2010-09-27

An Indian Wedding


For the last several years part of my daily routine in Mysore has been teaching English at a local private school. One of the first things the staff asked me about was my absence at the Independence celebration. It was sweet to hear that some of the parents were asking for me. And also a bit strange as I have never met or seen any of these people.

Since 2003 and after finishing my thesis paper on yoga in school, I started attending the celebrations on August 15th (Independence Day). As I became a regular guest, I was soon asked to say a few words on India, my experiences and thoughts on their school. It was again sweet to hear that even though I was not there they still mentioned me as ”Hee´ther Morton, the foreigner” as I am known to them.

The principal of the school, Jayashree, is a very nice traditional woman; always dressed in a sari and carrying her handy (re: a cell phone). She was interested in how I had gotten to the school because she wanted me to come to her home. I assumed she meant in the evening, but she was talking about right then and there (re: the middle of the school day). She´s the boss so we cut school and left on my scooter with her driving. I regret not having a picture (re: an Indian principal and a foreigner doubling on a scooter).

(This is one of the amazing things about India. RE: Everything else becomes secondary in relation to social activities.)

Her home was a lovely 3-storey house with teek covered walls, marble floors and a beautiful rain shower. As far as I understand 3-storey dwellings used to be pretty rare but these days, with the growing economy, many people are putting lots of rupees into their home. In India it is referred to as ground level with a first and second floor.

When her husband, Venkatesh, arrived we got into his car and drove off to a relative´s wedding. Like the truly uninvited and unannounced guest, I entered the reception area like nobody´s business, greeted the other guests, the bride and groom, and proceeded to take part in the food! Sitting down to the wedding meal without a formal invitation would never take place in my country. To top off this experience I walked away with a gift. A coconut!

(This is the second amazing thing about India. RE: Total inclusion unlike most religions that exclude others for not being the right colour, race or religion.)

It was a beautiful traditional thai served on a banana leaf. Eaten with my right hand, of course, made it taste that much better. My money-changer in India and now a good friend said he felt the food is more delicious eaten this way. I definitely agree with him.

(The third amazing thing in India. RE: Eating with your hands and NO one thinks you are rude.)

Frankly, I´d LOVE to eat with my hands at home, but I doubt it would go over well. My brother and mother once scolded me for how I was sitting when I returned to India. I guess they have something against the squat-position. So imagine if I threw in the hand-eating manner.

Family: "We are not in India, you know."

Me: "Too bad."

Each part of the thali is served and eaten in a specific order. The curd with rice is taken at the end because it aids digestion. Of course, this all depends on how observant you are to FOOD rules. Another Indian friend told me,

“Ah sure, rules, but you can eat however you wish and I do the same.”



On my way out and with a full stomach, I was curious about how much such a wedding would cost. Venkatesh, the principal’s husband, told me it´s about 700,000 rupees (That´s almost the same as a very small wedding in Toronto...10, 000 to 20, 000 dollars). Cheap in our standards but expensive to Indian ones.

“And yah”, added Venkatesh. “A sort of meaningless waste of money.”

Of course, he knows that he will have to do the same when his daughter wants to get married. Something he may look forward to with both trepidation and excitement. But even in spite of one´s personal view it is a cultural and an expected ritual for each family. I felt sorry, however, when I thought of those men who might have 4 daughters and be a poor family. Generally it is the father of the bride who will pay for the wedding. There is a lot social pressure over these things including being a girl and not coming from a rich family.

After the wedding feast, I was off to my back bending class. The next day at the school Jayahsree asked me if I was a little full. She also admitted it´s a lot for them too.

Hm, yah slightly. Heavy back bending and a full thali stomach do not go well together.

(And the fourth amazing thing about India. RE: Eating too much good food.)

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The Journey So Far

Life is an adventure and yoga is the greatest one of all. Here I share my love of Yoga, travel, practice and becoming a part-time cook. My life adventures have taken me from growing up in Toronto to living and working in South Korea to studying in India, marriage and finally closing my Yoga school of 15 years.

What I can say so far is that I truly believe that it is necessary in life to let go of one dream in order for another to be born. This might be painful to do so but it is the only way to move forward. We often believe that if our original plan does not succeed it is the recipe for failure. But what if it is the door to something new and great? The horizon is wide and life is not a straight line. This is the way I see it and my journey so far. Having also recently given birth to my first child and at 43, it is another new beginning.


ME

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Heather Morton
is a perennial teacher and devoted student of yoga. Having made 18 extended trips to India she studies with her teachers annually. In 1997 she founded and directed The Yoga Way (TYW), Toronto's only school for 6-week yoga programs and not drop-in classes. For 15 years, TYW was a part of the growing Toronto yoga community and supported many charities by offering karma classes. As a teacher she holds many academic degrees including a BFA (Fine Arts in Theatre) and a Masters of Education. With a published thesis on Yoga for Children in School, her post-graduate work was a 2-year ethnographic project in the Indian school system. Heather has produced 2 dvds, meditation cds, a backbending manual and podcasts. Freedom of the Body DVD is the first of its kind as an instructional practice to the backbends of yoga. Heather has been featured in the Toronto Life magazine, The Globe & Mail, Yoga4Everybody and other on-line sources. She contributes to MindBodyGreen, Hello Yoga in Japan and Elephant Journal. She writes to inspire and share her experiences with others on yoga as a life's practice.
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