Is no marriage better than mixed marriage?
by Rikaza Hassan
@ SO /05mar2006
Unlike most other girls of her day, Haniya, a Moor girl of Islamic faith wished to work and fend for herself. It was at work that she met Jayawickrama where they fell in love and decided to get married.
"My father was very supportive. As for my mother-in-law, she didn't know me at the time, but now we're best of friends. She simply cannot be without me," said Haniya of the two families. The two partners practise their separate religions without inconvenience to each other. "I have even made him take up meditation since he's a Buddhist."
She added that her husband has "always supported me in every way and is ever ready to give." As for the question of inter-racial marriage, Haniya Cooray believes that not only has she found happiness in her own mixed marriage, but that mixed marriages "are totally feasible. All you need is understanding. As a Muslim I believe that God created human beings first, before religion."
Melissa, a Burgher, met her Sinhalese husband in the form of her big brother's friend. Time having shown their relationship to be stable, the two decided to get married. However Dayan came of a Buddhist background and horoscopes had to be matched if the marriage was to be given the green light. As fate would have it, they did not, and Dayan's family expressed disapproval.
"We have been married for ten years now," says Melissa, "and have two little children of our own." The relationship with her in-laws is just cordial, nowadays, "they are forced to accept the fact that we are going to be together, now that they have two grand children as well."
The children grow up, she says, "unaware of any difference in people because of their race." She also believes that there is no special formula required to make an inter-racial marriage work. "As long as you can live with each other, be true to each other, as long as you love each other, it doesn't matter what race or religion, or if you were even Martian."
An even more sweeter tale is that of the marriage of Christine and Jeevan spanning over three decades. Christine, 24 a Tamil from Jaffna met Jeevan, 28 the son of an Ayurveda physician of Kalutara in the Department of Examinations, Colombo.
Love blossomed, and a year later they were married. "We each undertook the responsibility to convince our families. I was the fifth of eight children, and my entire family was against me marrying someone they know nothing about, and from an entirely different living. His parents were also anxious to give him in marriage to a good Sinhalese girl." In 1973, they got married in Jaffna, in the presence of both families, and soon moved to Maharagama where they had built their own house.
They have two grown up daughters now. "Before marriage we agreed to continue to practise our faiths, and that the children would be Buddhists. However, we always join each other at the church or the temple and celebrate both our festivals." According to Christine, "mixed marriages present no problems at all. All it needs is understanding, compromise and respect for each other's beliefs, just like any other marriage. The only difficult part is to take the decision and act upon it."
However, not everyone is of the opinion that inter-racial marriages are the same as any other marriage. "I think it requires a higher level of understanding which not everyone is capable of. It also requires near unconditional love," said Rizan, a Moor who is married to Kalyani, a Tamil. They met at university, but faced immense opposition from both sides. Their decision to get married has left them with no relationships whatsoever, with their families.
"The two of us practise our own religions, try and understand each other's culture and most importantly respect it." However, the couple has made an unfortunate decision. "We don't intend to have children.
We are not sure if we won't try too hard to impose our own opinions on them.
We'd rather be happy as we are right now, than risk our ruining ours' and our kid's lives," said Kalyani with sadness in her eyes.
And not everyone is strong enough to go against the tide, and tie the knot in the first place. Nadeesha, a Sinhala Buddhist came from a wealthy family in the hills of Nuwera Eliya. Life was perfect until she met Danujan, the son of an estate worker who had managed to get out of the slum and make his life.
The two became friends, lovers and then her family found out. She was not allowed alone anywhere without a chaperone, as her family failed to understand what she could possibly see in a Tamil youth from the slums. He was not let near the house, and she continued to refuse to have anyone but him. In the end though, it was her family that got their way as the two lovers were forced to call it quits and move on with their lives.
Then again, not all couples who have had the determination and courage usually required to make and go through the decision of marriage between different races, have managed to continue to be strong and hold it together without letting their differences get to them in the end.
This is true even in the western world, where inter-racial marriages are more often than not, treated as just any other marriage. When the 21-year-old daughter of English millionaire, Sir James Goldsmith fell in love with former Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan, there was much consternation at the immense cultural divide that separated them. Nevertheless they went on to get married, she the English beauty, transformed in to a Muslim wife, Jemima Khan, and bore Imran two sons. Nonetheless they went their separate ways in 2004 and she relocated to England to become Hugh Grant's girl friend.
Perhaps what could be considered an even more despairing account of a mixed marriage gone wrong, is the story of two intelligent people, a young Moor boy and a pretty Sinhalese girl who fell in love. Their nuptials had them outcast from their respective families and life was nothing out of the ordinary until the children came along.
The older daughter was registered as a Muslim, carrying on her father's name much to the mother's very voiced disapproval.
The son was registered as a Buddhist and given the mother's maiden name. To this day, the parents continue to refer to the children by different names and amidst the constant explosive bickering; the children have been forced to take sides.
So, are inter-racial marriages an intolerable union, or are they just like any other union between two people in love? Are the inter-racial marriages that work out, are just a fluke, and few and far between?
We are always taught to respect other cultures and not just marry into them. I believe the testimonies of the happily married couples from different cultures speak for themselves.
* Names have been changed on request