Anhoni had grown up with strong Indian ideals, learning from an early age about the importance of following Chhah Gaam, or arranged marriages. For thousands of years, Indians have been marrying someone from 5 specific villages, including their own. Her parents were strict about Chhah Gaam and felt strongly that their children follow this tradition. Anhoni was not against marrying someone Indian, but also open to the idea that she might meet someone outside the faith.
She had met Q at work in 1998. A mutual friend and coworker arranged a night out in the hopes of getting them to spend time together. Among a group of friends, the two spent their evening at the SF Museum of Modern Art, followed by a dance club South of Market St. Their friend’s plan worked, because that fun filled evening turned into a series of emails, then dates. A year into the relationship, Anhoni already felt they were serious enough to introduce him to her parents. Understandably, there was denial about just how serious the two were.
Her parents only referred to him as “friend”. Her father, fearing his daughter would consider marrying a Korean man, said, “You can be friends, but marriage is another thing. You are going to lose culture. You’ll have nothing. Culture is everything and you’ll have none of it. Thousands of years and you’re going to throw it away.” As word of her relationship spread, she learned that her aunts, uncles, parents’ friends, even her brothers, were all disappointed in her. She did and still does have so much respect for her family, that if they had advised her against the marriage because of his personality she would have taken that into serious consideration. As it were, all of her family members actually liked him a lot. Terrible as it was to lose her family over this, she couldn’t let cho gum dictate the fate of her life with Q.
After much soul searching, she decided to choose a life with him. When she called about engagement Dad said “You are dead to me. I don’t know who you are”. During the following year, as Anhoni and Q planned their wedding, she was not welcome in her parents’ house. As upsetting as this was for the bride, her father himself wasn’t sleeping or eating, and his family began to worry about him. His best friend, also a religious man, lived in India and decided to seek advice from Pramukh Swami; a spiritual leader in their religion of Swaminarayana. The monk listened to the story of Anhoni and Q and how troubling the situation was for her father, and he wrote a letter to him, stating that he blessed the union. Upon reading the letter, Anhoni’s father decided to let her back into his life and even attend the wedding. Still, the idea that his daughter was marrying outside of the faith was so difficult for him that he began finding small ways to sabotage the event.
Anhoni’s wedding was to be nearly a week long affair; 5 days of festivities all celebrating and honoring Anhoni and Q. On the invitations, her father secretly changed the phone number so that the family wouldn’t be able to RSVP to any of the ceremonies.
On the wedding day, Anhoni, like every bride, was eager to hear the words her father would deliver to his daughter and new son-in-law. Instead, his speech was nothing like she had hoped. He didn’t say the word celebration, didn’t mention Q, no “congratulations”. Just a thank you to everyone who came and helped out, and he wrapped up with an announcement regarding one of the temple’s upcoming events. After a few more speeches Anhoni’s father returned to the stage and took back the microphone. The couple thought “Oh OK, he was just nervous before. He’s ready to open up now.” But he just thanked a few more people and went back to his seat. This really stung, as Anhoni had always been so close with her father. She recalls how awkward it was for everyone in the room to hear his cold speech, as everyone knew his feelings about the marriage.
In the years following the wedding, Anhoni did her best to convince her father that nothing has changed now that she is married to a man outside the faith. She traveled across the country to visit her parents 5 months out of every year by herself. Her mother, knowing the effort her daughter was putting into keeping ties with her family and much more accepting of her marriage, told her husband “You are going to lose your daughter, so you need to accept this.” He indeed didn’t want to lose her, and despite the occasional fleeting comment (which she brushes off, knowing they have no weight), has finally welcomed her back with open arms.