Thursday, April 25, 2013

Two Parties

Last spring I told The Big Daddy that our social life was in serious need of some energy.  Too many weekends doing nothing and then falling asleep on the couch was making us boring.

Not a week later he came home and joyfully announced, "Honey, the social calendar just got an engagement.  We are invited to a birthday party."

A birthday party?  Oh good, a birthday party.  Who's having the party?

"My post-doc.  His daughter is turning 5."

What?  No.  No, not that.  Not a kids party.  That's not what I meant at all.  I'd rather stay home than go to a little kids birthday party.

"Too late.  I told him we're coming."

And so I dressed that Sunday afternoon for a party I didn't want to go to.  Luckily, I wore a dress and God only knows why I pulled that out of the closet.

Many of his students, and this one in particular, are Indian.  The party was in the rec center of the apartment complex Hari lives at with his wife and daughter.  Nearly all of the guests were Indian with the exception of a few of us.

We walked into a color explosion of silk saris that took my breath away.  The woman were beautiful......absolutely beautiful, and I was thankful I was wearing a dress.   It was awkward at first.  Nobody seemed to know what to do with us and so they stared.

They sang and had cake first.  They insisted Mark take one of the few chairs.  He declined.  They offered him a beer.  He declined.  When the food was ready to be served and they asked him to be first in line he declined.  He felt like this was their party and he would help himself to beer and food after Hari's friends and neighbors had gotten theirs, but it did not seem to be working out that way as everyone kept staring.

"I think you need to go first," I said.  "I think everyone is waiting for you."

He obliged and we have since learned that the boss in their culture is held in high respect and always offered food and drink before the other guests.  Once that happened it was as if the room let out a heavy sigh and the business of celebrating a birthday could begin.

As Mark said recently at our Easter dinner, "We all come from different backgrounds and faiths, but it is in our celebrations that we find common ground."

 Ah yes, so it is and I will say it is one of the most memorable parties I've ever been to.


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Last weekend we had a party at the house for Mark's lab.  Everybody came...........Hari minus his wife and daughter who are in India, Subash who just got his PhD., Scott who graduated a few years ago and is a professor at a nearby college, Wendy who just joined the lab and moved from the D.C. area, and Syranta.  He came with his wife, young son, his mother visiting from India and his cousin.

Earlier in the week the lab had gotten some great results and everybody was flying high on science adrenaline.  It was an exciting turn of events and so Syranta invited Mark to his apartment for lunch.  His mom made them an omelette so when I met her I said, "I hear you make a very good omelette.  Thank you for feeding my husband."

Mark works with some wonderful people and it is clear they admire their boss.  When everyone was leaving, Syranta's mom thanked me and hugged me goodbye.  "Come to India," she whispered in my ear.  "I will cook for you."

And just like that my dreams exploded in vibrant layers of silk.

 

3 comments:

  1. What a lovely story . It just show us that things don't always work out the way we think they will. I find that " Stepping Outside our Comfort Zone " can sometimes lead to some of our most memorable experiences. Thanks for sharing your beautiful expression of love and respect that was shown to Mark and also to you as his wife.In todays hectic and crazy world your story gives me hope for the future.

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  2. we're going in november if you care to join:)

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  3. Pro-Tip from a South Asian: Next time you find yourselves in that "no no no please, you first!" situation (especially regarding food), while you can go ahead and take that first serving that is offered to honor you, what would really blow the minds of the others is if you turned right around to serve the host as party #2. It's a trick I learned growing up at these cultural events. So as the guest, if offered that first serving, I take it as graciously as possibly, immediately place my plate aside and insist (returning also the same stubbornness) that the person who just served me must take food as I place it on their plate--no excuses!
    #MulticulturalNinjaMove :)

    The salad bowl our country is, it's these awkward moments and iterations of them that reflect why people really do love this country. With a sense of humor and humility from all sides, the journey can only be a wonderful adventure. Thank you for sharing a perspective I have always been curious about! Best Wishes <3

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