Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Nimaj Bagh: Wearing a sari in public at a wedding – how did that happen?

The next day we all piled into a bus and headed off again to a village in the middle of nowhere but we were in for a treat. The place where we were staying was just beautiful, even a pool. We arrived around lunch time and after a fabulous lunch we headed off in jeeps to Ranny’s childhood village and got to wonder around his family home and then meet some of the locals who I must say, seemed rather intrigued by us. Apparently there aren’t many Western visitors in this neck of the woods so there were lots of photos to be had and some of the local older teenage males took an interest in some of the girls in the group (not that this was particularly unusual). What was great about meeting the locals was that there was no begging or asking for things just a genuine interest in each other which was really enjoyable. By the end we had drawn quite a crowd and peace was only found when we got back in the confines of the family home.
Jackie trying to save the hair do in the jeep

Fan club...well of the camera

These two followed us for ages. They were having a good giggle but almost came to grief because they weren't concentrating on the road!

Typical kids
We got back into the jeeps and headed off to the bachelors party for the wedding. In India this is not a mens only thing but almost two separate parties. Initially, and after a blessing and welcome to the house the men and women spend time together before splitting up to continue the party.
After having a quick samosa and watching the groom getting blessed by the women we jumped back into the jeeps and headed off to “farm” for drinks at the mens party. It all felt a bit weird because it felt like we were having drinks in a cattle pen. While having drinks, the caterer with his massive pot turned up to cook dinner of mutton curry. We stayed there for a bit and then headed back to the women’s party which involved more dancing (but no drinks). Unknown to me was that we were about to be hauled up to dance in front of all these women (Mary started it). I unfortunately ended up doing a solo which was awfully embarrassing. The rest of the group went up in groups of threes or more. Three of the guys were party poopers and didn’t dance. 
After being here for a while we were put back into our jeeps to head off to the farm for our mutton (goat) curry. Elisca and I ended up with our own table next to the massive pot which meant excellent service. It was also here that Elisca got introduced to “MBA” as he was named by us mainly because he mentioned in his introductory speech that he had an MBA (you will see a photo of him in the next post). I think he was quite keen Elisca. Anyway, the curry was really good and was accompanied by more drinks. Eventually, sometime after midnight we were shuffled back into the jeeps and returned to our accommodation for a well earned sleep.

Party cranking up
The next morning we went on a safari hunt. Well not a hunt per se but we went searching for antelope. As weird as it sounds there are wild antelope in India and they are quite big animals. We also went past some hillsides that are being blasted for their marble and causing lots of scarring on the hill side. Eventually, we made it to a lake for cuppa. The lake was so still and had great reflections. There was also a lot of trapdoor spiders living on the ground at this place as well which I didn’t explore too much.
After lunch we went for a walk around the village to the city palace. The walk was like running the gauntlet with kids asking for stuff and adults getting up close and personal. It was a bit full on for a while and the worst that I encountered on the whole trip. The palace would have been a grand place in its day and would have been an experience of exuberance and opulence. You can only dream and imagine what it would have been like.
The benefits of a long lens

Wonderful pottery

Wonderful eyes

A moment of thought

Off on the safari

A hotel across the lake...not ours
On return to our accommodation most of the girls had henna tattoos to hands, arms and/or feet. This meant that we had to sit for an hour after it was applied to let it dry, which meant sitting around drinking cold drinks in the garden – such a hardship. While sitting there I was debated (like a good woman should) about what to wear to the wedding later in the night and strangely I decided to wear the sari (huh????).
Jackie getting henna-ed

Henna on my very pale foot
After scrapping the dried henna off my foot I jumped into my board shorts and a tee shirt and went to get sari wrapped. If anything was to make me nervous it was the fact that the only thing that was keeping all this fabric on me was the fact that it was tucked into my non-elasticised, baggy board shorts (can anyone else see a problem!). The lady wrapping me seemed more confident than I and in the end 6m of fabric was entwined around my body but then she started folding up my tee shirt telling me that I need to show off my “sexy” belly button (what the heck!!!!). I left the room with belly button covered and as the night progressed I think belly button was exposed from time to time. I am not sure that I wore it with the elegance or beauty that it deserved but I would just like to add that sari’s are actually really comfortable and you can run in them but getting in and out of a bus is a different story! They don’t have pockets but there are heaps of places to hide things.

And the sari. Not really slimming but I don't think that is the sari's fault

So, why the dress up? It was wedding time, well sort of. It was another night for the groom. A night where he gets paraded on a horse. A night where the band plays just for him and a night where there is lots of flashing lights and dancing just for him. The bride is nowhere to be seen and even the groom has no seen her by virtue of an arranged marriage. No wonder he looked petrified. Again drinks were on offer and we got as involved as you could possibly be. It was an amazing experience and a great honour. On both nights it felt like we were the guests of honour and somewhat overshadowed the groom which left me with an uneasy feeling not that we crashed the party, we were invited guests but especially the first night, we were treated with great honour.
We left the party (still in the sari) and headed on a 4-5 hour trip to Jodphur by bus. It was a long chilly and winding journey but eventually we made it at about 1am to our homestay. The owner was very gracious and had dinner all ready for us but for me there is a time to have food and 1am is not it. Our room was effectively on the roof top (4 storey’s up) and after climbing all those steps in the sari it was with much sadness I unwrapped myself from my sari and to be honest I don’t remember my head hitting the pillow I was so tired.

There are more photos of the wedding in the next post

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