(July 27, 2023) What do Italians and Indians have in common? Quite a lot, going by Suprateek Banerjee (aka Mango) and his wife, Daniela Barone (basil), the content-creator couple behind @aamandbasil on Instagram. For starters, they “both wake up in the morning thinking about what they’re going to eat,” as Daniela puts it. Close family ties are another similarity – Suprateek was thrilled to learn that Daniela’s grandmother lives at the family home in Naples – “I was like, wow, this is just what we do. Our grandparents live with us in India as well, and we love them like crazy.” In the early days of their relationship, Daniela checked out Suprateek on Facebook and was bowled over by the fact that he had his parents on his cover photo. Their relationship has been a mutual discovery of each other’s cultures, and the heartwarming realisation that Indians and Italians have a lot in common.
Daniela and Suprateek join me on a video call from Germany, where they now live. Our conversation goes well past the intended time – the couple are even more fun in real life than they are on Instagram. They refer to their Insta personas as “characters.” Why, I ask. “Because we’re different in real life. I would never annoy Daniela that way,” says Suprateek. “And she’s definitely not such an angry person!” Their little skits are full of good-natured squabbles, celebrating their cultural differences with humour and understanding. The page is less than six months old but has already gained over 60k followers (and counting).
View this post on Instagram
Mind your language!
So how does a “small-town guy from Benaras,” as Suprateek describes himself, meet and fall in love with a young woman from rural Naples? For Suprateek, the story begins in Benaras, when he decided to study abroad. Meanwhile, in Italy, Daniela was thrilled to learn that her PhD programme offered her a stint in Heidelberg. And so, the couple landed up in Germany, around the same time, each to study. However, their paths didn’t cross.
As he grew fluent in German, Suprateek wanted to test his flair for languages. He signed up for Italian lessons on Duo Lingo. Daniela, on the other hand, returned to Naples after completing her PhD, and was trying to find work. She was simply too overqualified to continue living the rustic life of rural Italians and leaving home seemed the only option. That meant learning English. They both knew that the best way to learn a language is having someone to talk to. That’s how both of them ended up on Tandem, in search of friends to speak to in Italian and English.
“It’s hard to find a partner, even on Tandem,” says Daniela. “I would chat with different people every day, they would come and go very fast. I needed someone to stay because I had an exam to write.” And one day, Suprateek arrived. Daniela expected him to say hello and disappear. They began writing to each other and realised that they had a connection.
Suprateek felt the same way too. “I saw her profile and knew that she is a very simple person. As soon as we started speaking, I told her I wanted to meet her. She said no.”
View this post on Instagram
After a while of waiting, Daniela agreed to let Suprateek visit her in Naples. Daniela spent a sleepless night before their first meeting, pondering the traditional Italian hug-and-kiss custom. The dilemma showed plainly on her face as Suprateek walked out of the airport. “She was so nervous, chewing on her nails,” he smiles. When she saw him, however, her worries fell away – “she came straight up to me and hugged me,” Suprateek recalls. Daniela showed him around Naples and by the end of that trip, their feelings were clear.
They knew they wanted to be together, but life still had some challenges in store. Daniela wanted to move to Germany to be with Suprateek but was still looking for work. “I was feeling completely useless at home,” she says. Daniela’s frustration grew into self-doubt, despite being a top STEM student with a PhD. Suprateek stood by her, helping her write her CV and drafting the perfect cover letter.
Finally, an opportunity came her way, but with a catch. The job was in Ireland. Daniela wasn’t sure but Suprateek urged her to go. So she went, and the couple made plans to meet every weekend. In 2020, Daniela finally found a job in Frankfurt, where Suprateek was living. After several years trying to make it work, the couple were finally in the same city. As they braved the pandemic together, they decided to marry. The couple wanted a small wedding anyway, and went to Denmark to tie the knot.
Aam and Basil
“Happiness is never grand,” remarked the writer Aldous Huxley. That was the case with Daniela and Suprateek, who fell into the routine of their daily lives, going to work, coming back home and watching something on TV. “But we wanted to do something creative,” says Suprateek. “We were in a unique situation where we come from two different cultures and life experiences, so we thought about sharing our story with people to make them smile.”
In February 2023, they began @aamandbasil and have already gained some 60,000 followers (and growing). Daniela had a natural flair for acting, and the two threw themselves into the process, creating characters that are just slightly larger than life. They share the work, taking it in turns to write, act and edit, depending on who came up with the idea. “We share everything. Sometimes she cooks and I edit, at other times, she edits and I cook,” Suprateek smiles.
View this post on Instagram
The couple’s message is simple. “There are many people don’t know about my culture, or understand how similar we are. There are differences too but those can be explained with humour,” says Daniela. “We want to show everyone that we are citizens of the world. We are not all that different, really, two cultures can blend and you can have fun during the learning process.”
Daniela even felt instantly at home in India the first time she visited. “And I took her to Benaras!” Suprateek adds. “There is something very deep about Indians. You can find some roads that are full of chaos – there’s a guy dragging a mattress, a woman trying to get her kids across the busy road, the horns are blaring. But even then, they are so chilled out,” says Daniela. The feeling of “chill in chaos defines Benaras,” Suprateek laughs. “Our food culture is also similar,” Daniela explains. “At 9 am, my grandmom knocks on the door to ask, ‘what shall we eat for lunch’?”
The ties that bind
It’s the closeness of family bonds that holds them together most. “In Germany, people are very practical. Putting aged parents in an old people’s home is a no brainer here,” says the Global Indian. Neither he nor Daniela would ever consider that – “My grandma is 92 and she lives with us at home (in Naples),” says Daniela. Suprateek, who lost both sets of grandparents, makes the most of his time with Daniela’s grandmothers. “Her grandmother speaks Napolitana, I can’t even understand what she says but I can sit there and listen to her anyway.”
Our conversation has run well over time and they sign off with a word of encouragement for other couples like themselves. “Give the other person a chance, enjoy the differences,” they say. “One thing is for sure, your life will never be boring!”
- Follow Aamandbasil on Instagram