“My idea of romance is a mixture of day-to-day moments of thoughtfulness with the occasional sprinkling of grander gestures.”
While love is a universal emotion, how we express and enjoy it is uniquely our own, shaped by our loved ones, our experiences and our culture. So does identifying with South Asian heritage influence your love experience? We asked two women, of two generations and from two different parts of the U.S. Parul D. Somani, founder and CEO of Silver Linings, is an executive and a motivational patient advocate based in San Francisco. Romna Dolan, a Bangladesh native raised in NYC, is an ad tech specialist by day, calligrapher by night.
Is Valentine’s Day big for you? If yes, how do you celebrate it?
Parul shares: “Earlier on in our relationship, Valentine’s Day held more significance as something to be excited about and celebrate. I remember my now-husband’s and my first Valentine’s Day as college sweethearts: he had arranged for the college’s all-male a cappella group to serenade me a U2 song in the lecture hall of my biology class, followed by him surprising me at the end of class with brownies and a Valentine’s Day gift before we later went out for a really nice dinner.
“Now nearly 15 years into our marriage, … we make an intentional effort to express our appreciation and love for each other more consistently throughout the year through our words, gestures, and actions. We’ll always be each other’s Valentines, but don’t necessarily rely on that date to celebrate our relationship. My husband’s birthday is also the same week as Valentine’s Day, so there’s usually a lot of celebration happening around that time regardless!
“Valentine’s Day holds more significance for us as it relates to our daughters. I remember being so excited for each holiday as a child, and now we enjoy celebrating Valentine’s Day as a family. Whether it be my husband bringing a big red heart balloon or chocolate rose flowers home for the girls, or me helping our daughters make their Valentine’s Day boxes and cards for school, we love seeing the joy of celebrating Valentine’s Day through their eyes.”
Romna shares: “Romance is the feeling of connectedness on a higher level. The biggest gift a person can give when being romantic is the gift of time. Taking time to leave a sweet note, getting a cup of tea or coffee with them, taking an adventure to a place they’ve wanted to go – it’s putting time aside to let them know they are impactful in your life.
“My greatest inspiration for a happy marriage is my husband’s parents. They have shaped my idea of love – they’ve been married over 30 years and to this day, I see it when JoAnn walks into a room and Paul’s face lights up – its that small change in energy that you can sense right away that shows you that all this time later, they are very much still in love.”
What is your idea of romance? Do you think South Asians do romance differently?
Parul shares: “My idea of romance is a mixture of day-to-day moments of thoughtfulness with the occasional sprinkling of grander gestures. I think our souls need continuous nourishment through the smaller gestures, whether it be the warmth of holding hands and cuddling during a movie or him letting me sleep in while he makes breakfast for the kids. But I also love happy surprises, so the occasional bigger, unexpected romantic gestures, whether it be a surprise party or a really thoughtful experiential gift, mean a lot to me.
“It’s hard to say whether South Asians ‘do romance differently,’ as there is likely a lot of variation influenced by factors like age, country of upbringing, urban vs. rural, etc. I do believe romance manifests itself differently for my generation vs. my parents’ generation, but the underlying desire for people to feel wanted, loved, and appreciated knows no cultural, geographic, or demographic boundaries.”
Romna shares: “I do think South Asians think of romance differently – it’s more subtle and not overt with flowers, chocolate and big displays of affection. Bangla parents typically do not say ‘I love you’ to each other (some do and that’s amazing!); my parents did not growing up. Instead, I saw love in a softer way like when my mother cooked my father’s favorite meals – the time she took to shop for fresh vegetables, the time she allocated to ensure the meal was cooked all the way through, the number of times she tasted to ensure the spice ratios were correct. All of those things showed me as a young girl the idea of romance as time you take for someone you care about deeply. Can she cook? Of course. She fed a family of five children in NYC but when it came to meals for my father, I saw her take extra time in her day to perfect the meals, to make sure the curry was served hot, the naan crisp and the rice steaming.”
What is the most romantic thing that has happened to you?
Parul shares: “The most romantic gesture I’ve experienced is the surprise birthday party my husband threw for my 33rd birthday. It was my first birthday after my cancer treatment was completed, and I had been deemed cancer-free. Thinking we were going to a private room for a small dinner, he had me enter blindfolded. Not knowing what was happening, he had me step up onto a podium, and I naturally just started dancing when Bollywood music suddenly blasted. It was only when I took my blindfold off did I see the more than 100 friends and family members, who erupted into cheers in the large ballroom. The months of behind-the-scenes planning that went into throwing that surprise with friends flying in from all over, complete with its own logo, dinner, candy bar, photobooth, ice cream bar, flash mob dances, speeches, and hours of dancing early into the next morning, was so unexpected and the emotion overpowering. I was so filled with joy and adrenaline that night, and almost overwhelmed for days after with the amount of love I felt in that room. It was hands-down the best night of my life.”
Romna shares: “What’s the most romantic thing that has happened to you? When I first started dating Thomas in high school, we were just a couple of 16 year olds. A class trip was planned for Costa Rica and he went away for a week. I was sad that he’d miss our first Valentines Day and my birthday the day after. On the day of my birthday, I celebrated with my friends and had a great time. When I went back to my locker, I opened it to find flowers and a handmade card from Thomas. It turns out that he planned this surprise with the help of my girl friends before leaving to Costa Rica. I cried reading the card in front of my high school friends and wrote him a note back to give to him when he came back from his trip. Maybe it was a first birthday with a boyfriend or nostalgia, but it was incredibly sweet – ended up pretty great . We’re currently in our 2nd year of marriage (and more to come!).”
Happy Valentine’s Day to you and those you love!