working on putting them
but only the gods know, collectively, if that will work. they do have
flat screens at internet cafes ("cyber") these days here in nadiad,
and i think that bodes well for all of our futures.
speaking of which, the indian stock market suffered a "correction"
recently, and my nephew (who studies finance) was trying to convince
me it demonstrated the strength of the indian economy. maybe it was a
translation issue but then again, i have found way more nationalism
than malaria in my supercontinental travels...
at least as dangerous.
but the wedding. its not over yet. i arrived to the mother on tuesday
morning after 36 hours of transit to the early morning nip of
ahmedabad, and was quickly en route to a shave. if numbers were power
the most powerful experiences of my "visit" so far have been the
cut my hair
there is an internal logic and dissatisfaction i fear i will never
undestand. i came firmly convinced i would shave and be a kind
gentleman about it and did so within an hour of setting foot in the
country. even before meditating. and yet, predictably, it just ushered
me even more quickly into the cut-your-damn-hair discussion (still in
progress). the marriage thing makes even less sense to me -- i have no
idea how these people think they're going to convince me to get
married when they are so far from convincing me to cut my hair.
but the cajoling is honestly quite cute and tender. a long harrangue
from some unknown masi that ends with a little jab to the ribs, along
the lines of "come on have another x" (rotli, tequila, puff, fried
dough ball) except it likes, "come on and let us find you a girl". as
if i would just gave to the peer pressure. peer being the wrong word
for an army of tradition culture and old women, clearly.
also these people have no sympathy for "i think my karma is just
different" or any of that eastern new age spiritual "baloney" (as my
mom calls it). if you dont follow the program, the general protection
fault is your own. punto.
but the wedding. and the shawls. the shawls. every man woman and child
in the gujarati winter (getting to a little below 50 fahrenheit, and
absolutely frightening for the natives, myself included) has a shawl
at all times, and they are so varied and beautiful that i pass my
non-meditating hours in a sea of sartorial desire.
it's the one thing that can pull me out of the ego-d morass at a
wedding of 800 people where the only real friend i have is my mom, and
im trying to avoid her because 70% of our public interactions consist
of her physically or verbally berating or fixing something about my
appearance. which of course isn't the best fertilizer for my
self-esteem in the one ambit i have always always felt uncomfortable
and shitty: the indian social gathering. it's really a whole other
level. i have never felt so uncomfortable, ugly, and shy in my life as
i do at these indian social gatherings, and that has not changed since
i was a small boy in california.
what the fuck?
but the point is really the shawls and perhaps the wedding. in the
depths of discomfort -- i have taken to examining my cell phone (!?)
and individually deleting the spam messages from the telecom provider,
thats how low it gets -- i spy some sort of white and purple mirrored
shawl on some auntie across the pavilion and all is right and soft in
but the wedding. tuesday was devoted to mehndi (henna, natural plant
tatooos) as you can see in the pictures. all the womens' hands and
feet covered in arabesque designs (don't tell the hindus!) and even
the adventuresome male. i complied with a promise made under the
huichol full moon last may and got the word Ahimsa tatood on my right
nice to know that i've come to the point as a graphic artist that i
would have prefered doing it myself to the design of the beautiful
girl (picture), but that's okay. as it's temporary, i will have many
so i have shawls on the brain and ahimsa on the palm. i passed my time
between ceremonies playing on the flute and everybody in my family was
psyched and appreciative. which was nice. i mainly hang out with the
14 and under crowd, who are full of life and curiosity and dont mind
dedicating hours to things they cant do. still not so into the
cartwheels but then again we make the road by walking.
tuesday night there is a formal dinner and musical program, and
wednesday was the day for dancing. formal meals all day tuesday
wednesday and thursday -- when your daughter has a wedding you feed
the town for the better part of a week. most of the ceremonies saw
100-150 people, except for the grand finale (non-binding in finality)
last night, where 800-1000 people came to eat dinner and give
there are some really interesting customs and i have had some minor insights
* there is a guy with a bag and a notebook collecting money from
whomever wants to give. he writes down the name and the amount so the
family knows who gave what and can give More when their daughter gets
married. in this way we have a natural system of inflation... there
are even various accounts, open at different time, if you want to give
to the brides parents, the bride, or the bride and groom.
* there is a procession of all the relatives from the bride's mother's
side of the family, where they carry a basket full of gold and silk,
jewlery and saris, and sweets to the bride's house. they lay it down
at her feet to display to the bride's father's side of the family what
they're bringing to the occassion. she opens all the gold and tries it
* there is also a procession to bring clay pots that are filled with
various powders and liquids by the priest. all day the priest is
conducting rituals with flowers, nuts, seeds, stimulants, paint, and
gods, and nobody has the least idea what he is doing. it all has very
specific and esoteric meaning no doubt, but it's not clear to the
marriage party exactly what and why. 5000 years of intense culture.
there is no school to be a priest, its a caste system thing. there is
a six month training program to be a barber and learn the razorblade
which im pysched about.
* all these processions are proceeded by a distressing amount of
firecrackers. almost lebanese in volume and voracity.
* the food is incredible and varied. i ended up vomiting all night
from the water (welcome to indian tripper) so its diminshed my
consumption fervor, but really, the food has been incredible.
* thursday morning there was the pitti ceremony, where the priest and
the women cover mansi's skin with turmeric and other natural beauty
creams to make her shiny and whiter. the role of the mama (= mother
uncle, myself) is to pick her up after she is covered with the
powders, help her to her feet, and give her an envelope full of money.
which i did.
* later the mamas (= mothers uncles) carry a dholi (= marriage cage)
across the field to the wedding pavilion, effectively giving her away.
theres a lot more of course, why wouldnt there be, but at this point
let me get to the meat of the vegetarian marrige, which is the tragic
finality of it all. at the grand mexican wedding we attended in
cuatla, the whole atmosphere was of joy and union and two families (or
more -- if you count our strange intl tribe as a sort of family)
coming together and getting to know and to love one another. there
were tears of joy, mostly, as far as i could tell.
at this wedding, the undercurrent throughout, rising to a public
climax at the end, was of loss. she and the boy had been introduced 6
months before and talk on the phone daily. which is to say, its not 7
years of intl courtship but neither is it a veiled trip into the
unknown beyond. they're friends at the least and have had time to know
and to love each other. but the overwhelming sentiment had nothing to
do with the boy or with two families joining but rather a huge family
publicly morning the amputation of its beautiful daughter. and all the
rituals are structured to make the point indubitable -- the mamas
giving away the daughter, the whole family walking behind the
newlyweds and saying goodbye as they get in the car, all of it...
so that's what i'm left with. loss. an awareness of death. and no
redemptive alcohol for people to return to and celebrate like some
sort of irish wake or whatever. anyhow.
happy and almost healthy and full of love and grace and thanks for
being in india.