At the end of our stay in Jhansi, my adopted family (the family who gave me away in my Kaanyadaan – essentially the ceremony of giving the daughter away, in a wedding) invited us over for dinner.
For a bit of history, when they agreed to give me away at my Kaanyadaan, they took me in as their own daughter. In the words of my husband, they “more than adopted” me. This is extremely special to me, and it’s important to me to get to know them and spend time with them. I always look forward to my visits with them!
When we visit my adopted family, they treat me as they would any married Indian daughter: with the utmost respect and love. They shower me with praise, touch my feet as well as my husband’s feet (an ultimate symbol of respect), bring trays of food to us, ask me if I will stay the night, and shove money into both of our hands, despite our best efforts to decline.
And they do all of this not because I am a guest in their home, but because I am their daughter. This is the customary treatment of any married daughter, in my husband’s community, when they come home from their husband’s house. Beautiful, isn’t it? Though a bit overwhelming, if you aren’t already familiar with these aspects of Indian culture.
Anyway, back to my story.
We arrived that night, by auto-rickshaw. My didi and niece blazed the trail down the narrow alleyway, before walking into the large open door. After greetings, we were ushered to the main room. My didi immediately went to change into a suit – which was the first time I had ever seen her wear anything other than a saree! I suddenly saw her as not just my didi, a hard working housewife in our home, but a daughter to these kind people. She looked so youthful in her mustard yellow suit with her hair in a braid over her shoulder.
Normally, they would lead me to one room and my husband to another, as each gender separates into groups during social gatherings. For some reason, they didn’t do that this time. My husband sat with me in the main room, enjoying the snacks, playing with the babies, and having conversations in tiny bits of Hindi and English.
I can understand a lot of Hindi, but any time I could not reply in Hindi, I replied in English and my husband automatically translated.
Father came in the room and sat with us. Perhaps the most refreshing thing about being at my adopted family’s house, is that there is no reason to cover my head in front of them.
Father asked my husband, “Has she learned any more Hindi?” My husband, not knowing how to describe to people how much I know, stumbled on his words. My didi giggled. I understood, so I said to my husband, “Tell him that I know more now. I’ve been learning.”
Didi, who partially understands English, giggled again, and repeated the words she had taught me in the kitchen just a few days before.
A while later, Father left the room and my younger sister came in with heaping plates of food. It was so spicy! We discovered that my adopted family is not shy about using green chillies! Even more, they kept bringing food. We had to beg them to stop giving us food. My husband even tried to convince Manu, our niece, to take more food from his plate. When that fell through, he looked at me with pleading eyes.
Before we left, everyone walked us to the door, taking their turns grabbing our hands and shoving money in them. My husband is the best at running away from them. I’m an easy target because I think it’s awkward to make a big scene out of avoiding money that people give you, to the point of running away.
In truth, I’m never ready to leave my adopted family’s house. I hate saying goodbye. I feel like there is so much I still want to learn about them, so much I want them to know about me. I want to help them in any way. I want to learn from them. But going makes coming again even more sweet than the visit before. ♥
The featured image was actually taken at my elder didi’s house, and features her Diwali display of a floating lotus candle with surrounding marigold petals. Decorative gel candles on the side.