Once upon a time, a girl married a boy. As a token of celebration and to announce the joyous news, a little yellow box of Nirala mithai was delivered to a few homes by the bride’s happy parents. Ms X, family friend of the bride’s, found out that two tasty laddus were sent to Ms Y, another family friend, but not to her. Ms X was now engaged in a cold war with the newlywed bride’s parents. The parents, in an endless list of things to do at every stage of the wedding, innocently forgot to deliver the mithai to Ms X. That turned into a life long enmity.
Well, that’s an exaggeration! The “lifelong enemies” part is, at least. The duration of being enemies can end with what it began: a little yellow box of Nirala mithai was delivered with an apology, a smile and a hug. That’s the power of mithai in our part of the world. This got me thinking, when did this ritual begin? What do other cultures give as a means to celebrate and announce engagements or weddings or births? Why do we feel so insulted and even ostracised if we happen to be overlooked when others are receiving such tokens of celebration?
In North American weddings, it is not necessary or expected to send out sweets to relatives or friends after the wedding. The couple usually gives a small present to their bridesmaids, grooms, parents and other people who play a special part in their wedding at the rehearsal dinner or another private gathering, prior to the wedding. These presents depend on their budget and are usually something that will last. As for the wedding guests, they are usually given “wedding favours” while they’re on their way out of the wedding. These are up to the bride and groom and can be anything from candy to wildflower seeds!
Distributing sweets to all the relatives and friends of the parents of the bride or groom seems to be a South Asian tradition. Being upset when you don’t receive your wedding-celebration mithai also seems to be a South Asian tradition. The need to belong and be included in a tribe or group is evolutionary. In olden times, if we were rejected or ostracised from a group or tribe, it could literally have meant our death. Tribes offered protection. Nowadays, while there isn’t a mortal danger, our mental health and happiness does depend on having solid relationships. Feeling like you were left out of receiving mithai can make us feel threatened (old evolutionary impulse) and also hurt (rejected or inadequate).
Worry not! We are also prey to the “fundamental attribution error”, which basically means that we jump to the worst possible conclusion rather than giving people the benefit of the doubt. So it is probably the case that the bride’s or groom’s parents did not deliberately snub you, but that they actually made an honest mistake and given the intricacies of a wedding and all the customs and adjusting to new in-laws, we should find it in our hearts to forgive and still celebrate the new union.
So should you find yourself in the position of Ms X, understand the evolutionary basis of your reaction and dismiss it for being inaccurate in our times and proceed to forgive and forget and congratulate the family nonetheless. Why wait for a wedding announcement to eat mithai, anyway? Just go and get yourself a delicious little laddu or ballushai and enjoy happily.
The Little Art, a non-profit organisation for non-formal education in Pakistan in partnership with ...