First day (Nalangu):
First day (Nalangu):
Just kidding, guys. Except for real: I miss The West Wing. A reunion episode would probably make me just as happy as (or probably happier than) I will be when Arrested (hopefully) comes back on.
So, my family came to India to go to a wedding, right? And I haven’t even really talked about it yet, even though it was basically a highlight of this trip…
My cousin, Midhusha got married! Hooray! Congrats! I’ve been to Hindu weddings before, and only one other really Tamil wedding that was also of my family’s caste or whatever, but this time I was actually old enough to be able to semi-understand what was going on around me.
My first realization is how different weddings are from one another here. Not just in the colors of the flowers and the saris and all that, but the ceremonial stuff is SO DIFFERENT from one state to another, and from one caste to another, and from one family to another.
Second realization: the endless traditions and cultural meanings behind Hindu weddings are SO COOL. I still don’t understand half of them, but it’s just awesome to watch them, and realize that used to be a practical reason behind doing them.
The wedding was in Colombo, the capitol of Sri Lanka. We stayed with my aunt (my Athai) which was an amazing experience itself for me. My dad’s side of the family is really big, but I don’t know them very well since they’re all over here, and, well, I’m usually not. He’s the youngest of 6, so my brother and I are the youngest cousins, and my oldest cousin has kids my age. My aunt that we stayed with, was #3 out of 6, and the athai whose daughter was getting married is #4 out of 6 kids. What was amazing about staying with my older aunt was that I got to STAY with my family. All the time. So it went beyond that awkward conversation that we usually had for the 1-2 hours we spent visiting before just leaving and heading back to the U.S. I felt like I actually got to know my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, it was awesome.
In our traditions, when the first daughter of a family gets married, there are special ceremonial things that must be done. The bride’s eldest or youngest uncle on her mother’s side has to “give her away.” Sadly, my oldest uncle passed away last year. As the youngest brother, my dad ended up doing a lot of the ceremonial things, and as his wife, my mom also got really involved. I think it was weird for my dad to do it, since my oldest uncle had always done those kinds of thing for the family (he was also the one that did all the ceremonial things for my parents’ wedding), but it was kind of cool that my family played a role in the wedding.
So, typically, a Hindu wedding consists of 3 days. The first day is kind of the presenting of the bride. Wearing a (beautiful) sari, she receives another (beautiful) sari as a gift, on a platter, from her family. Everyone prays for her, she leaves, changes into the new sari (as a symbol of preparing for the wedding, I guess), then everyone blesses her and then we take tons of pictures and we all eat delicious food and go home. This took place on Saturday for Midhusha.
If the daughter is the first to get married in the household, then there’s a separate day (not included in the 3 days) where all of the first-daughter stuff goes down. To keep everything auspicious, this event was held on the same day as the wedding day (Monday), at like, 4:30am. Woooo. But really, it was pretty cool. They do all these ceremonial things and everyone’s feet get really tired (if you’re close family, you get to hang out on stage next to the bride, nbd…but you have to stand). Then the bride changes into her wedding sari, and there’s about a million other mini-ceremonies and traditions, and blessings that happen, and then they do a different set of mini-ceremonies and traditions and blessings for the groom, and THEN the couple does a bunch of mini-ceremonies and traditions and blessings together and THEN they get married. It sounds really long, but…well, yeah it’s pretty long. But way cool, trust me.
I’m sorry, I wish I had some wedding pictures to show you, but they’re all on my dad’s camera and he’s back in NC by now…
The last day of the wedding is the reception (this was on the following Saturday). Everyone just gets to dress up again, and the bride and groom play games (like mancala!) to get to know one another better (since most weddings here are arranged and whatnot). Then everyone takes a MILLION pictures, and you’re done!
Note: this is just a fraction of the ceremonial stuff that’s performed. There’s stuff that happens on the “off” days too, but they’re not events that everyone goes to see, they’re more like traditions that the bride, groom, and the respective families keep. Example: after the wedding, since now the bride has a ‘new family’ (her husband’s), the bride’s family goes over to the husband’s family’s house, and are served coffee and tea and snacks (in typical Indian fashion).
And I think that’s all I’m going to say about the wedding. There’s a lot more that could be said, but it’d probably take another 900 words.
(SORRY about the length. I only know the extremes when it comes to blogging, I guess.)
(Some) pictures to come.
I know most of you have been hanging onto every word I’ve typed, waiting with bated breath for my next post, and I am so sorry to have disappointed you (or deprived you of the proper amount of oxygen you need to live!).
It’s not even that I haven’t had time to update or anything super cool and busy-sounding like that. I’m just so damn lazy. During the day (each and every day) I think of at least 2 really cool things I could talk about on here, that you might actually want to hear about, but then I get home and just…don’t want to do anything. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, being in India hasn’t changed my internet habits: I’m still unproductive and lazy and like to spend time looking at things I will never have, or can’t afford, or can’t change, reading things that make me mad and impassioned, but also tire me out when I think about them…
I’m basically just very sleepy most of the time.
So, sorry guys. I’ll try to step up my game.
(Loyal readers will notice that I had an almost identical post less than 3 posts ago. Loyal readers have also stopped reading this so I suppose there’s no point in pointing this out. Also, I doubt I ever had loyal readers. Except maybe Emily. She’s always been weirdly obsessed with me.)
P.S. Things get kind of lonely here sometimes, you guys should email me about your lives so I can live an American life vicariously through you. If you’re not currently living an American life, you are still welcome to email me, though I can’t promise I’ll read or respond. What would be the point?
I’m writing this updates on our drive up from Colombo to Kandy, Sri Lanka. Just to make you all a little jealous, this is my view right now:
Last week we went to Trichy, short for Trichnapolli. This is where my mom grew up, and a small village about 20 km away called Puthanampatti is where both my parents’ families are from. In Trichy we stayed at my cousin Kumar’s flat. He lives in Arkansas right now, but his brother, my cousin Danush came down from Bangalore to help us out. We visited a couple of temples and family members in Trichy, and then took a trip out to Puthanampatti and (another town I don’t remember the name of right now) to see our family temples.
Each family “belongs” to a temple. Men belong to the same temple as their fathers, women belong to the same temple as their fathers until they marry, and then they marry into their husband’s family and family temple. We weren’t able to get into my dad’s temple because of some inter-family disputes (three families belong to the temple, two joined together and are trying to kick my dad’s family out). But we were able to see my grandpa’s temple, which was beautiful. Seriously. Easily one of my favorite places, ever.
Trichy is the third or fourth biggest city in Tamil Nadu, with a population of about 750,000. They’re famous for mangoes. OH the mangoes. They were so delicious. There was even a mango tree in front of my cousin’s flat:
This is where my mom grew up, and where a lot of her side of the family lives, so we did a lot of visiting. I never see my extended family, so it’s always nice to have an opportunity to talk to them (or at least try to, my Tamil’s not that great). Trichy is also where I lived and went to preschool for 6 months (surprise!). This was my school:
(CAN’T UPLOAD PICTURES WORST)
I took an auto rickshaw there every morning from my grandparents’ house (which I vividly remember). I also vaguely remember the courtyard of the school, and definitely remember reciting nursery rhymes to our teacher. I’m pretty cool that way.
We took the train back to Madras/Chennai after a couple days Chennai, by the way, is HOT. It’s noisy, sweaty, and filled to the brim with people. Going to a store that’s about a mile away is the worst. And that’s in a car. Trichy was a little better—still loud, still lots of people, but not as suffocating hot as Chennai.
We spent the next two days meeting up with other friends and family we hadn’t seen yet, doing some last minute shopping for the wedding, and packing for Sri Lanka…
To be continued….
SORRY for being so absent, friends. In addition to being extremely busy/travelling everywhere to all of the places, my internet access has also been extremely limited. I’ve only been here for a week and a half, but it seriously feels like it has been at least a month.
Since my last post, I’ve semi-explored Madras/Chennai, took a train to Trichy, visited lots of family and ate a lot of super fresh, delicious mango, visited my family’s temples (more on that later…probably in a different post), saw my great grandmothers home, SAW AN ELEPHANT, took a train back to Chennai, got street-henna’ed, flew to Sri Lanka wore a sari for more than an hour for the first time, participated in a Hindu wedding, and took at least 2 showers every single day (true story).
I really want to share all my experiences and a lot of pictures with you guys, but like I said, time and internet have been limited. I’m about to go to bed now (woke up at 3am for the 5:30am start to the wedding this morning…exhaustion), but tomorrow’s my first “free day” since getting here, so I should be able to catch up a bit then!
Love you all,
A lot has happened in the last 5ish months, so here’s a recap of my life.
I finished up my first semester at University of Minnesota in the School of Public Health successfully and have started my second semester, which not only feels easier, but also is more interesting. I’m taking classes that seem more in line with my interests and passions (more on that later). One class in particular is especially inspiring (and terrifying), and I’ll be sharing a lot of what we talk about there, here.
I turned 23, which was an insanely uneventful and mundane experience. I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s pretty dull, especially in a city where you barely know anyone.
I got a job! I now work at the Minnesota Department of Health in the Vaccine Preventable Diseases unit, as a “Senior Paraprofessional” doing hepatitis surveillance. We monitor every hepatitis case in Minnesota, acute and chronic, and report the cases to the CDC. The unit also goes out in the field in the case of an outbreak (I think. This hasn’t happened while I’ve been there, and I definitely hope it stays that way.). It’s going well! I alternate between really liking it and really not liking it. I think I’ve decided that I don’t mind the work, and I know it’s important to do, so I find it rewarding, but it’s certainly not what I want to do for the rest of my life.
Christmas happened. Things to note: I read the Hunger Games, parents got me “The West Wing” (the complete series!)
Got back to Minnesota, watched “The West Wing” (the complete series!).
Second semester started! I’m taking Community Health Theory in Practice, Biostats II, Infectious Disease (more of a global health issues course), Genetics (don’t ask), and Skills for Policy Development (this one just started). I’m really enjoying the semester so far, though I feel like I see the few friends I’ve made even less.
I just got back from spring break in North Carolina, where I got to see TWO bears, which was very exciting.
And that brings us to this week, where I finalized some plans to go to India this summer for my masters field experience, and we talked about utilizing social media in public health and I realized I had yet to start this up again.
Which brings us to today!
And THAT, my friends(?) is my journey to today, abridged.
It’s true–and I’ve had quite a few. Writing for fun is something that’s so easy to put off, to say I don’t have time for. Even though I totally do. So let’s try this again, shall we?