On the birth of my daughter, an elderly man came and wished me, “Daughters are wonderful! You have joined the club of THE GIVERS!”
Givers? What was I supposed to give away, I wondered? An explanation came on its own…father and daughters have a special connection and after years of love and togetherness, the daughter will go away…married off into a new family. Having a daughter is one of the beautiful feelings and its also hurts most the day she leaves.
Last week, my travels took to me to a small town in the north of India to attend a family wedding.I thought of the elderly man’s words as I sat during the wedding ceremony. During the pheras (a Hindu wedding ritual where the Groom and the Bride take seven rounds of the Holy Fire), the father and daughter couldn’t look at each other, as when they did, both of them had tears in their eyes. Though the emotions ran high to the build up to the wedding, it’s the final embrace, just before she leaves with her new family, which is hardest and probably the most emotional moment between the two.The father knows that henceforth, she will only return for a few days once in a while, leaving a vacuum which may not be so easy to fill.
As I sat there, I could imagine the birth of the daughter a couple of decades ago and the joy it would have brought to the family. The wonder years, when she would smile at you, not understanding a word you were saying, when she would take her first steps, her first words, her first birthday, off to school and before you realize years have gone and our little girl is married. And at that moment you want time to slow down, maybe go backwards, so that you could spend an extra day, month or a year with her again. And then I looked around, towards the brothers and the sister, who were involved in their own thoughts, tears rolling down their cheeks. The mother of bride, whom I have known to be the strongest, looked lovingly at the new addition to the family. ‘Giving’ the daughter away was one thing, she understood that was also getting a son in return.
Being the Father of the Bride is one of the toughest responsibilities. Especially in India, I have noticed that there is a stark difference between the two fathers- the bride’s and the groom’s. It is understood and accepted that the bride’s father is responsible for most of the expenses of the wedding- a culture that I have never believed in and never will. A friend of the father’s told me that the only difference between the father of the bride and the groom is that the bride’s father is the one whose held is always bowing down. For someone who is going to part with the love of his life…does that sound fair?
It may sound irrational but the reason I never believed in marriage was because I never wanted to be the guy to take the daughter away from the father. I also voiced my opinion that all expenses should be shared between the families and the bride’s family should not feel obligated in any way, but then tradition got the better of me. As I look back and think of the moment when my wife’s family quietly wept, I made a vow to make sure that she remained a daughter first and then my wife.