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The Years of Dal and Salt

You are getting married. You are tense. Various people are surrounding you and rattling instructions at you. There is an endless series of ceremonies. You zone out and just do things without absorbing what is being said. Being the Father of The Groom is also stressful. However, you have more context, having been married for a while and sitting on the sidelines and watching the fun. 

One thing became clear to me, the Indian wedding ceremonies are definitely designed for brides and grooms in their early or mid-teens. Not people in their late twenties. Many of the activities which would have been fun when younger are embarrassing when you are older. For example telling your future father-in-law, "Bye, I am off for higher studies." The father-in-law stops you and tells you he is willing to offer you his daughter in marriage. At this point, they tell you. Jump for Joy. 😃. There is a lot of playacting. There is a lot of dialog. If this was done on stage with good actors it could be made into a hilarious skit.  It would be fun when young, but a drag when older. There was another dialog that happened a little later.

The Salt Elephant and Dal Elephant ceremony. 

At this point the marriage is over, the taali has been tied, and they are now officially husband and wife. (I now realize that many of the subsequent ceremonies are counseling sessions.)

I have no clue or memory of whether this happened during my wedding ceremony. I am fairly certain that Prahalad and Sneha were in a daze by this stage.

The bride stands in front of a Elephant made of Dal (Pulses) and the bridegroom stands in front of an elephant made of Salt. This ceremony is called Nagavalli. They have a dialog prompted at each stage by the priest. Here is my loose translation of what they say. (If I have anything extra to say, I have put it in parentheses)

Bride - "Look at my beautiful yellow elephant, do you want to buy it?"
Groom - "I like it, how much does it cost?"
Bride - "2 crores." (This is a ridiculous amount)
Groom- "Whoa, that is way to much. Look at my elephant, it is so much better looking, Do you want to buy it?"
Bride - "Yes, I like it but how much do you want."
Groom - "10 crores." (Kind of upping the ante.)
Bride - "What?" 
Groom - "See how it glints and shines."
Bride - "10 crores is simply way too much."
Groom - "Your Dal is tasteless, unless it is flavored with Salt." 
Bride - "Your salt will melt away if I throw water on it. My Dal is what nourishes people and so is more important."

At this point, the priest asks them to reach out and try to pull the other person to their side.Prahalad pulled Sneha over.

Then the counseling session started. I am interpreting what he said loosely. 

People enter Samsara (loosely translated as life, not just this one but all your lives) and treat it as a market. They focus on what they bring to the market and trying to get the best possible price for it. In a marriage they get disappointed that the spouse is not compensating them for the value of what they are bringing to the marriage. (And people tend to overvalue what they bring and undervalue what the other person is bringing). They are pulling at each other to bring the other person over to their side. 

This is the wrong approach. The Dal is useless without Salt and the Salt is useless without Dal. In the same way in the marriage, don't try to measure each other. You have to combine together to create something tasty and nutritious. How do you do this? You have to help each other lead a moral and fruitful life. There are many things that neither of you can do alone. Learn all the social and religious duties that a couple is supposed to perform. Do them sincerely together. God will then bless you with a happy life. 

My thoughts

This resonates with me, it reminds me so much of what I wrote here. In my previous post I talked about avoiding a mindset of entitlement. This is illustrating it with a small skit. A really neat and compact lesson. 

What do you think? Share it in the comments.

If you are wondering about the title, it is named after one of my favorite books.


ps said…
like your interesting interpretation and the possible reasons why we do something. Keep it going.
ps said…
like your interesting interpretation and the possible reasons why we do something. Keep it going.
Suresh said…
Nice article. I think the counseling sessions are valuable and more relevant today given the two income families and both partners having their own circles, influencers and aspirations. At the end of a long ceremony, they are probably an imposition. Maybe do them before the ceremony. I remember a Robin William movie where he had sessions for couples before they got married 😁

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