I keep getting invited to weddings. Voluntary organisations are famous for first jobs and volunteer opportunities, which is to say we have a lot of young people around all the time. Young people tend to throw themselves headlong into their work and when it’s work like ours – intense, powerful, passionate, emotional – feelings run high.
Even a short stint at the Latika Roy Foundation results in life-long connections. I am still in touch with girls who came to us in their GAP years 17 years ago. Couples who came to us as young things, newly in love, return with their children years hence for more volunteering. Young educators or therapists just starting out remain in close contact no matter where their careers take them. Some of them have returned to work with us a second or even a third time.
They involve their parents and siblings in the cause. Becky’s parents came to stay with us fifteen years after her four month stint. Angie’s mother, a dental technician, sent toothbrushes for all the kids at Latika Vihar. Jessie’s Mom – a formidable fundraiser – took it upon herself to collect enough money for us to pay several teachers’ salaries. Patrick sent his brother Liam, Nisha sent her cousin Neha. Neeleshwari sent her aunt Siddeshwari. Neha sent her friends Devika and Meghna.
And whenever one of them gets married, they send an invitation.
I love invitations. Even when I can’t attend (the latest two were in Arizona and California) I like to save them. I keep them on my windowsill and I admire the choice of fonts, the colors, the heavy, creamy paper. In India, they are, when humanly possible, hand-delivered, accompanied by a box of sweets. So much thought and care goes into their creation.
I can’t throw them away. But I can’t endlessly pile them up either.
So I use them for my shopping lists, for my planning, for my notes.
Wedding invitations are full of such noble, uplifting phrases: “joyfully announce”; “gracious presence”; “beloved daughter”; “request your blessings” – I like nestling my mundane daily needs (Honey. Maida. Eggs.) in-between such words, such promises (Dancing on the Lawn; Brunch on the Patio). I like remembering those girls and boys who came to work with us as bright-eyed young things – so full of hope and passion – now stepping into new lives.
I shop for veggies, whole wheat flour and soy sauce while they have their saris draped, their veils adjusted, their dress shoes polished. I stand on the street selecting mangoes, holding my invitation list and sending them my dearest love as they sail forth, knowing that the ties that will bind them to each other bind them just as closely to me.
I go through my day, completing the tasks I have written on their invitation cards and each time I check off an item, I think of them and their new lives and how they contributed in ways large and small to the shared passion we have for the work of changing the world – by little and by little, one list, one step, one invitation at a time.