Unlikely Advice from an Unlikely Friend

Cassie and Madira sat in the cafeteria while everyone buzzed on about their exciting holiday plans next week. Usually they, too, would be jabbering on positively about whatever they had scheduled for the winter break but each girl struggled respectively with their own issues.

“How do I politely tell my father that I don’t want to be in the wedding ceremony?” Madira poses. A few months ago her father had gotten engaged to a new woman after spontaneously divorcing her mother. Nobody had gotten a full and proper explanation until the engagement – which revealed the ceremony to be held at a Catholic church. Similarly to Cassie, Madira forgave her father but was unsure how to be around him knowing that he left her mother and his family.

“How did your grandparents tell him that they weren’t going?” Cassie was almost closer to Madira’s family than she was her own these days. Her father remarried her senior year of high school, which was fine, but it brought with it two younger children. The blended family dynamic was actually pretty calm but there were very distinct differences between how life was for Cassie with her biological parents, with her single father, and now with her stepfamily. Cassie felt more at home with Madira’s family, in spite of the fact that she generally detested religion of any kind.

With her black hair falling over her shoulder while she poked around the cheese curds on her tray, Madira couldn’t fully bring herself to reply. She most certainly did not approve the way her grandparents’ estranged their son. Hinduism can be a strict practice, but it had not been so concrete in her home that such behavior was seen as acceptable. Hinduism was just as susceptible to modern adaptions as any other religion, after all.

Madira and her mother were always progressive in their accomplishments as female leaders in the home. Madira was generally at the top of her classes while her mother nabbed promotion after promotion. She would soon be holding the position as chief financial officer for a decent sized limited liability corporation downstate. She would get to work from home, allowing her father’s parents to reach for a new age interpretation of sannyasi. In fact, they purposely planned a trip to the Amazon during the week of her father’s wedding.

Their way of rejecting their son’s wedding invitation was to call him and say they disapprove of his decision to abandon their faith, and that they refuse to be tied to the bad karma that circles around him. Madira’s devotion certainly put her in a difficult place because her grandparents were not technically wrong. His choices reeked of bad karma due to his selfishness. She often questioned in what ways his desires were more valuable than those of his loved ones. In the end she reached the same conclusion, he lost faith that he could ascertain moshka.

            “I love him and I will attend the ceremony to remind him that my love is unchanged. I just don’t know how to tell him I don’t want to be a bridesmaid for a woman I’ve never met.” People move around the cafeteria without even noticing the quiet dilemma. College is enlightening in that way to a good many young adults. This valuable lesson, though, is one that Madira and Cassie already learned.

“Has he offered to arrange a meet up with her then? Is he even trying to make this easier on you?” Cassie claims that she’s always been a firm believer that everyone pursues their own happiness exclusively. Even as she asks the question Madira knows she already has an answer. Not because that is what she believes but also because she’s right; “If he isn’t trying to accommodate you then why waste your positive energy on him?”

Part of growing up Hindu in America is that many people don’t understand it. Aside from that, people are always mixing up Hinduism, Buddhism, and Muslim faiths. Once someone actually asked Madira if she was Mormon because they couldn’t remember the word ‘Muslim.’ As such, she decided long ago that everyone’s understanding of faith is different but as long as everyone had it then spiritually everyone was the same. Even though Cassie didn’t associate with religion, some days Madira swore that she was starting to adopt Hindu practices and beliefs in her life.

“Honestly, my being unwilling to assist him is bad karma on its own. My mother would be disappointed if she heard this conversation.” Cassie rolls her eyes. Madira is surprised to see her so disrespectful. She doesn’t take it personally, though, because that is just part of who Cassie is as a person. Any other time of day she’s never been shy of totally accepting of Madira’s faith. The pair often engaged in the time consuming practices of yoga, meditation, and Veda readings.

Of course, Madira knows that marriage and romance are sore subjects for her friend. Loving her parents so fiercely made their divorce silently painful. Cassie calls her mom regularly, and visits her dad every other weekend. One of her favorite pastimes is criticizing other college students who only keep in contact with their families online. Unfortunately, Madira has seen the damage unravel periodically over two years.

For example, she’s been asked out several times. Cassie always makes plans and cancels the morning before with some half-assed excuse. Her romantic reputation is best defined presently as “flake.” Madira taps her fingers on the table before looking directly at Cassie; “Will you come to the wedding with me? Having you there would make it easier to deal with how uncomfortable I feel. Plus, you’re familiar with that sort of religion. You can fill in the awkward silences ranting angrily about their choice of faith.”

The offer confuses her for a moment. Generally, Madira has discouraged Cassie’s hateful chatter about religion. She framed an essay she wrote in high school as a reminder as to why she abandoned her church. Poor girl claims that it reminds her that the only thing she can rely on is herself, and that she’ll only be held to her own standards. Hard as it is for Madira to see her that way each day, she accepts that at their center they’re really no different in spirit.

Soon their meal is over and they brave the harsh winds of the winter season. Cassie never wears a proper coat, generally sporting a ratty windbreaker that she’s had for something like six years. With her hood up and her head down, she decides to finally respond to the question Madira posed back in the cafeteria; “I can’t go to another wedding. If you’re going, and you believe that this will affect your karma if you don’t, then you need to go on your own. I’ll just bring negativity to the event and that’s not fair to anyone.”

Madira knows that her friend is right – again, as she always seems to be in that boggled mind of hers. Bringing her along was selfish idea to begin with, although it would never hurt for Cassie to work on the demons she still harbors in her mind. Regardless, she accepts the answer of her atheist friend. For all her snarky sarcasm, the respect that Madira knew she was capable of emerges once again.

“I suppose you’re right.” Madira smiles while simultaneously shivering. How Cassie was staying warm was far beyond her mental capacity, but it was her choice. Just like being devout to her beliefs was her choice. At the end of the day, frustrating as her choice may feel, Madira knew in her heart it was the only true option; “Thank you for knowing just what to say all the time, Cassie. You’re a better friend than you realize.” Her cocky laugh takes away from the compliment, but there’s nothing she could do to make the statement less true.


Author’s Note:  I researched and read about the Hindu religion for the greater part of the last ten days. Religion can be beautiful, or it can be damning. Too often the media tells a sad story of religions warring constantly. I wanted to show that young adults can be friendly in spite of their different opinions. If you feel that I have misrepresented Hinduism in any way, leave a comment below (politely and maturely) further detailing the error.

Thank you for your continued support. I aim to always represent the people of the world fairly and as accurately as possible. Diversity is real and it should be reflected in the literature and entertainment businesses.

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