A common, sacred thread

Her Batman-caped preschooler smiled at my Spiderman pajama-clad daughter as my cart squeaked and wobbled across the hard floor. Nothing bonds kids like superheroes.  His what-I-assumed-to-be grandmother and I briefly made eye contact in the cereal aisle and then traded the requisite half-smiles as we sped past each other once we felt the imminent tantrums brewing over the Frosted Flakes.

We passed each other again by the bananas and once more in front of the frozen foods all while my daughter shot invisible webs at his invisible shield, complete with reciprocal sound effects.

When we reconvened at the Hot Wheel display, we were finally cornered. Captive to whatever conversation ensued as our vigilantes strained over their wire seats, babbling away about which chrome four-wheeler they would later beg us to purchase.

She and I began the usual small talk and somewhere between the weather and how “we” were well past nap time, she caught a glimpse of my necklace.  As we chatted, her eyes kept drifting to it while she subtly traced her collarbone. The mangalsutra is a gold and black beaded necklace that the groom fastens around the bride’s neck during a Hindu wedding ceremony. Although it is referred to differently throughout India, the name itself comes from the two words mangal, meaning “auspicious,” and sutra, meaning “thread,” and is thought to provide protection and—similar to a wedding ring—symbolizes a sacred union.

I wasn’t even sure if this lovely woman was Indian, but since she seemed to recognize the necklace, and I was fairly certain that she knew I wasn’t Indian, I felt compelled to acknowledge it. For some reason, I didn’t want her to think that I had just picked it up in a shop thinking it was a pretty piece of jewelry. I touched my mangalsutra and told her that my husband was Indian, and just like that we had something more in common than two crime-fighting shoppers strapped in our carts.

A smile took over her face, and she began to tell me about the village she is from in India and explained that she and her husband of forty years are currently living in Delhi, but she spends six months out of the year in Seattle to help care for Batman, Jr. She exuded joy, love, and devotion.

I reminisced about the incredible experience of visiting the village where my husband’s grandfather grew up and found my eyes brimming with tears as I told her how much I desperately wanted to return to India and share it with my kids.

We talked for over twenty minutes about wedding shopping and how the saris unfurled from the shopkeeper’s hands like magic from a wand, draping the area in a colorful sea of couture.

That necklace invited a seemingly unlikely conversation, which, in the vortex of people haphazardly glancing at grocery lists, connected two strangers.

I walked away with a cart full of Hot Wheels and an overwhelming sense of comfort and  support. A feeling like we all belong to each other.

Marissa B. Niranjan

Rhys Kumar

is a newly minted mamma of three and can’t believe that next month will mark ten years since she accepted that beautiful black and gold symbol of love and commitment. She was however reminded of that fact while looking for a photo from a portion of the ceremony where she received the mangalsutra to feature with this piece and realized that all of her wedding photos are on CDs for which a drive is no longer built into computers, forcing her to take a photo from her actual wedding album and email it to herself.



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