Meeting of east and west


Mom, I’m going to propose to Nydia,” my son’s voice came across the mobile waves from the distant USA.
I was nervous to say the least. I cautioned him to think carefully. Brushing aside all my ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’, he proposed to a beautiful Tex-Mex girl and she gladly accepted. I hoped the wedding would be held in sunny California where my son lived. At least I could look forward to an expense paid vacation in the US.

The next call, however, dashed my fond hopes. “Mom, we would like to have the marriage in India!” “That would be lovely,” I mumbled, knowing full well that the ‘big, fat Indian wedding’ would be anything but ‘lovely’ for the person conducting it. It would entail months of planning, hard work and a bank balance lighter by a few lakhs.
After much discussion, we opted for an Arya Samaj wedding. The scales tilted in its favour as we were told the pundit would explain the meaning of the rituals in English.
The person who could unravel the mysteries of the Sanskrit shlokas to the young couple in angrezi was Swarnalathaji, a doughty old lady.

There were other pressing issues at hand. Who would dress the bride? How do I get the bride’s blouse stitched? Luckily, our neighbourhood tailor promised to deliver within 24 hrs. The bride’s mom and friends too wanted to be togged the Indian way. So, another round of shopping ensued for sarees, blouses,  bangles, matching ornaments...not to forget appointments with the beautician, tailor and mehendiwali squeezed in between.
The wedding day arrived bringing with it all the excitement of the unknown. The groom waited anxiously for his bride beside the exquisitely decorated floral mandap under the star spangled evening sky. We were equally nervous. At the appointed time, the bride glided in to a haunting nadaswaram tune, looking radiant in a gorgeous red Kanjeevaram sari.

She was accompanied by her mom and American friends looking equally elegant in their colourful saris and sparkling jewellery. The gathering was touched when she bowed down to touch the feet of the elders to seek their blessings. What a glorious reply to the east-west debate!

“East is East, and West is West and never the twain shall meet,” is often quoted to highlight the differences in culture of the two cardinal points. Actually, Kipling was right if we quote him further: “ But there is neither East nor West border, nor breed, nor birth when two loving hearts stand face to face  tho’ they come from the ends of the earth.”

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