Some of the Indian students with whom we have deep friendships have graduated, begun jobs, and are now getting married. I was excited, but apprehensive when I was recently invited to a wedding in India by a former student who graduated last year (see photo). We served as “family” to him and his four roommates, especially when their parents could not travel to the U.S. for the graduation ceremony.
Indian marriages are normally “arranged” by the families. This couple was introduced to each other after their families made contact. During the engagement period, my friend and his fiancé talked on the phone quite a bit, but they did not see each other.
Soon after arriving at the wedding location my head was wrapped in a traditional turban, called a safo. (shown in photo) Then the groom got into a horse-drawn carriage and headed out into the streets with a procession of friends and family and one tall American. The parade had loud music, fireworks, and dancing, and it went on for two hours. Then we returned to the large outdoor area for the ceremony and the food. By that time about 2,000 guests had arrived.
The city where the wedding was held is known for its chemical plants, so it has the reputation of being the most polluted in the state. I am not sure if that information was a factor, but my stomach felt queasy after eating some of the dinner that was served in conditions that were not as hygienic as my stomach was used to. I am thankful for the prayers that restored me to full health and energy by the next day.
It was wonderful to be able to stay with the extended families of two recent graduates during my time in India. One of the most interesting things I learned was that out of about 35 family members (including spouses) in two generations of one family, 75% are in the U.S. and nine are engineers and 11 are physicians. This seems to be typical of high caste Indian families.
Another memorable experience was drinking tea from a saucer in a traditional way. I learned there are some advantages to not using a cup. The photo shows me drinking tea in this way with the grandfather and uncles of one family. One of the great benefits was learning that tea in a saucer cools much faster than tea in a cup. The challenge is that it spills easier! As soon as I got back to California I bought a small saucer from which to drink my morning tea.
The highlight of my time was hearing the families describe me as a seva, which means “someone who serves” in Hindi. The fact that I had picked up their sons at the airport and helped them adjust to the U.S. had a big impact. The topic of service led to meaningful dialog about husbands and wives serving God together and serving each other, and about the greatest servant of all, Jesus. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).