Hernoor Grewal on her inspiring mum Jasbir Kaur



 Her story went viral with a gesture and a ritual that had happened during her wedding. Hernoor is based in London and she had this ritual in her wedding recently, where she had chosen her mum as the rightful person to hand over the ‘Palla’ a gesture traditionally done by fathers.  This is also the story of strong women, strong capable individuals and ready to face life with determination.

In Hernoor’s life, her mum has been the only parent to look after her, her twin sister and other siblings, as her dad had left them to be alone long ago.

We surely hoped we could get in touch with this interesting mum daughter and Hernoor Grewal shared with Mums and stories the insightful journey. Along so many inspiring stories, this is about breaking myths and establishing long lasting relationships.

My sisters and I were born and bred in London. As mentioned in the post which went viral, our dad left the scene and our parents were divorced some years ago; but he was around when we were children.

Also to mention, we were young adults of working age when our dad left, so we all were working and helping the family stabilize as best as we could.

 

Hernoor3

(Photograph by Gurvir Johal)

My husband is kind, understanding and been of supportive nature. Also I must admit he has been a positive influence who could help my mind avoid distraction and wander as to whether my own marriage would work or not. My parent’s marriage dissolving did not influence me to be against the idea of marriage, because my husband is my best friend, but sadly my parents were not each other’s best friends.

I had the privilege of choosing my life partner, but my parents did not since their marriage was arranged.
I am pleased to say that our mother’s small and humble actions resulted in nothing but praise and admiration from both men and women (young and old) in our local community, who commented that they salute our mother for her courage.

Many of the elders in the community said that they felt extremely emotional and teary-eyed watching our Mother perform the Palla ceremony, whilst other single-mothers wished they had done the same for their daughter’s wedding as opposed to getting an uncle or other male relative to perform the Palla.

The comments in the post that went viral online also share similar sentiments to the above; we are pleasantly surprised to see how supportive everyone has been and many of the comments are generally all positive, inspiring and empowering.
No-one in the community, family or even priests objected, because in essence there was nothing for them to object. In fact, the priests and wider community were very encouraging and supportive of our decision.

We knew that our mum handing over the Palla , would be a big deal in our community, but we never thought something so personal to our family would gain so much attention like this with a global reach. Our mum was simply fulfilling her duty as a mother. It’s worth noting that this was not the first time our mum partook in the Palla ceremony; she had already done the Palla a few years earlier for our elder sister’s wedding in July 2012. So in a way, this was nothing new for our family but rather the norm.

The positive response to the post makes us feel proud about our decisions to place women at the forefront of the wedding ceremony and to have them perform the roles which men traditionally have performed in the past. It has made us glad to see so many people showing their support in the decision we made, and I feel happy to know others feel empowered by the post

In our culture, (and many others) this part of the ceremony is mostly carried out by the father or another male member of the family e.g. grandfather, uncle, brother. In some cases, it’s frowned upon for a woman to step into what is supposedly seen as man’s role. Therefore, we knew how much of a big deal this was going to be in my community.

But most importantly, our mum felt that she was helping to open the door for other women to do the same. Our mum used to always think that someone has to take the first step in changing our community’s mindset on the roles women play, and she thought that if she can start by doing this one thing, then lots more women may be encouraged as well.

It was in-fact my twin sister, Sukhman Grewal, who shared the story of our mum giving the Palla to me on her Instagram page. From here, the story was picked up by the Pink Ladoo campaign – when they posted the picture and our story on their page, it went viral.”

There were other rituals where it was breaking traditions but to encourage positivity around and celebrate womanhood. “For Choora, the bride’s maternal uncles put 21 red and ivory wedding bangles (dipped in milk to soften the bangles) onto the Bride’s wrists. This takes place at the bride’s home, either a few days or the night before the Anand Karaj ceremony. In my wedding, I chose to have my sisters, my male and female cousins, my sister-in-law, my brother-in-laws, and my friends each put a few bangles on me.”

Hernoor2

( Photograph by Satnam Photography)

Also for the escorting of the Bride to the Darbar where the Anand Karaj takes place, traditionally, the Bride’s brothers, father, uncles and other male relatives walk her in to the Darbar, before she takes her seat by her groom and in front of Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The Palla ceremony takes places shortly after both bride & groom are seated.

hernoo-4Photography by J Dhillon

( Photography by J Dhillon)

I chose to have only my Mother and twin sister Sukhman (whom I have a special close bond with) both walk either side of me, as they escorted me into the Darbar.

My nieces, nephews, sister-in-law, brother-in-laws, male cousins, and my elder sisters all walked in a few moments before I entered the Darbar.

In our own family, from a young age, my sisters and I have always questioned the ‘male-preference’ culture in the South Asian community, and we always as young children were for gender equality. We grew up playing with dolls and cars, playing ‘house’ indoors and playing sports in the garden. We played football with the boys in our primary school, as well as playing ‘Mums & Dads’ with the girls.

I would like to say this to single parents from our experience, Live your life free from the pressure to conform to the expectations the South Asian community place on us women.

We have grown up seeing the women in our community place too much importance on the age-old Indian notion, ”But what will people say?”  It doesn’t matter what people will say, because people’s opinions will not pay our bills, will not keep a roof over our heads, will not put food on our tables or clothes on our back. Those who gossip (be they neighbours, community members or even our own family) are NEVER there for us in our darkest hour, so why should we give their opinion any importance in how we choose to live our life?

Change starts at home, with you! If you have a problem with your situation, then you allow others to also see a problem with your situation. Learn to muster up the courage to be resilient and firm in your resolve. Keep your head high above the sea of negativity that your community may try to drown you in.

Hindus worship God in many female forms, from  Saraswati the Goddess of Music, to Lakshmi the Goddess of Wealth.

Muslims believe the Paradise lies at the feet of the Mother.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji writes in Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh scripture, ‘Why call her inferior? From Her, Kings are born.’

But in everyday life, even those who claim to be ‘religious’ forget the above and allow cultural practices to override spiritual sentiments.

Hernoor shares on another page, “my sisters and I have had to endure a life time of “don’t worry, maybe you’ll be blessed with a brother in your next life” type comments. This treatment culminated in a family being uninterested in having my sister’s hand in marriage for their son on the basis that our family had too many girls.”

We grew up with zero tolerance for narrow-minded comments such as, ‘You can’t do that, because you are a girl’- if anything, this added more fire to the flame within us which was burning for equality.”

We thank Hernoor for sharing her journey with Mums and stories and wish her a very blessed married life. We also would like to thank Jasbir Kaur, Hernoor’s mum for having inspired many other mums in a gesture that will be remembered forever in a few lives.

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