It’s official, Nirmala and Jayram are married. Last night (Thursday) about sixty people attended the formal, multi-hour, multi-venue engagement. This morning they had the actual marrage ceremony. I am told that there are more tradition-bound events to follow, but that they are legally and spiritually now man and wife.
In a heartbreaking turn of events, Lisa and I weren’t at this morning’s ceremony. Once again, India (combined with our Western-ness) has kicked us when we most wanted to enjoy ourselves.
Yesterday, Lisa awoke not feeling 100% well and then slid into the spiral of feeling worse, eating less, and feeling worse. She was okay when we went out to shop for wedding garb with Nimmi’s brother-in-law, but by the time we left the wedding hall to walk around the nearby thirteenth-century temple and seek the gods’ blessings, she was looking a little pasty. After the first couple of Ganesh and Siva statues, the third application of holy ash, and the first streak of red above the bridge of the nose on our second, expanding clockwise loop around the temple, Lisa was swooning. “I need to sit down,” and we found her an out-of-the-way spot to slump. Moments later, our new Auntie-ji (Jay’s stepmother) who was acting as our Virgil through the stiffling procession, grabbed her arm and led her back to the A/C of the car, bought her a cold Pepsi, and was sympathetically lumping us into the category of “non-Indians from temperate lands” — though any number of Indians were also sweating buckets and wiping their faces with the edges of their saris.
As for the ceremony, we got the gist of it, if not the words. As is the case with most things in India, having a guide helped. Jay got dressed for the ceremony in an outfit given to him by Nimmi’s family and then sought their permission to marry her. Actually, there was a fair bit of symbolic gift-giving representing hopitality on the part of the bride’s family along with enticements to Jay to marry that preceded his request. The five-piece percussion and brass ensemble played a lot of music loudly, alternating with quiet when the five-or-so priests needed to be heard and to mark the various “acts.” There was dancing, which I suspect embarrassed Nimmi a bit. More gift-giving and symbolic offerings — each with a tradition-bound meaning — as part of the families accepting each others’ new members. The culmination was rather quiet: the priests and Jay’s (?) family members publicly reading the wedding announcement in call-and-response Tamil.
If I’m hazy on the details, it’s because I was shuttling up and down stairs to be with Lisa, who was sitting by a window for the breeze. Other times I was beckoned to the stage with the family, priests, photographers, and other friends. I did manage to get a few nice pictures with Lisa’s digital camera, and we will post them when we get back. The exact order of events is also fuzzy since many family members were giving us slightly different details as to what was happening at different times in the ceremony.
I was worried about Lisa and felt slightly guilty because I was actually having a good time getting rubbed on the forehead with holy ash and being embraced joyfully by family members. I enjoyed hearing the Hindu myths from people who may or may not believe them but still walked the temple on these happy days. And I saw Nimmi happier, more beautiful, and more womanly than I have ever seen this ebulient and cheerful friend.
So around 5:00 this morning, when it became very clear that Lisa (who was feverish and mumbling in her sleep) was in no shape to go to the wedding hall again in a couple hours time, I made the choice to stay and take care of her. Prior to leaving on our trip, we made a pact to do everything together on the trip, so that neither of us was out in the wilds of India alone.
I was doing okay until about 10:00, when I figured the ceremony was over. Lisa’s fever had diminished, but I was growing inconsolable. We hadn’t come to India just for the morning of this second day of the wedding, but I realized after missing it just how much I had really wanted to see the ceremonial tying of the rope that would bind these two wonderful people together.
I am bouyed by the fact that there is another event tonight that Lisa has ordered me to go to the reception. I will finally get to wear my snazzy kurta, but I don’t think Lisa will be joining me.
This morning’s melancholy has mostly washed over me, but it’s bound to temper everything else that I write for a little bit. So perhaps it’s best to just take a break, drink something cold, watch something on TV (most likely with the ever-present Amitabh Bachchan) for a while, and then get dressed for the evening.
We’ll be returning stateside on Monday. Enjoy your weekends. We might risk another temple tomorrow. “Mad dogs and Englishmen,” my friends. We are among them.