Amy J Cheng and her husband R. Chandran, are esteemed actors, directors, and arts educators in Singapore. Like many, they met at work.
A friendship was firmly established. Initially, said Amy, Race was never an issue.
Amy is Chinese with Hainanese roots. Chandran is a Brahmin-Indian. Their attraction towards each other was rooted in their shared passion for work. Amy’s respect for Chandran deepened by what she observed of him; how he treated people, how he treated children, his view of life, his sense of adventure, his openness, and his creativity.
These were qualities that went beyond race and culture, human qualities that were important to me.
Chandran also showed a real appreciation for her favourite book, ‘The Princess Bride’, and more importantly, bonded easily with her first son.
When feelings deepened beyond friendship, race started to become an issue. Amy shared that she had her own misgivings, and then the realisation that in a pre-dominently ethnic Chinese Singapore, racial stereotypes were deeply entrenched. For instance, she said, that of the “drunken wife-beating Indian”.
Amy who had insisted on a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony, found herself at conflict.
I had never stepped into a Hindu temple before, until the preparations for my wedding…My early Protestant experiences returned to haunt me…I couldn’t back out now.
She chose then to educate herself. She read the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, spoke at length with Chandran’s family. Gradually, she began to grasp and appreciate the concepts of God’s Universality, of love, compassion and diversity.
Ten years on, Amy feels that her inter-racial marriage has taught her that people who really love you, will eventually respect and appreciate your partner who makes you happy, no matter his race. She has learnt to have a sense of humour with things, for example when service mistakes them as not being together, simply by the difference in their race.
She feels she has been made so much richer a person, by marrying outside her race.
As the majority race in Singapore, I took many things for granted, especially in my acting career. But because of my husband, I am now keenly aware of the lack of voices from minority races in local media.
She speaks about her family having the opportunities to savour a diversity of cultural celebrations-
Chinese New Year
She also admits to being able to cook a pretty good up puma (Indian Vegetarian dish).
I’ve always said that my life-long dream was to marry a tall, dark, handsome man… Chandran is darker and hairier than expected… But I wouldn’t want him any other way!
- All photographs belong to Amy J Cheng, and are used with her permission.