How my Hindu family reacted to our same sex marriage/wedding
It was a cold Wednesday night, in the Winter of 2018, when Scott and I sat having a beer at a pub outside Townhall Station. A VB, our favourite. We dated for about six months but talked online for more than a year before that night. He is now my lawfully married husband. In that pub, I was lying to him, saying I did not expect any extravagant fanfare if I was ever asked to marry someone. The way I had actually imagined it was being caught by surprise, in some exotic location overseas, where he would go down on one knee at the top of a mountain and bring out a Louis Vuitton bag with personalised engraving and inside the bag a Medusa print Versace shirt. All that to trick me and blow my mind away, followed by a proposal ring. In the background would be a live performance by about 50 or so dancers to a romantic Bollywood number that I had listened to growing up. Scott and I both knew we loved each other and in that pub, among all that blokey background cheering, for some rugby match that was being played live on a huge screen, which both of us paid no attention to, Scott asked me to marry him. In a pub, without fanfare because he was the kind of person who got the hint and didn’t waste time making up his mind.
I said yes immediately. Also, hoping not to catch the attention of all that beefcake who were watching a bunch of men on the screen. I called Scott later that night once the alcohol wore off and the next day just to make sure. We moved in, locked in the reception venue, decided the guest list, the invitation cards went out, we met the Priest and booked in our Hindu wedding. Everything was running as planned except that I hadn’t told my parents who live in Fiji that I was getting married.
Things for them were already not easy as my brother had eloped with a girl and then brought her home to live with my parents. It was the biggest shame to my Fiji born, Indian background, conservative, brown strict parents, who lived their lives according to societal norms. To add to the dread, the Prime Minister of Fiji made a public statement at a ground breaking ceremony that same sex marriages would never happen in Fiji. Among all this was the news of my wedding, like a thermonuclear bomb seconds before impact.
Sometime in March, after much consultation with friends, I sent my parents a message on Viber, telling them both I was getting married in August. There was no reply. Two days after I called Mum like I did most days, at 5:45am leaving for yoga. It was 7:45 in Fiji. “How are you?” I asked. “I’m good, just making roti’s and curry for everyone’s lunch.” There was a pause, two long seconds.
Overseas calls to Fiji, are quick and very loud because they can be expensive or crackling on free apps. “Did you get my message?” I asked. “Yes we did, I’ll talk to you later, my roti is burning.” The line went dead. That evening my Dad sent me a message saying I should stop this. That no one would be happy and that the Prime Minister didn’t accept this either.
My inner Kali, the Goddess of death and doomsday had been awakened and she wasn’t going to rest until her performance was over.
So I sent him a reply message; 1400 words altogether. In all the messages I sent, to which I got one sentence or one word replies; usually just “Okay”, I must have written enough for a Masters Thesis.
Between these messages there was a respectful silence on the gender and sexuality topic that we had grown to almost accept. We sort of talked about it and sort of didn’t. Most times me trying to and either the topic was changed or my Mum would tell me her dhal or curry is burning.
A few months passed and it felt like my parents had started to pretend the wedding wasn’t happening. Then one morning, with a calm and clear mind, I sent them both the wedding invitation and said, “Here are the details. If you guys came I’d be the happiest and if you didn’t, I’d still love you the same.”
Dad replied, “Okay, will let you know tomorrow”
I became a bit panicky. What if they came and my Mum fulfilled her role of being an over dramatic mother to a gay son and beat her chest crying and cursed the priest for 7 rebirths.
“There is no pressure”, I quickly added in my message to them.
The next morning, after yoga and meditation at the studio, while on my way to the station along Redfern Street, I switched my phone back on. As it started to come back to life, the notifications began to show up. The first one was a missed call from my friend Kailesh in Brisbane who calls me every morning at around 6am. The second one was a Viber message from my father. It read, “Mum and I had a talk and we….”
I quickly tapped on the message. I could hear my heartbeat. All my focus was on my phone. Any moment now I could get hit by a person or a vehicle, but I couldn’t care at that time. The phone screen went bright white for a second, then the Viber app started to load.
Seconds passed. I looked up to find myself at the red light crossing on Regent Street.
Still loading. I crossed the road as fast as I could, long strides, and a slight jump in my walk.
Still loading. Finally, as I waited to cross at the next set of lights in front of Redfern Police Station, the message appeared on the phone.
I took a second and read, “Mum and I talked and we will come to the wedding. Please send us the paperwork to lodge our visa.” I read it again. My vision became blurry and I looked up at the sky. The tears rolled down. While crossing the road this time, I didn’t make eye contact with the man selling magazines who always says, “Good morning to you”. I quickly went down the escalators to Platform 12 and got on my train to Rockdale. I cried looking out the window so no one could see my tears. The entire trip was full of images of my childhood, growing up in Fiji.
By midday we extended invitations to some of my cousins, aunts and uncles. Come nightfall, our guest list had increased from 56 to 106 because my parents had opened the door to the entire clan. People were coming from all over. I had a full on wedding, three days of rituals and events, from a Haldi, Sangeet and Mehendi and delicious Payasam by the amazing Rohan on Thursday night. A garden themed Hindu ceremony on Friday where my Mum wore my favourite peach, yellow and purple silk saree I gifted her and Dad wore a matching pink shirt. One of the guests told me later, that my Mother grabbed Scott by the arm and said, “come take a photo with me”.
On Saturday evening a Western wedding reception with alcohol literally flowing, the fabulous Radha Labia as our emcee (who cried when my Dad delivered his speech), wedding drama and my cousins dancing till they dropped cleaning the floor with their suits. The next morning, all my family that travelled from all over sat everywhere in the living room, the sofa, the floor and the coffee tables. All shades of colour with Scott and I at the far ends of the spectrum. My Dad’s older sister followed me into the kitchen, she held my arm and said softly, “Scott is a really nice guy, I am so happy for you.” Then she reached up and placed both her hands on my head. “All my blessings with you and Scott.”
I walked back into the living room finding my way around the maze of people and sat down. My Mum’s brother said in his loud voice, “Scott, if Salvin ever makes life hard for you, just give us a call and we will fix him up. You are now our son and we will look after you.”
And that is how my family reacted to my wedding.
Photos: Lia Marx Photos & Films
Couple: Salvin Scott
This story was originally performed as part of national LGBTQI+ storytelling project Queerstories: queerstories.com.au
Tie The Thali would like to thank this lovely couple for sharing their big day with us and our viewers We wish them nothing but the best for their married life!
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