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A Story of Love Across Cultural Divides

I’ve been off radar for a bit… so for that I apologise! But it’s been all things wedding-related the last few weeks (not mine though, sigh). My wonderful cousin Joseph finally walked down the aisle with his girlfriend of 11 years, Hari.

Their union has been the stuff of modern romance novels. Not just because of the strength of their love, but because of the trials and tribulations they’ve been through in order to finally walk down the aisle.

Wherever in the world you’re reading this right now, you will be aware of just how mixed modern society has become in terms of race. Within the UK, mixed-raced children are the largest growing ethnic minority. Bringing home a partner of a different race to yourself is no longer viewed as, “strange” or “different” in a lot of famlies. When Joseph brought home Hari, the fact that she was of Indian parentage was never even talked about — she made him happy. They made each other happy. And that was all that mattered.

But the reason why they were together for 11 years before they got married, is because Hari was afraid of telling her parents about the person that she’d fallen in love with. She was afraid of the consequences it would have for her younger sisters. Would they be packed off to India? Would they end up in arranged marriages they may not want? At 22 years old, when she first fell in love with him — it was a large burden to carry.

But she loved him, and eventually they moved in together… and then bought a house by the Brighton coast, where they have lived for almost 8 years. All the while her parents didn’t know. Her sisters did, and they too loved Joseph — they saw him as the brother they’d never had.

But after nine years together, she eventually had to tell her father (her mother passed away a few years ago). We were on tenderhooks the weekend she went up North to tell him. It was emotional and as a family we were worried. Hari had been a part of our family for so long, we felt for her. We knew how hard it would be. She loved her father, but knew this would hurt him. He was a very traditional Sikh man. My cousin is black. Would her father disown her? Would he throw her out of the family home? We sat in my aunt’s house and waited. We just needed a quick text message from her, just so we knew she was okay.

And finally it came… He was upset, very upset. But hadn’t thrown her out.

Fast forward two years and to wedding. Hari’s dad had refused to come. And every time someone brought it up , her eyes would fill with tears. She didn’t even want to think about getting married without him there. It hurt too much.

But then he changed his mind. He was coming to the temple.

Without even asking us to, all the women in my family dressed in traditional sari’s and Salwar kameez‘s for the ceremony. We covered our heads with scarves, and took off our shoes in the temple. We took part in all the sikh wedding traditions and adored the traditional temple pre-wedding breakfast.

When Hari’s dad met Joseph for the first time, I had to clasp my hands tight so I wouldn’t cry. You could see her dad was nervous, apprehensive and also sad.

Her father took part in the ceremony and cried at the end. Yes, because his daughter was married, but also because it wasn’t the most ideal of circumstances for him. But at the end of the ceremony he shook our hands. It would have been a huge leap in what is – and will continue to be — a mammoth journey for him. It will take time…

Writing this, I am, again, almost in tears. Mostly because Joseph and Hari’s incredible bond shows just how strong love can be. Throughout all of this, it’s never once faltered. I’m so proud of both of them. And I hope in years to come, Hari’s dad too sees just how wonderful their union is… and why Hari had no choice but to take that huge gamble.

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