Thursday, March 24

'Megnifishint' Ceremonies

A cricket has just jumped into my bed, preventing me from sleeping restfully, so I blog. Yesterday I attended the unusual ceremony of introductions. I was sat down on a bed with four other girls facing Pooja's new husband and some of his male companions on an opposite bed. After an intolerably long time of staring at each other and passing around awful candies I was prompted (by whispers in my ears from my bed fellows) to ask questions to the groom. It turns out the awkward staring was actually everyone waiting for me to ask the first question. Having very limited Hindi skills and him being equally incompetent in English I was restricted to asking him about the size of his family and their names. Awkward giggling followed and we, the girls, then attempted to leave. The men objected and the questioning continued in our direction this time. Eventually we left the room without objection and it dawned on me that this may be how they connect with their in-laws. The formal and shallow conversation we had, shapes the understanding the participants have of each other.

This morning was one of the final marriage ceremonies. I like to call it the "Home Town Holy Tour." Unceremoniously, I was woken up and instructed to get ready quickly. Without asking for my cooperation, and feeling hopeless at objecting, I was led by my two sisters and a cousin in a full sprint down the sandy desert path. We were late and a wedding parade was exiting the Pinky's home. They threw down a sheet in front of the home. Pooja and Husband sat on it, did some ritual or other, and then walked around four times. Fighting for the only patch of shade with a view, we joined the spectators. After the 15min ceremony, we all piled into the very small jeep which had been providing the shade. All 18 of us. Pooja, Husband, Driver, Drummer Boy (onto the roof), and fourteen spectators participated in space competition. The jeep then drove to the big tree in the market where goat legs dangle from the branches. Clearly a holy site (or warning sign for nomadic goats). The ritual was repeated. Next we crossed the street to the old temple. Repeat ritual. Back into the jeep. Repeat ritual at two houses. It continued for three hours like a complicated dance move: return to jeep, new location, repeat ritual. We hit up every holy site in the greater Setrawa area. My favorite was an oasis destination far into the dessert. A god had been set up under a lone tree with bright pink, purple, and turquoise fabric scraps hanging from the limbs (in my opinion, preferable to goat legs). When we finally finished I was slightly confused, late for school, and severely parched.

On the other end of the ceremonial spectrum I had a very special moment with my host mother, Pushpa. As I sat on the floor of our home she came to stand next to me. With her hand, she leaned my head against her thigh. She looked affectionately down at me and said in her adorable fragmented English, "Call me mum. I be mum you." She then took me to her special shelf and placed a Bindi (dot) between my eyes. And, in case that isn't evidence enough that I have bonded with my new family, my two young sisters and some young male relations have taken to calling me 'Didi.' The name is an endearing term meaning 'older sister.' I've never had a sister before.

The chaos, the affection, the order, and the shouting. It is all beginning to jumble up in me. If there is an official point when a person is in love, I am there. The point in a relationship when one awkwardly and hesitatingly says the "L" word to their partner. The brave point when one offers their whole self up to the other person. I am 23 years old (a sentence I have taught to my class in English) and in love with a country, a subcontinent drowning in character and tradition. My students are 'megnifishint' (one student's synonym for beautiful) even if (and perhaps especially because) they colour their people blue and orange. My family, although they kidnapped me for the holy site tour, is the most wholesome functioning unit I have ever seen.

Last night, I was permitted to help milk the goat which lives in our house. Normally a single handed job for Pushpa, in her absense it took four of us. Brother Santosh herded the goat off the staircase, I wrestled the goat against the wall, Rakhi milked her, and Soonu provided a flashlight when halfway through we lost power. Perhaps it was drinking the chai that came from the goat that sealed the deal. India, I love you. 


  1. Awesome story.

    I like attending to others' wedding to grasp the soul of it. Always interesting to understand the believes that made it happening. Our societies are moving a lot and this particular moment (when there is only one) shifted — to my point of view — from being one to any kind of definition. Like a good friend would say, it's what you make out of it.

    I still have how I can define it or maybe “I” cannot do it without turning itself into some kind of “we”. That's life :-)

  2. Amelia your blogs never fail to move me. Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventures in India. You have stirred a passion in me to make it one of the stops on my journey.

    Take care and stay safe

    Terri :)

  3. I like you new profile picture. Sounds like you are having an amazing experience. I am glad you are being loved and cared for. Did you take any wedding pictures? I want to see you in your yellow sari. Take care and thanks for calling.

  4. Amelia, I loved your paragraph about that lady wanting to be a "mum" to you. That was very touching. How fun to attend an Indian wedding. They know how to party there! Hope you're doing well and handling the food.

    Chris W.