I fell in love with a Tamil man.
It all started in 2012. We were university students focusing on our education and far from looking for a relationship. Everything was different about us – culture, language, colour, behaviour, goals. From our first encounter he anticipated the likeliness of his parents preferring to find him a Tamil wife – traditional, patient, beautiful and leading to a virtual 0% divorce rate.
But life is full of surprises.
From the day we met we never stopped being astonished by each other. Our differences became our strength. We got to know each other from the eyes of kids discovering the world. Everything was new, and we built up enough trust to be open-minded to ideas that most people would find too baffling to accept. It resulted in a strong sense of trust, love and support. We have been together for three years and we are now in a long-distance relationship.
My partner introduced me to Tamil culture. Even from an outsider’s point of view, it is hard not to appreciate the richness of Tamil culture. Everything within it highlights its long history and sophisticated tastes: dances, songs, musical instruments, temples, ceremonies, language and traditions.
We are not married or engaged yet, so it did not seem legitimate to expose ourselves to the Tamil community. Regardless, his mom made it clear that our relationship should not continue due to contentious criticism from the Tamil community.
And despite our love for each other, do we have to confront the dreadful ultimatum often addressed to mixed race couples, such as: “If you marry that girl, you don’t belong to the family anymore.” “The rest of the family won’t invite you or talk to you anymore.” “What will people think?” “You might have to run away to another country if you want to live together.”
What lies at the core of this opposition? Is it the fear of losing one of the oldest cultures in the world if not properly passed on to our children? Is it the fear of being considered colonized to the eyes of the community? Is it the remnants of ethnic conflicts in which intra-community unity is associated with strength? Is it that the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora has not integrated well enough to accept interracial couples among its 35 million Canadian compatriots?
Any one of these reasons may seem fair enough to not want your only son to date an outsider. But are they good enough to exclude your only son from the community and cast shame upon him? Does anyone deserve to make a choice between family and wife?
Can’t two cultures be added – Canadian and Tamil?
I do believe that marrying someone of a different background does not mean giving up who you are. It can be a complete addition of cultures, a win-win situation where both cultures are added and transferred to ones children. Of course, this implies that both two partners want it, which is often not their priority. My partner is very close to his culture and he wants to give his kids the best cultural and academic education. I totally support this idea.
I also understand the concerns of the Tamil community and the desire to preserve the rich and sophisticated Tamil culture. If this interracial relationship has support, I would aim to make sure that my kids learn Tamil, perform classical arts and actively take part in all traditional aspects of Tamil life.
To this day, I still don’t know how the Tamil community would accept this. It seems to me that among many, interracial marriages are considered de facto failures. Does it have to be that way?
Is the younger generation more tolerant towards interracial relationships? Why is it so hard to find media coverage of successful mixed Tamil couples? Isn’t it a source of pride to the Tamil community for outsiders to embrace Tamil culture such as the video of a German lady speaking perfect Tamil?
Tamils in Canada are exposed to many other ethnicities on a daily basis. This leads me to believe that interracial marriages will become more prevalent over the next generation. And I wonder if all Tamils in interracial relationships will have to go through shame with their partners, or if the community will one day shed a new light on these relationships and portray them as highly successful too.
I know that I am an outsider posting on a Tamil website which is unusual. I have no intention to offend anyone and I am not questioning the benefits of intra-Tamil relationships. My only wish is to provide a perspective on the Tamil community’s willingness to embrace interracial relationships from the view of an outsider.