Thwack! Remember on Gilligan’s Island, the loud hollow thunk of the coconut as it struck Gilligan’s head for the umpteenth time – that actually happens and it really does make that sound. You know how I know this – it happened to me. Yep, coconut to the head, straight from the tree. My head is fine, but boy oh boy did it hurt.
Last week I attended a former Child Haven students wedding in the Kardapa region of Andhra Pradesh. It was in this girls small home village that the coconut incident took place. While standing in a crowd outside of a small hut, watching a pre-wedding ritual in which the village women and relations offer the bride blessings, a coconut fell from the tree above and struck me straight on the top of my head. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. What are the odds of that single small coconut falling directly onto my head? I am still in disbelief.
I immediately dropped to a crouched position, possibly for fear of other falling objects but more probably because my legs were too shaky to hold me up. The pain wasn’t immediate, what I remember most was the sound. It seems like I heard the coconut make contact before I actually felt it. Strange indeed. Needless to say, all attention shifted to me as my head was rubbed vigorously and patted periodically. I was guided to a chair and then to the room in which I was staying.
The entire village seemed aware of my misfortune and for the rest my stay I was subjected to pitiful glances and hand gestures of falling coconut. Everyone was extremely kind and attentive, but what I wanted most was to hide in a nice dark and quiet place and just rest a bit, so that is what I did (right after googling concussions and head injuries of course).
I ended up with a rather large bump and a pretty intense headache, but that was all. The skin didn’t break, and the head scan showed no sign of brain bleeds or skull fractures. I guess you can call me hard-headed, but that does not mean I am stubborn. But enough of me and my coconut head. This post is about love and marriage, so let’s get on with it.
It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages. – Friedrich Nietzsche
I have been privileged to attend a few Indian weddings during my travels and stays over the past several years. They have been full of beautiful colors, loud music, abundant food, fantastic culture and time-honored traditions. This most recent wedding was no exception.
I travelled with a small group of other volunteers and young women from the Hyderabad home several days before the actual wedding was to take place. We started with an overnight train ride and eventually made our way to the brides small village around 3:30 in the morning. When we finally arrived we all crammed into a tiny little room, maybe 6’x10′, to get a few hours rest.
It was such an honor to stay with the family and experience a taste of village life. Simple accommodation, delicious meals, wonderful company, and the joy of witnessing such a special time in this young woman’s life. I had met Rukmini several years ago when I volunteered in the Hyderabad Child Haven home. She was in college then and I remember many late night talks with her and the other older girls – they are very fond memories.
We spent our days wandering around the village and beautiful surrounding area and our nights talking and laughing and attempting to sleep. The pre-wedding rituals were wonderful to behold and participate in on occasion, and each day brought more and more anticipation for the actual wedding day.
We had to travel a couple of hours to a function hall near the grooms home village for the wedding and reception. The reception was the night before the wedding and due to heavy traffic and unexpected delays the entire bridal party was late. Not to worry though, things soon got into full swing and the bride was bedecked in a beautiful sari and the reception activities began.
The celebration lasted until the wee hours of the morning when even the most ardent of party goers collapsed in a heap of tired exhaustion. The marriage ceremony was the next morning following breakfast. The bride was adorned it yet another sari and this time the groom also wore a traditional outfit. Indian weddings are wondrous to behold – so much beauty and so many interesting rituals.
This was an arranged marriage, but the bride and groom knew each before. In fact, they were related – distantly related. They both grew up in Child Haven and they seemed to be a very good match for each other. You could tell by the way they smiled at each other, the way they gently touched each others hands – we were witnessing their love grow, it was a truly beautiful sight. I wish them a long and loving marriage.
A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short. – Andre Maurois
Speaking of marriage… Do you know what the most common question I get asked here in India is – Are you married? It’s not that people are interested in marrying me (okay, maybe some are) but it’s simply because it is rather strange here for a 33-year-old woman to not be married. I get asked this question nearly everyday and by nearly everyone I meet. From the small children at the Child Haven homes to the local chief of police, they are all very curious of my marital status. When I tell them that I am not married, they of course ask why… and that’s when the answer gets a bit more complicated.
You see… marriage in America is different. Everything in America is different. The relationships between men and women in America is different. But how do you explain such a thing to a five year old or even a fifty year old here in India, when their idea of love and marriage is so different from your own.
It’s not that I don’t like marriage (well maybe a little), it’s just that I never really thought about marriage. Even when I was small and playing with Barbie and her dream house – the dream wasn’t marrying Ken but merely dating him. Driving around in that pink convertible, changing into multiple shiny sequined outfits, lounging by the pool with tiny cocktail in hand – but walking down the aisle… that wasn’t part of the plan.
But as more and more of my friends tie the proverbial knot, the idea of marriage gets a little less appalling and bit more appealing. Don’t get me wrong – I am very happy with my life and my self right now, but I do realize that sometimes it might be nice to share all of this happiness with that special someone.
I have been told on more than one occasion, “You should marry a nice Indian boy.” In fact, just the other day, one of the ladies who works in the kitchen here at Child Haven told me I should marry her son. Seriously? How should I react to such nonsense? With a smile, a laugh, a shrug of the shoulders? That’s how I answer everything here in India. But quite honestly it is something to ponder, and I would be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind before.
You see… I love India. I love the people. I love the culture (well some of it). And I especially love the children at the Child Haven homes. But marriage? That’s taking things a bit far. I’m not rejecting the idea as impossible, but improbable? Probably.
Truth be told, we never know what the future will hold. We can plan and plan to our hearts content, but planning does not ensure reality. So I wont plan on anything, but simply continue with this c’est la vie lifestyle and see what course my life takes. Whichever direction, I am sure it will be a happy one.
So… who knows, maybe I’ll be writing of my own Indian wedding some day. Then again, maybe not – maybe all this marriage talk is simply due to my head’s unfortunate collision with that coconut.
Thanks for reading!