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Every time my elder daughter travels to one European nation or another, one of the many things that she tells me is, “Dad, the men here are so good looking, I must marry one of them!” I don’t know when she is joking and when she just might be serious, but then she is self-willed and will do as she pleases.
She has said this about the Romanians in Bucharest, the Austrians in Salzburg, the French in Paris, and the Germans in Munich. Just the other day she called from Copenhagen, “Dad, these Scandinavians are so good looking, there ought to be a law against them. I’m going to marry a Scandinavian!”
I quickly delved into the WWW (the last refuge of the ignoramus) to find out which countries form the Scandinavian region. The WWW told me that in the strictest sense, the monarchies of Denmark, Norway and Sweden are Scandinavia, but Iceland, Finland and the Faroe Islands are also sometimes included. That set me searching online atlases, and I researched on wedding traditions in these countries- the marzipan ring cakes and the gates of honor for the bride in Denmark; the three bands on the wedding finger of the bride in Sweden- one representing the engagement, another representing the wedding and the last one representing motherhood; and finally the accordion music and the round ring with no beginning and no end representing never-ending love in Norway. I haven’t yet ventured into wedding traditions in Iceland, Finland and the Faroe Islands, for the simple reason that all my research might be futile in case she ends up with someone from Romania, Albania, Italy or her own home country of England, or from some other country she might decide to visit!
So engrossed was I in researching the wedding traditions of these far off lands, that I momentarily forgot what my future European son-in-law would look like sitting on a horse (or is it a mare?) in all the glittering finery of a Punjabi wedding, surrounded by delirious dancing relatives of mine, band-baja in tow. What if my Malayalee wife decides there must be a traditional Malayalee wedding where he must wear a mundu (a tricky dhoti like garment worn around the waist)?
My mind boggles at the thought- A Scandinavian wedding followed by a Punjabi wedding followed by a Malayalee wedding; and imagine my grandchildren (though my daughter says she doesn’t want kids)- Scandinavian-Punjabi-Malayalee!!
My thoughts turn serious- no wedding tradition in the countries that I have mentioned talks of dowry; instead I found this touching tradition in Sweden where the parent’s of the bride practice an old wedding custom. Before their daughter leaves for the church to be married, her mother gives her a gold coin to go in her right shoe, and her father hands her a silver coin to be placed in her left shoe. This way they know she will never be wanting for anything.
Sons-in-law are not regarded as incarnations of Lord Vishnu, to be showered with gifts and to be placed on pedestals; I found all wedding traditions in these countries balanced, and not weighing in favor of the bride or the groom or their families- and that is where equality in a relationship begins.
To end, both my daughters enjoy exasperating me (the elder one knows her announcements of intent of marrying someone or the other do exasperate me), mostly to see what they call “the look” on my face, and the last birthday card she sent me said:
I’ve driven you nuts,
I’ve turned you grey,
I’ve made you proud,
I’ve spent your pay.
I’ve stressed you out,
I’ve hurt you bad,
I’ve made you laugh,
I’ve sent you mad.
I’ve given you smiles,
I’ve made you sob…
…coz I’m your kid,
And that’s my job!
I am a former bureaucrat, and have worked a lot on gender issues, disaster management
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