May 26, 2024

Together with Nic Aliping and Mike Tank, we were supposed to attend the wedding of Paul and Rowena Lalwani’s nephew or “son,” as he calls him, in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, an Indian state, on the 28th and 29th. It would have been a first. If not for visa-on-arrival difficulties, it would have been fun to chronicle a grand Indian wedding.
We ended up in Taipei, Taiwan, sitting all day at the Marriot coffee shop and too scared to go around the sites because of the novel coronavirus scare. Practically everyone is wearing a mask, like bank robbers. In our country, they are in barong and get elected to office. Funnh, couldn’t refuse that one! The only time we got out of prison, este, the hotel, was when we went to St. Christopher Church at Chung Shan N. Road to attend the high noon anniversary English mass with Bernie for the year of blissful wedded existence which brought about four children and three grandchildren. We attempted to go to Shilin, the biggest night market famous for their food trip, but the large and maddening crowd was scary, so back we were, this time on Heineken and white wine.
The virus tale has caused a global fear and misinformation continues to spread. Chinese officials are still tracing the exact source of the outbreak but initial investigations have indicated it started at the Huanan Seafood or wildlife wholesale market in Wuhan, China. Most of the infected patients in Wuhan either worked, visited, or ate in the market. It has been shut down since Jan. 1 and the problem has been quickly isolated, but panic continues.
Experts say influenza or the flu, a deadly virus preying on the most vulnerable, striking the sick and the old without mercy, poses a far greater threat than the coronavirus. Surgical face masks here have been sold out. The phenomenon looks similar with terrorism, which scares people to a similar degree: an imagined public perception that it can happen anywhere, to anyone without notice, although experts say it will soon die a natural death because of the immediate isolation. As Mike Limbo would say, “Don’t be so afraid of the coronavirus. It won’t last long because it’s made in China.”
With plenty of time to Google, we could only imagine what could have happened during the wedding ceremony if we were able to attend it. The Indian traditional wedding lasted two days. On the first night, the priest performed the “ganesh pooja,” a ceremony with only the couple, the bridal party, and close relatives in attendance. The second day was the “mehndi ceremony,” where the bride and her female friends and family members had an artist draw intricate henna patterns on their hands and feet. Then the evening “sangeet” took place where the wedding guests arrived and introductions of the couple’s families, mingling, a meal, and dances or other performances occured.
Then came the ceremony. Traditionally in our weddings, the bride walks down the aisle. Here, it is the groom who walks down the aisle with a “baraat” or the groom’s procession. He arrives at the ceremony on a decorated white horse. Guests dance around him to the beat of a “dhol,” an Indian drum. After that, the bride and her family greet the groom. The priest, groom, and the bride and her parents sit beneath a “mandap” or a wedding altar, a canopy similar to a Jewish chuppah. The ceremony starts off with the “kanya daan,” where the bride’s parents give her away. Then the couple joins hands and circles around a small, enclosed fire (the “agni”) in a ritual called the “mangal phera.” At the center of the mandap, a fire is kindled.
The marriage is a sacrament, not a contract. To signify the viability of the ceremony, the fire is kept as a witness and offerings are made. The bride’s brother gives three fistfuls of puffed rice to the bride as a wish for his sister’s happy marriage. Each time, the bride offers the rice to the fire. This offering is known as a “homam.” Then the couple will take the “saptapadi,” or seven steps, as they vow to support each other and live happily together. Then the couple exchanges floral garlands to wear around their necks to symbolize their acceptance of each other. Finally, the groom will apply a red powder to the center of the bride’s forehead and tie a black beaded necklace around her neck, symbolizing she’s now a married woman.
End of the dream. Reality checks in when Charles marries Diks at the Lafayette after March 28. Congratulations and best wishes, Kamal and Ravina Lalwani!