Forget my Bukusu darling, a Kenyan-Indian affair that was the talk of the town a while back, a relationship that went sour as fast as it started. Ida Evelyn Angel, born and bred in India and Tonny Otieno have been married for 12 years and still counting
At first glance, Ida Evelyn Angel strikes as an ordinary Kenyan girl next door. But a closer look at her, however, reveals an extremely smooth skin tone, long, dark and silky hair and other distinct features that are different from that of a regular Kenyan. Ida is a typical Indian woman who was born and bred in South India. On the other hand, Tonny Otieno is a Luo from Nyanza.
Their love story started in India when Tonny had gone to further his studies, “We met through a mutual friend, we hit it out right away. Our love brewed until we decided to take the next big step, marriage,” says Ida. But their relationship was not a walk in the park for obvious reasons — strong cultural differences from both Otieno and Ida’s family.
“I am a Christian, so there were no religious differences, but being the only daughter raised in a family that held dearly onto Indian traditions, it was difficult to convince them that I wanted to get married to an African man,” she says.
In India, arranged marriages still remain the majorly preferred way to enter into matrimony. Ida had to go against the norm and marry for love. Eventually, her parents who she terms as accommodating and understanding, gave into her wishes and fully supported her wish. “We wedded in India in 2005 and moved to Kenya.
The hospitality of my in-laws was overwhelming, they welcomed me into their home, it feels like I never left home,” Ida says. Indian culture requires the woman’s family to pay dowry to her husband, while it is vice versa in the African culture. “Both families agreed that none of us would pay any dowry. We created our own culture,” she reveals.
Ida, a human resource manager at a private firm in Nairobi, says settling in Kenya was not so difficult since she already had interacted with Kenyans back in India. “Of course, coming from another continent with totally different cultures, there were a few lifestyle adjustments I had to make.
The main issue I struggled with was food. I was used to plenty of food varieties prepared with a lot of spices, which was not the case here. But that was just in the beginning. Later, I found out where I could buy Indian spices and vegetables,” says Ida.
Ida and Tonny, who works with the Ministry of Health, have two children, 10-year-old Merlyn Grace Crosby and Ethan Stanes Otieno, six. Family values She says parenting in Kenya is so much different from India.
Although the concept of nuclear families has gained a lot of momentum over the past couple of years in India, the extended family still plays a significant part in the upbringing of Indian children.
Indian families follow the tradition of celebrating every important occasion such as birthdays, festivals, and other events together, as grandly as possible. “Growing up, we were taught the importance of family reliance and respect for elders from an early age.
Grandparents, along with the parents play a huge role in our lives, right from choosing names to imparting life lessons. Indian children grow up to become extremely dependent on their families for their life decisions,” she notes.
She, however, says that she and her husband do not hold to Indian or Kenyan way, they do what works for them as a family. “I try as far as possible to give my children the best of both worlds to ensure their all-round development,” she says.