Tuesday 25 May 2010

The I Ching of I do

I Ching is a Chinese "game" with bamboo sticks. You fling the bamboo sticks and your fortune is told from how they fall.  Perhaps our English phrase "the luck of the draw" has similar origins, but we all know how to draw lots, and that to "draw the short straw" in lottery means to by the looser. I remember the scene in the news office in the film Deep Impact, where the reporter staff draw lots for places on the last helicopters out of the distaster zone, everyone draw straws including one reporter's child. Typical Hollywood, the kid draws the short straw of no place, her mother a long one of a helicopter seat.  Survival, the luck of the draw.

In the lottery of life, our education, health opportunities are often the luck of the draw, where and when we are born. And so it is with marriage. How much do we or can we know of our partners before we marry? Whether it is an arranged or a love marriage, how well do we really know our chosen partners? The high incidence of divorce would seem to indicate that the answer is not at all well - irretrievable breakdowns, irreconcilable differences: pick anyone and let love grow out of a joint life, or "marry in haste repent in leisure? Or spend years trying ot find the perfect partner?

These were the thoughts going through my head as I watched part of the Hindi marriage ceremony being acted out before me on Friday evening. The bride and groom shake and flinging stone dice, presumably with some significance being accorded to their resultant distribution just like the sticks of the I Ching. This was the second wedding ceremony I have been invited to and sadly I have still to find anyone who can explain the symbolism and significance of the various stages of the proceedings. Everyone just says it is our tradition. No one sees to be able to other an explanation. I find this rather sad, this loss  of culture. I'm sure that it is not just a question of language as here many of the guests spoke good English and were very well educated. I'm also sure I'd be able to explain the marriage proceedings and traditions, like throwing the bride's bouquet, to visitors.

At least this marriage ceremony although again a rather solemn affair was brightened up by some fun. It was I suspect a love marriage, and I saw the groom smileat one point ( I couldn't actually see the bride's face below her wedding veil/shawl, and there was much cheering on from their college friends as the couple each set about trying to dislodge stones from each others hands. I suspect this ritual may be symbolic of "who will wear the trousers" in the marriage!

This marriage ceremony kept to a very strict timetable, unlike the other one I went to. I was told that not only was the date, but also the timings of the parts of the ceremony, specially chosen as being very auspicious for the couple. This amused me somewhat as on the day the heavens had open and down poured  the rains, causing huge flies to hatch all at once and in biblical proportions plague everyone present flying into your hair, down your kameez, up the legs of your shalwar, crawling over everything, diving into your drinks. The only person to remain unperturbed by it all was the bride, sitting safely under her veil.  Perhaps forecasting what will be the calm stable core of this couple's life together, no matter what the world flings at them. Good luck to them!

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