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Monday, January 30, 2017

Sounding Boards

Though we manage a great deal of jet lag recovery, reconnection with relatives, and two visits to PUSHPA village evening schools, our first and following weeks in India this year are preoccupied with the run-up to the wedding of our niece later this month. Numerous discussions occur within and among the families, and the bride's father and her uncles meet daily, sometimes twice, to debrief and update. Although he disavows being 'in charge,'my husband, as the eldest member of the extended family, is the default reference for innumerable decisions: lighting, catering, menu, extended guest list, venue, groom-bride family get-acquainted visits. In other words, a sounding board. The others are 'point' persons for go-to information.

After we go for a lunch to meet 'the boy's' family in another town about an hour away, things seem to calm down a bit.  The visit is short and sweet:  We all tell teach other our names, prayers are offered, and a wonderful meal is served. On the way and at home, everyone has an idea and/or assignment to pursue, going forward: some shopping, some tailoring, some doing comparisons of vendors.

Meanwhile, we make village visits to touch base with families, staff, students in several evening tutoring schools which we sponsor. Here, too, my husband is the sounding board for teachers and our ngo staff.  He uses their interviews, and more with the children, to gauge the needs and progress of each evening 'school.' But more of that in other posts.

Then, the week before the wedding, things really start to intensify.  Last minute shopping and tailoring orders, and every little thing we think we need to have done suddenly seem to have become urgent business.  The bride, having so far politely deflected all attempts to learn her preferences, begins to show her mettle.  The uncles' suggested, modest floral church decoration idea is set aside in favor of a commercial one coordinated by her sister and brother in law.  This is something she has looked forward to. (It was lovely.)

We want to schedule one of the prenuptial events on a certain day. Though it inconveniences the host, our bride-to-be defers to her mother and aunts' new found rule that once these events begin, she must not leave the house again before the wedding: she wants her freedom for as long as possible! The event is postponed for a day.   She goes along to the jeweler to choose a set of his and her wedding rings.

We go shopping together for a dressy dress.  My idea is to make her  a present of something light and lighthearted. like her personality. She would have only a heavier ensemble because  "uncle said he liked (i.e. was impressed by) it."  Well, hmm, she will be living in Minnesota, hm, the dress will probably be practical there.  After alteration: She is smaller than the women's 'small' clothing size.

A saree is a more traditional gift for the bride, and, accordingly, our bride-to-be receives several. Not to be left without part of the ensemble, she promptly has each 'blouse piece' (which comes attached to a new saree), as well as the new dress, sent out to a tailor who keeps her measurements for reference. In all of this and the events to come, her best friend takes the part of a true bride's maid: being at her side, advising, errand running, accompanying, debriefing, just 'being there.'

Being a sounding board. A key role in a society where consent and consensus trump independence, and crucial to navigating neo-independently through the intricacies of multiple hierarchies. If you think this sentence is a bit difficult to untangle, well, welcome to India.  Daily life in the context of constant social complexities can certainly sharpen the mind...perhaps that is one reason that techies flourish here. And a reason to remind you that, even in the socio/political turmoil back home, yes, you can...

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