Goan Monsoon Wedding
The owner of the SRI restaurant in Vagator, Goa is named Richard. He is a very nice man with a kind smile and meditative nature. He practices Mysore with us every morning and he is very dedicated and persistent. Last week he gave us an invitation to an Indian wedding. We felt honored. I had never seen one before but have been fascinated by the many films that are available documenting the intricate nature of these events.
It was a rainy Saturday and we could not rally Ethan to come to the ceremony. Tam stayed home with him as I made the taxi drive from Candolim and arrived at the Shri Swami Siddheshwar Mandap in Anjuna, Goa. There were cars and busses parked all along the roadway as we approached. Once we arrived I could hear the sound of loud percussion and amplified keyboard playing traditional music being blazed through the air. Immediately my senses heightened and there was a palpable excitement amongst those entering the temple.
I walked up to the entrance of the temple to find it completely filled with chairs facing a stage where the bride and groom were seated. As I walked closer I soon realized that “I am the only tourist here” and I felt the looks of the locals…I had been discovered! I quickly looked to see if people were wearing shoes to know if I should wear mine in or not. I took a couple of steps back and assessed the situation. I made my plan and casually made my way through the crowd as I found my seat. As I approached a man smiled and extended his hand to welcome me. A young girl had a plate of sugar and she extended it toward me to enjoy and I put into my mouth. The colorful music was cranked loud and this was a great enhancement to the mood in the room. I loved it. The colors popped and were so vivid and sparkling that it was mesmerizing. The women were dressed so meticulously with adornments of every type, I found it quite easy as an onlooker to sit back and absorb the steady stream of stimulus. The men were more simply dressed, all in slacks and collared shirts neatly tucked and sandals. The men in the wedding party went a bit above the rest wore traditional dhotis which are long shirts and pants tapered at the ankle underneath.
The ceremony itself seemed to consist of several different formalities that left me wondering what was happening. There were no words spoken that I could tell. I imagined it was going to be like a western wedding in the sense that there would be a celebrant who would offer some words to officiate. It is quite possible that there were other segments of the ceremony that I had missed. Each of the attending family members went up to the the bride and groom and offered presents and good wishes.
As the ceremony was close to ending I sat and watched the caterers set up the food table and some women heated oil for cooking chapatis. I saw Richard from afar and also Dani whom is from Spain and also here practicing, which made me feel a bit more at ease to see friendly familiar faces. After the ceremony each attendee got in line and took pictures with the bride and groom. He asked me to join them and I was able to present a simple present to the bride.
After some pictures began the feast. They had the most delicious vegetarian Indian food on offer and I quickly made an ample plate full. The food here is certainly spicy. I do love spicy food and in my opinion this meal took the cake. I had so much sweat pouring off my upper lip and my whole body heated up instantly. My one mistake… I didn’t bring my own water and I am not daring enough to drink the tap water here!
The entire experience was rich in color, sound, aroma and flavor. I often wonder, “do I find this culture so interesting simply because it is different from my own?” Often when things become familiar the excitement of newness wears thin and it is easy to lose interest. Yet here I am so enthralled with the celebration, music and the attire. The energy seems to be amplified times 100. Yet perhaps for the local this is “just another wedding I have to attend.” I suppose this all comes down to how we choose to embrace the moment. Being in India helps me to embrace and celebrate the moment!