So, let’s finish up this whole India thing, eh?
You: Let’s! Your posts about India are kind of like Indian people.
Me: They are sweet and funny, and you are going to miss them?
You: Naturally, but also: THERE ARE A BILLION OF THEM.
Me: [blinks] Well, let’s just dive on in then, shall we?
In the United States, most newly married couples are setting up housekeeping on their own, and wedding gifts are traditionally to help them get started. In India, where extended families often live together, and where housing is at such a premium that it wouldn’t make sense for a young couple to try to afford their own apartment anyway, that’s not the case. Instead, the two families exchange gifts as a whole: the day of the wedding ceremony, the bride’s family are the hosts, and the groom’s family sends gifts before they arrive at the wedding house. Two days later, the groom’s family hosts a reception, and the bride’s family sends their gifts
(The day in between the ceremony and the reception, the bride and groom stay at the bride’s family’s home. They visit with friends and family, and in the evening, there is a blessing as the bride’s family sends her off to officially become part of her new family. This was one of my favorite parts of the entire wedding, even though I cried through the whole process, because this time everyone else was crying with me. Dhity – that’s Robin’s cousin, the bride – clung to her mother, father, and sister, even though she was only moving blocks away. Their family is so tightly knit that a separation that seems small on the surface was a tremendous one to them. In the US, or at least in the stoic Protestant teutonic North where I live, it’s often considered a virtue to control one’s emotions at times like these. It was hugely cathartic and beautiful to me to take part in a ritual where quite the opposite was true. I also got to redeem myself a little, Boudi-wise, by being a shoulder Dhity’s younger sister Shruti could cry on.)
The gifts might have been purchased for a specific person, like if the bride’s family knows that the groom has a young niece, they might choose a toy for her. Or, if the groom’s family knows that the bride’s sister/cousin-in-law is from America and probably won’t get much use out of a sari, they might send a stunning shawl instead. Generic gifts for the whole family are also included, though, like a basket of fruit or vegetables, or pretty soaps and lotions. All the gifts, though, are carefully arranged on trays, wrapped in clear plastic, and beautifully decorated.
Robin’s aunt and uncle had hired a vendor to prepare their gifts, but on the day after the wedding, he still hadn’t finished. Shruti organized a small army of cousins and friends to help finish the job. Acting the gracious hostess at a fancy event might not be within my skill set, but I can curl ribbon like nobody’s business. I can also: hold things still so someone can wrap them, cut pieces of tape*, and position said pieces of tape in order to hold the wrapping in place. Since I got to exercise all these skills with a fun group of young people (Shruti and her friends all being in their late teens/early twenties), the next day and a half flew by.
This small army also proved invaluable parenting-wise. We all were starting to miss home a little bit by this point in the trip, but when you’re 7 and surrounded by people who will gladly watch you play Angry Birds, or you’re 9 and you find out the cool college kids also like that one song from Twilight, homesickness pretty quickly takes a backseat.
So, before we knew it, we were dressing up one last time for the reception. This was held outdoors in a – well, I guess “tent” is the best word, but more of a decorative tent with pretty fairy lights. Um, you have no idea what I’m talking about. Let’s just stop with the words and get to some pictures, huh?
We said goodbye (HATE), spent another ridiculous number of hours on planes, lost and retrieved two (2!) Kindles**, slept off the jet lag, did mountains of laundry, and now here we are. OK? Great! The end!
*Robin and I lost count of how many times during this process we said to each other, “What would you give for some Scotch tape right now?” or “Man, I am going to give the Saran Wrap a giant hug when we get home!”
**God bless Delta and KLM because honest to Pete we really did leave two different Kindles behind on two different planes and they tracked us down both times – once IN THE AMSTERDAM AIRPORT, WHICH IS GINORMOUS – and returned them.