The groom thanks the bride: “You have brought sacredness into my life, and have completed me. May we be blessed with noble and obedient children”. The bride swears to serve and please the groom to the best of her abilities. ‘I will shower you with joy. I will strive to please you in every way I can’.
Together, the couple takes a vow to take care of and respect the elders in their family.
Traditions, culture and celebration are different in every family. I do like my children to hear a language that is mine even if they don’t speak it. It gives them an understanding in tone and passion how I feel about them, and their actions and gives me comfort in knowing that they understand how I feel. They are neither noble nor obedient, but are learning to explore the complexities around respect. Being brought up away from India, their upbringing is very different from how mine was. They don’t have the cackle and bickering with cousins that both my husband and I found so familiar. It was in this company that we learnt respect, boundaries and familial bonding. We have to find new ways for our children to imbibe the value that respect adds to conversations and relationships as you grow older. In this day and age if my children are to display any form of nobility, I hope it will be in treating peers and people older than them with this gesture that I value more and more as I grow older, and be humble, acknowledging that they will always receive, if they have it in their nature to give.
Trying to please someone is such a large-hearted gesture and not everyone has the ability to do it. I don’t think I do it enough. While I might have the right intentions and want to make sure I am pleasing those that I love, its probably sheer laziness that gets in the way. I was watching an old Pakistani play with my dishy Fawad Khan the other day. In it, a mother advises her newly married and professional daughter to do the small things for her husband, gestures that in turn will bring them closer. She explained that her husband will feel loved if she takes pleasure in doing little chores for him. This holds true in every generation and I really believe that it is sound advice for both halves of a couple, no matter how independent or egalitarian they are. Whether it be making a cup of coffee, calling in and asking how the day was, a hug as you leave the door or a smile as you walk in. There is no ego and zero sexism involved. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to shower someone you love with joy.
Through the last few months, being in lockdown, we have made sure we speak every day to our family in India. We call our parents, speak to them about inane and mundane things, just so they don’t feel too isolated. My husband calls and discusses golf games with my dad, I call and discuss the grandchildren and household chores with my mother-in-law. My mother tells us of the air conditioner that has stopped working and my father-in-law of the number of people he is telling off for not wearing a mask. We giggle and share stories and I know that at the end of the day both my husband and I appreciate those small gestures, in which we have shown respect for those that are older and have shared love for a family that has bonded over the little things.
When someone visits our home, they joke about over eating even before they begin a meal. I remember, from an era gone by, my grandfather covering his plate with his hands when he finished eating his meal so no one could serve him another morsel. He always said that if you refused something with your hands gesticulating behind the plate, there was always room to add another spoonful of something to tempt your palate! I also remember my great-grandmother cooked ghee-soaked parathas that somehow always sneaked into my grandmother’s plate. Dadi loved them but her mother could never understand that her diabetes and debilitating stroke did not allow her daughter this love drenched feast. My grandfather always smiled and teased them out of Dadi’s plate and passed them to all the dribbling grandkids at the other end of the table. The joy in pleasing those that you love remains the same today, just as it was in 1980, the indulgences are possibly mildly healthier! These stories have stayed with me as a reminder of not just funny anecdotes about those that are no more but as cherished memories of the lessons I learned on serving, giving and sharing, that I hope I pass on to the kids every day.
I have to tell myself all the time that there isn’t a lack of respect if my children call out my mistakes. It’s healthy and it’s right. I could never do it when I was young, it was always perceived as rude. Respect is defined as “a feeling of deep admiration for someone elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” If my children are fearful and don’t question me when I am wrong, the feeling they will have for me will be anything but respect and they will never notice my abilities and achievements. The same stands in the promise of marriage. I do hope that we can keep calling out each other’s faults with empathy, love and respect. Who knows, if sometime in the future I crave chocolate cake that isn’t good for me, it will magically appear into my plate, in the spirit of joy and giving that we promised several decades ago.