India. America. Germany. China. Israel. Singapore. France. South Africa. Iran. New Zealand.
I could have been born anywhere in the world. It was just a chance of probability that my destiny was pinned to one location on God’s GPS. What if I belonged to somewhere else, to some other family, raised under another religion or culture, spoke a different language, ate another species or played on the snow instead of mud? Nothing. I would have still existed embracing the goodness of life.
Why then was I apprehensive that day?
My sister was completing her grad studies in the US then. On a casual phone conversation one day, she announced a bombshell news. She likes an American. Yes, an American born and raised in America! Not that my family wasn’t open minded. In fact there have been hardly any arranged marriages in our lineage for a few decades. Yet, accepting someone hailing from this far a land and culture wasn’t a easy thought to settle down with because we have never interacted with people of other countries before.
As a next step in this affair she brought him to India for a week’s stay. And one question my mom didn’t quit asking him almost every other day while he was here was, “Can we be sure that you wouldn’t leave each other?” Her anxiety as an Indian mother was rational. And all that he could reply her was, “My mom and dad are married for 40 years now and I was raised watching them. You must come to our place, visit my family to know life on the other side of the world isn’t as bad as you think.”
In a few months, we were flying high in Lufthansa, still partially closed to welcome a new genealogy into our family. We were oblivious then that the following month’s stay in the US has been destined as an heart-opening travel experience for us and that it could ring a new bell – the wedding bells – between two loving hearts.
Prejudices about people whom we have not met can often be irrational yet convince us in our points, until there comes a time to meet them. My first step out at the Frankfurt International Airport may have been a small step but a giant leap in my perception of the world. India is ofcourse beautiful but thinking India was alone beautiful was like croaking from within the walls of a well.
My assumption that Germans are cold people lost its validity in the few hours of transit time at the airport. Worried moms running behind their unstoppable little ones, a woman in distress who was travelling to her dad’s funeral, an elderly lady taking interest in the saree my mom was wearing, a young man helping a hurried couple to locate their departure gate – they all seemed connected; within themselves and within the rest of the world, living a warm life filled with emotions and everyday stress just like anybody else back in India. It felt like I must strike off –
Germans are cold people from my mind.
We soon arrived at the US, met his family and a few of his friends, visited his clinic and had a chat with his colleagues. My sister’s American and Indian friends visited us home, yeah for mom’s food. We travelled to six states and several cities. We stayed at some picturesque destinations. We met some interesting native Americans. A month’s time at the new place was jam-packed with warm people and pleasant travels.
He belongs to a big family (The grandchildren alone count to some 30 in number). It was overwhelming to see how the entire family gelled up so well with my sister. Race, colour, religion and region weren’t a big deal to them. They were happy that their son found a girl of his liking and that was liberating to see. I definitely had to strike off –
Americans are racists.
His siblings shared with us a lot of their stories of the past; about their childhood memories. They stay close by to each other. They get to meet often. They exchange gifts. They help each other in need. Uncle, Aunt, cousins, nieces, nephews, grand dad, grand mom – the love and care around each of these bonds seemed to be intact in place, like what we boast about in Indian families. It made me reflect why family bonding is spoken of as a belittled thing in the western world. Certainly, in the few days of getting to know them, I had to strike through –
Westerners aren’t family attached.
It wasn’t acquaintances alone who took me in surprise. Customers at Walmart waved and smiled at each other and also at the house keeping women at the rest rooms. They could get into casual conversations without letting the differences in their professions or unfamiliarity come inbetween. I don’t think Indians are capable of doing it. We think and analyze before we can smile at someone – if they are from a social strata which deserves our smiles; if their wealth and education levels can match up to our’s; if it’s safe to smile at a stranger. Isn’t it just a matter of a heart-felt smile? Why do we have our hearts closed to people who are not our own? Subsequently, the next strike through –
America is a land of success. So, their heads ought to be heavy.
And there was much more I began to embrace with their lives and living. People would patiently wait at the cross roads to let others cross by. They respect queues. They don’t judge you for what you wear. They don’t probe you why you are not married or why you do not have kids. They bring in their own food for get-together and don’t trouble a host. They look after their children and do not expect the grannies to replace their roles.
So, what’s so apprehensive to feel about my sister living a life with one such soul who hails from this distant land of family integrity, love, faith and values? Fear dwells within closed walls. When these walls open, they let the fear out and breathe in love. World seems to be of several such walls. However, in reality, when you travel to each of these places, you realize that it is the fear in our own selves that holds the non-existent fear together. And that, meeting people who you feel don’t belong to your race, can liberate you from whatever a race means.
Did I forget to mention! We were soon blessed to witness my sister’s beautiful Christian wedding on one of the Florida beaches. At the wedding, when the priest declared, What God has joined, men must not divide. Amen! it struck a chord to the new-found family of our’s. Why, new places and new people indeed hold the power to open our hearts!
It has been ten years since they are happily married now with four children and their fairy tale makes the most of why I love the world and to #SayYesToTheWorld