Written by Sheila Yoder
I went home this summer for my brother’s wedding. The days leading up to leaving when I was telling the Sari Bari ladies I was going home were the days that I have yet cherished the most. The ladies never let us forget how much our leaving hurts them; yet as they say good-bye, they shout out words of love and desire for us to return. They make sure that we understand why we are leaving: to find a husband (or in Kyle’s case, a wife)— we never agreed to try to find one, but they are certain we will do our best.
It is always in their minds to make sure that our lives are taken care of for the future, which is why they always remind us to find a spouse. In their culture, a woman without a man means she is vulnerable and will die destitute; they do not want this for us. There has even been the suggestion that some of the ladies will take our unmarried female staff to the park in order to find a suitable Bengali boy. Never mind that we don’t like these methods of husband-hunting, the ladies are certain we need to do something—anything! As one woman put it: “If I want to sew this blanket, I don’t ask God to sew it for me. No, I must pick up my hand and begin sewing.” There is a bit of truth in that.
There is no doubt they love us. When I returned from the US, one of the ladies told me that while I was gone, she had a dream that I died. When she woke up, she was so scared. As soon as she got to work, she shared her dream with all the others and they prayed for me. I would prefer the ladies not to have dreams about me dying, but even as I heard the story, I heard her love for me. Her worry means that I mean something to her. The fact that they all prayed for me, means that they want what is best for me.
I look at our ladies and smile. The ladies are our family here. American and Bengali methods of communicating love and concern are often very different. Despite the differences, though, the love is communicated. For as many times as they tell us to get married, that many times over we know they love us.