My favourite niece got married last night, a culmination of a series of functions that lasted almost a week. In this time, lessons in life peeked out at me from various nooks and corners, especially those in letting go and detachment.
We choose our family: Nowhere has this been clearer to me than at this wedding. Yes, we are born into a certain family but we also choose who is dear to us by the emotional and physical investment we make in the relationship. My niece is only my cousin’s daughter, but no other child in my extended family is as close to me as she is. I have watched her grow up from a little three-year-old mite, and it was astounding to see her now a married woman, with duties and responsibilities of leading her own family. I am also equally close to her mother (my bhabi), who was my confidante and best friend in my college days and all through the early years of my marriage. Despite being cousins, they are closer to me than anyone of my own blood. It is a bond that goes beyond family ties, and we have all chosen it rather than being forced into it by circumstance of birth.
Bidai blues: The real lesson in detachment lies here, in this bidai. Watching my niece tie the knot late at night, I could not help glancing back at my own daughters every few minutes. It was a kind of heartbreak to know I have to let all three of them ‘go’, not any place or home really, but let them go and live out their own karma. I know there will be challenges and it’s painful to think of your own girls in pain at any point. But it has to be that way, I cannot shield them from their destinies. As I told my bhabi a few days earlier at the kirtan in their home, the ultimate motto of this marriage has to be those two lines from the aarti we sing at every auspicious function: ‘Tera tujhko arpan, kya laage mera (I give Yours unto You, what is it of mine?)’ Our kids are not ours. At these moments, we are reminded of the fact that they do not belong to us. The more we hold on, the unhappier we all are.
Lessons in love: The lesson is a delicate one of balance in love; in love without clinging. In commitment without ownership. In absolute devotion without any expectation of return. That’s how God wants to teach us how to love each other and Life itself. We are meant to give love, and ask for nothing back. To wholeheartedly shower blessings from every cell in our body and then never look back. It is hard, oh, it is so hard to do that and then let them go. To watch those pieces of your heart change into grown women with lives of their own. But it is what God wants of us – even pain is necessary to be whole.
My niece’s sweet three-year-old face and lispy “I’m solly Aeku bua” flashed in my head all night after we came home. The tears still flow easily to think of her. She is not gone anywhere — on the contrary she has moved closer to where I live. But she is now set free into her own space in the universe, away from the shelter and protection of her paternal home. I have to keep reminding myself that God is there for her, and what greater protection does she need?
But, ya Allah, this bidai was a difficult test. Grant me her eternal happiness, and we’re even.
As I type this in a fit of anguish, a compassionate voice in my head replies: “That was a given anyway.”