"I don't think anyone can really reach that title of a (perfect) Indian wife, right?"
Is “almost anything” good enough? It sure is for this episode’s guest Brittany Muddamalle, the voice behind The Almost Indian Wife. As a Caucasian/Romani woman married to an East Indian and now raising multiracial kids in America she is building a life that works for her and her family and in doing so is inspiring others to “meet in the middle” to honour all family tradition, culture and norms. All the while leaving the unnecessary and outdated behind. We cover a lot of ground in this interview from how eating with her hands has become one of her favourite ways to respect their Indian side, to her desire to have her children know Telugu fluently and how replicating her favourite recipe from her Caucasian side makes her heart wish for another Thanksgiving with her grandma (hint, it giggles and comes in many colours).
About our guest: Brittany is the voice behind The Almost Indian Wife. She is married and has four kids. Her husband is Indian and she is Caucasian/Romani. She has a passion to help other multiracial families navigate multiple cultures and build a healthy foundation so they can stand up against anything. Follow her on Instagram and TikTok.
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One of the most beautiful parts of being in an interracial relationship or raising multiracial family is you have your culture and your partner's culture. And when you engage and when you start an interracial relationship you come to the middle. And so what that means is that you're paving a brand new way. You're not doing it your culture's way. You're not doing it your partner's culture's way. The opportunity that you have is to pick and choose from both. And now it's complicated because that means you'll leave some things behind. And so I would just say in that process, look at the beautiful pieces and the healthy parts of both cultures and the things that you say like, Hey, that's going to contribute to my family. Hey, that's going to be a major part of what I want our family to be and who I want our family to be.
Welcome back to Root & Seed, a podcast about tradition seekers who are sparked to explore, define and celebrate their family and cultural identity. I'm your host, Anika Chabra.
How do you describe this episode’s guest Brittany Mudamalle? We wanted to get right into her interview so I get the pleasure of introducing her and to encapsulate her unique but relatable life. Brittany is known online for sharing her experience in a mixed marriage raising biracial kids. She's white, and jokes about growing up in the least diverse, rainy-est town in Washington State with her mom and little brother. She met her husband, Joel, when she moved to California. He is Indian and they now have four kids.
She admits that she barely knew anything about her own cultural identity coming into the marriage and is now embarking upon the journey of creating a life and raising a family with a man who does have deep cultural traditions. They are in this wonderful, beautiful, chaotic process of blending two different worlds together. We get a front row seat as they share this experience unapologetically, with a side of humor ... putting it out there for the world to see on her platform, Almost Indian Wife.
Brittany is insightful and beyond endearing. The way she talks about how you can have the best intentions of being sweet and respectful will land you in the dog house because the expectations of different cultures are just that... Different. And it's not about giving up, or blindly assimilating. But really understanding. Being open, being curious, communicating AND holding boundaries all the while being empathetic and open minded. No one is perfectly “their culture” - and we're all learning. And as you’ll hear in the first part of this interview we LOVE the sentiment behind her moniker. Here’s our interview.
Tell us a little bit about Almost Indian Wife, which is your platform. I got to tell you how much I love that title. I'll tell you why.I don't know if other Indian women have said this to you before, but I'm going to tell you and you're going to tell me if people have said this to you before. I actually think I'm an almost Indian wife too, even though I am Indian. Because I don't do it very, very well. I'm a very average daughter in law. I'm a very average Indian wife. I'm very…. like, maybe even below average, like I don't cook the food properly. And so when I saw your content…Even outside of just you embracing and being curious and being open to understanding your husband's side of things… I just love the title. I'm like, I'm kind of an almost Indian wife!
Oh my God! I've literally heard that so much. But like, let's be honest. I don't think anyone can really reach that title of a (perfect) Indian wife, right? I think that it goes back to this idea of perfection. I will never forget, I was sitting down at my kitchen table. I had two, I believe out of my four kids at the time, and I was just really feeling the weight of coming into the Indian culture and not being able to meet any of the expectations correctly, I was not from the culture. I was learning. I was processing, but I was making mistake after mistake. And I had this huge moment where I was like, can I ever attain this? Can I ever reach this? No, I will never be able to be this perfect Indian wife. First of all, because I'm not Indian.
But second of all, I can't assimilate a hundred percent and I don't really think I should . You know? And so I think for me, it was like, Hey, I will embrace, I will jump in and learn as much as I possibly can, but I will always be the almost Indian wife and I laughed at myself over the name, but it just felt so freeing. And I've met so many women over the years. There's similar stories to either you or myself, and they're like, wow! To be able to say that it's okay that I'm almost, that I'll never reach this perfect idea of what a wife or a woman should be. And yeah, maybe we should all be the almost something wives, right?
Absolutely. And tell me, in the beginning, as you were navigating your husband's culture, what kind of missteps were you dealing with? As you look back on yourself with compassion, obviously.
Yeah. I mean, just everything from wearing the wrong clothes to saying the wrong names for people. In Western culture, I was allowed to use people's first names and it was never an issue. So of course, I will never forget the first time I called my mother in law by her first name. And she was so sweet and so kind, but you could just see the shock on her face. I was like, Oh no, I've done something wrong. What did I do? I'm left-handed, my husband's family, they eat with their hands and you can't do anything with your left hand. All of those things that either I was learning or I learned and still did it wrong. Hospitality was a really big one in the beginning. My idea of hospitality was not my husband's family’s. And so I often come across as very disrespectful and I'm over here, thinking “what am I doing?” I'm trying to be sweet. I'm trying to be kind. And that was when I realized I'm being sweet and kind, according to my culture, not theirs. It's a lot to process.
And how did you learn? By observing, by asking questions, by being curious?
Everything. My husband knows this now, and I can say this, so we can all throw him under the bus a little bit! I really thought in the beginning, I could just ask him everything. Like, what do you do? How do I do this, this, this, this, this? And then I would end up in these ridiculous situations when I’d wear Indian clothes to an American event and I’d look like a culturally appropriating idiot. Or he says…Hey, my mom wants to cook when she comes, I sit back and let her do it all. And my mother in law is like, Oh, wow. I kind of thought you were going to help me out. And I look rude. And so I think part of it was really understanding who I do I go to? And I started to go to my mother in law. And we actually had some really good conversations where I was like, Hey, I think I'm coming off as very disrespectful. That's not my goal. But our cultures are very different and I don't know. So can you please teach me? Then also his sister, his aunts. I just started reaching out to all the women in his family that could help me. But his aunt and uncle are also interracial. So I also started going to his white uncle and asked him to tell me what you've learned, what can I do? But the only problem there is that obviously he's a white male. And I'm a white woman. So the expectations are completely different. It was just about starting those conversations and understanding that the lens I was seeing all of this through was from a white woman's lens. And I had to understand that that's not the lens I can see through anymore. I need to do my best to kind of take that lens off and start to understand that everyone's different culture plays such a huge role in expectations, behavior, what people want, what people think is respectful or disrespectful, and just relearn.
Your husband did an awesome TikTok where he was sort of celebrating the fact that you were curious, but then stood up for you when somebody was saying that you're appropriating. What do you say to those people?
My husband and I sit down and we talk about all of this. So often when you see me wearing Indian clothes, it's been gifted to me by my in-laws. And they're like…Brit, wear this. I think when you're not a part of it, when you're not in an interracial relationship, sure, I may look like a culturally appropriating white girl, and that's okay. Because in my heart of hearts, I know that I am just doing my best to love my husband and his family and all of us are okay with how I'm doing it now. Granted, I'm also open to learning. So yes, I have made mistakes. I am a white woman and I didn't even understand the privilege and the prejudices that I had growing up, not being in a diverse community. So I think it's both like a check kind of system where it's like, Hey, call me out. I have to kind of hear even if it hurts and it stings and I have to process….is this right? Or is this wrong? And I can kind of process it with my husband. I did a funny video about Joel stepping up, ready to fight someone for me, but it started a much deeper conversation. And I think that a lot of these topics, they're very triggering. They're very difficult. They're very divisive. And being able to bring it up in a lighthearted kind of fun way and then starting a deeper conversation in the comments or in my DMs, like that's what I love. That's, I think, my favorite thing that I do.
I love that. What is your favorite, favorite, “You've now taken it on as your own tradition” that you've learned from your Indian in-laws or your husband’s side.
Man, you know, as funny as it sounds eating with our hands. I didn't realize what a journey that would be. I learned very quickly how to do it correctly because I looked like an idiot. Using my whole hand and everything. So I learned the proper technique and then we had kids and we got to teach them. At home we just don't use silverware. And then I noticed friends would come over and everyone would pick up a fork. We had kind of a family meeting and I was like, Hey, why are you guys doing that? What's going on? And like, well, we don't want them to feel uncomfortable. And that just started such a beautiful conversation where I was like, well, you know, you embracing that part of your culture. It's not about what makes people comfortable. It's not anything other than it's new for them, you know? So instead, maybe what we can do is we offer forks to everybody, but we let them know… Hey guys, one of the things that we're going to do when we're here for Indian food is we eat with our hands and we are happy to teach you. You are also welcome to use utensils. There's no judgment either way. And I think it just becomes this beautiful moment of helping people embrace, or at least teach them about your culture. But it's also about teaching our kids that you don't have to be embarrassed to embrace your culture in front of anybody. Be proud and be strong in that. It's a small thing, but it's become such a large thing that we've used it in our friend circles and in our family to teach people.
Is there something from your background that you want your children to know about and be exposed to as you go through this process?
Honestly I think it's just my grandparents' story. They are the coolest people. My grandpa is one of my favorite humans. He's got this big old beard and all this crazy stuff. My grandma is sadly no longer with us, but they've had the most wild stories about traveling the entire world on their bikes, and so I think that for me, it's just exposing my kids to that and how cool that was and kind of like what that looks like for them. And we hear often that white people don't have a culture, right? And I get a lot of pressure on that…like Brit just assimilate to Joel's culture because you don't have one. And I think that part of it for me is that culture is so much. Culture is every part of who you are and what's helped you to become who you are. It's your ethnic background. It's your family. It's your life experiences. It's trauma. It is every part of who you are. And I think that for me, it's kind of starting to understand that my grandparent's story has played such a big role in my family's culture. And so I think a lot of that is just sharing those stories with my kids and what that looks like….the music they listen to, what it means to be a biker, right? All these fun things.
I love that we are now switching over…your side, his side. But as you're talking, it just brings up more and more about the journey that you're on. Now we're going back to your Indian side of things. Your pursuit of understanding the language in Telugu. I think that is so cool. What is your dream there? Do you want your children to understand and be able to recognize some words or be able to watch a movie and get it?
Great question. I want my kids to be fluent and I know that people tell me that's unreasonable and that's crazy, but I do. I've seen how it's worked with mixed kids and I've seen how it works with immigrant parents. They're either going to keep it if their parents are so stinking diligent, or they're going to completely drop it or never learn it. It was not a priority for us in the beginning of our parenting journey or my marriage. Which we're realizing now was a mistake. We recently had Joel's aunt and uncle and one of our two of his cousins come from India and granted they all speak English…But the younger son, the first couple of times my kids interacted with him, he didn't really speak English. And so they would play all day long, but they wouldn't really talk. And I noticed that I was like, wow, what a bummer. I'm so grateful that playing still bridges everything, but at the same time I wish they could have deeper conversations and they could learn about India and he could learn about the States. He speaks English now. But I was realizing my kids can't expect all their cousins to know English. I want them to be able to go to India with us and go to Hyderabad one day and speak to all their aunties, speak to all their uncles and speak to all their cousins. And have them go for a summer and just practice and immerse themselves. Yes, they can function without it, but they lose part of that. And they lose part of being able to have deeper relationships with family whose first language was not English,
We were talking about your grandparents and we just did a grandparents day event on the weekend. And I told a story about my grandma and yeah, I didn't speak her language. So we actually showed love for each other through affection. And through things like she was the train and she was the engine and I was the caboose and I would put my arms around her belly and we would walk around the living room. But yeah, it was sad that I couldn't have those deep, meaningful conversations with her on that other level. So kudos to you for even thinking about that and thinking ahead because your kids are so young.
Your daughter. Oh my gosh, your daughter. Let's just talk about her. So you're going to laugh. But one of my nicknames from some of my friends is Indian princess. I was born with a bit of a tiara on, and every time I see her, I'm like, she's a little Indian princess. And I think it is just amazing. How has it been raising a girl versus a boy and exposing her to Indian culture?Are you sensitive to anything different? Talk a little bit about that.
It's completely different. I don't think I realized how different it was going to be. I thought it was….I've already raised three kids. It's gonna be the same thing as my boys. No, she is for sure an Indian princess. She calls herself Queen Emmy. I'm Princess Mommy, so she has completely taken my title, thank you MJ! We talked about it a little bit in the beginning, I think that the expectations for boys versus girls are very different. I kind of started to see that in both cultures, having boys and having men clean the house, take different roles in the family.It's not as common, right? Or it's more unique, which is wild to me. And so from very itty bitty ages, all of my kids have taken part in our house. They do the chores. They clean their room. They help with dinner. They do the trash. We are a team, we are a united front and it's not just mom cleaning. So we've had family visits and they're like, why are they doing that? And I'm like, they're a team. We are all a part of this together. So they will be doing all of these things. One day if they get married, they're going to be a team with their wife, with their partners, you know?
That's always been very important to me. Now having emmy. I say…. hey, it's not your sole job to do everything, we all participate. And so part of it for me is her seeing her dad and her brothers do those things. They're very sensitive as well. Hey, like when we go places, it's not just a girl's job. They started to see it. So they're always offering, what can I do? Do you need help? Can I help you cook? Can I help you clean? That's a big one for me. But also the image stuff. Extended friends and extended people that don't even know us love to offer their opinions on how dark or how light my kids are. That's something that we have just started to just nip in the bud. You're not going to compare my kids' skin colors and tell me that my lighter kids are more beautiful than my darker kids. You're not going to tell me to keep Emmy out of the sun. I don't want them to grow up with this complex.
That just made my blood boil.
Oh, I hate it. Whether it's a DM online or they see them in person….I hear…..Keep them out of the sun, they're getting a little dark. Just so you know how hard we've worked on this, every year, my son Lucas has a competition with his dad where they see who can get the darkest. It's intentional. We do these things on purpose to teach them, dark is beautiful. MJ's dolls, there's every single shade. And she gravitates towards the darker dolls. We've taught that that’s her, because she sees beauty in everything. And I think that we have to teach that young, especially with girls of color. Obviously again….I'm a white woman. And even as a kid, I didn't pick dark dolls cause I wasn't taught that. My mom was a white woman and didn't think about that. So for me, I'm like M…. you have to learn young that white is not perfect. Light is not more beautiful. Every shade is pretty. Every shade is beautiful. And I think that as moms, as women, as dads, as men, we have to teach our young kids that, you know, whether you're white, whether you are in a multiracial family or not, it's everyone's job to do that.
We do have a number of people in our community who are in a mixed relationship or, bringing up mixed children, and they kind of gravitate towards our platform because not just looking in the past…we're about looking at the past. And then sifting and sorting and deciding what you want to take forward. They might be early in their days or early in a relationship, what kind of advice might you have for that part of our community that is trying to figure out how to navigate different traditions and different recipes and different ways of being and maybe their cultural background.
Yeah, that's such a good question. One thing I always say is one of the most beautiful parts of being in an interracial relationship or raising multiracial family is you have your culture. In your partner's culture, and when you engage and when you start an interracial relationship, you come to the middle, right? And so what that means is that you're paving a brand new way. You're not doing it your culture's way. You're not doing it your partner's culture's way. The opportunity that you have is to pick and choose from both. And now it's complicated because that means you'll leave some things behind.And so I would just say in that process, look at the beautiful pieces and the healthy parts of both cultures and the things that you say like, Hey, that's going to contribute to my family. Hey, that's going to be a major part of what I want our family to be and who I want our family to be, and let some of maybe the unhealthy standards go.
But I think part of it too is its intentionality. If you are in an interracial relationship, you will naturally gear towards whatever culture that you're currently living in, and so it's your job to be intentional about bringing in both. That can be meals that can be having fusion foods that can be for holidays doing both, like making it like a big feast, learning the language, practicing different things. You choose what you want for your family, but if you don't choose it, it won't be there. You can't expect it to naturally happen because it won't so you have to fight hard for these things.
I love that. So well said. Brittany, I'm going to ask you a question from our conversation cards. We don't know which one is going to come your way. We might ask a couple. Let's see. Okay. Did you have a favorite holiday dish when you were a kid?
Oh my gosh. Yes. And you're going to laugh because this is the whitest thing I've said so far. Okay. Just get ready…Jello salad. My husband and my kids hate it so much. They think it's disgusting. But my grandma made it for every Christmas, every Thanksgiving. To this day I will make it and I will eat the whole thing by myself and I will not care. Like I love that dish so much.
Tell us what color jello and then what is in it.
So my grandma would make this orange one and I'm not the biggest fan of orange anything. So I do strawberry. . My husband's going to die that I share this. And on the bottom it's like Cool Whip and pineapple and all these different things inside. I mean literally, like think of the whitest dish you can have and it's jello salad.
That's amazing. Okay, I'm gonna do one more. I love that the questions that are coming up for you are about the past. Recall a happy holidays and what made it memorable?
Oh, man, I think for me growing up, it was Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, my grandma Janice had this open door policy.So on Thanksgiving, you can have your friends come. We have extended family. We would have everyone come. She'd make up this big dish. And just everyone was there and we just had so much fun. And I just remember always being all about family and people that you love and people that you call family, even if they're not blood related.And I remember being so excited to bring my husband into the family. Sadly, my grandma had already passed, so he didn't get to experience it in its fullest. But I was like, I want you to experience a Thanksgiving with my family. It's so much fun.
And I really want you to see it.
You're gonna love this. We have expansion packs now, which are 17 questions for some of the holidays that are coming up. And what you do is Add them.. there's actually space in the card deck so you can add them. So we have one for Thanksgiving. Yes. Diwali. And then we're doing Hanukkah, and then we're doing Lunar New Year. Nice. We’re doing those four, because those were the four that our community asked for, but we're super open to do it for whomever for whenever.And what they are are 17 questions to ask your family members about your unique way of celebrating those holidays.
Oh, I love that. I cannot wait to see those. Those are going to be so amazing.
I'm going to send you the Thanksgiving pack so you can do that and collect those stories for your children. Brittany, this has been incredible. I loved it so much.
I feel like we could probably just chat all day. Let's be honest.
We really could. And about our pursuit of being a more than almost Indian wif…, but I think I'm quite satisfied being an almost Indian wife.
Ohh that was fun. And perhaps surprisingly comforting. As Brittany says its not about perfection. In fact “almost” can be beautiful. If there was ever an interview that spoke to the power of sifting and sorting culture for the purposes of curating what we take forward... It's this one.
We covered a lot of ground in such a short time. From topics of how we eat, to what we wear, to gender roles, traditions, language, hospitality expectations... Brittany is so right - we need to take the healthy parts and beautiful pieces of each of the cultures that bond our unique families, mixed or not.
Truly left inspired, this interview brought up some questions for you to ponder on:
What is the lens through which you see the world?
What layers of that lens do you want to look past to more clearly understand others?
And what layers do you want to add so that your world view, or the way you interact with others, can more comfortably blend?
By being open to sharing her experience with the world, Brittany has created community in what could be a losesome journey with a coaching and consultancy to support other mixed race couples and families navigate a multiracial life. Be sure to check out a special invitation she has extended to the Root & Seed community to join her community in our show notes.
Next episode we are bringing you the episode many of you have been asking for for a while. Follow us on Instagram or LinkedIn if you want some clues! For now, my next guest is a surprise... trust me, if you love Root and Seed, our season 6 finale is one you won't want to miss.
Root & Seed is hosted by me, Anika Chhabra, executive produced by Jenn Siripong Mandel and edited by Emily Groleau and Camille Blais. Bye for now.
Hosted by: Anika Chabra
Brought to you by: Root & Seed
Executive Producer: Jennifer Siripong Mandel
Editing by: Emily Groleau
Sound Editing by: Camille Blais
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