Thursday, April 24, 2014

Culture of Colour: Part One

Asha and Dharmesh

"I thought I'd be nervous," Asha says, smiling as she stands before me, draped from head to toe in jewels that make up the most beautiful dress I think I have ever seen in my lifetime, "but I just feel normal." And it strikes me that even on one of the most important days of her life, she seems like her normal, bubbly, friendly self. While some brides turn to monsters on their big days, Asha has kept her cool throughout the journey to her day, and it's been a long journey.

Yellow, red, purple, blue, pink, yellow, red.

From the outside, the house looks the same as always - the only visible difference is the garland that dresses the patio's doorway, the main thoroughfare for the guests who will be coming for the first of three ceremonies. Once inside though, the lounge has been transformed into a small temple and it lends an air of excitement to the day.

Though the room is empty when I arrive, within minutes it is filled with friends, family and neighbours, more people than I would have thought the room would allow for, who have all come to celebrate with Asha and to wish her well by joining in to paint her skin with a mixture of chickpea flour, turmeric, rose water and other natural bits and bobs that make up the Pithi paste. Though it starts as a solemn and serious affair, the room is soon filled with chatter and laughter, light and colour as each of the guests takes their turn to adorn the bride with paint and pass on their few words of sage wisdom.

Green, pink, yellow, red, blue, orange, white.

The Masonic Hall is mostly empty when I arrive. I'm a little early, but it's worth it for the chance to take in the details - the statuettes and bright garlands, the salts and spices, the powders and string - before the hordes of people begin to file in. It's time for the Grah Shanti to begin.

"I drove from PE," one of the guests informs me as I wait for the bridal party to arrive.
"It's only right," he continues, "that she has family here."
His words hang in the air, his thought uncompleted, but I know what it is that he isn't saying. The memory of Asha's father hangs heavily over the festivities, a constant reminder of the pain of loss that comes from love. But the Daya women are strong, and today is about celebration, initiation and family. I'm reminded of this as the family come forward towards the end of the ceremony to be bound by red string, as they stand together as one with Asha at the centre, a uniting source of mutual joy.

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