I’ve written before about how much I love the Times’ Vows section because, as a novelist, it offers an incredibly rich human interaction resource. It’s like being given a palette of colors to paint with.
Of course, some weeks are richer than others.
Today’s installment, yielded the motherlode.
A small,some would say indistinguishable, wedding announcement jumped out at me.
The bride’s name caught my eye: Amrita Ford. Indian first name and Western last. I had to know more.
Amrita, as it turns out, is the daughter of Alfred Brush Ford, heir of the Ford Motor Co., and notorious, in some circles, for having joined the Hare Krishna religion in the 70’s.
When I was growing up, Western Krishnas would set up drumming and chanting circles, and distribute religious literature in crowded places like airports and town plazas. You almost couldn’t avoid them. Adults warned us that contact with these shaved-head, orange-robed, ‘weirdos’ was dangerous. Merely accepting a pamphlet could lead you down a dangerous path, like trying heroin instantly turned you into a dead-eyed, drooling zombie. Once in their grips you could never get out. At best, they were beggars, at worst, dangerous cult members, like Manson followers.
We literally would race across the street to avoid them, and then stare, from a safe distance, with fascinated horror at their ecstatic, twirling dances. Over the years, they started to disappear from the urban landscape. Where did the Krishnas go?
So imagine how my imagination fired up when I saw that this blue-blooded Hare Krishna’s very normal looking daughter was getting married to a Harvard-educated lawyer with the very Indian name of Hrishikesh Hari. His father runs a Best Western Hotel in Florida. C’mon, tell me you’re not intrigued as well about how all these pieces fit!
For Alfred Ford, his religious conversion may have been the product of youthful rebellion from his privileged upbringing, but he has stuck all these years to his convictions, made them his life purpose. How many of us can lay that claim that?
This is the kind of tiny window into a life that provokes in me a slew of other questions: like what was it like growing up the daughter of both a scion of an iconic American family and a Bengali woman? How is the interaction with her more traditional, white bread cousins? Was marrying an Indian man an accidental or a deliberate choice?