That scene is etched in my memory. The reality of marriage and leaving my maternal home (yes, I lived with my parents at 26, not a big issue in India, but more on that later) did not really hit me till the actual wedding day. Unlike other regions, where the bidaee or the send off happens after the wedding ceremony when the groom is about to whisk the bride away; the custom in my family is to do a prayerful and tearful send off for the girl before she even enters the wedding hall. I was all decked up in my bridal attire and my family surrounded me in a circle and as prayers were said , I could hear restrained sobbing from my grandma and thereafter the flood gates opened. Everyone was crying till someone reminded us that we were getting late to reach the wedding hall. Logically , I knew I would be in touch with my family and neither marriage nor the distance could dent the love I had for them , still I was extremely emotional. Saying goodbye was difficult as was the acceptance of a new identity, a new sense of being. That day defined and concretized the change that was happening.
I had met my future-husband almost six months before I married him. Our parents approved and with their blessings we courted long distance( we lived in two different countries) till the day we were married. We had actually really met only once (arranged marriages!!) but the daily phone calls and video chats were giving me a sense of familiarity with him. But it was nothing compared to actually living the married life with him. My wedding day was to be an important milestone in my life. What I felt on the day I left my maternal home, the feeling of longing and heartache was what I felt the day I got my Canadian citizenship last month. Like a newly engaged person looking forward to the day of marriage, so was I looking forward to the day when I would be attributed the status of citizen and be really really involved in the shaping of my new homeland. This day like the one many years ago would forever define and separate what I was and what I will be. But, I cannot help looking back.
The fact is mine is a family of wanderers. My great-grandfather and grandfather both left their countries of birth to move to different countries (they are different countries now, at that that time they were all regions under British occupation). My father and mother both moved from one part of the India to another overcoming a lot of cultural and language barriers. While growing up in New Delhi, I was mocked for being the daughter of a “madraasee” mother (for lot of my neighbors anyone from south of India was madrasi!!) Even in college My batch mate AC mocked my Nepalese heritage by calling me bahadur! (it literally means brave but used in a derogatory sense in India to address people of Nepalese origin). During those times being Indian meant a lot to me. Indian constitution embraced its cultural diversity , even though my neighbors and classmates did not; it embraced the notion of equality- even though I was looked down upon because of my economic status; It provided me the right to be even if there were forces at play that didn’t. I am and shall always be proud to be an Indian.
It all changed that day. I went from being an Indian to being a person of Indian origin. I cannot hug the soil of my land to say a last good bye, the purva (easterly) wind would not blow to wipe my tears away, nor the rich cultural tapestry lay its hands on my head to bless my future. A country is not a person you say good bye to. Yet I say…..
Alvida maa…..beti teri parayi ho gayi (good bye mother, today your daughter is not your own!)