Washing Of The Feet

It’s 7:45am and I’m waiting for a wedding to start. Yes, 7:45 AM, you read that right. I’m in Johor Bahru attending the wedding of a friend of a friend, the event that set this whole adventure in motion. The Bride and Groom are of Indian decent so this is a Hindu affair. I have been to many an Indian wedding while in India but this is my first fancy, non-country town affair. It is in a room with 800 people in it, most of which are not paying attention to the ceremony happening on stage. Really, we have all collected to eat, see what others are wearing and catch up with old friends and family.

It begins with the Groom having a Blessing Ceremony complete with his entire family, extended family and live music. They leave and it is the Bride’s turn. After all this the Groom and his entourage come back and settle on the stage followed by the Bride and her entourage.

I adore everything about Indian culture. The food, the clothes, the music, the movies; all of it. I’m completely delighted to be in the middle of this and am checking out all the cute men, plotting how I can have one of these fancy events for myself. Sadly, they are all married off so I sit back and begin to pay closer attention to the ceremony. I catch myself being triggered negatively by some parts of the ceremony and moved to tears in others. Hmmmm, thats interesting.

A family member comes on the loudspeaker and explains what is about to happen… Italics express inner monologe.

-The families will have a ceremonial exchange and the couple will wash their parents feet as a form of respect.
Why would I want to do that, my parents are crazy and I don’t owe his family anything.

-The Groom will accept responsibility for the bride.
Hello Jamie’s inability to accept the masculine, we meet again.

I growl and continue to listen.

-The Groom will tie a string around the Bride’s neck with 3 knots .
Sounds like a leash to me.

-Then there will be 7 steps around the ceremonial fire to symbolize 7 things…

Now I can’t remember exactly what these 7 things were but they were along the lines of things all couples should learn before they devote the next 50 minutes to each other let alone the next 50 years.
And my Grinch heart grew 7 sizes.

Ill give you a little background here on my thoughts of marriage…

Don’t do it.

I recently was in a relationship that pushed me to reconsider the idea of marriage. While we both said Never Ever, we both discussed what our wedding would be like. He wanted to profess his Love for me in front of a small group of only our closest friends and family. I however hoped we would be forced into getting married due to a visa situation and swing by City Hall on our way out to work one day and then not tell a living soul for somewhere between never and never. I know, I know… I’m a serious romantic.

Don’t tell anyone this, but I also secretly wanted what he wanted, I was just way to freaked out by my last wedding to even allow myself the idea of being that happy or in love in a public situation.

See, I got married when I was 24 to a wonderful man who I adored and who adored me. We thought we were invincible. We were wrong. Our wedding killed Us. That and having absolutely no tools or understanding on how to make a love like ours work with our individual histories. He came from a family where he never saw his parents so much as disagree. His family was large and people got along well with most disagreements being ignored and/or kept private. Boundaries were clear, unchangeable and mostly maintained by a healthy dose of guilt. My family however, was small and my parents each had Masters Degrees in fighting. No one in my family got along and it was always a public affair. Boundaries were never clear, changed often, and usually without a warning shot. Needless to say, communicating in my marriage was like a Great Dane and a Chihuahua mating. I yelled; he retreated. It was after one of these retreats that he looked at me and said, “I thought when you got married that you didn’t have to work at this anymore, that it was just all perfect.” Boy, were we in trouble.

At this point of the ceremony, the parents are blessing each other. The Fathers bless each other with holy water and then the Mothers follow suit. They then seal this by anointing each other’s foreheads with sacred ash. After this, they all bless the couple…

Never in my life have I willingly had my family in a room with a partner’s family let alone let them bless each other. Even at my wedding I tried to keep contact to a minimum. I love my family and wouldn’t change a thing about us, but not many people get our dynamic/humor/history/banter. In-law relations have been strained in every relationship I have ever been in. Plus, I’d be damned if I needed their blessing, after all, I’m an independent woman who needs no one. * sigh * Sometimes I want to punch myself in the face for my own attitude.

…The parents then tied the couple together. They literally tied her sari to his shirt. Cue tears.

This idea of families uniting through a couple and extending outwards never occurred to me. My tears were those of sadness for never experiencing this and also of relief and forgiveness towards my husband and myself. We never stood a chance. We didn’t have the role models nor the ability to understand each other or ourselves. When we split after 5 years of marriage, we hashed a lot of things out and did come back together to try and save Us using the knowledge we had gained. It just wasn’t enough and we both still had too many belief systems in place to rise above our programming to find our Love again.

Now this ceremony is beautiful and all, but it is quite possibly also be bullshit. The parents might hate each other and the symbolism might be the Groom tying a leash around the Brides neck. I don’t know. What I do know is that we create our own realities so I can put any meaning on any thing that I want. The ceremony finished with the Groom washing the Brides feet and then tying something on each foot. This can be interpreted in many ways. I’m choosing to see it as a Man vowing to Honor, Love and Protect his Woman and a Woman allowing herself to be Honored, Loved and Protected by her Man.

I offer you a mantra performed by Deva Premal. It is a prayer to Ganesh, remover of obstacles. May we all get the Hell out of our own way.

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