We were in Toronto this weekend, celebrating with old family friends of my husband's family. When my in-laws first came to Canada from India, there was a doctor and his wife who really went above and beyond to help them make a home in their new land. With no prior connections or relations, the generosity and compassion this family showed another couple of a different faith was just the beginning of a lifetime of shared blessings and shared burdens.
Invited as guests of the family for the wedding of one of the doctor's granddaughters, I imagined for a moment that this must be what it feels like to marry into royalty. The love that my amma (mother-in-law) has shown and the servant-spirit with which she has ministered to this family's needs over the years has won her the hearts and adoration of many within this close-knit family. My husband and I, even more distant from any relation to the bride, were but beneficiaries of the love of this family based on who we were connected to, the servant-queen, matriarch of our little family.
The wedding was a traditional Hindu ceremony, the date chosen no doubt because of it being one of the luckiest days on the Hindu calendar. Jasmine flowers are given to the women to wear in their hair and the entire place was full of it's sweet perfume all day. Breakfast was served before the ceremony, a vegetarian lunch served immediately after. After enjoying new flavors and consistencies of our meal, I declared myself a vegetarian. My son deemed himself a rice biryani lover, my littlest one a lover of "cheese blocks", and my eldest, a "bread-itarian" after consuming copious amounts of naan bread. After a rest at our accommodations, we returned for another meal, complete with appetizers and a buffet of desserts. Unfortunately my vow to become a vegetarian was broken soon after leaving the premises after realizing I had no one to serve me steaming chala masala or fresh fruit piled high on a silver platter.
A few things really struck me throughout the day. Although the bride and groom were raised in Canada and America, meeting at med school in Granada, and being as modern and independent as their peers, they chose a thoroughly traditional ceremony as a way to honor their families and their roots. Here I was, sitting in a room in Canada, surrounded by people honoring their traditions of a far away land. It was a true testament of the value they placed in who there were, they were willing to stay true to their ways, even in a land so diverse and different by it's own culture. Another thing that is generally true in most Indian families is the devotion of the parents for their children. Many at this wedding had come as first generation immigrants to allow their children more opportunities even though it came at a great cost to themselves. While still pursuing their own dreams and passions, they delayed their personal gratification for the sake of their children. Through their work ethic and pursuit of educational opportunities, they teach their children by example that this is the land where they can do what they dream, if each child is willing to invest the effort. The bride spoke about her family's motto: "whatever makes the girls happy" and illustrated ways her parents had put family above individual pursuits. Though there are negative extremes of this, I find it in stark contrast to the way so many people live these days, with our me-first mentalities and survival of the fittest. Even among the mothers, though many are highly educated and some work outside the home, they serve their families with such joy, counting their children as blessings to be enjoyed.
Years ago when I first married into an Indian family, I could only see the differences between the way I was raised and theirs in a negative light. These days I am fully embracing the differences, learning that there is much to be gained from each other and so much to be enjoyed in the celebration of each.