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Balle Aiyyo! Mixed matches score high

Balle Aiyyo! Mixed matches score high

Author: Saira Kurup
Publication: The Times of India
Date: November 29, 2009
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/sunday-toi/view-from-venus/Balle-Aiyyo-Mixed-matches-score-high/articleshow/5280372.cms

Introduction: Marriages across the classic North-South Indian divide are now increasingly common

Neetu P Nair, nee Pahuja, probably never thought she would one day be celebrating Karva Chauth in a Malayali household. But that's what she did this year, dressed in her festive finery. It was exactly one year since she married Prasanth. "My parents-in-law told me to celebrate it the way I wanted," says Neetu, who describes Delhi as home. Neetu is increasingly the rule, not the exception. Marriages across Indian states - and especially across the classic northsouth divide - are increasingly common in the metros. Neetu and Prasanth say they married each other because they wanted to but now, they're trying to overturn the great divide with a mixed menu - sometimes, dal-chawal; sometimes, sambar-rice.

They are in sync with an ongoing wave of change. Sociologist Mala Kapur Shankardass says, "People are eating food from other regions, wearing non-typical dress, communicating in English." But she warns that this does not mean the end of regionalism.

Though "the so-called North-South divide is breaking up, state-wise identities are becoming more visible," says Shankardass. For the new professional couples, the ancient stereotypes belong to a bygone era. The bias is simple, clear cut and very outdated -- that all those living south of Hyderabad are 'ayyo Madrasis', vegetarian and wear lungis and all those living north of Agra are Punjabi, love butter chicken and wear loud clothes.

Venkatesh Reddy, 29, whose wife, Neena, 25, is Punjabi, says people aren't generally able to discern he is southern Indian because he has no "regional" accent.

Ram Mohan, 34, and a Malayali, who is married to north Indian Prachi Mishra, 28, speak in English at home. But they try and keep their two-year-old son Udayi in touch with his multicultural lineage. Prachi speaks to him in Hindi and Mohan in Malayalam. "I think Udayi is a little confused to hear so many languages," laughs Prachi.

Then, there's food. Prachi says "food is an issue that takes more time to be sorted out." It was the same for Neetu who took a while to adjust to Malayali cuisine. "It tastes very different. But now I am okay with it. Besides, I do cook North Indian food for breakfast sometimes," she says.

Unlike Punjab's famous white butter fix though, the older generation's misgivings are still harder to melt. "My mother was upset, but my father was okay with our decision to get married," says Mohan. Both Venkatesh and Neena's families were also hostile to the idea of a union. "Now, my mother likes to observe some customs but she also tries to make Neena comfortable whenever we visit them," chuckles Venkatesh.

Culture curry, anyone?

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