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I Married a Total Stranger

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Slowly, I was getting to know my husband, even starting to fall in love with him. Though we were from the same ethnic background and had a similar upbringing, he had spent his impressionable years in America. He liked baseball, oatmeal, tofu, and bran muffins. I followed cricket and thought of oats and bran as the stuff we fed horses. I had no idea how to do laundry in machines. On my first attempt, I shrank his favorite Burberry sweater. Luckily, he didn't expect me to conform to the traditional roles within a marriage. Even so, he had always wanted an arranged marriage because he felt it would be easier for him to share a life with someone who understood his upbringing and culture.

But I could not escape tradition entirely. In a matter of months, our home became an extension of the Air India terminal, as uncles, sisters, brothers, and distant cousins settled in on the pull-out couch. (I'd forgotten that an Indian woman marries a family, not just a man.) For three months, I endured gigantic suitcases in the middle of the living room, curry wafting into the hallway, and prayer bells at 6 a.m. sharp. I envied my friend Anna, whose Swedish parents stayed in a hotel, treated her to brunch at Serafina, and busied themselves at Bloomie's.

To escape the houseguests, I found a job as a financial consultant. The New York Times in one hand, coffee in the other, I realized that my saris of bright pink, violet, and salmon were not exactly subway wear. Quickly, I succumbed to Levi's and Ralph Lauren.

My officemates were intrigued when they heard about my arranged marriage. "It's nice to have a spiritual and family connection with your husband, rather than one that begins in a bar and ends with sex," sighed leggy Victoria from Brooklyn, who frequented eHarmony and match.com.

That's when I started to realize that I just might have the best of both worlds. I marinated my Indian marriage in the flavors of Manhattan. I kept the sari and bought the Jimmy Choos. I made fabulous curries, seasoned with spices from Dean & Deluca. And after months of enjoying decidedly non-Indian experiences of seders, Saks, and sake, I felt confident enough to direct Indian guests to a hotel, occasionally throwing in a MetroCard.

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