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. so if I explained that a bikini wax is the ‘fashionable’ thing to do, she’d probably be all for it! (Unfortunately, this didn’t work for oral contraceptives.)

    I am totally laughing at the idea of the pill being a cool kid thing. Tell her you have terrible cramps and that they regulate them. Say it’s for skin. Say it gets rid of your period so you don’t have to “ruin” family events like ak does (I’m so teasing, ak.. I hope that didn’t come off mean!).

  2. Is that so because she wasnt able to do it herself and wants her daughter to enjoy her life????

    Jeet, Is that so difficult to understand? Most of us would like for our kids to have opportunities and experiences that we ourselves could not …

  3. I am totally laughing at the idea of the pill being a cool kid thing. Tell her you have terrible cramps and that they regulate them. Say it’s for skin. Say it gets rid of your period so you don’t have to “ruin” family events like ak does (I’m so teasing, ak.. I hope that didn’t come off mean!).

    oh god! say its for ANYTHING but b*nging…

  4. Camille, you left out cooking and washing. :p

    Amit, I thought that was inherent in the definition of being a “good desi wife”? ;)

    Of course I’m kidding about all of this, but I do meet some mothers who equate waxing with sexual activity, Puli (and of course, by extension, are anti-premarital sex)

  5. Wow, it is nice to see so many young ones (early twenties and 18 year olds) here.

    And PindaUSA, I feel old too. Well some relatives would consider me old maid and all, but I don’t pay attention to that.

    As for hair removal topics, I really never explicitly discussed Brazillian waxing with parental units seeing as it is really my private business, but I am guessing that it would seem weird to my mother – the necessity of that specific type. But then again my parents always surprise me – I don’t know if it is an aviyal thing. Whenever I assume they will act uppity or be conservative, they don’t and are simply supportive. Is this an aviyal characteristic – ability to be felxible with time and values and or does this happen to all desi parents after they have been here for a long time? or maybe it is just random.

  6. Camille, you left out cooking and washing. :p

    yes, and this is far more important, really ;)

    amit, even though i’ve been to delhi exactly once, i did think this was a nice slice into delhi life. it was a good mix of different backgrounds, as well – e.g. middle class, nouveau riche, punjabi, NRI wannabes etc.

  7. Me too! Could we have some sort of “Introduce yourself” thread that is always kept open where we can all give basic info (A/S/L or equivalent) that newbies and lurkers can check as a resource? Speaking as a recent delurker myself (about 30 days), I would have found that very useful to keep a clear mental image of regular posters.

    Done. :)

  8. Is that so because she wasnt able to do it herself and wants her daughter to enjoy her life???? **ducks for cover**

    haha I do think it is her way of living vicariously through me. Instead of pushing me into spelling bees and learning calculus in eighth grade, she wants to control what I wear instead. But really, she doesn’t need to live vicariously through me… she still looks really young, and is gorgeous. She gets asked what college she goes to all the time, or if we’re sisters. If only she would improve her own typical-desi-mom fashion sense.

    tell her your dermatologist prescribed it, or that it’s to normalise your cycle – all valid non sex-related reasons :)

    arrgh this is what’s so frustrating! I actually have had BC pills prescribed to me for hormone-related reasons by two endocrinologists and took Yasmin for a short time, but later my mother became convinced that I wouldn’t need it for my particular medical problem and that it could be taken care of through other medications. 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?

  9. amit, my partner and i met in college when we were 18…our parents sent us to an all women’s college probably thinking it will keep us from boys but not thinking that it might bring forth our attraction to girls! :) it’s been a long process for us to get to where we are today..we were in the same college in Boston for just a year when my partner had to move back to Pakistan and we basically had an on and off long distance relationship for the next few years…we had to go through a lot of struggles to even be in the same place at the same time and finally made it together last year..this april we celebrated a year of living together after 10 years of being in love..i know this sounds corny but it’s true! i also recently came out to my parents who have not taken it very well…and my partner is out to her mom and sisters and they are pretty supportive of us…unfortunately, because of immigration laws she had to move to Toronto from NY a couple of weeks back so we were back to the long distance relationship, but hopefully not for too long…support from the community…hmmm well, we have built a new family with our friends who have been our support through some really tough times..sometimes when you don’t get support from your biological family you have to build your own extended one and we are lucky that we have such great friends…it’s a long journey but hopefully our love makes it worth it!

  10. Anna, thanks for putting up the intro thread!

    May I just say: SepiaMatrimony.com is a most excellent name.

  11. nala, i hope you learn to enjoy your freedom at college – it’s amazing sometimes how much your parents only know what you let them know. i’m not advocating lying (and i’ve been thoroughly bitched out about doing so here on SM) but it’s nice to have minimal questions asked.

    camille, i’m laughing with you – sometimes i relish having my period just so i get out of events! though, in india, these days, i tend not to mention my having my period – even though i’m supposed to…

    apsara, was that you handling as amit?

  12. . 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?

    Nala,

    At least where I live – here in California – it IS your choice. I know here there are community health centers where you can get BC help withoput insurance/prescriptions etc – if it comes to that

  13. Anna, thanks for putting up the intro thread!

    My pleasure! I just hope it’s what you guys wanted, i.e. I realize now that I might have encouraged people to be uber-succinct. ;) Maybe people wanted florid prose vs. a list?

    apsara, was that you handling as amit?

    It was and I changed it, for the sake of clarity. :)

  14. yeah ak, I’m always surprised by how… naive? some desi parents can be. Or maybe it’s just the ones I know. I swear, some of my friends could get away with murder.

    Like there was the time my mom got mad at me for not going to a party with some of my peers (seriously), but I couldn’t tell her that it was because I didn’t have a fake ID. None of their parents assumed anything like that either… it seems like as long as you’re with other desi kids, they think you spend your time catching up on your geography or something.

  15. Like there was the time my mom got mad at me for not going to a party with some of my peers (seriously), but I couldn’t tell her that it was because I didn’t have a fake ID. None of their parents assumed anything like that either… it seems like as long as you’re with other desi kids, they think you spend your time catching up on your geography or something.

    i was way too much of an accha baccha growing up.

  16. it seems like as long as you’re with other desi kids, they think you spend your time catching up on your geography or something.

    I need to meet your mom ASAP!

  17. Runa, I’m pretty sure there are similar places in NY. I’ll have to check up on that, thanks :) But really, my parents are very flexible and I do have good medical reason for taking BC pills, so I guess I’ll just have to insist some more (and stop asking my mother about sex, lest she become suspicious)

  18. And the most important question of all– DO YOU LIKE THE PIXIES?

    (from Anna’s link)

    Anna, good to see another Indian like the Pixies. And to think I thought I was the only one who mentioned them here. I taped one of their concerts from last year which they showed on MOJO HD(formerly INHD). All my cousins would look strangely at it and ask me what I see in it. Even funnier was the expression of one of my cousins when he saw me blasting I’ve Been Tired from the 1988 Town and Country, England concert which they were showing on COMCAST ON DEMAND.

    I saw then live in Atlanta two years ago. And I do not see that many Indians at these music fests despite so many indians living in atlanta. In my whole set of relatives, maybe 3 or 4 go to rock festivals. Since I buzz my head, people think I am black and I get to act like a bouncer and move to the front of the crowd very easily.

  19. puli, don’t worry– i feel like i’ve been TMI’ing.

    and am i one of the ‘kiddies?’

  20. nala, check out planned parenthood – as long as your have an alternative address (sometimes required for e.g. test results) it’s a very good option that comes with anonymity.

    i was way too much of an accha baccha growing up.

    so was i, dude. then i went to college ;)

  21. thast depressing. in an ideal world mom would be the best person to go to for good information…

    maybe i can ask her for tips once i’ve gotten married, haha.

  22. puli, don’t worry– i feel like i’ve been TMI’ing.

    all anonymous

    and am i one of the ‘kiddies?’

    yes u r.

    so was i, dude. then i went to college ;)

    I was an acha baccha through high shcool/college/and hell…up till now. oh well….

  23. Puli, I need to take you under my wing and show you the dark lil corners of the world and…well I am already goin to hell so if I pollute another innocent soul, who cares?

  24. Anna, good to see another Indian like the Pixies. And to think I thought I was the only one who mentioned them here.

    I lurrrve the Pixies. I love them so much, at one giddy point, I thought I was going to name my future kids “Allison”, “Alec”, “Cecelia Ann” etc. I even kissed Black Francis, albeit chastely. ;)

    I’ve named editions of 55Friday after Pixies songs and mentioned them semi-regularly on SM…but I think I did it more during our first year, so you probably missed it. :) I saw their last show in NYC, 2004…that was one of the greatest nights of my life.

  25. Puli, I need to take you under my wing and show you the dark lil corners of the world and…well I am already goin to hell so if I pollute another innocent soul, who cares?

    well..im not ignorant. i just kind of preffer my life this way..

  26. 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?

    Nala, Planned Parenthood has an ironclad confidentiality policy and a sliding fee scale, and you can even pick up a few months’ worth of pill packs at a time. (And it’s free if you’re under 18.) They’re also really good about answering any question without being judgmental.

    And “it’s for my cramps, mom!” worked pretty well for me at 18…

  27. And “it’s for my cramps, mom!” worked pretty well for me at 18…

    i hope i turn out to be the type of dad that my daughter would be comfy to tell me “its so i dont get pregnant and ruin my life”. sexual responsibity isnt a bad thing…

  28. ahh I am also a Pixies fan (yeah, I was born about a decade too late). They were all I listened to for a while. :)

    thanks for the info, sarah

  29. apsara, was that you handling as amit?
    It was and I changed it, for the sake of clarity. :)

    What did I miss? Just when I go away for a while … :)

  30. Apsara, congratulations– it sounds like you’ve gotten through a lot together and are truly happy– good for you!!

  31. So, coming back to food, are there specific websites or food blogs that are your favorites? Not just for reading, but also for trying out recipes.

    Mine is Mahanandi, for both.

  32. I can tell you that that is definitely considered Aviyal by Sindhis and Punjabis alike :-)

    I can vouch for that one. Sindhis and Punjabis have an avowed dislike for each other that is well-cultivated in the desh. Unfortunate.

    it seems like as long as you’re with other desi kids, they think you spend your time catching up on your geography or somethin

    . for old times’ sake, when rahul was here, “is that what the kids are calling it these days?” Nala, you remind me of me, about four years ago (and your mum sounds quite like mine as well). I’ve been somewhat confused by this statement though:

    one of the few other times we’ve talked about sex is when she said that i should wait till marriage because you can have sex and enjoy even into your 60s!)

    but people who dont wait until marriage (or indeed don’t marry at all) can also enjoy $ex well into their sixties, yeah? And as for the birth control pills, you could just go to your college health center (but don’t let anyone rush you into doing anything that you don’t want. that’s obvious and really important. i want to make that point as a responsible recent college grad. let yourself have fun, study what you love, and remember to get at least a little bit of sleep in the first two years). Should be close to 30 bucks a month. When my parents were visiting me at school for graduation, I remember hiding them in my sock drawer. felt very deceitful and guilty.

  33. nala, personally I wouldn’t, but that is because I have a big chip on my shoulder ;) I’m kidding, I’ve actually just never seen a desi salon that did bikini waxes (threading only, and only visible parts of the body). A friend of mine got a Brazilian from a really sweet Sri Lankan lady, and she said it was v. professional, fast, and well done.

    I got my first bikini wax from this aunty once who has been doing my mom’s waxing for years. She had me in all sorts of positions so she could do her job, and I jokingly said, “Hey Aunty you know I must be really comfortable with you right? Hehe” and she goes (insert your own Gujurati accent), “Oh this is nothing! You wait till I give you Brazilian wax – you’re gonna think you’re at the gynecologist!”

    Oh Aunty… needless to say I did not come back to her for a brazilian…

  34. PS: nala, is your handle referring to lion king? if so, that’s very cute. or is it from indian mythology?

  35. I got my first bikini wax from this aunty once who has been doing my mom’s waxing for years. She had me in all sorts of positions so she could do her job, and I jokingly said, “Hey Aunty you know I must be really comfortable with you right? Hehe” and she goes (insert your own Gujurati accent), “Oh this is nothing! You wait till I give you Brazilian wax – you’re gonna think you’re at the gynecologist!”

    fre@kin scary.

  36. CnRG – Sista, are you sure you’re not hanging out with the wrong crowd. I have a sister who is have Bengali half Punjabi and she might complain about both Punjus and Bengalis but I have never heard her say that she was discriminated against. But of course she is technically 100% Hindu, whatever that may mean and still not north+south. And living in central India. That just sucks, your experiences in Nagpur, not exactly a small town place.

    Plus all those morons who expect you to change a religion or something, get away from them. You really think such narrow minded approaches would stop once you change your religion. They obviously got a ego a little bigger than they should and thus believe that people should change for them but not vice versa – thus they cannot adjust to your faith. Sorry to hear you’ve had bad experiences, but hey there are plenty of nice people out there. Hope you find more of those can accept you for you.

  37. I got my first bikini wax from this aunty once who has been doing my mom’s waxing for years. She had me in all sorts of positions so she could do her job, and I jokingly said, “Hey Aunty you know I must be really comfortable with you right? Hehe” and she goes (insert your own Gujurati accent), “Oh this is nothing! You wait till I give you Brazilian wax – you’re gonna think you’re at the gynecologist!”

    yikes. guys have it easy.