Chapter One: The Wedding
This journey began with an invitation to a stranger's wedding. In July, I purchased (with miles) a one way ticket to India.
The wedding brought us through New Delhi...a hotel near the airport had us shivering in coats and under blankets and we giggled into the night; whispering "we are in India!" Similar to the chant we had be sharing for the last few months (we are going to INDIA!) In the morning, we braved the turbulent streets and backwards traffic to explore the neighborhood nearby. "This is real" we would say as we passed the man peeing in the street, side-stepping shit and marveling at all the colors walking by. It was at the open dug up road with exposed electoral wires and a cow calmly posing on a corner where we decided to turn back; it was time to go back to the airport (my third flight in 36 hours)... Or more? What time/day is it?
How Mardi and T'ai lost Christmas will be the title of our children's book.
Next was Kochi to land one night in Ft Cochin where I met the happy couple. The meal, shared out under a canopy along side the Arabian Sea was accompanied by the blasting of techno music when a local soccer team scored in their match nearby, intermixed with the tabla and harmonium being played in the hotel lounge.
The next day proved to be quite the shopping adventure. With a sister-in-law running the show and the lists of last minute things to purchase, we went along for the ride... To sari shops, costume jewelry vendors, bridal department stores and the home of the designer who made the wedding saris. It was a long hot day that concluded with a 3 hour drive to Guruvayur. It was at the Kunnather Mana Heritage where the wedding and all the preliminary activities would be and where we would stay for 3 days.
Day one: Rest day. Eat. Relax. Massage. Eat. Sit. Watch. Listen.
Day two: Eat. Rickshaw to Krishna temple. Mehendi for bridal party. Kathakali Kerala performance of Krishna love story, followed by dinner... Westerns were taken outside; family inside. Somehow we always found aunties, people to talk to: "what's your name? Where are you from? Are you married?" At the end of the night, I was descended upon by 6 young men. They made me nervous and shy at the same time. Gender, culture, and tradition all wrapped up in the moment when a man reaches out to shake your hand against the societal norm...
Day three: the wedding. The music began at 10am and didn't stop for hours. The decorated elephant stood amongst the people. The bridal party, all in white, posed for picture after picture. The excitement was penetrating the air. The bride and groom appeared. She was gorgeous. He, handsome. More pictures. We were led through a detailed ceremony of ritual and tradition. Flowers and flowers, a mandala of flowers on the ground, an altar, fire, scents of ancient times. The music played on. Aunties and nieces led the procession. We followed. Here and there. The ceremony was brief but full of precise movements and coordinated transitions. Kneeling, more flowers, gold, prayer, offering a to the gods, to the families. More pictures. It finished with a banana leaf lunch of immeasurable delight... Small tastes and spices to impact the sense and celebrate the surya. Blessed. Such a beautiful day. The wedding. And the reason why we had found out way to southern India.