Christine, 36 Thiruvananthapuram
A Swiss wife has brought her Malayali husband back home. It may sound strange. When Christine married Antony Johnson Pereira, who was working in her father’s resort in Interlaken, Switzerland, her exposure to India was limited to the ‘land of snake-charmers and spices’.
“I never brought her here but she brought me to my country,” Johnson explained. During their marriage ceremony at Palayam church in Thiruvananthapuram she shook hands with everyone including her father-in-law but later she realised it was not the way Indians do. Now more than her husband, she’s an Indian. Her children Alexis, 6, and Darius, 2, speak Malayalam besides English, Swiss and German. And she enjoys cooking Malayali dishes. “Here family bonds are strong. And you never feel loneliness or depression,” she explained why she made India her country. Christine is now working as a guest relations manager with a travel firm in Thiruvananthapuram.
After his school, Johnson, landed in Switzerland to study hotel management.During his internship he met Christine. “I wanted go back to India but was a bit afraid. When my wife backed me I felt it is time to pay back,” Johnson, who left a cozy job in Switzerland to settle in his country, said. “But both Christine and Johnson have a word of caution for youth. “Please don’t go for immediate gains. And don’t take things lightly. Chart out a long roadmap with a vision and everything will be perfect.” — Ramesh Babu
Dominique Lopez, 37 Chennai
She is Dominique Lopez, a French and he is Siddharth Lulla, hailing from a Sindhi family of Dehradun. They met for the first time at a party in Paris in 2003. “It was not love at first sight. But we kept in touch,” she said. But when Dominique came to Delhi where her friend was getting married to Siddharth’s friend, we spent time together. Friendship slowly began growing into a relationship. She recalls the time when Siddharth would come to Lisbon, where she worked as a demographer.
For three years, we met in different countries. Siddharth works for a technology company based out of Chennai and travelled for work. It was in 2009 that they decided to say ‘I do’, with a french wedding in Paris, followed by an Indian one in Dehradun. “Since then Chennai has been my home. And I’m happy for it despite some sacrifices I had to make,” she says. “Love, family bonding are the two things that keep Dominque rooting for India. “My in-laws are so understanding, loving and caring,” she says.
The flip side, she misses French culture, fashion and her friends. “But we visit Paris twice a year and my parents visit us here in Chennai every year. She lost her freedom to drive around, as driving on Indian roads makes her nervous. She does not regret giving up her career as she kept herself busy with some freelance work before they had a baby six months ago. She is also learning Bollywood music and dance.
And would they move to France ever? She says the thought never crossed her mind. “Not yet,” she says as she glows in the warmth of her husband’s and his family’s love. — KV Lakshmana
Dr Olga Sharma, 40 Phagwara, Punjab
From Russian to Punjabi and from skirts to salwaar kameez was not an easy transition for Dr Olga Sharma, a native of Bellerose presently settled in Phagwara near Jalandhar. Having studied together in Bellarose Medical University since 1992, Dr AD Sharma and Dr Olga Sharma tied a knot in 1996. The duo stayed in Bellerose for four years but then decided to permanently settle in Phagwara. Since 2000, Dr Olga Sharma has lived in Phagwara like a true Punjabi bride and a devoted daughter-in-law.
It was the love, commitment along with the support from my husband and in-laws that helped me to adapt Punjabi mannerisms,” shares Dr Olga Sharma. She is all smiles as she recounts her testing times as a young daughter- in-law. Initially scared of oil and spices used in Punjabi cuisine, she gradually developed a liking for desi aromas, “The colour of saag was repulsive but now I love eating saag, makki di roti and have an expertise in cooking Punjabi chicken curry, says Dr Olga.
She was also petrified at the thought of dressing up in Punjabi attire but having tried it couple of times, she started liking salwaar kameez. Well versed in Russian and English, Dr Olga Sharma is equally at ease with Hindi and Punjabi as she makes queries about the problems while attending to her patients every day in these languages.”
Dr AD Sharma says,”Even a Punjabi girl would not have made such adjustments.” The couple have three children who have double names (Indian as well as Russian) Anirudh Nikita Sharma , Aryan Alex Sharma and Arjun Matewai Sharma. — Anshu Seth
Irina Chikova, 32 Dharamsala
Irina Chikova had never thought of marrying and settling in a far off country. Born in Moscow, Russia, Chikova was interested in art, dance and paintings. During her five year course in fine arts at an institute in her native city, she once visited the Indian Culture Centre in Moscow. It was at this moment that she decided to learn Kathak. It was destiny that she got selected under a cultural exchange program between the two countries and arrived in India in 2002. She lived in Delhi, learning the classical dance.
During her stay in Delhi she learnt about the Tibetan painting art — Thangka. “To learn the art I decided to come to Dharamsala,” said Chikova. While in Dharamsala, Chikova, searching for a suitable accommodation landed at Rohit Panchkaran’s house. Rohit was a law professional practising in Dharamsala court.“It was our first meeting. I liked the accommodation and decided to stay, not knowing that it was my destiny,” she says. She used to go to the Thangka painting school run by Tibetans at Dharamsala. While the two continued to know each other, love blossomed slowly. “With passage of time our conversations turned into long meetings. It was the time when we started understanding each other and finally in 2010 we decided to get married,” said Chikova.
“Usually the Indian society doesn’t except a foreign national easily. Though there were some hitches, in the beginning but everything went smoothly for us,” said Rohit Panchakaran. They got married in 2011. The long stay in India helped Chikova to adjust in the new culture. “I am familiar with the Indian culture and tradition as I was here for long,” says Chikova adding that she knows a little bit Hindi and language was never a barrier. However, sometimes it becomes difficult to communicate with my mother-in-law but I’m learning local dialect also.” — Naresh Kumar
Tamta (Nini), 26, Kundli, Sonepat
The match of Arun Khatri, 28, a Jat boy from a village in Sonepat and Tamta (Nini), 26, an
orthodox Christian from Georgia (Euro-Asia) may sound different but many draw inspiration from them. Today, Nini who is an MBA from Black Sea University, Georgia lives at Kundli village with her in-laws, brother in law and his family and has gained perfection in Indian, especially Haryanvi food.
Arun pays utmost respect to her religious beliefs, culture and customs. “When I was working in Gurgaon as a software engineer, I met Nini on Skype and our months of web chat culminated into love and Nini invited me to visit Georgia to introduce me to her parents,” said Arun who presently runs an export business. Nini said “My parents couldn’t say no after meeting with Arun, who presented his case honestly and innocently.”
On being asked on why she chose an Indian boy as her life partner, Nini said, “It was love, which connected us and the rest things followed.” Arun said, “Though we started liking each other, but we both were of the opinion that our love would blossom into wedding only with the parents nod.” On being asked about her two and half year experience of living in India, “People are warm and hospitable here but are a bit conservative, while back in my country, we have an open minded society,” she says. — Sat Singh