I am an indian woman and I don’t want to marry an Indian man. It sounds awful to admit – and no doubt my entire family is currently reading this in horror – but it’s true. Right now, I’m 27, single, and have no idea if I’ll ever get married. But if a husband does appear on the horizon, then I desperately hope he isn’t brown.
This is not because I am some kind of self-hating racist. I am very proud to be a British Indian woman. Nor is it that I am not attracted to Indian men. Like most people, I am just as capable of fancying a brown man as a white or black one, and I’ve met plenty of Indian men who I would probably be very compatible with, were they not already married.
My reluctance to settle down with an Indian guy is more about the message it sends out. In a race that loves culture, tradition and marrying ‘your own kind’, interracial marriages are still rare. People look down on them, even sending condolences if a friend’s child marries a non-Indian: ‘Oh, what a shame. Hopefully you’ll have better luck with the youngest.’ In extreme cases, an interracial marriage can lead to a child being disowned – something I’ve witnessed. In my ‘community’ (this is a wide-ranging label for anyone Gujarati/Hindu/Indian), you can still be shunned solely for falling in love with someone of the wrong gender or colour.
I’ve spent years arguing passionately against this with anyone who’ll listen, but I’ve learned that the only way to bring about change is to do it yourself. I’m not arrogant enough to believe that by marrying a non-Indian man – or even better, living with one ‘in sin’ – I’ll erase centuries of tradition. But just hearing about an unlikely interracial relationship can change people’s views, especially in a close-knit community where gossip spreads like wild fire.
WATCH NOW: The Most Stylish Celebrity Weddings
While older generations might reach straight for the smelling salts, younger generations often have more complex reactions to interracial couples. Joyful ‘we’re engaged!’ Facebook posts can make them question the messages they’ve been brought up with – can it really be that bad to marry a white woman when this couple look so happy? And relationships like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s prove on a wider level that things are changing: future royals could be a quarter black.
In my culture, I’m already trying to break taboos. I regularly write feminist articles, and have published two comic novels – Virgin and Not at Easy – all about young women exploring their sexuality and, shock horror, their vaginas.
Older Indians are appalled by my ‘Fifty Shades’ books, but dozens of their children have thanked me for tackling stigmas – or, in their words, ‘writing about, you know’.
Their reactions have reinforced my conviction that one person’s actions can lead to change. It might sound naïve, pointless or even just plain strange for me to base my life partner choices on the reactions of others, but I don’t care. I’d love the chance to have an interracial family where the colours of our skin would prove to the world that you don’t have to follow outdated norms.
It might not be easy. Interracial and interfaith relationships bring added challenges, be they tough compromises or external negativity, yet they promote integration and help erase stereotypes in a way that mere words cannot. They’re also fun. When you date outside your background, you learn about a different culture and experience everything firsthand, from the fresh perspectives to the food. It’s always going to be hard to break from the familiarity of traditions, but doing so means you get to explore new ones and, if you’re lucky, create your own.