Continuation to Part 1 ….
Attempts to go native collapsed today. Indian food for breakfast, lunch and dinner takes its toll on a person whose palate craves bland greasy carbohydrates. After a nervous breakdown of sorts I found myself in an eatery called Little Italy, its walls decorated in lotus leaf designs, the wait staff Japanese and Vietnamese, shoveling down mozzarella and avocado salad as if my life depended on it. I told my husband I want to live in India but he pointed out that I don’t like the food that much. I said, “What about Delhi? I hear they have a Marks and Spencers up there?” He said, “What about the heat?” While we were in Madras it was their winter and the heat was bearable but I’m not sure I could cope with their summer. So maybe living in India isn’t going to work out. Although I hear its cooler in Bangalore.
Later I went to a beauty salon and had to sit still for three hours while my hands and feet were painted with henna. While my hands were drying a girl actually lifted my coffee cup to my lips so I could take a sip. All this attention was going to my head. Sanjay’s family had this philosophy that if you traveled for a long distance to come to the wedding it brought particular luck onto the married couple. And while I appreciated how much they were doing for me, it was still strange. It seems to me that here the individual does not really exist, it is all about the collective. Family is more important than a person, consequently, at the wedding, the two families will marry each other.
Sanjay’s aunts draw chalk pictures daily outside their house for the Gods. At the end of the day the pictures are rubbed out, to show that you should not hold onto anything material. The spiritual life here is stitched through everything and I cannot help feel jealous, if only because everything is so ritualized that there is meaning in everything. On the other hand, no Westerner could live like this – sacrificicing personal desires for the good of the collective – even if it is beautiful to observe.
Day 4 – Wedding Day One
We take a walk on the Madras beach which was hit on Boxing Day 2005 by the Tsunami. It must have been a leisurely weekend scene much as we witnessed. Men playing cricket. Fishermen pulling their boats out of the water. Children playing. And suddenly a wave hit the beach and sucked the life out of it. And then, silence ….
We found a dead dog and a dead sea turtle on the beach that day, which was gruesome.
Today was the pre-wedding party. It takes place in a hall where tonight, bride and groom will sleep in separate rooms in the hall.
Later I found a cute baby at the hotel and, since I couldn’t see its mom, decided to do an Angelina Jolie and adopt the little angel but John said I had to give it back to the mom, who had now appeared.
Day 5 – Wedding Day Two
I got to the wedding hall at 6.45 to have my sari put on. The hall was pretty hot and stuffy and there were men drumming and playing instruments whose wail was quite piercing. There were many rituals between bride and groom, many exchanges of garlands of flowers. It was beautiful, only by four o’clock I had something of a headache and decided to go back to the hotel where I fell into a deep sleep.
Refreshed, we got up later and went to the hotel nightclub, where I ordered a frozen strawberry daiquiri (which was listed on the menu). The daiquiri took a long time to arrive. I could see the two barmen mixing something in a shaker, then they poured it out. One guy shook his head and poured it away. Eventually they had another go and brought me the drink, proudly. Well, I guzzled it down and really felt sick. Firstly it had lumps of ice floating in it instead of being crushed ice. Not a crime, okay. But the yuck factor came about because they had put salt around the edge of the glass. Really quite bizarre.
Day 6 – Wedding Day Three
In the morning we went to the Hindu temple with Sanjay where we were blessed by the Gods via the Swamis. Then the couple went on to the reception. They couldn’t even relax and had to stand on a stage in front of a throne for two hours and have a photo taken with each family group.
Finally they were done, we had a big feast and they drove off. They would spend the night at Sanjay’s family home, while all his relatives who live there stay in the marriage hall.
Unlike the tradition of Western weddings where we say ‘Honk Just Married’ in Madras the cars beep incessantly so you have to instruct the reverse.
I met a hilarious Indian writer called Bagchi who said, “No wonder the rate of Indian divorces is so low. After going through all this for three days, people think, oh God, I’m not going through that again!”
Day 7 – A Strange Workout
Went to work out at the hotel gym. The Indian trainer there made me do sit ups and then kept grabbing the flab on my stomach and saying, “You are fat! This is no good! Thirty more sit ups!”
Honestly, and I know this will sound odd, but I think he was trying to cop a feel, and was getting some kind of kick out of this. I thought I’d ignore him and he’d leave me alone but he got more and more worked up. “More! You do more!”
Finally I said, “What about you?” and poked him in his pot belly. He just laughed and kept grabbing my stomach.
I said, “Look, I am actually thin for an American.”
He still wouldn’t leave me alone, so I got out of there.
It’s funny to think that in the US that would be considered sexual harassment. Even though his methods were somewhat unorthodox, it nevertheless has become abundantly clear to me that I need to lose some of the fat on my stomach.
We took a four am flight back to the USA on Qatar Airways. God bless that airline! Unlimited free wine and spirits. They also have a touch screen video monitor with two hundred different movies on it. Also, the plane was half full so we actually got some sleep.
The trip to India was too short and I really want to go back soon.
Also, Peach is looking for bloggers to send in their stories for a book that will be published for charity. The theme is You're not the only one: FULL DETAILS HERE
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