THAT MARRIAGE THING
How many America girls between ages, say, 14-18 are anxiously waiting to find out whom their parents will choose for their husband? While you’re counting all the hands that didn’t go up, consider that arranged marriage seems still to be the norm in India. The handsome guide, Shiraz, who toured us through the Taj Mahal was engaged for a year, never saw his wife till their wedding day, brags about how beautiful she is (“Even more beautiful than this picture!”), and they never saw each other till the wedding. They have two kids, and he, at least, seems happy. No word on her feelings, but she’s probably fine with two beautiful kids and him. And then there was Minah (sp?) (Pictured) who toured us through her old family mansion. She said that when she was 18, her father told her a week before the wedding that she was to marry her mother’s younger brother. Take a look at your uncles, girls. Among her particular caste clans, the oldest girls marry their mother’s younger brother. Not available? Then it’s the next younger brother. Still not available? They’ll adopt someone. Minah The lady now has a son who will be getting married next month. We didn’t ask to which niece. Raise your hand if you think this will catch on in the USA. While you’re counting the hands that didn’t go up, read on. LIGHTING CANDLES Ever lit a candle in church? Or at least watched someone do so? Or at least watched a movie? That should cover everyone. Probably it was wax. Hindus use small, spouted cups filled with coconut oil or, believe it or not, ghee (clarified butter). A short piece of cotton string for a wick. The same are oils are used to ablute diety statues. OBSERVING PONGAL Pongal is a Hindu harvest festival, and the first rice crop of the year is in, so we were lucky enough to get in on the beginning of this year’s edition. First, there was a parade of gods on chariots pulled through the streets of the village where we stayed the other day. Then, today, our driver pulled off at the side of the road at a much smaller village altar. We saw the rice flour design on a doorstep marking the holiday, watched a ritual dedicated to the elephant-head god, Ganesh, a prosperity deity, and partook of the sacrifice to him–a mixture of rice, sugar, and milk boiled till it boils over. Delicious and with some very happy Tamil visitors with photos all around. THAT PLACENTA THING Those mysterious plastic bags hanging on the trees at the roadside? They contain farm animal placentas, placed out of reach of predators. Very bad luck to have your goat’s placenta gobbled up by a ravening coyote or something. QUAILING A couple of days ago I had my first quail tandoor. I doubt there’ll be a second. It was okay, but, as she said, it was all over in a minute. Not much to those little guys. AND THAT FIRST BORN SON You want everyone to know, and you want to thank the gods. So what do you do? You make yourself a full-sized terra cotta horse with a happy expression on his face, paint him up, cart him down to the appropriate temple and leave him there with all the other happy horses from the other happy first-born-son families.
That’s the motto, and it’s living up to it’s billing. Our first day in the Tiger Reserve, and we saw elephants today. In the wild. !ncredible.