From the People’s Daily app.
This is Story in the Story.
Growing up, Zheng Momo from Guangze county, Fujian Province never imagined that she would marry a man from India, a nation that is geographically close to China but still remains a mystery to most of China's population.
She and Raj Shekhar Singh, from Bokaro in India, have been married for 9 years, and live in the US.
"What attracts me to him is his rich spiritual world, his respect for women and his mercy to people and animals," Zheng said. “We went through a lot of barriers to be with each other like most other people in China-India cross-cultural relationships. We really cherish what we have today."
The number of China-India cross-cultural relationships and marriages has increased in recent years because of the more frequent economic and cultural exchanges between the two countries, according to Zheng's observations.
Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, also observed the same trend.
"As the internationalization got deeper and the economic and trade relationships between China and Southeast Asian countries develop, China-India cross-cultural relationships and marriages will increase," Hu said. "Under the influence of the Belt and Road initiative, more Chinese are visiting and working in Southeast Asian countries. It also provides opportunities for Indians and Chinese to learn about each other.”
Today's Story in Story will look at how Chinese-Indian cross-cultural couples face family and cultural road blocks when fighting for their own happiness.
Zheng Momo and her Indian husband Raj Shekhar Singh (Photo: Courtesy of Zheng Momo)
To Zheng and her husband Raj, their road together was a bumpy one, and they had to go through many obstacles to be together, mainly from their families.
When Zheng first announced to her parents that she was dating a guy from India and they were going to get married, her mother cried for an entire year.
"They didn't even know where India was, and they just assumed that people from India are poor, could not provide a good life for me, are superstitious and abuse women," Zheng said. "They came to those conclusions based on the pieces of information from the internet where the media only report extreme cases as a hype to attract audiences."
"My family threatened to disown me if I insisted on being with him," Zheng said.
While Zheng was under pressure from her own parents, her boyfriend Raj was under even more pressure from his parents. Raj's mother also cried every day and worried about their relationship.
Arranged marriage is still the ideal choice for most Indian families.
The older generations still believe that only by arranged marriage can their children have a stable marriage and that free love is a bad thing, according to Zheng, especially since Raj is from a place that tends to be closed-up to foreign cultures.
Raj said is the first person in his hometown to marry a foreign woman that he knows of.
According to a report by the People's Daily in January, there were 18,171 Indian students in China in 2016, which surpassed the number of Indian students in the UK, a country that has been very attractive to Indian students.
The same report also said most Indian students choose to study medical science majors, engineering and computer sciences in China because of the lower cost and better job prospects.
A Global Times report from 2017 stated the number of Chinese students in India has also increased in recent years. Chinese students are attracted by India's cost-effective higher-level education and English-language environment.
India went through a rather closed period, and the media created some stereotyped images of foreign women, like in the popular Indian movie Purab Aur Paschim (1970), the Western women in the movie are depicted behaving rather loosely and they trick the kind, pious Indian boys, according to Zheng.
Fortunately, their love for each other was strong and they both decided to elope in in the US, where Raj was doing his doctorate degree. Later, due to the constant persuasion and the confirmation that they are nothing like the stereotyped images, their parents finally accepted their marriage.
With nine years of marriage and two children, Zheng said despite the misunderstandings and the stereotyped images, people from China and India actually have a lot in common in terms of the relationship in a marriage and the strong attachment and feelings to their families.
The family culture in China and India are both ones where the parents sacrifice everything to support and take care of their children, and the children take care of their parents when they are old, Zheng said.
"I believe that with the more frequent exchanges between the two countries, people from China and India will get deeper, and we will see more cross-cultural relationships and marriages between the two countries," Zheng said.
(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Raymond Mendoza and Lance Crayon. Music by: bensound.com. Text from Global Times.)