumsticks, btw…and keep the arbi to your damned self).

I’ll probably end up in an “aviyal”-marriage of my own, so I confess that I’m partially motivated to explore this aspect of growing up in the diaspora, out of self-interest. But I also remember a certain thread where it was brought up quite a few times, so I know it’s on your mind, too, along with potheads on celluloid and Shah Rukh Khan-endorsed colorism. If you have your own thoughts to add about aviyal, sambar or rasam relationships, speak.

There are many mutinies within which we can participate; the struggles associated with dating “outside” of the precise group we were born in to, perhaps more than any other uprising, often involve the most upheaval and anguish, even if one’s intended is also a shade of Sepia.

723 thoughts on “Are you in an Aviyal Relationship?

  1. 702 · Amit


    I love Mahanandi–have cooked several items from it–I keep veg at home but not out.

  2. Though really, BC pills aren’t that expensive (um, assuming I’m still on my parents’ insurance plan) and if I really wanted my doctor to prescribe it, it’s my choice, right?

    It depends on your insurance carrier; I find most are expensive if paid completely out of pocket. If you’re in NYC, your university health center should offer them (with confidentiality), but NYC in general has a great policy on guaranteed confidentiality for women 14+ (maybe even younger?) with no parental consent/notification required. You’ve just gotta be a little careful when they bill the prescription refills, etc. But, aside from that, I also advocate Planned Parenthood as a great women’s health provider, esp for affordable birth control. They are one of my most favorite organizations in the world.

    A Brazilian does require unique contortions (imo), but that is what yoga’s for, right? (again, joking!)

    Pravin, you’re not alone (in your Pixies love).

    Ok kids, have fun but please try to stick to fewer than 200 new comments in the next 2 days so I can catch up without totally neglecting my work on Monday ;)

  3. portmanteau, I think that comment my mother made was because she didn’t want me to feel like I was ‘missing out’ on something by waiting ’til marriage, i.e. there’s no rush.

    thanks for the advice and info, everyone. i feel guilty now though, like i’ve ‘shamed’ by parents by making y’all think my parents are rabid anti-sex-mongers who don’t trust their daughter or something. totally not the case; my mother’s reasons for not wanting me to take BC pills are mostly that she’s worried that they’ll give me cancer (that, and, she’s not a big fan of medications in general.. that despite wanting me, of course, to be a doctor). she eventually gives in to me, though, so i’m gonna work on getting that prescription for yasmin again next time i go to the endocrinologist. (again, i have good medical reason for taking BC pills too, so it would be covered by insurance)

  4. oh and nala is just a name that i’ve always really loved for some reason… perhaps i picked it up from the lion king?

    Fuerza Dulce, that’s a hilarious story. i’ve heard that bikini or brazilian waxes will, most of the time, require all sorts of awkward positioning though. ;)

  5. thanks for the advice and info, everyone. i feel guilty now though, like i’ve ‘shamed’ by parents by making y’all think my parents are rabid anti-sex-mongers who don’t trust their daughter or something.

    Nah…you just made them sound like parents. :)

  6. Please tell me that you weren’t referring to SM as “this B’wood party”. Please.

    HAHAHA, No, ANNA, I was talking about an actual Bollywood party. I would never refer to SM as B’wood! First of all, I think you anti-paneer southies would kill me, and second… come on now!

  7. I actually think this would be a fun game — what is your “mental image” of other posters?

    OK Camille, since you asked….I actually for some reason imagine you as fit and attractive…with nice curves…and by the way, this is ALL based on things you’ve said on SM about yourself…

    Anyway, if anyone’s wondering, I’m 35, and I’m starting to feel a lot older than MANY of you here….I liked it better when I didn’t know people’s ages!

  8. Just happened on this site… Interesting discussion! With all this talk of Planned Parenthood & hiding BC pills in sock drawers, etc. I’m wondering – is there anyone out there who actually embraces the “traditional” values our parents preach, as admittedly hard as it is in today’s world? Or who doesn’t but is open about it with their parents and feels that they don’t have anything to hide? Not judging either way, just curious..

  9. Honestly, my parents know just about everything I do because I’m pretty up front with them.

    I’m learning to do this as I grow up (or older…whichever comes first). For some reason I always thought my parents would have issues with me dating, drinking, blah blah. One day I got tired of hiding things and just told them, and was blown away by how normally they reacted. I actually had to go take a walk and clear my head and think about the fact that my parents were…much cooler than I thought. ;)

  10. Just happened on this site… Interesting discussion! With all this talk of Planned Parenthood & hiding BC pills in sock drawers, etc. I’m wondering – is there anyone out there who actually embraces the “traditional” values our parents preach, as admittedly hard as it is in today’s world? Or who doesn’t but is open about it with their parents and feels that they don’t have anything to hide? Not judging either way, just curious..

    I’m pretty up front with them as well…I know they’ll trust me if I talk about such things rather than hide them…

  11. It’s a funny journey, this rocky evolution of our equations with our folks. My mom had confidently threatened many things when I was growing up. Looking back, boarding school in Pondicherry would’ve absolutely rocked, but instead I did my homework… And from my age of 16 or so it was reiterated that If I did not marry a Tamil Brahmin Iyer I would be disowned… Then 29 rolled by and with 30 fast approaching my Mom eyed the Sindhi, unreligious, carnivorous guy visiting me who was quietly smoking a cigarette on our veranda and said “He’s so cute!” We were later blessed and our Aviyal happily stirred by the folks. It’s amazing how a looming biological clock’s ticking can mellow people out.

  12. I can understand Indian parents getting little antsy about their kids sex lives in high school. But once they are off in college, come on. It’s even worse when the kids are in their late 20s and some still think their kids are virgins. I think I mentioned this. One of my aunts actually thought her 30 something single nieces did not “do that kind of stuff”.

  13. As statistics always show Anna’s blog-post breaks record again with so many comments :) So cheers to all mutineers with Aish her father-in-law and husband all in one song

  14. Why is it acceptable for desis to seek the same caste/religion/region/language in a spouse but not so in friendship?

    I don’t have anything against anybody but I prefer to hang around people from a similar background as myself just because the cultural ties make the bonding deeper. Yet I’ve been accused of what one acqaintance calls “separatism”. This same woman however will not even consider marriage to a man from another religious background than herself. So why is that ok and what I’m doing not? And I’ve come across that attitude alot in our pan-desi community here at university.

  15. adai, I don’t think it’s necessarily all about hiding things. If you’re a minor and want BC, I think it’s perfectly fair not to tell your parents if you feel like it could threaten your health or theirs. That said, do our parents need to know all the gory details of their lives? And also, by extension, I have a feeling that there are quite a few folks out there who don’t do the premarital sex thing, less “traditional” dating, etc. I wouldn’t consider a more conservative approach more traditional, but rather another common alternative to the mainstream depiction of dating life and relationships (after all, there’s still a sizeable % of teens abstaining from sex and a consistent minority of adults).

    Amitabh, not sure if the descrip is entirely right on, but I’ll take it as a compliment nonetheless :)

  16. I’m way late to the game, but I like this post. I’ve never thought of how complex and stressful it is to date within your own race, but not necessarily within your own class, region, and religion. Whew. Difficult. I’ll keep reading and learning from the Mutiny, like I always do. :)

  17. Complex and stressful, yes, to those of you in/considering an aviyal relationship — but then also think about the products of such relationships…i am an abd product of a hindu-muslim aviyal of the ’60′s (gasp), and let me tell you, it was not easy for me to date desis (abds and dbds) as their families could not look past the “other side” (not muslim “enough”, not hindu (period)). Granted, the hindu-muslim thing is probably the most diverse aviyal relationship around, but hopefully things have changed and will continue to change. As for me, i married a white guy, happy and in love and all that, but as you can tell, still hurt by the rejection by my homeys. Be prepared.

  18. edgy aunty, I get hurt by rejection, too, especially from my homies, i.e., the brothers. Lucky for you, you’re married. One day I hope to be as fortunate as you, “happy and in love and all that.”

  19. Like edgy aunty I am a product of a hindu-muslim aviyal relationship from the 60s in India and can completely agree with her on the dating issue – It was tough meeting people here in the US (I live in the US) who could get past the issue where dating was concerned (ABDs almost more than DBDs were entrenched on staying within rank for some reason) — but I did meet some folks that didn’t care abut such stuff — and am married to one of them (DBD hindu and both him and his family are really cool with my bi-religious background and areligious beliefs).