Sunday, March 27, 2016

An Indian Wedding to learn from

Unity in diversity, the cultural diversity is the backbone of my country- India. We practice different religions and we try to respect the religious beliefs of each other. After I moved to the United States, I learned how famous Indian weddings are outside of India and as a matter of fact Indian weddings are one of the most fancy weddings I have known so far. Indian weddings are not just about the celebration of the beginning of two individuals getting married but it is about celebrating the new relationship between the two families.

I am not too happy to mention that even after 68 years of our independence, religion and caste still play a vital role in Indian weddings. Although more and more people are growing up to having a neutral and educated perspective of the diversity in religion and caste, inter-religion and even inter-caste marriages are still not very easily accepted in our society. As I always tend to share my personal experiences in life, today I would like to share an amazing experience I have had with the wedding of the two very dear friends of mine- Avi and Neha.

Avi and Neha have been dating each other since high school and finally in their mid 20s, they decided to marry each other. Avi and Neha practice different religions and as I said, inter-religion marriage is not yet very common in India and hence starts the fun. For them, finally it was the time to formally ask their parents to give a green light for their wedding. Avi and Neha both have a very rational thinking and both of them belong to well educated families. They knew that the social approval process would not be as smooth as silk but they had confidence in their parents. Most of the Indian parents are very deeply influenced by the Indian society and even after being educated, most parents are not able to break the mental barrier of inter-religion marriage especially when it's about their own kid. Rational thinking and wedding does not go along very well in India.

Now here comes the difference between being literate and being educated. Since I know Avi's parents much closely than Neha's, let me talk about them. They treated this case beyond the boundaries of religion, for Avi's parents Neha was a girl their son truly loved. For his parents it was as simple as trusting their son's decision and in fact Avi's dad offered to approach Neha's parents to talk about their wedding. All his dad cared about was the happiness of his son and not the social tantrums of an inter-religion wedding. This is such a good example to spread and to learn from. The little that I know, both families did face some social hurdles within their own families and sme of their relatives just refused to attend this wedding but the best part was that both Avi and Neha's parents had already anticipated such disapproval within their families and they chose to ignore it because they were determined not to influence their decision based on irrational thinking of the society.

Avi's dad is one gem of a person. Avi did not want his wedding to be held in a very traditional way with a priest chanting some religious mantras on the day of their wedding so Avi's dad prepared a wedding script which he recited both in Bengali and in English and it was completely non-religious. Neha's family appreciated the move and they also decided to conduct the wedding in a very non-traditional and non-religious manner. Avi and Neha had their first wedding ceremony in the US in a Christian style (none of them are Christian by religion), then in India they got married in their respective religious traditions in a non-religious fashion. It was just so cool to see my friends getting married 3 times in 3 different styles in a society that does not explicitly approve of such acts of pure love beyond religion. I wish I could share this story with every Indian parent so that they can learn how important it is to trust their kids and think beyond the social boundaries.

Recently people in India were talking about my country being intolerant but the truth of the matter is that the individuals need to be tolerant for the nation to be tolerant and individuals like Avi and Neha's parents are contributing to make our country tolerant and practical. We need to understand that caste and religion are man made things. Why judge someone by things that aren't under their control? Bottom line is that god created us simply as human beings and human beings framed us in to different religions, so why not judge each other based on humanity? Humanity is natural, it is the fundamental characteristic of human race.

Examples of weddings like this are actually helping our society to change their mindset and behave as educated people. I have never been so amazed and impressed by someone's wedding as I am with Avi-Neha's. Thank you Avi and Neha, I am proud to know you guys and be your friend. Thank you to your parents for teaching us a much needed lesson !!


monika agarwal said...

this is really amazing.. although people have become acceptable of
what is truly rational.. when it comes to implementation seldom do
people find enough courage.. examples like this is such a positive
sign..! great post :)

Ankesh Khemani said...

Awesome article :)

Unknown said...

Thank you for the good words. However I am tempted to make certain comments. you will notice all religions Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism etc essentially talk broadly about two topics. a) Rules/ advice for social interaction covering all aspects of life and associated rituals & b) How nature came into being, how it works and how it influences our lives (thus the hypothesis of god and astrology was introduced without any proof).
The topic a) for all religions were written 1500 years ago or earlier. At that time all the countries of the world were ruled by dictators/ kings who engaged the priests to write the topic a). You will appreciate at the present time many of those rules/ advices are considered immoral and detrimental to our society (e.g. cast system, treatment of women , stoning someone to death, cutting the hand for petty crimes, killing the non-believers etc). Therefore those who follow those rules in present time are doing wrong things. Of course there were good advices like, love thy neighbour, be honest, help others etc.
Topic b) was just a hypothesis with no proof whatsoever. Almost 100% of what was said under topic b) are grossly wrong. Therefore those who believe in contents of topic b), utter mantras and perform rituals based on this hypothesis believe in wrong things.

Any practice that is based on teachings of topic a)(some of them) & b), therefore, is not based on reason or follow moral values of modern societies. Hence I and my wife consider ourselves not to be belonging to any religion be it Hinduism, Islam etc. We, that include Avi & Upa, therefore do not practice any religion, but we earnestly follow the law and the moral values of modern world.
There are umpteenth research findings that say that faith in any religion in modern times are doing more harm to our society compared to good it does in way of creating bonds. I respect every individual but do not respect their bigotry or inability to reason and belief in religion. It’s a difficult job to convince someone that most of the things he or she believes while practicing a religion are wrong. It hurts their religious sentiments, but I would rather hurt their religious sentiment than allow them to roam around with misplaced beliefs and cause harm to our society. (Read the book "Better Angels of our Nature" by Steven Pinker of Harvard Univ)
In sum, this is what I was trying to say:
1. I respect others but I do not respect the religious beliefs of others. In other words I do not respect or eulogize ignorance. At best I sympathise their inability to understand reason.
2. Avi (and I think Neha also) do not practice any religion. Avi’s grandparents used to practice Hinduism.
3. God has not created the human beings as you mentioned in your last paragraph. In fact as I said earlier the entire hypothesis of GOD is utterly wrong. The present understanding of our creation says we are made of stuff 40% of which (hydrogen in our body) was created during big bang and rest inside stars. Universe itself got created out of nothing (Read the book “A Universe out of nothing” by Lawrance Krauss, Prof of MIT)
The way the wedding was conducted in Richmond, Virginia and later in Kolkata was a natural consequence of our beliefs. Thanks once again for the good words. Wish you all the best. Avi & Neha’s Dad