GOING TO CHURCH
I think we were woken at around 6am. I know I got to bucket-shower with hot water and dress fairly respectably. (I’d wanted to buy a tie in Salem but failed to get this across.) Raju himself was done to a turn and the bride, Margaret Mary, was also beautifully dressed.
|I took this photo of Raju when I went back to the house where we ate to collect the batteries I’d left charging there overnight.|
Many other folk were also dressed beautifully, as befitted what might be the most important event in someone’s life.
|Laxmi: she usually wore quiet, autumnal colours|
Raju and Margaret Mary paraded to the church, accompanied by drummers and a clarionet(?) player. I wish I could include an AVI here.
|parade to church|
|parade to church|
Before the service began, Raju and Margaret Mary took confession. This surprised me: as far as I’m aware, confession is a Catholic ritual and, again as far as I’m aware, Raju is a Protestant: as far as I’m aware, he and Suriya both work in Colva for the same US-based Christian organisation.
I was also surprised by the scale and lavishness of the wedding: as far as I was aware, Raju earns only a tiny wage from this organisation for preaching a few afternoons a week in Colva. I know that the wedding was brought forward a few days so that someone important could attend. This may well have been David Padmanaban. If so, I imagine he contributed towards the wedding. Suriya later told me she contributed a huge (for her) amount. However, she told me that Raju had supported her and her daughters for a long time when they were homeless and apparently otherwise friendless.
|Raju taking confession|
|Interior of church|
I can’t recall (and wasn’t able to take notes because Raju had asked me to photograph everything, despite an apparently professional video crew and still photographer being present) much about the exact order of the service. I was also crying quite a lot of the time: weddings always bring out the old romantic part of me and now remind me of my own history.
The congregation (over 100 people) was separated by gender: men on the left and women (and small children) on the right. (Late-comers stood wherever there was room.)
There was the usual mix of hymns, prayers and sermons (all in Tamil), interspersed with readings (Raju read one – I don’t recall Margaret Mary doing so) before the actual marriage act.
After what appeared to be the vows, Margaret Mary and Raju put beautiful garlands on each other. I’ve seen such garlands in photos of hindu couples: I think it’s a beautiful idea that deserves to cross religious barriers.
Then another Catholic(?) event: communion. The priests took communion first, then administered to the bride and groom. After this, most of the congregation took communion too. I wish I knew the proportions of Catholics, Protestants, Hindus, multi-faith believers, agnostics and atheists in the congregation. Oh for telepathy!
|giving communion to the congregation|
The couple and the ministers then paraded out of the church. Suriya hurried us to the house where we’d eaten last night. Again, a lovely breakfast was served onto banana leaves. (When you’ve finished eating, you fold the leaf over so that the edges are towards you. I presume this is so that any drips fall onto you and not onto your companions.)
|David Padmanaban and I at breakfast|
|David Padmanaban, I, Rajesh and Sakya-Raj at breakfast|
|The eating-place was a verandah between two houses.|
By the time I’d eaten, Raju and Margaret Mary were parading towards the eating-house, again accompanied by the fantastic music. When these photos were reviewed back in Mettur Dam, most people present (including me) made or laughed at jokes about the difference in height between the bride and groom. I did say at the time that bodies don’t matter, so long as the couple are happy with each other. I know friends and family are ‘entitled’ to rib each other but the couple weren’t there to rib back and I wasn’t really a friend, although I hoped to become one as time goes by.
|Parading back to the eating-place|
|close-up of parade|
The couple then posed for photographs inside the house whose verandah was the eating-place. However, again Suriya hurried us away back to the house near the church where we’d slept. (The probable reason for this is currently in a private entry.)
|Margaret Mary, Raju and Rajesh|
I took more photographs of guests, friends and family, almost all at their request (not that I didn’t want to). I noticed that Leonie (Lilly and Sakya-Raj’s eldest daughter) and others had their right hands painted. I asked if someone could do this for me and Leonie was ‘volunteered’ amid hilarity from others. I hope this didn’t embarrass her too much and that she didn’t end up doing something she didn’t want to. As far as I could tell she enjoyed doing it and seeing that this random whitey was harmlessly weird. (Leonie’s 13 or 14 and doesn’t speak English. Earlier, in Satara, Latika had told me that the darker a bride’s hand becomes, the more her groom loves her.)
|Leonie painting my hand|
|my painted hand|
I think it was now that I asked Leema, (Suriya’s ‘best friend’) how she got two 10p-coin-sized scars on her arm. (Her reply, and Suriya’s comment on this, are currently in a private entry.)
Suriya then rounded up the folk who were to stay in Mettur Dam that night and took us to the bus-stop. She then disappeared while we watched two buses go by. (I can guess why but until I’m sure, I’ll keep the guess in a private entry.) There was a long wait (nearly two hours) in intense sunshine for the next bus. Sakya-Raj and others procured some very welcome plastic sachets of orange-juice* and water from a nearby house/stall and even managed to borrow a wood-and-string bed. This was where I found out how comfortable they are: I slept for quite a while on one side of it. I think they have quite a lot of give so if I was to sleep on one for a long time I’d end up with a sore back unless I kept tightening it. There were a few laughs as I choked on my juice and spluttered some down my front.
*of course the plastic was thrown onto the street, despite me asking folk not to!
|waiting for the bus|
Eventually we bussed back to Kholetur and thence to Mettur Dam and unloaded ourselves into Sakya-Raj and Lilly’s flat in ‘Thermal Quarters’. This is a an apartment complex owned by Tamil Nadu Electricity Board: Sakya-Raj works at the nearby hydroelectric power-station. The flat, probably identical to the others in the complex, had a lounge/living/TV room (about 8 square metres), a toilet, a shower-room, a kitchen (about 4 square metres), a bedroom (about 9 square metres) and a balcony (about 3 square metres).
|altar in playground at Thermal Quarters|
I don’t know who suggested that we have a walk in the park in front of the dam. I do recall that it took ages for everyone to get ready so that we didn’t set out until 30 minutes before dusk and that the rivers near the dam absolutely STANK of dead fish and rancid sulphur compounds. Maybe this should have brought back happy memories of my PhD but it didn’t – it just made me retch! I did manage to take some vaguely interesting pictures on the way.
|Scouting sign in Mettur Dam|
|temple in Mettur Dam|
|temple in Mettur Dam|
The reason for this section’s title is currently in a private entry.
|at Mettur Dam park|
|at Mettur Dam park|
IT GETS WORSE
Most folk returned to Thermal Quarters but Suriya and Rajesh waited with me while I got my photos burnt to CD at a camera shop and bought some antiseptic cream and plasters. (Earlier I’d trodden on and cut Suriya’s foot.) I think it was when we got back that Suriya took me to the block’s roof to hang up or collect some laundry and then told me some things about her family that are currently in a private entry. (I know it was after dark when this discussion occurred and that the next day it was raining far too much for anyone to venture up there.
After this, an unpleasant circumstance occurred. Then there was a sick conversation (which I didn’t initiate and didn’t want). I later reacted inappropriately to this lot: because none of this reflects well on me or my hosts, they’re partially described in an entry that will probably always remain private.