Show and Tell at the Business School, University of Southern Maine...and about sambandhis

August 24, 2006


I had emailed my sambandhi, L S, an architect,  about going out to photograph the market which will be looking festive, with Ganesha Chathurthi approaching, and she emailed me back. Her husband, J S,  is the Dean of the USM. J and L are American, I must add– and as my neighbour’s kid put it, “american Americans”….   Here’s her account:

Ah, Ganesha.  He has done very well by J this week.  J had a difficult meeting coming up with his Leadership Council for the business school.  They had met last week about a strategic plan and the meeting devolved into turf battles.  J was very frustrated.  He asked everyone to come to this week’s meeting with an object which they felt was somehow representative of themselves or the business school - or both.  J wanted to take Ganesha and called A to make sure he understood what Ganesha stood for:  new beginnings.  A added that he was also the remover of obstacles.  Perfect!  So Ganesha went to the meeting and, lo and behold, the meeting went extremely well with the group coming together around the strategic plan and the future of the school!  Maybe I should have taken him to the planning board meeting when we were trying to get the garage/guest house approved for my clients.  :-/. ………

That’s such an unusual, impressive thing to do, as far as I am concerned… would it occur to me to use an object or an icon outside my own culture…. or learn so much about it…?

My daughter’s lucky to have this kind of family!

For my non-Indian friends….in our culture, we  have, very often, a close relationship between the parents of a  married couple, and we are each others’  “sambandhi”(sambandham means, tie, bond, relationship.) We do believe that two families come together through the marriage.  I enjoy my close relationship with my sambandhis.

However, let me clarify….the sambandhi relationship is not always smooth in Indian society; it is often vitiated by dowry demands (oh yes), ego clashes, mismatched expectations, and perceptions of superiority….but perhaps this is so the world over, even if the relationship doesn’t have a  formal name…..I used to watch a serial called Dharma and Greg, for example….a child of two ex-hippies marries a typical upper-crust  New England scion, and the parents’ tussle formed much of the sitcom….