The office’s Christmas party was cancelled due to the political strikes. But the kids did have fun decorating and eating Christmas cookies with the office staff.
Archives for 2012
Wearing all that heavy cloth and jewelry, posing with a hundred people — it’s a hard job for the bride. After a few hours she was exhausted. The out of town guests left, after being given sweets. The sisters, cousins, Jacob and I went upstairs and decorated a bedroom as the bridal suite. Then the sisters got the bride all dressed into another sari, this one being a gift from the groom’s family. They must have given her quite the pep talk because she came down smiling and composed. Half of the family sat down to eat, while the rest of the family stood by to serve them, tease and chat. The groom was coming down with a cold and the aunties affectionately started treating him as their young nephew. I love this about Bengali culture: once you have a family title (be it brother’s wife or aunt or daughter-in-law), there is a certain affection and teasing that is yours, whether or not you know the person that is your uncle or not. It’s awesome. I think that’s how God is with us. We are is children, and God loves us as his children even if we feel like God is that distant philosophical idea. It doesn’t matter to God whether we feel close or not, we ARE close. After dinner, (GET THIS, it’s SO different from the west!), the cousin, siblings, aunties, and I trooped upstairs to deposit the couple to their room and bed. Everyone was laughing and joking. Pictures are supposed to be serious in this culture, so the photos don’t capture the moment at all. “Here’s some water!” “Here’s a change of clothes!” “If you get cold, here’s an extra blanket!” and I won’t even write some of the teasing that happened. How different from western culture.
Before 7 am next morning,the out-of-town cousins, uncles, and us left. The bride and groom came down to see us off. It was a misty morning, and a beautiful walk through the village to the main road. About ten of us got on the same bus after lots of goodbyes. What a good time.
Once he came and sat down, everyone was happy. This couple’s marriage was arranged by their parents, but the two of them were enthusiastic too. In this culture, there the is the proper way things are done; and that’s arranged marriages. For this couple, so far so good. The father of the bride put a ring on the groom. Then came time for the pictures. The oldest relatives sat down with the bride and groom first, and then as the afternoon turned to evening, everyone got a chance to sit with them as chat and get their picture taken. Lots of work for the photographer. I don’t think I’ll ever volunteer myself that task again. . . but then I guess if the couple likes my pictures, maybe it was worth it! As pictures were being taken, everyone stood around and talked. At other weddings, I usually hear really negative gossip about the bride’s appearance: “That’s an ugly sari.” “She is dark.” etc etc. But this day there was NONE of that. This family is just very well loved and they don’t tear each other down much.
It was sheer luck that I was in this room with the camera when all this happened. I had no idea what to expect or when what would happen. After the groom had signed, the imam came into the room where the bride was. She made a vocal agreement, and for a few seconds she looked terrified. Then she signed the paper. Then the aunt of the groom put a ring on her finger. Another aunt began to sing a folk song with a haunting beautiful melody, putting in the bride’s name into the verse and singing of the coming separation. All the older ladies in the room began to cry. I even began to cry; such was the taunt emotion in the room.
Then there was a time of silent prayer. The mother of the bride was loudly weeping. Other younger folk were telling her to be quiet. . but I heard someone else whisper that as many tears that fall is the number of prayers that God will hear. Then the bride was helped to come sit in the decorated couch.
She looked tired and sad. But then, a close male cousin sat down next to her and hugged her and teased her . . and the smiles came back out.
Right before the groom’s family arrived, there was this brief moment when everything was ready. food ready. bride dressed. We even had time to gather all the kids and feed them. Then the groom’s family arrived — probably around 15 people. The two families had visited each other twice before this ceremony, but everyone was all nerves and there was not much talking between the two families right then! The groom’s family was ushered into the dining room where they were given a huge feast. Jacob had decorated the groom’s plate in a spectacular way!
The imam who officiated the ‘reading’ of the wedding sat down for a second where the groom and bride were going to sit after they had said there vows. In the living room, the marriage agreement was signed by the groom. After some conversation, it was agreed that secular divorce laws would be followed, not the Islamic ones. This was written out and signed. The bride’s brother and brother-in-law were the ones from the bride’s family that were present. The groom gave a vocal vow to the imam and signed before he had greeted his bride! There had been an acceptable amount of interaction between the families previous to this big day . . but if I was the bride I sure would have wanted to be there to see my groom say “I do!”
Usually the bride wears a sari that the groom brings. But we knew that the groom’s family was making the four our trip that morning and hoping to go home that night .. and nobody wanted a midnight wedding. Once the bride was already dressed, then the groom’s family arrived and passed on this parcel. the parcel contained things a bride might need to get dressed up. That evening, the bride did wear one of the saris that the groom’s family had brought.
On Friday morning, people were up and busy. The fish arrived, and the kids loved watching them leap around. Close relatives and neighbors gathered to help — sitting on low stools, each began a particular task. Some ground spices. Some cut and fried fish. Some plucked and cut the chicken. Piles of onions were cut. All the cooking was done on about four mud-cookers, and the fuel was cow dung, leaves, and rice-husk briquettes. There was one close male relative who did the big job of spicing and stirring the main curry and pulao. I don’t know how many people were fed; I’d guess 130 people. By 1:30 pm, all the food was ready and waiting from the groom’s family to arrive.
Those of us who weren’t cooking were busy. I cleaned china and moved the fancy dishes into the dining room. Jacob took down the decorations from the gaye holud and put up new decorations. And alot of mehendi decoration was happening!
On Thursday evening we celebrated the Gaye Holud. It’s a traditional ceremony for purification and beautification of the bride. People usually wear yellow or red, and the bride is fed sweets. Her face is smeared with turmeric. People might give her money as a blessing. In this case, it was a family party with the closest relatives and neighbors.
Jacob volunteered to make the food that was to be fed to the bride into art. It took a long time to cut the carrots, cucumbers, etc, but the result was beautiful! The feeding of the bride is always fun. Sometimes a cousin or a brother-in-law would force the bride to eat a very big bite just to tease. Or I saw one joker offer a bit of food to the bride, only to pull it away from her open mouth. Haha! After everyone had fed the bride, the guests were fed sweets, and those who lived nearby left. That was a fun moment — everyone relaxed. We all helped ourselves to the food that the bride hadn’t managed to eat. The fancy clothes were quickly taken off and warmer clothes put on. First ceremony — a success.