Monday, March 21, 2011

wedding bells; becoming beautiful

This post was written on March 19. 

Well yall, I just finished my daily comb-out for lice. Didn't find any. That makes it a good day.

Really though, it has been a good day. Breakfast was at 8, followed by staff prayer at 9:30. At the conclusion of staff prayer, I started to get up from the table, ready to go read the newspaper in the library and see what happened from there. But K.C. Mathew Achen stopped me and said, "I'm going to a Pentacostal marriage at 10:30...would you like to come?" Ever up for an adventure, I said, "sure!" Weddings are always a fun cultural experience, after all, and I had never been to a Pentacostal wedding, much less in India.

Of course, my unexpected plans to attend this wedding required a quick wardrobe change. I had been wearing a churidar, and needed to put on a saree. So Biji Chechi and Manju Chechi, the same two that helped Maggie and I put on our sarees last time, came to my aid, and I was ready to go.

The kaliyanum (wedding- new word of the day) was supposed to start at 10:30. We arrived to the church promptly at 10:30 one was there.

Achen must have mistaken the time, I thought. I was proven wrong, however, as he began to muse aloud that even though the invitation had said 10:30, they must just be operating on 'indian time.' This made total sense, as I've had plenty of experiences with 'indian time'--trust me. Most elements of Indian society--whether social gatherings, meetings, or public transportation, like trains--seem to operate on it.

We drove around for a while and returned to the church at 11:00, and the bride, groom, and guests were just arriving. The wedding started at 11:30 (practically on time, right?) and, including the reception, lasted until about 1:30.

Members of the Pentacostal Church usually don't wear jewelry, so while the bride was gorgeous in a white saree and veil, I wasn't surprised to see her without any. This lack of jewelry, though, really stands out in the context of Indian weddings, as a whole--normally the bride's jewelry (or 'ornaments,' as they are more commonly called) is a central part of what she wears. Combined with the cost of the reception, families often go into debt just so that the bride will have the appropriate amount of gold ornaments.

Lucky for this bride's family, ornaments didn't have to be an issue--not even rings were exchanged. The wedding concluded uneventfully and K.C. Mathew Achen and I returned to Mandiram.

I decided to spend the afternoon making the rounds and visiting the residents of the old age home. As this was their first time seeing me in a saree, it wasn't long before the comments started: nalathu (good), sundari (beautiful), churidar venda (literally, 'churidar no' or 'churidar don't want'). I told them (the ones who knew enough English, that is) that I like sarees better than churidars, too...the only problem is that I can't put one on myself!

While making the rounds, I met an amachee I hadn't encountered previously: Anamma Amachee. One of the paying residents, she speaks English well and, never married, lives in the area for single people. In her excitement to meet me, show me her room, chat, etc., I could see how lonely this poor woman is. She was so hungry for company, and I was glad to fill that need as she was incredibly sweet and bubbly and I don't know how you could not love her. And in spite of the fact that she was obviously fairly affluent, spending time with her reminded me that even in the midst of financial abundance, one can be impoverished in other ways.

When I had to go, Anamma Amachee quickly told me her weekly schedule (her only commitment is that she meets a group of ladies at the YWCA three days per week to play cards) and asked if I would come on one of her card off-days to play Scrabble. Or, she would teach me a new game called cadoms. Or, we could just chat and eat watermelon. Or, she would help me learn something new in Malayalam. Or, she could show me photos of her siblings and their children. Or...

I assured her that I would certainly be coming back; we set a Scrabble date for Tuesday.

I contend that a saree doesn't make me or anyone beautiful. Rather, "our humanity comes to its fullest bloom in giving. We become beautiful people when we give whatever we can give: a smile, a handshake, a kiss, an embrace, a word of love, a present, a part of our life...all of our life." (Henri Nouwen) 

Scrabble isn't on the list, but I think maybe that counts, too.

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