30.06.2014 - 30.06.2014 42 °C
I slept last night, although I would not describe it as a good sleep. I thought I'd try out the new shower this morning and although there was no hot water, the cold liquid was very refreshing and it felt good to wash away all the grime and grit that had collected on my face overnight from the sand-laden wind. I really struggled to open my eyes this morning as they seemed to be glued shut closed with the sand, and as soon as I opened my mouth, the blister on my lip started to puss and bleed.
About three years ago I answered a question on Trip Advisor by a Canadian woman called Jo about Icon India Tours (our friend Sabu's tour company). After her trip we hooked up on Facebook via Sabu and have been in contact ever since, becoming really quite good friends. Today I finally got to meet her! It was as if we'd known each other all our lives and we hit it off immediately!
Today was to be the day of the groom's wedding party, and we were asked to be part of the receiving line as guests started to arrive. The five of us – David and I, Jo from Canada, and Lynn Carol and George from the US all sat on chairs in a line under the canopy.
Many years ago I bought a sari in Sri Lanka, and that was what I decided to wear for today's festivities. Red seemed to be a good colour, as the red tent marquee coloured everything red anyway.
Just across from where we were sitting was the official gift registry. In India it is customary to give money as a gift (always with the odd number 1 on the end – 101 Rupees being the most popular) and each guest had his or her gift registered in a book, with their name and amount of donation.
There was a constant supply of food and drink – the fresh pineapple juice was particularly welcome in the heat.
At one stage a huge slab of ice was brought out - I have no idea where that came from - to keep the watermelon cool. It didn't last very long in 40 °C!
Look at the number of plates on this table - can you even imagine the amount of washing up that went on? At least with everyone eating with their hands, there is no cutlery to wash up!
There was also a constant supply of guests – coming on foot from the village or by car / bike or bus (open back truck with standing room only) from other places nearby.
As the day progressed, it was getting hotter and hotter under the red tent cover. There were fans and AC units, but they appeared not to be working or even plugged in. I was getting more and more dehydrated, despite the fruit juice and lots of filtered water. It was suggested I move to the other “tent” as there was a fan there that actually worked. A couple of chaps were evicted from their chairs and the fan turned to face me. I also used a neck cooler a good friend sent me, one of those things you soak in cold water (someone even found me some ice to really cool the water down for me) and the crystals inside expand and cool your neck down for a while. It worked some, but I still felt very over-heated and increasingly unwell.
A headache was creeping in, which was temporarily relieved by some pain killers and a wonderful head massage by Sharu.
A small commotion distracted me from my self-pity, and indicated that something was about to happen.
A few cars / buses of new visitors were arriving, this time Sabu's mother's family.
Headed by Sabu's mum, carrying a tray of offerings and puja paraphernalia, the welcoming committee was sent down to greet the new guests, with the women singing cheerfully as they went.
Even Sabu joined in, looking dapper in his dark suit.
A welcoming ritual was performed for each and every guest, starting with a small stool for the honoured visitors to stand on.
First a red mark is placed on the forehead...
… then a small sweet is fed to the visitor
A red thread is tied around the visitor's wrist
Finally, in return, the guest must bestow a gift to the host, in the form of placing some money on the tray.
The traditional Rajasthani greeting – or at least in this part of Rajasthan – is “ram ram”, which was heard everywhere for the next half an hour or so as everyone mingled with everyone else.
As he did when we were in Jaipur for Holi in March, PC would grab my camera from around my neck and wander off taking photos. I was actually quite grateful as it took the pressure off me for a while – I was still feeling quite unwell with dehydration.
Sabu and Reena's wedding was planned for much earlier this spring, when the weather wouldn't have been so hot; but a devastating accident meant having to reschedule the event: Sabu's dad fell off the farmhouse roof and received terrible injuries, leaving him paralysed. Now a mere shadow of his former self, it was lovely to see him somehow being able to take part in some of the festivities.
Back in the marquee another ceremony is just about to start, kicking off with more tilak marks. This ceremony is all about the gifts, but not from friends and family to Sabu and Reena, it's the gifts bestowed on the guests by the groom's family. Packets and packets of scarves and cloths are being handed over, as well as lots of other goodies. To us in the west, this seems rather unusual, but I suppose it is not that different to the “wedding favours” you usually find back home.
Of course, everything is carefully noted in the book.
At the end of the ceremony, everyone in the crowd were blessed with a Tilak.
This was followed by a spot of singing and dancing by some of the women.
Whenever there is a dance, someone will always wave a bank note over the heads of the dancers as a blessing.
With the overhead canopy casting a red light on everything underneath it, the ceremony was a photographer's nightmare. Sabu had hired a professional photographer as well as a videographer, but he still wanted me to be the semi-official photographer at the wedding.
Back to the reception party and I am getting almost delirious, apparently talking gibberish (I am told I was discussing my “nipples” when I really meant “neck”. I have no recollection of this). I tried to drink as much as I could, but I founf it hard to fit in rehydrating and photographing. Time to take a small break maybe?
We decided to go back to our own tent for a nap before this evening's festivities, and a bit of privacy. It was not to be. It seemed like half the party just followed us to the tent, plonked themselves down on chairs or the beds and just looked. Stared. Gawked. So much for your own personal space – the concept does not exist in this country!
We were asked to join the drivers for a drink this evening before the dancing program began. Although none of Sabu's family drink alcohol, he had set aside an area for those of his guests who wished to partake. - I found it rather amusing that it was almost exclusively the drivers who work for him who were drinking.
Sangeet means music. As the name suggests, this function is an evening of musical entertainment and merriment hosted by the groom’s family. By nightfall, an area in front of the main farm building had been transformed into a disco, complete with huge sound systems and a dance-floor with flashing lights lit from below! Very high tech!
The stage provided a platform for the youngsters to show off the dance moves – I thought Sabu's two sistes Sushila and Sharu were particularly good movers!
There seems to be a lot more confidence amongst Indian dancers than British – many of the girls, boys, women, men and children were quite happy to be the only ones on stage providing a solo display to the crowd. I can't see that happening in the UK!
Later, a couple of young lads – you I am assuming were hired professional dancers – came on to give a show which the audience found highly amusing. They were obviously telling a story with their dance and they were good movers.
I was even persuaded to join in – but only when the dance floor was full. Not having any natural rhythm, there was no way I was going solo!
One thing that really struck me this evening was that all of today's celebrations have been held without the bride present!
Some time after midnight we made our way back to our home from home, only to find someone had been into our tent and taken our beds! Bloody cheek! After a lot of kerfuffle, we managed to get a couple of cots (as the rope beds are known locally) and a mat each! Trying to sleep with a megawatt disco one side and a generator the other wasn't as hard as it sounds. The heat and partying had worn us both out, and we were soon in the land of slumber.