Cultural diversity can be described as “having an understanding and respect for each other’s differences.” Many organizations require their employees to take a class or workshop to understand various cultural differences in the workplace. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone learned by experience instead of through a presentation?
I like to think that I am culturally diverse and continue to want to expand on that diversity. Instead of attending a workshop I want to travel the world to see and learn about various cultures. I have eaten horned beetle larva in Ecuador, helped harvest rice in Bali, attended a Kava Ceremony in Fiji and I practiced Kau Cim at a Buddhist Temple in Thailand.
Having been raised in a culturally sheltered community what I consider as my first real culture experience came at the age of sixteen on a trip to California. I met my cousin’s Mexican neighbor and he explained various aspects of his culture. It was then that I knew I needed to know more about the differences in people around the world.
I recently was thrilled to attend a traditional Indian wedding in Charlotte, N.C. that my daughter was a bridesmaid in. The multi-day event started with a Mehndi, or painting party at the bride’s parents home. Family members and female friends were embellished with henna tattoos on their hands and wrists; before the evening proceeded with food, drink, music and dancing. I was also given my lehenga saree to wear to the ceremony along with a choli and veil, a bindi (a forehead decoration.) Bangles (bracelets) were also given out to the ladies.
The following day the actual ceremony followed traditional Hindu customs with the ceremony taking place under a mandap or four pillared canopy. The ceremony involved about a dozen different mini-ceremonies including a Mungal Feras or walk around the fire, the Guth Bundhanam or tying the knot and the Suptapadi or seven steps which represent their journey through life.
It was extremely colorful, possibly the most beautiful wedding I have ever attended and an enlightening ceremony for me. The reception was far more family based than the Christian ceremonies that I am accustomed to. I was surprised that the bridal party was never introduced even though the entire family was. As for the dancing, well it seemed to me most people just seemed to jump up and down. The food was delicious, all typical Indian fare, mostly spiced with ginger and curry and new to me.
The entire wedding event was just another opportunity for me to become more culturally diverse, and I never even had to leave the United States…not that I didn’t want to! It made me REALLY want to go to India!