Me: "Honey, why don't we renew our wedding vows..." Him: "Why, have they expired?"
Keeping it fresh–still cultures collide.
We celebrated 2 weddings in 2 religions on 2 continents over 2 months over 25 years ago. How do we keep our relationship fresh while respecting and celebrating our different cultures? It isn’t easy. Americans want to go out to dinner and have grand experiences. Indians want to go to temple and receive the blessings of our elders and wear traditional clothes. Americans want to celebrate with a champagne toast. Indians want to celebrate by sharing sweets with family and friends. Like every year of our lives together we negotiated our own blended way of celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.
If we could, we would have gone to India and bowed before Amma and Appa and asked for their blessings. But they each have died and their blessings are ours to give to others now. So we decided it was time for us to bless others. In the Hindu marriage ceremony, it is traditional for the bride and groom to wear fragrant garlands and then exchange them. A game is played where the bride or groom tries to evade their partner’s attempt to place the garland around their neck, harkening back to a time when people were married very young. So we instead ordered jasmine garlands for each of our guests from our local Indian flower shop (isn’t it amazing to find one in America?!). We gave each of our dear friends garlands and celebrated the longevity of their marriages and offered our blessings…a blend of the traditional Indian practice while honoring the joy of American friendship!
We planned a full weekend with incredible friends, an amazing meal, cake, chocolate covered strawberries, champagne, limoncello, and wonderful laughter! We had our American toast and exchanged garlands. We had our sweets, and ate our cake too! We missed our family, but were so pleased that our out of town dear friends spent the weekend with us celebrating love and life!
Poojas or prayer ceremonies are often conducted in honor of special occasions such as anniversaries. You first offer your gratitude to God for the many blessings and the many obstacles that have been removed to make it to this moment. We remember the duty we have to serve others, to share our gifts, to use our intelligence and wisdom for good in the world. All this offered silently in our little kitchen prayer space before we begin our meal together. We would not have made it to this moment if it were not for the many people who believed in us and multitude of holy encounters we have witnessed over the years. Take time to say a prayer whenever you can.
The next day we toured Chicago’s mural district in the Wabash Arts Corridor and saw an off the beaten path Teatro Vista show “Somewhere Over the Border,” a musical about an immigrant who crossed multiple borders to escape war and violence in El Salvador. It was a perfect moment to reflect on our own journey across borders between India and the USA, as well as crossing the borders of language, religion, culture, race, and nationality. While my husband worries about “drishti” and how we should not draw unnecessary attention to ourselves risking the evil eye of jealousy, I believe our story helps more people to realize multicultural interfaith families are a gift to the world! Don’t you?