Now, though I can hardly believe it, I’m in Chennai, India.
In one week I’ve done more traveling to foreign countries than I’ve done in several years. Which is too bad, because I think I’d appreciate both my trips more if they hadn’t come so close together – but there was nothing to do about it.
We’re very fortunate to be in Chennai to go to a wedding. As wonderful as it is to visit a new country, it’s always far more compelling to visit people there – to be drawn into the actual life of a place. But, of course, you don’t always know people in the places you want to visit.
A wedding is especially fascinating. Even if you only travel five minutes to a wedding, of people “exactly like you” (however you want to figure that), their wedding will still be interesting – because of the way they choose to do everything.
And a wedding in a very different culture is even more interesting.
The actual wedding is still two days away, and today I went to a “mehndi” – not sure I’m using the word correctly – a big party where many of the female guests had their hands dyed in beautiful patterns with henna. My only previous contact with this custom was a vague recollection of a Madonna video where she’d covered her body with these designs. As I type, I keep picking up my hands to admire the complicated designs covering the palms and backs of my hands.
In one of those anecdotes that, cliché as it is, points to the lesson that we all have so much in common, underneath we share the same hopes and fears, etc., etc. was that I was told that it was good luck if the color of the henna is very bright. “If it’s bright,” a fellow guest explained to me, “that means your mother-in-law thinks very well of you!” Everyone laughed and agreed that this was very important.
The whole world over, people agree: Happiness is an approving mother-in-law.