Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘We were very intentional about making sure we were aware of one another’s differences. We first and foremost really enjoyed them.’

Hicksville

“My husband, Raghu, and I were friends for many years before getting married. We met at a church in Queens. I would call him for good chai recipes because he was known for making it the best. He was a medical student, so I felt comfortable calling him and asking him questions. He was in my life for many years. Whenever we were on Facebook late at night, we would chat, and it was great. He was such a good friend.

“I was showing another friend around New York one day, and he asked me if I knew of a good Indian restaurant. I said, ‘I think I know just the person who would know!’ I called Raghu and he stopped what he was doing to escort us personally to a good restaurant. It was a really nice gesture. Friendship turned into something else. Raghu is South Indian; I am half-Italian, and a mix of Jamaican, French and Welsh. We were very intentional about making sure we were aware of one another’s differences. We first and foremost really liked them. We’re always having discussions about our differences, and it’s a constant understanding between us.

We enjoyed being able to share that we love our differences, but we know that our faith is what we have in common and that’s the glue.

“Early in our relationship we would get questioned because of our different ethnicities. ‘You’re so different, so how come you’re together?’ I don’t know if it was judgmental. People would find it hard to believe that I would enjoy his culture. ‘You’re American, so do you like Indian food?’ How do you get along with his family?’ They’re normal questions, but if you compare them to what you would ask two typical Americans dating, you get a different meaning behind them. I assume people mostly have nice intentions and I think curiosity is good. In response, we enjoyed being able to share that we love our differences, but we know that our faith is what we have in common and that’s the glue.

“We intentionally wanted everything at our wedding to be very authentic and 50/50. I wore two outfits, including a traditional South Indian silk sari. We did some of the traditional South Indian ceremonies and a Christian ceremony. We had South Indian food catered. It was very fun and really cool. In everything we’ve done, the goal was and is never to make those differences less, it’s really just to understand them better and enjoy them.”

‘The biggest thing for me is that they still have memories with him. And if the memory starts to fade, we have the pictures.’

Hicksville

“My parents would do the snowbird thing where they’d be here most of the year and then in winter, they’d have the warmth of India. My kids were six and four and I thought it was the time to take the boys to India and visit them at their house, as well as other sites. My wife couldn’t get off work, so she said, ‘No, no, no.’ And I said, ‘I don’t want to wait. Life is short, and we keep talking about doing it.’ It’s funny, because everybody around me thought I was crazy! While India has improved, it’s still kind of a third-world country. And so, to take a six and a four-year-old who know nothing about the country…and the endeavor of a father doing it. I’ll be the first to admit I’m impulsive. I’m like that in many aspects of my life. Once I jump in, I jump in, but I’m telling you there was something about this that I just felt needed to be done. And so, the three of us went and it was this epic journey for us.

And it’s so profound how in this digital world, that mental picture seems to be more important, or remembered, more than any of the actual hard pictures that we took on that trip.

“We had an amazing time in Mumbai. We went to some remote places to see temples. There was one in particular; it encompasses Indian culture, religion, architecture. Every aspect summed up into one big complex that you walk through. It was very educational, but mostly the thing that stands out — it was literally the last location that we saw my dad. And it is so strict with their policy of pictures that it was the one place we couldn’t take our cameras. So, we did this thing where we took a minute to take a mental picture. And today, so that’s three years later, we still talk about the mental picture. And it’s so profound how in this digital world, that mental picture seems to be more important, or remembered, more than any of the actual hard pictures that we took on that trip.

“We came back and my mother called me. He had a heart attack and he passed away. He was a very soft-natured man that was all about kids and connecting on their level. In our language, grandfather is ‘dada.’ They would actually call him ‘funny dada’ because he was really funny and playful. They loved him. It was just beautiful. And that’s the biggest thing for me is that they still have memories with him. And if the memory starts to fade, we have the pictures.”