Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
By Cam Mather
I live off the grid and try to be as independent as possible. I don’t like having to depend on others for things that are important to me. From my electricity to my heat to my food, I like to be in control.
But having children has taught me that you can never really be in control. There are forces at work out there that are beyond your grasp that can have a real impact on your life. Like sickness and hurricanes and droughts and… your children.
A few years ago we began hearing about a young man named “Dhruva.” Our youngest daughter had met him at university. We noticed that his name became mentioned more and more often. Eventually Katie and Dhruva became a “thing” and this past winter they got engaged. Dhruva was born in India, lived some of his life in Dubai and came to Canada to complete an Engineering Degree. He is now a Canadian citizen.
Dhruva is a fine, wonderful young man, and Michelle and I are both thrilled that he’s going to be our son-in-law. Dhruva’s family is also wonderful, and our two families are becoming very close. Dhruva proposed to Katie in front of the Taj Mahal in India last February when they were there for Dhruva’s cousin’s wedding. He actually asked Michelle and me for permission to propose to her before they left on their trip. Needless to say, we were happy to agree.
A couple of weekends ago we celebrated their engagement at a get together in Toronto. Indian people love celebrations and this was no exception. There were a number of cultural formalities. Dhruva’s mother Rashida explained that in India an engagement party celebrates the joining of the two families, and that the bride and groom don’t even have to attend. As it was, it was nice that Katie and Dhruva did attend.
There was a ceremony in which the parents exchanged fruit as well as dried fruit and nuts. Dhruva’s parents also presented Katie with many lovely gifts. Several years ago, Katie and Dhruva had given me a traditional Indian outfit. I decided to wear it to the engagement party. The outfit is called “Kurta Pajamas” and I’m never very confident about getting the pronunciation correct and so I always say it very quickly, hoping that no one will notice if I mess up. This is a technique I developed years ago. As you can imagine from the name “pajama,” they are really comfortable.
Katie and Dhruva plan on having one wedding celebration in India and one here. No wedding date has been set yet but we’ve already told Katie that we won’t be flying to India for her wedding. We believe that in our 50+ years we’ve had enough of an impact on the planet, and flying is one thing we will not do. We haven’t flown in 20 years. Even if I didn’t worry about the environmental impact of air travel, I also know that about 15 minutes into the 18 hour flight I would have a massive panic attack and demand that the jet be turned around. It wouldn’t be pretty.
I love Indian food and I love Indian culture and I would love to be part of a multi-day Indian wedding celebration, but I won’t be attending. Dhruva mentioned that they will integrate some Canadian culture into the wedding in India, and we will include some Indian traditions into the celebration here in Canada as well.
These family matters are always very delicate. Dhruva’s parents, Rashida and Vikram, are wonderful people and we do not want to offend them. But we feel very strongly about the negative environmental impact of air travel and we don’t want to be hypocrites. And since we have so many friends and family members here who will want to celebrate their wedding, we think it’s only fair to have a celebration here too.
I drone on endlessly in this blog about peak oil and how my life has been impacted by the miracle of cheap and abundant fossil fuels. People can live in countries a world away from where they were born. And they can return often to visit their families and friends. They can be citizens of the world. It’s quite amazing.
Luckily Dhruva is a very tech-savvy engineer, so I have no doubt we can be involved with much of the ceremony via Skype and other technologies. After the unbelievably great “all you can eat” Indian buffet at their engagement party, I will greatly miss not being there. Well, sort of. I still don’t like spicy hot food. Katie, who grew up eating Indian food prepared for Canadian taste buds, has had to ramp up her threshold for heat. I on the other, at my age, have just accepted that I love Indian food and its spices, but only when it’s kept wimpy. As Popeye said “I yam what I yam.”
This multicultural world of ours has integrated itself into my quiet life here in the woods far from the maddening crowd. I am overjoyed that my daughter has found someone to spend the rest of her life with. I’m thrilled he is such a fine and decent man. And I’m thrilled that family celebrations will always involve my favorite Indian food. What more could a father ask for?
Photos by Cam & Michelle Mather (and a self-timer.)