This is an exclusive interview with Cristina Chopalli who is an avid writer on multicultural relationships. A one-time resident of Chicago, Cristina is currently residing in San Marcos, Texas where she is earning her MFA in Creative Writing at Texas State University. Cristina was raised in the Mid-western United States, studied classical voice for a decade, and holds an Honors Degree in Education from Baker University. In our interview she reflects on her inter-cultural marriage to her husband, Prashant. The two were married in India in 2010.
Arnav Anjaria : may we have a conversation?
Cristina Chopalli : sure
Arnav Anjaria : so..well..how long have you been in a marital alliance with your husband?
Cristina Chopalli : Well, first we got married in Las Vegas and then in A.P. so about 3 years
Arnav Anjaria: oh ok and how has this three year journey been?
Cristina Chopalli:: It certainly has been a journey. It has been a time of great personal growth for both Prashant and me.
Arnav Anjaria: there was a time when large number of Indians were residing in theUS as a result of the IT industry thereafter theUS
Cristina Chopalli: Yes, that’s true.
Arnav Anjaria: invested in India and that led to a large degree of migration back toIndia
Cristina Chopalli: Prashant did his MS here so he’s one of the last to hop onto the IT train before it was scaled back.
Arnav Anjaria: so during this phase there were cases of marital alliances between Indians and Americans since a marital alliance would grant them the legitimacy to stay back in the US.
Cristina Chopalli: I’s say that this was a period when these types of alliances gained attention and momentum. Because they were becoming more common. As far as do I think this is why some people have stayed inAmerica–perhaps, but I think generally Indians get used to the lifestyle and decide to raise children and continue their careers under its umbrella.
Arnav Anjaria: so can we say multicultural alliances are also determined by the objective development reality in the homeland? vis a vis the reality in the land they migrate to?
Cristina Chopalli: I meant generally speaking that a lot of Indian couples stay in American due to the quality of life. I don’t think Indians are marrying Americans and remaining inAmerica to escape conditions at home.
Arnav Anjaria: alright, and well how do you think are racial differences eliminated? or is it the embracing of coexistence albeit being conscious of the differences?
Cristina Chopalli: I’ve never thought racial differences were things to be eliminated as much as they are opportunities to embrace, explore and complement. My husband and I don’t try to change the other. We have redefined who we were as a unit and we’ve adopted the qualities which matter most to us.
Cristina Chopalli: “redefined who we are” rather
Arnav Anjaria: thats a very appealing answer sorry i sound a bit formal at times. No worries. I am a university person lol but relationships is something of a new domain for The Arachneed, we generally interview on politics and society also pardon me if I sound ignorant at times
Cristina Chopalli: I don’t judge–. I teach freshman English so I am very open to all types and levels of learners.
Arnav Anjaria: thats quite encouraging so moving on while you met your partner in the real world the contemporaneous era has been witnessing a virtual dominance, atleast partially what’s your take on virtual relationships?
Cristina Chopalli: VIrtual relationships such as friends on Facebook? Or do you mean in any specific outlet?
Arnav Anjaria: yes particularly facebook
Cristina Chopalli: and are you asking in general or are you asking concerning Americans and Indians? romantically or friendship based?
Arnav Anjaria: both romantically and friendship based
Cristina Chopalli: Are you asking me how I feel about Facebook relationships between Americans and Indians? And as friendships and romantic relationships? Or just how I feel about all types of relationships being maintained via FB?
Arnav Anjaria: well generally
Cristina Chopalli: OK
Arnav Anjaria: since FB opens up the avenue for people from far off places to come together and interact
Cristina Chopalli: There has been some recent discussion in my graduate classes about the role of FB and if it actually promotes lasting relationships. It’s a debatable arena. Overall, I find FB friendships to be at the surface level. FB serves as a connector with potential (since you meet new people virtually) but I have some doubts on its ability to transform these surface connections into genuine, human bonds. I will say that FB can be a window for people to follow their curiosities into, say, different cultures. And this online experiment may make the person more comfortable with seeking an experience of culture in “real life.”
Arnav Anjaria: thats a very intuitive answer
Cristina Chopalli: 😉
Arnav Anjaria: well on the other hand how do American women perceive Indian Men? what is the general perception?
Cristina Chopalli: It depends on the connection: do they work with Indian men, is the only Indian man they’ve even seen/known been inside a business of some kind like the retail stereotypes: gas station: restaurant: hotel. I don’t know if there is a general feeling in American women. Before I had Indian friends I never noticed Indian people. I didn’t have an opinion of them because they hadn’t yet entered into my schema.
Arnav Anjaria: oh ok what role does religion and social norms play in a multi cultural marriage?
Cristina Chopalli: These are defined by each couple. I am not a Christian and I was a vegetarian before meeting Prashant. So, for us, these two potentially awkward considerations did not pose any threat to our relationship’s stability. I’d bet that most mixed couples who go on to marry have already discovered how their lives will complement each other’s given some potential differences in religion and social norms. Also, people who are drawn into mixed relationships tend to have an ability to appreciate and embrace the other’s cultural norms and may even have adapted a few into their own norms by choice.
Cristina Chopalli: For example, Indians sometimes like having more privacy as the American lifestyle allows. There is a kind of hybridization that occurs with both people. Which is exciting because you are creating something new which is often built from the best of both world views.
Arnav Anjaria: very well answered Cristina i must confess this is quite inspiring for our readers.
Cristina Chopalli: That’s really wonderful.
Arnav Anjaria: difference iss always fascinating but this fascination carries the ides to understand.
Cristina Chopalli: Difference is opportunity.
Arnav Anjaria: and be tolerant?
Cristina Chopalli: WIthout it, how would we ever grow beyond ourselves?
Arnav Anjaria: thats so true Cristina yet what about the primordial identity though it seems it least matters seeing the worldview one seeks to embark upon
Cristina Chopalli: It was the differences I saw in how Prashant was raised in his loving family and how I was raised in a dysfunctional family which let me know that dysfunction didn’t have to be my norm. That I could choose a different life.If I had never know what love can be in an Indian family I may have gone the rest of my life unaware of how damaging my family truly was and how their negativity was destructive to my sense of self.We see differences in the world because of the experience of opposites. We know what HOT is only if we know what COLD is.
Arnav Anjaria: i truly admire the sentiment that your words reflect
Cristina Chopalli: Hot and cold depend on each other for definition. If everything in the world were simply HOT we’d never experience cold. Diversity and experiencing opposites isn’t always easy. There is an extreme between hot and cold. we have to adjust.
Arnav Anjaria: yes indeed
Cristina Chopalli: I can imagine this Because it is an investment of mind and heart and soul because that’s what it takes to create something new
Arnav Anjaria: yes I agree.
Cristina Chopalli: and if it doesn’t come together–it can be even more painful to be pulled out of those investments.
Arnav Anjaria: Yes so referring to what we have been discussing all throughout this interview does someone at one point of time lose faith in the idea that differences can coexist?
Cristina Chopalli: Sometimes I think it’s fate which asks us to experience differences in life. And we can still learn from our attempts.
Arnav Anjaria: so learning is the moral of the story?
Cristina Chopalli: Patience is what makes all things possible.
Arnav Anjaria: and also the solace?
Cristina Chopalli: I had to learn a deeper, less selfish patience.
Arnav Anjaria: oh
Cristina Chopalli: A patience and a die-hard empathy for things I could not completely understand.I didn’t grow up in a loving family but Prashant did. Sometimes I can only empathize with how much he misses his family or how much how much he loves his parents because I have never had that experience. But I love Prashant and he is my family and I know what it is to miss him so I must use that knowledge to allow myself to empathize with Prashant’s feelings toward his family. It is just my experience.This is why I wanted to be a writer. To help others who have had the same questions I myself have and have had.
Arnav Anjaria: yes indeed I guess theres a lot to learn for anyone who is reading this a today i wish you can guide many more people on this.
Cristina Chopalli: One day I hope to have some essays published which will talk more about these experiences 😉
Arnav Anjaria: i wish you luck
Cristina Chopalli: Thank you! I have enjoyed our conversation.
Arnav Anjaria is the editor in chief of The Arachneed. He is also a research scholar at the Center For Regional Studies, University of Hyderabad.