By Joannah Bharose September 13, 2000

Why I married an African man

Indian and African Couple
Ruth, 36, and Leonard Ochoa, 61,

ONCE upon a time there were five Indian sisters who grew up in a small central village called Tabaquite. Eventually they had families of their own and moved out of the area. Three of them had long-term relationships with Indian men. The two other sisters deliberately chose to have relationships with men of other ethnic backgrounds and they believe that they will have a happily-ever-after ending. This is the story of one of the sisters.

Meet Ruth Singh-Ochoa, a wife and mother who has never regretted one day of her life with her mixed husband. He is mixed with Indian, but Leonard said his wife considers him African. Leonard's African heritage dominates his physical appearance and to the people who know him, he is referred to as a "negro". Ruth said: "He looks negro but I don't care. He is the man of my dreams." Ruth is 36 and Leonard Ochoa is 61.

"I could never see myself living with an Indian man," Ruth vehemently said. Although official domestic abuse records show that the problem is not confined to one race, Ruth said: "I look at most of the domestic violence and I mainly see Indian men in the middle of it." She admits her happiest relationships have always been with men of other races, "especially negros." "I don't know if this is racist because I am Indian, but there are some things I don't like about the men of my race."

Ruth got married when she was 15 and a few days before her sixteenth birthday met her present husband. She wanted to make it clear that her first marriage had already failed before she became attached to her present spouse. "It was a mistake but I got married to a guy I had met in church. I was 15," she said. There were hardly any objections from her parents, four brothers and sisters when she and Leonard decided to live together. "The only real reservation was about his age. But that worked out fine in the end," Ruth said. But the surprise came with a cold reception from Leonard's mother. Ruth said: "Whenever she talks about me it's coolie this and coolie that. In fact when she talks about any Indian she always refers to them as coolie." "I'm the only Indian daughter-in-law and she does not care about me or my family. She gets along fine with all her other daughters-in-law. If she visits us three times for the year that's plenty. She used to live a few houses away."

Ruth admits some of Leonard's family have accepted her openly, but wishes it was better between her and the mother-in-law. Leonard said he does not think the discord between his mother and wife is motivated by racial tensions. "I think it's just that my mother does not like her. But I don't care I'm happy with my wife and children and it makes no difference,'' he said. Ruth believes sometimes it bothers him that the family relations have not been better with his mother. With pride dripping from her voice, Ruth said: "I have been so happy with him." The couple has three sons. The last, Lincoln 6, was born after they married in 1992, after living together for 18 years.

"I honestly believe negro men treat Indian women as something special and cherish their wives. I feel cherished by my husband," Ruth said while going through the family album to show us her favourite pictures with her husband. When asked if this statement might be construed as racist, she said: "I don't know about that I just know that negro men treat Indian women better than their own and better than Indian men."

Her husband Leonard tried to explain: "Negro women like to push their men around and always want something." "I find that Indian women are more understanding and they listen to you", he added, "I don't know how my brother can cope with it." He admits that he is stereotyping African women by saying this, but is adamant that it has been like that with most of the African women he has known, including his mother.

Ruth agreed with him. She says she does not hate Indian men, just scared of them. "I don't want to die at the hands of a man or be abused by a man who does not know how to treat a woman," the determined Tabaquite housewife said. Ever so often Ruth comes back to the major reason why she has been turned her off all Indian men "for life".

Ruth's older sister, Meera, was murdered by her common-law husband ten years ago. Meera was stabbed to death less than 25 yards from her parents' house in broad daylight. For Ruth, Meera's gruesome death is a reminder of all the "distasteful things about Indian men".

Meera was stabbed 11 times about the body with a kitchen knife after an argument with Dishan Ramparie. The 32-year-old Santa Cruz man had been living with Meera and they had two children together. She died at age 29 never knowing what would have become of her two daughters or what the future would hold. Ramparie has been jailed for life. He was due to hang and his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment for the murder of Meera.

Ruth said: "I'd rather be without a man that be with an Indian one. At least I know I'm not going to get chopped up or my children will suffer." She divulged her greatest fear today: "My other relative is also involved in an abusive relationship and I fear for how that will end." Her relative is involved with a brother of Ramparie.

Despite all that has happened in her family, Ruth is careful not to impose her ideas on the issue of race on her children. "I talk openly in front of my children about how I feel. But I am careful to give them the freedom to choose. We can only guide them, but never make the choice for them." The couple said they have not been subjected to any open hostilities from the public because of their mixed relationship.

"Our neighbours and friends have been really good. Most people have accepted the relationship," Ruth said. "But we don't care if they have problems, as long as we are happy."


Who calls the Domestic Violence hotline
Domestic Violence Hotline calls from men and women in 1998.
Information supplied by the Ministry of Gender Affairs
Afro— 208
Indo— 837
Mixed— 78
Other— 1488

Officials at the ministry warned that these figures do not represent the racial make up of domestic violence, but rather people who would have called seeking information on the matter.

In the wake of the latest domestic violence legislation a new records unit was recently set up under the guidance of the police service to collect and analyse data on domestic violence and to cover the ethic background of cases reported to the police.
The Domestic Violence hotline is 800-7283


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