It was a beautiful morning, when the sky was pink, the birds were chirping, the pressure cookers whistling in the neighbouring kitchens; when my child, all of 5, woke up excited to attend one of my cousin’s wedding which was a four hours drive from our place. Within no time, we were in the car and headed to Daman. Little did we know that it would be such an eventful day that it would compel me to finally write a blogpost after so long?
One thing I realised that day, for which I don’t blame anyone in particular; is that the people who plan weddings are either too young and excited (the bride and groom) or too old and have forgotten what it used to be to have children (the parents of the bride & groom) that nothing is ever planned keeping a child in mind, not even food. And an average wedding will see at least ten percent children in the list of guests. So I guess we need to learn to be more considerate about their existence.
Me and my husband, who are perpetually planning where to travel next (needn’t be fancy, but just travel) were gifted with these two angelic children who love travelling just as much. Just about today, I was telling a friend of mine, who was inviting me to her new home in Goa, that I don’t plan my travel according to my work but I plan my work according to my travel plans. That’s the kind of love we have for what one experiences on the move. But, travelling with children is a different ball game. There is so much thought and management when it comes to packing. Dustbin bags, mosquito repellants, stock of medicines, extra bedsheets, portable fan, electric pressure cooker, hing powder, extra caps, toys, tetra pack milk, cutlery & many other things like this make it to the packing list way before even your basic makeup kit. Children, the minute they enter into your lives, take away the limelight and become the centre of your existence around which you plan your life. But, I must admit, that they are also the best teachers, who help you look at life in an absolutely fresh perspective, decluttering the frills and bringing to foreground your real priorities. They bring a certain equilibrium to every aspect of your existence, so much so that they most often even initiate you on to the path of spirituality, elevating you to experience the more wiser and stronger version of yourself.
After four hours of driving, having eaten a healthy South Indian breakfast & gulped down a tall glass of freshly squeezed sugarcane juice; we reached the venue all geared up to attend the big event. But, there was a slight confusion there. We needed to change our clothes and the room allotted to us had been already occupied and it took us half an hour to sort out our room in some other hotel. Luckily we were travelling in our car with a driver. But had we come by some public transport; me, with my eight months old daughter in one arm, holding my 5 years old son’s hand on the other side, would have to magically pull out my third hand to pull the trolley bag while my forth hand would call for some cab or auto to head to the next hotel. I am sure people attend fancy weddings where there are wedding planners with uniforms and lists in their hands and everything is planned to perfection. But this is a post on an average Indian wedding, where the family members partake in the role of wedding planners and there is always some or the other drama in the background surrounding the main mandap where the Bride & Groom, oblivious to all that confusion are looking into each other’s eyes, with butterflies in their stomachs, dreaming and hoping of a great life together.
So let’s begin – here’s my list of things I learnt, not necessarily good or bad.. just my observations and then my conclusions.
Everyone enjoys catching up with faraway relatives at weddings. But how is one expected to do that if a child is always pulling your saree end to drill in your ears that he is bored and he needs to go home. Luckily for us, my boy has such a thick bond (touchwood) with his cousins that once he sees them, I am forgotten. So I didn’t hear this incessant cry from my child. But a lot of mothers around me were at the receiving end! And I wondered if one small play area or a makeshift dance floor could have come to their rescue!
Another thing that could come to the rescue of these mothers could be also food! Long ago, we had attended another wedding where my child with his gang of beloved cousins had a gala time eating mini pizzas and cheese balls from below the counter. They even smuggled some of it for us adults, who could ditch the long queue because we had mini warriors who were getting us yummy food. I am not saying make Italian a part of every menu, but just some thought to ensure that the children are excited about eating what they are eating. Simple things like fancy pakodas or fruit juices or ice creams or jalebis can also do the trick. But, the taste has to be child friendly. When we filled our plates this time, I realised not a single sabzi or dal was made keeping a child in mind. The food was super spicy. Forget children, there are so many senior citizens too. They also expect mild food – so the masalas should be kept under check.
A feeding or changing room! Oh my God, that would be God sent! I delivered a child in times where the malls and airports already had Feeding Rooms for the babies. One wonders how inconvenient it must have been earlier to feed or change the diaper for a child in an event like that. How you have a room for the Bride or the Groom, one can always keep an extra room for the guests in case of emergency. The problems of the aged and that of the newborns are so similar. We had almost a dozen senior citizens in our family who were sitting with their feet raised on to extra chairs while they waited for the ceremony to get over. One, they have travelled this far to grace your event. Second, it’s their genuine medical condition. Hence, it is your duty as a host to at least once think on their behalf. One room with a bed or two would help all those in need of rest or privacy to take turns and feel comfortable. While writing this, I wish someone had put this sense in me while I was planning my wedding some years back.
I remember my closest nieces and nephew, by the time they posed with me and my husband on our wedding day, had already changed from their fancy traditional outfits to comfortable casuals. And each time I look at that picture in our family album, a part of me regrets about not posing with them before they lost their patience and changed their clothes. This point is for all the mothers out there, who MUST carry a pair of normal, casual, comfortable cotton clothes for their children in their bags while they take them all decked up in traditional clothes. I can understand that we like to dress up our children for such events. We have two choices – either we chose cotton kurtas and dresses for our children (a host of them are available in South Indian stores) which are traditional looking and yet super comfortable. Or, if we really want them to be dressed up in heavily embroidered synthetic clothes, there has to be an extra pair in our bags. As much as this is a relief for them – it is a relief for the mother too. A child troubled by the heat and fabric will be cranky, finding negative expressions in every other thing, creating more ruckus for you to handle. Rather, a simply dressed but less troubled child will be easier to manage.
Lastly, no matter what, take them for the weddings. Don’t leave them home watching TV or playing video games while you attend the weddings alone. Let them know our culture and our traditions. Also, with the fast paced life, where no one has time for anything, where will you meet so many of your relatives but for a wedding? Where will they understand what a sense of community means? Where will they understand that small things bring big laughters? That the world is full of different kind of people and they all come in different sizes, shades and colours; but at the end of the day, they are all humans and we must be there for each other. Children emulate you in every way. So, if early on, you teach them the importance of ‘people’ in our lives, they will know to value humans more than things, emotions more than riches and love more than power. They will know that their parents stretched themselves to be there for others, in their celebration or their loss. And unconsciously it sets in their heads that they must be there too when their time comes.
I don’t know what the future beholds for any of us. But in a city like Mumbai, I am seeing the new generation completely losing touch with our traditions, customs and even emotions. We, as young mothers, must ensure that we don’t wipe out everything that ever defined our culture. There is a certain thought, a sense of beauty in the small ceremonies that have been a part of our culture. We must respect it and we must pass it on too. We are the trunks that will need to hold on to the roots to ensure that the fruits we leave behind are worthy.