Wedding From Afar

Last year one of my cousins got engaged around the same time Tri and I decided to get married. I was really excited about it, but I kept waffling about whether or not I would go. I thought we might be in Nepal this summer, so at first, I said no. Then I found out we would be back in the US, so I said yes. But then I got a job for the summer that I couldn’t get time off for, so again I said no. I really wanted to go. I’ve never been to Washington state, where she lives, and haven’t seen this cousin in years. But alas, it wasn’t to be. My older brother also had to stay back in Boston for his job, but my parents and younger brother were able to fly out for the event.

They left last weekend, visited Seattle and then went up to Canada for a bit before traveling back for the wedding, which was this afternoon. Although I couldn’t be there in person, skype allowed us to watch the wedding from afar. My mom set up skype on her phone and called me before it started. Sorry for the bad photo quality, but here are the bride and groom…

I felt sort of out of place while watching, a bit like an interloper. It feels very strange to be watching a fancy event taking place across the country, in another time zone, while sitting on my bed wearing jeans and a t-shirt. But it was lovely to watch nonetheless. We had a couple of people skyping into our wedding last year, and I’ve heard of others doing it too. I’m still in awe that we are capable of connecting to each other in this way. Anyway, congratulations to my cousin and her husband!

“The Way You Look Tonight”

Today is our 1 year anniversary! I can’t believe it’s been a year already.

One year ago in June…Tri’s mom had recently passed away, and we were all deep in grief. After she died, Tri immediately left for Nepal to participate in the mourning process but was back by June with a plan to return to Nepal.

I had just graduated from college and was so happy to have Tri back with me in the US. We were both getting ready to leave for Nepal, but we had to get married before we left. (this post explains what happened that spring and why we married young).

We looked into getting married at the Philadelphia courthouse, but there was something about it that didn’t work. I think it was that we had to book a date in advance, and we didn’t have time for that. We asked around, trying to find someone who would marry us. One of my mom’s friend emailed a pastor she knows to see if the pastor would do it, but she said that she rarely officiates weddings and when she does, she requires a two month counseling period. We definitely didn’t have time for that. At that point, Tri and I were getting worried. We just wanted to get married! Finally, somebody remembered that mayors can officiate weddings. One of my parents’ friends is the mayor of the small town that they live in, and when my dad called him up, he agreed on the spot. We set a date for two days later, June 21. We didn’t realize until our wedding day that it was the summer solstice; maybe it was meant to happen on that day, an auspicious one in my book šŸ™‚

The day we got married I returned home to my parents’ house from our apartment and tried to help my mom get things ready.

A few hours before the ceremony, I picked out an outfit. My mom got some flower arrangements from the local flower shop. And Tri showed up from work in the late afternoon.

Before everything started, a few close family and friends came over to be with us and we set up a skype call with my older brother so that he could watch the ceremony from Boston.

Tri and I stood up with the officiant, our family friend. The minute I got up there, I started to get nervous. It’s funny because we’d been together for over three years at that point and had been certain since almost the beginning that we wanted to get married, but somehow, I was still shaking at the alter. I wasn’t nervous about getting married to Tri, but I recognized it as one of those moments I’ll remember for the rest of my life. The significance of that made me jittery.

Our officiant asked the important questions, we said yes, and I felt a great sense of relief.

After the ceremony, we called Tri’s dad in Nepal. It was a sad phone call; we told him we were married, and we all cried a bit. It was difficult not to have either of Tri’s parents there with us.

Then we all sat down to a big dinner and homemade cake. Despite the grief that Tri and I felt, it was still a beautiful day and a time of celebration.

We haven’t given up on having a bigger wedding, though, and right now we’re looking at dates in Spring of 2014. I know it seems far away, but I really want to get it right this time. I want to take time to plan it out and make it possible to have a big celebration with our friends and family.

I have worried about whether or not we did things right, especially because we breached tradition in both cultures. Even before the wedding, we didn’t really “get engaged.” Tri never got down on one knee or gave me an engagement ring. We just kind of decided together that we wanted to get married. And then the whole thing with having multiple weddings…Is it strange to get legally married first and have our wedding later? Which date will we celebrate our anniversary on?

But I’ve come to peace with the fact that we haven’t done it the traditional way. Talking to others who haven’t followed tradition has also illuminated the fact that it’s okay. People do things differently and it all works out. The most important thing is that Tri and I get to be together and that we’re happy. After a year of marriage, I can definitely say that we are.

Not to be too cheesy, but in honor of our anniversary, here’s one of my favorite romantic songs (I’ve been singing it to Tri all night)…

D and Y’s Wedding: Mehndi, Swayambar, and Bihaa

When I was a college sophomore, Tri and I decided to go up to Boston one weekend to visit his friend (I’ll call her D) and her boyfriend Y. It was one of my first interactions with his friends from Nepal. I was happy to practice my budding Nepali skills with them, and they were unbelievably kind to me.

These last few years both of them have been living and working in India, flying to Nepal once in a while to visit family. And luckily for us, they planned their wedding for the last week of April šŸ™‚

The first event happened on Sunday. It was kind of a welcome event and mehndi party. Mehndi (or henna) is traditionally more of an Indian thing, but Nepali brides are doing it too these days.

Expert mehndi artist decorating my hand

The front turned out really orange!







The back is more brown







Tuesday night was a reception that we couldn’t make it to, but we did go to the Wednesday engagement (swayambar) and wedding (bihaa). These last three days (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) areĀ sahith, which Tri translated as “an auspicious time,” so there have been lots of wedding this week.

Tri dropped me off at D’s house before he headed off to work, and along with some other girls, I got to spend some time with the bride before the ceremonies started. She already had her hair done up when I got there…

It looked absolutely amazing, and as I was arriving, she was putting the finishing touches on her makeup. There was a didiĀ helping out who tied her beaded sari for her. Brides areĀ traditionallyĀ supposed to wear blood red saris, but D wanted something that looked a little different, so she chose a darker, almost maroon-red color, and it looked great on her. Mostly Nepalis had come to the wedding, but a number of Americans who work in India with D had flown in from Delhi yesterday morning, so I wasn’t the only whitie šŸ™‚

After D was all dressed and ready, the guests headed downstairs just as the groom, Y, was pulling up in a car. Before he got out, the men in D’s family threw flower petals around the car.

Y got out of the car with a big smile on his face and headed over to the main stage where he sat in the groom’s chair. Then the bride came down from upstairs, and the swayambar ceremony took place. This is the formal engagement. Rings were exchanged as was mallaĀ (the green wreath around the groom’s neck)

The priest is to the left, father-in-law to the right, and Y is behind the orange sheet

After a slew of photos were taken, the bride went back upstairs, and the groom stayed near the mandap (a covered tent under which puja is done). His father-in-law came over and they started a ceremony with just the two of them and the priest. Usually people only take tikka from those who are older than they are; I don’t normally see people giving tikka to their elders, but there must an exception with weddings because during this part of the ceremony, Y adorned his father-in-law’s forehead with red powder and rice. Y had to take his shoes off and step up onto a little stool while he and his father-in-law were performing this ceremony, and that’s when the bride’s sisters stole his shoes. (americanepali talks about that here).

Negotiations went on for hours with the groom’s brother and friends, and the sisters even stole the groom’s brother’s shoes, but a sum of 9000 rupees (a little over a hundred dollars) was eventually settled on towards the end of the day. Seriously, kudos to the sisters. The oldest was in ninth grade and quite tough against these late twenty something guys.

The bride came back down again after some time and she and the groom started doing a whole bunch of rituals in the the mandap with the priest. Most of the guests were milling around, eating, and chatting, seemingly oblivious to the ongoing wedding. Here are some more photos from the bihaa (wedding)…

This is when the groom drew a line of sindur along a white cloth and onto D's forehead. That's me in the back holding the cloth on D's head

The car the D & Y drove off in at the end of the day

While D is Baun, Y is Newar. Although both ethncities/castes share a lot of the same Hindu practices, there are some differences. Some of the Newar influence showed up towards the end of the day. D, Y, and their parents sat on the stage around these golden bowls. D had to smell a number of things like leaves and sandalwood and then pass them onto her parents to smell. If anyone knows more about this ceremony, please comment šŸ™‚

Tri left his office early so that he could be there for some of the wedding. However, we left the wedding pretty soon after he arrived. I had barely done anything all day but I was exhausted. I don’t know how the bride and groom must have felt!

Before we left, we did get a photo of us by the mandap. FYI: I tied my sari myself this time. It looks a little strange in the middle because it’s tucked in, but everyone was impressed with my skills. I’m still working on making the pleats looks better (they end up sagging after a while), but it’s getting there.

D and Y looked amazing and incredibly happy. Dherai badai chha!

A Fox’s Wedding

It’s been quite stormy around here. In Kathmandu, the month of Chaitra (what we’re in now) is known for it’s lightning, thunder, and rain. The monsoon doesn’t officially start until June, but if I didn’t know any better, I would probably assume this was it. Along with the storms, we’ve been getting some funny rain patterns. Sometimes it will start, stop, and then start again throughout the day, and yesterday it was pouring rain on one side of the house and brilliantly sunny on the other.

I told Buwa about it at dinner last night, and he told me that when he was a kid, they used to say that a sunshower meant that theĀ shyaal (foxes) were getting married. But it wasn’t just foxes that were involved. There wasĀ a biraalo baaun (brahman cat) officiating and kukur (dogs) playing instruments during theĀ janti, a procession during the wedding where the new bride is brought to the groom’s house. I then remembered that Tri had told me this story a few years ago while we were watching a Japanese film by Akira Kurosawa calledĀ Dreams.

It’s a fantasy movie composed of eight short stories. Although I didn’t watch the whole movie, the IMDb page says that the stories are mostly about “man’s relationship with his environment.” The first one, called “Sunshine Through the Rain” is about a little boy who slips out of his house during a rainstorm and goes to a forest where he witnesses a fox’s wedding. The foxes end up seeing him, which is very bad luck for the boy. He returns home and his mother tells him that a fox has left a knife for him with which he must commit suicide. She tells her son to go and beg forgiveness from the foxes so that he doesn’t have to go through with it. The image at the top of the page is the little boy walking into the forest in search of the foxes.

Now that I’m recalling what happened in the story and looking up the details I’ve forgotten, I’m remembering what a disturbing tale it is! Sometime I’d like to watch the whole movie. It’s a bit slow but its stories are intriguing. I think you can stream it on Netflix if you have it, and hereĀ is a good review of the whole film if you’re interested.

Because the Nepali story and the Japanese one are so similar, I’ve been trying to find out if they could be related. The first thing I thought is that the tale might have spread to East Asia along with Buddhism. I found a page from Wikpedia aboutĀ fox folklore in Japan, and the page does suggest that some of the stories about foxes could have a connection to Buddhism. It also notes that many of the stories about foxes were recorded in a book called Konjaku Monagatarishu, translated asĀ Anthology of Tales from the Past. This book was written in aboutĀ 794-1185 AD and includes tales from India and China in it.

What I love about blogging is that it gives me a good reason to go searching around the internet for interesting stuff. I especially love Wikipedia, and as I’ve been exploring information about sunshowers, I found out that a lot of different cultures say that something special happens when the rain and sun are battling it out. This page gives some examples. For one, some people in the US claim that “the Devil is beating his wife” when the sun and rain are both present, but more interesting than that, most of the cultures mentioned on this page claim that some kind of animal is getting married while it’s both raining and the sun is shining. Below I copied the sayings from the website that mentioned something about animals getting married. Look at this…

  • InĀ South AfricanĀ English, a sunshower is referred to as a “monkeyā€™s wedding”, a loan translation of theĀ Zuluumshado wezinkawu, a wedding forĀ monkeys.[2]Ā InĀ Afrikaans, it is referred to asĀ jakkalstrou,[2]jackalsĀ wedding, or alsoĀ Jakkals trou met wolf se vrou as dit reĆ«n en die son skyn flou, meaning: “Jackal marriesĀ Wolf‘s wife when it rains and the sun shines faintly.”
  • InĀ Hindi, it is also called “the foxes wedding”.[2]
  • InĀ Konkani, it is called “a monkey’s wedding”.
  • InĀ Sinhala, it is called “the foxes wedding”.
  • InĀ Bengali, it is called “a devil’s wedding”.
  • InĀ Brazil, people say “Rain and sun (chuva e sol), Snail’s (caracol) wedding”, “Sun and rain (sol e chuva), Widow’s (viĆŗva) marriage”, or “Casamento da Raposa” (Fox’s Wedding).
  • InĀ Arabic, the term is “the rats are getting married”.[2]
  • InĀ Korea, a maleĀ tigerĀ gets married to aĀ fox.
  • In various African languages,Ā leopardsĀ are getting married.
  • InĀ Kenya,Ā hyenasĀ are getting married.
  • InĀ Bulgaria, there is a saying about the bear marrying.[2]
  • In Tamil Nadu, South India, theĀ TamilĀ speaking people say that the fox and the crow/raven are getting married.
  • InĀ Mazandarani language, in north ofĀ Iran, it is also called “the jackalā€™s wedding”.
  • InĀ Pashto, it is also called “Da gidarh wade” or “the jackal’s wedding”.

I can imagine why many areas in South Asia and the Middle East would have folklore about animals (mostly jackels or foxes) getting married. Contact among and between these places was and still is common. Of the above languages, that includes: Hindi, Konkani, Sinhala, Bengali, Mazandarani, Tamil, Pashto, and Arabic (not all related languages).

The European cultures and languages that make use of this folklore may have come up with it independently, but the wedding aspect that is associated with sunshowers seems so specific to me, so maybe the folklore about the wedding goes all the way back to Proto-Indo-European. Maybe it spread to areas of Europe with the spread of language (that would include Bulgarian, Afrikaans, and Portuguese, spoken in Brazil).

But I’m so intrigued by the similar folklore that has African routes, the “monkey’s wedding” that comes from Zulu and the “Hyenas wedding” that comes from Kenya. Could folklore from other parts of the world have influenced the African folklore? Or could the African folklore have influenced folklore elsewhere? Could these tales have arisen independently? I would guess they probably did, but it seems so incredible to me. Is there something about a sunshower that seems particularly matrimonial? So many questions… I don’t really know anything about the rise and spread of tales, stories and oral traditions, but the whole thing is quite interesting.