Love bridges cultures and continents in eternal bond

The Patersons during Deepavali in 2022. (Photo: supplied)

Dr Malini Yugendran

February 14, 2023

Lavinia Perumal and Malcolm Paterson’s love story is one that spans cultures, backgrounds, and distances. They met in 1998, while they were both at medical school at University of Auckland. Lavinia, originally from Malaysia, was in her first year while Malcolm, a true-blue Kiwi boy from West Auckland, was her senior. “The first thing I noticed about him was his infectious laugh and his natural charisma,” said Lavinia Perumal, a Clinical Director, Public Health.

“We were both outgoing and extroverted, drawn to each other’s energy and dynamics,” Dr Perumal recalls.

“Despite our different cultural backgrounds – I have Chinese and Indian blood, while he is a true-blue Kiwi with European, Pacific and Māori roots – we found that our values aligned perfectly. We both prioritise our families and have a strong connection to our ancestry,” she explained.

Their differences were what made their relationship so intriguing. Lavinia would bring her rich cultural heritage from Malaysia to the table, while Malcolm would share his Kiwi humour and knowledge of New Zealand’s history and landscapes.

Dr Lavinia Perumal and Mr Malcolm Paterson during the courting days. (Photo: supplied)

They learned from each other, bridging their cultural gaps and finding common ground in their shared values. “As I navigated my way from Malaysia to New Zealand for my studies, Malcolm acted as my tour guide, showing me the history and landscape of his homeland. He taught me about the Māori culture and the concept of authenticity-knowing whom you are and standing for your values with confidence (the Māori concept of turangawaewae),” said Dr Perumal.

Interracial marriages like theirs are becoming increasingly common in New Zealand. According to recent statistics, the number of interracial marriages in New Zealand has been steadily rising over the years, with about one in five marriages being between partners of different ethnicities.

Lavinia and Malcolm’s relationship is a testament to the power of love and understanding. “Malcolm is my anchor, he keeps me grounded and helps me navigate not just the bicultural atmosphere of New Zealand, but the multicultural world we live in,” Dr Perumal said.

Of course, like any relationship, there are idiosyncrasies that they have learned to live with. “I tend to talk a lot and finish his sentences, while he likes to live on the edge,” said Dr Perumal.

They acknowledge that any relationship, especially a marriage, is a marathon, not a sprint. Mr Paterson, who is a CEO for his tribe (Ngati Whatua ), said, “the key to our success as an interracial couple is communication and understanding that we are on the same team, each other’s best friend.”

“There will be ups and downs, but as long as we support each other, the sun will always shine again,” said Dr Perumal.

The couple try to practice active listening and acknowledge each other’s differences, which helps to resolve any challenges that may arise; but this takes a lot of patience, practice and time.

Dr Perumal being welcomed with a Haka for her wedding. (Photo: supplied)

The Wedding

Their wedding was a beautiful blend of cultures, with a Catholic ceremony performed by an Irish priest followed by a Hindu ceremony at a Pagoda. “Malcolm proposed to me by the beach just below the cliff where we got married,” Dr Perumal laughed, reminiscing. “Maukatia (Māori Bay) holds great significance to him as it connects him to his ancestors,” she added.

The wedding and pre-wedding gatherings were a celebration of their love, family, and cultural heritage, featuring a henna ceremony, a hangi, and haka. “At the ceremony my family gifted Malcolm a custom-made feather cloak, a korowai, which he wore with his Fijian sulu, and I wore a traditional Indian outfit. This cloak is what he wore later for his master’s degree graduation ceremony and has been shared with extended family to mark significant evets, making it an heirloom,” said Dr Perumal.

Dr Lavinia Perumal and Mr Malcolm Paterson Hindu wedding (Photo: supplied)

Navigating life together

Dr Perumal and her husband,  Mr Paterson are a modern family embracing diversity. They have two children, Davin Raumati Paterson and Taimārō Rama Paterson, both names chosen to honour their joint ethnicities and pay homage to their heritage.

Growing up in their household is a cultural experience for their children. They are exposed to multiple languages, including Te Reo, Tamil, Malay and all converse in English. This multilingual household was just a small representation of their commitment to embracing diversity in all aspects of their lives.

Now, as they navigate parenthood and the responsibilities of caring for elderly parents, Dr Perumal and Mr Paterson remain each other’s best friend and rock-solid support system. They continue to walk hand in hand, cherishing their differences while embracing the love that brought them together. “Yes, having children can definitely change the dynamic of a relationship. It is important to prioritise maintaining the romance and connection in a relationship, even as priorities shift, and responsibilities grow.

While spontaneity may become less frequent, it is still possible to keep the spark alive through intentional effort and thoughtful gestures,” said Dr Perumal.

Mr Paterson said that having space between partners is important for maintaining a healthy relationship. It allows for personal growth and time for each partner to engage in their own interests, hobbies, and pursuits.

“I like being on the beach for perhaps eight hours, but I cannot expect her to be there on the beach with me for that many hours. She may want to do her own things,” he said. He added that space can ultimately strengthen the bond between partners, as they bring new experiences and perspectives to the relationship.

According to experts, maintaining individual space within a relationship is crucial for both partners to avoid feelings of suffocation and create a more fulfilling relationship for both partners.

“It is important to remember that everyone has different needs for space and it is essential to communicate and understand each other’s needs in order to find a balance that works for both partners,” said Dr Perumal.

Valentine’s Day

Malcolm on Valentine’s Day picks a beautiful rose from their garden for her. The eve of Valentine’s day is their second son’s birthday and the 17th of February is their wedding anniversary, as such the couple values spending time with their family and celebrating these more important dates in their lives.

Embracing Diversity

For Dr Perumal and Mr Paterson, embracing diversity was a fundamental aspect of their lives, and they are proud to pass these values on to their children.

Mr Paterson has also authored children’s books that incorporate elements of different cultures. ‘The River in our Backyard’ published by Oratia was a testament to this, with its nods to South Indian culture. The ‘Taniwha in our Backyard’ was equally impactful, as it spoke about the Māori and Malay cultures.

Their relationship is a true reflection of the words of the famous Sufi poet, Rumi, who once wrote, “The minute I heard my first love story, I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers do not finally meet somewhere. They are in each other all along.”

Dr Malini Yugendran is an Indian Newslink Reporter based in Auckland.

 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this story

Related Stories

Indian Newslink

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement