One of the most important things that India has taught me so far is learning how to rely on my wife.
I rely on my wife anyway in many ways and wouldn’t enjoy life half as much as I do without her making me laugh, her love and her support. However, India has been a special case.
As my wife is of Gujarati heritage, there are a lot of things that she can do here that I can’t.
Most importantly, she can speak Gujarati which makes things a lot easier for me. I’m an experienced traveller so I don’t get too fazed even if I have to communicate through mime- but sometimes, especially dealing with bureaucratic things which I loathe, it would be a real struggle for me without her help.
She also knows a lot more about the culture than I do (though a lot of it is new for her too, because she was born in the UK), so sometimes she can fill me in on things I don’t understand. She’s a vegetarian and there isn’t much meat in Gujarat (I’ve had it once so far in 1.5 months)- I’m not nearly as used to the food (although, thanks to her kind family, I’ve had so much Gujarati food in the last few years that it is actually surprisingly familiar to me) and she finds me nice things to eat.
I try not to rely on her all the time. I try to pull my weight and help with other things and as a lot of people speak English here, I’m not utterly useless. I just went to get my hair cut for example- and I didn’t come back with my head half shaved or something like that (actually I came back with it fully shaved, which is what I wanted!).
One of the things that I was really looking forward to, which I have loved experiencing is that in the UK, Gujarati culture is a minority culture. Here it is the culture, so it is all around us. It feels a different and much more intense way of learning about it.
It also just matters a lot to me to be in a situation with my wife where ‘her’ culture is the default in a lot of ways. Where you walk into a restaurant and you don’t have to check if things are veggie because you know that they will be. Especially when we’ve lived in countries where ordering vegetarian food in most restaurants is much harder than in the UK (Hi, Portugal) it makes a refreshing change for things to be easy for her. Also, to be in a place where my wife’s religion is the norm and where the average person looks more like her than they do like me. All have made me think and have been something I feel very lucky to understand even a tiny bit more.
I’ve experienced nothing but kindness from people here- or rather, I haven’t experienced any extra unkindness that I can attribute to being an outsider- I have found a few rude people, just like anywhere, but they are rude to everyone, not just me. Even so, it is an amazing experience, just as it was when I lived in Japan, for your culture to not be the default one. It feels unusual too, though in most ways you get used to it, to be stared at so much when walking down the street, to have lots of people ask for photos or ask where you are from.
For me, being in India is not only an amazing opportunity to learn more about a culture that I have now married into- and to do it in a way that feels like really jumping into the deep end- but it gives me the opportunity to rely on my wife in a different and special way. For a person like me who is fiercely independent, that is one of the greatest life lessons of all.