With A Punjabi Mom And Tamilian MIL, My Home Has Been A (Fun) Cocktail Of Cultures!

Posted: September 9, 2019

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Mutual respect despite a difference in cultures marks this lovely relationship, which thrives despite the (hilarious) hiccups along the way!

I had written earlier about my (slightly exaggerated but true) wedding story, with my Punjabi parents & Tamil in-laws, and the hilarious mix of cultures. I’d like to continue with some more tales about what happened post my wedding, in my 11 years of married life.

Of course, as I said in my ‘author’s note’ in that article, I have exaggerated some of the conversations, which I am guilty of doing so here too, but taken in the context, these conversations between my Punjabi mother (referred to as mom) and my Tamilian mother-in-law (read as Amma) have given us (and will now hopefully give you) some laughs.

Setting up the new house

Amma – Oh our kids are setting up a new house after marriage. Let’s help them out.

Mom – Yes surely, we will help them figure out the furniture and you can guide them on the electronics.

Amma – Superb idea!

The Tamil ideology of simple and minimalist living led to a small fridge, because after all how much storage does a young couple need? My husband still gets a earful from me on this, despite having bought 2 huge fridges post that!

On the other hand, Punjabi opulence led to grand couches and crockery cabinet which were a challenge to fit in our very first Gurgaon apartment.

“Simple” meal

Amma – Both of you come over to our house for a simple meal.

Mom – Oh sure, we would love to!

Mom reached her samdhis’ house carrying a fruit basket, dry fruit platter, sweet boxes and gifts for both of them.

Amma, dressed simply, was overwhelmed, and decided it’s time to explain what Tamilians mean when they say “simple”: just lemon rice followed by curd rice. Unlike Punjabis for whom simple means fewer people and five dishes instead of ten!  

Party time!

Amma – Our relatives would like to invite you home for a get-together at 7 pm. Just a small gathering with the whole family.

Mom – Oh sure, we will be there!

Mom & co. reach at 8 pm Punjabi standard time to learn that most of the relatives had already finished their dinner, and they were asked why they got late!

Time to learn the lesson!

Mom – You are invited for my nephew’s wedding at 8 pm. Do join

Amma – Of course we will be there.

Amma & co. arrived sharp at 8 pm, and waited outside to enter with the baraat at 10pm! For the next wedding they made sure they left their house only after the baraat had already entered the venue!

Lesson learnt.

Baby shower

Amma – We have a special ceremony for mothers-to-be. Married women make her wear bangles and give her blessings.

Mom – That’s wonderful, let’s start planning. I know my daughter won’t be comfortable wearing a sari though. She asked if she can wear a dress.

Amma – Oh sure. We understand that! Dress is absolutely fine.

Only once we ventured out to buy the special baby shower outfit did we realize that Amma meant dress as in salwaar kameez and Mom (and I for that matter) meant a western dress.

Tradition triumphed there, but I can’t complain as I looked my splendid best!

Keep traditions alive

Amma – Usually Tamilian Brahmin boys have Janeyu (thread ceremony) when they achieve a certain age. Shall we plan one for our grandson?

Mom – Yes sure, we love traditions!

The idea was shot down when everyone realized that the Punjabis just wanted an excuse to party, and had no interest whatsoever in the ceremony!

So this is still pending for my 7 year old son.

Everything said and done, my Amma and Mom actually get along very well. They click despite varying backgrounds and cultures. I often wonder why?

The answer lies in their mutual respect for each other and acceptance and appreciation of their differences. Mom admires the Tamilian simplicity, rich culture, and appreciation of small things. Amma on the other hand is inspired by the Punjabi larger-than-life celebrations, jovial nature and spirit to live in the moment.

This relationship is a telling statement on how diversity makes us richer and stronger.

Image source: a still from the movie 2 States

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Prerna Wahi worked in the corporate world for 7 years. In the past few years,

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  1. I enjoy reading this author. She is so full of joy, Bless you child stay happy.

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