Saturday, May 21, 2011

A New Perspective

Back a few blogs ago I said, "going to India was like stepping back in time."  If you would ask me what I learned in India or how it effected me I would have to say it gave me a new perspective on the Bible.  I've been raised in a Christian home where the Bible was talked about and read a lot.  However, as we all know it wasn't written in our time or culture so there are things we can read and know about... but until we experience cultures similar to that time period, there's a part of the Bible that I don't feel can be reality to us here in America.  Take for example the story of Esther.  Esther was taken into the kings house to be prepared to go before him.  Ok, so yeah... pretty straight forward, BUT I got a picture of what that might have looked like when we went to India. We got to experience the traditional custom of preparing the bride for her wedding.  I couldn't help but wonder if what the bride, in India, went through could possible be similar to that of Esther.

On Tuesday morning we walked into the kitchen and Ritu was there getting something ready.  It was an orangish/yellow mixture that she was combining in a pot.  Without looking it up I can tell you that it definitely had turmeric in it, lavender oil, and some sort of flour.  When we asked what this was we were told that it's the turmeric paste that we would apply to Manisha's, the bride, skin.  For days they had been talking about the gathering that would take place that night. Neighbor women and family were all invited to come and we'd put the paste on and feed Manisha sweets, so that she'd be sweet.  The entire day we teased Manisha that she couldn't eat ANYTHING except sweets from the night of the party until the wedding.  There was a lot of jesting and laughter, it was fun.  In the afternoon the men went to little Pakistan to get the food for the celebration.  Over there they believe that the muslims/pakistani make the best foods and so it's a big deal to have it at your celebrations.  In the preparation we moved the table out of the way, took all the chairs out of the house and got ready for the party.  We would be sitting on the floor so that more people could fit into the house. Manisha wore a Sari the color of turmeric and the rest of us dressed up and made sure everything was ready for the preparation.
Let me tell you what, they know how to put on a party.  The guests arrived and we all sat around and sang for a while.

 Then they started applying the paste on Manisha, and feeding her sweets.  Everyone got a chance to put the scrub on her skin, and when a neighbor walked in they would great the bride, apply the paste, and join the rest of us singing, clapping or talking.  They also poured oil on her head, which reminded me of the verse, "You anoint my head with oil." NOW how many of you have memorized Psalm 23 and said that verse? Question number two: how many of you actually put oil on your hair?  In india they use mustard oil to make their hair healthy and soft.

 Those were the two things in the bible that really came alive and gave me a realization of what actually might have gone on or what they were talking about in the scriptures.
After the paste started drying on Manisha we took more oil and carefully massaged it into her skin.  (that's what I'm doing in the above picture) You had to be careful though because the paste was very abrasive and was causing slight irritation to her skin.  The sweets that we fed her were an interesting combination of textures and flavors.  They were made up of some sort of meal or coconut that was SOAKED in corn syrup.  When you would bite into it the sweetness would ooze out of the dense meal coating your mouth with sugar syrup.  Emily really liked them, but I'd have to say they weren't my favorite, and I didn't like how sticky mine fingers were after eating them.  Poor Manisha had AT LEAST 6 sweets shoved in her mouth at once! (upper left picture in collage)

Once the traditional singing and preparation was over we the music started and we all started dancing together!  It was SO much fun and it made me wish all my cousins and favorite dancing partners were there to join me.  They dance in a different style than we do and I noticed that they use their hands and hand movements a lot.  My favorite was with the Aunt was dancing with one of the girls and they were all singing... she would sing and the others would respond.  It was so extremely festive!  Here's a video for you to enjoy!(sorry they're a little blurry, they're still so much fun!)

The begging "Auntie", isn't she sweet?
 We danced a while and then I told them they should put soldier boy on.  A few years ago, at my cousin's wedding, my younger cousin taught me part of the dance.  I thought it would be fun to dance for them and teach it to them.  It was so much fun and they loved it, however part way through the evening they were begging me to dance it again.  This one older lady was especially insistent, she claimed her daughter hadn't seen me dance.  I said, no because I was seriously sooo overheated... it was a pretty long dance for someone out of shape, like me.  But they continued begging and it got to the point where they told me it would be offensive and disrespectful to my "Auntie"  if I didn't dance again. SO yup, you guessed it, I danced again.  I did better the second time, I wasn't so rusty on all the moves.  The memory makes me smile... She was so cute and after I got done she told me she really liked the crisscross thing I did with my feet it was "very beautiful".   WE danced until after 11 and then we ate wonderful spicy chicken, rice, and cheese mixture with our hands.

In all this I gained perspective into a new culture a new way of living and celebrating.  I seriously LOVED every minute of it!  I long to hear them all sing again, even though I have no idea what they are saying!  If I remember correctly they said something about the one song being about a bride getting ready and being ready for her husband.

I know this India trip is taking me a long time to post about but I really want to share my experiences with you!  I want to thank Mardi for giving me SO much traffic, Julie for being a great help, a wonderful blogger friend, and for featuring one of my cheesecakes on her site!  I want to encourage you all to check out, my two wonderful twitter friends and most supportive commenters, BUTTER and Stacey and their creative blogs!  I'm still very new at blogging... but I enjoy writing down what I see and think and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences!

Have you ever been to a different wedding with interesting traditions that changed the way you look at the traditional weddings you've been to? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

I have never been to an Indian wedding but have always wanted to. This kinda sorta makes up for it tho - great to live it vicariously through you!

Marnely Rodriguez said...

Loved reading this insight on traditional wedding preparation. I haven't yet been to any other type of weddings other than catholic, but would love to attend any other! I don't think I'd mind been force fed sweets! :) thanks for sharing!

Erin Kiser said...

@Mardi You definitely should go, they are AMAZING!

@Marnely I find different weddings to be sooo interesting! Seeing custom, religion and personal opinion come through intrigues me.

Butter said...

I love learning about the unique experiences and personal accounts of your travels and life. Thank you for bringing these incredible stories home and sharing them with us.

I especially like the idea of being fed sweets to be sweet for the wedding day. Um coconut and corn syrup? Hello...bring on the sticky! The colors in the fabrics are so wonderful - what a visual treat. It's amazing to learn how similar we are and what we share as a people around the world. It also brings me so much joy to see how you embrace and celebrate the differences. I just about died when you brought up your dance never cease to amaze me. Don't even get me started on Soulja Boy ha-ha. Seriously though, how amazing is it that you were able to share that too? You certainly know how to live life.

Beautiful, beautiful post Erin. Thanks for the mention, your posts are what inspire the comments :)

Anonymous said...

ALL of the post absolutely well done!! I loved it, but was sad to have missed this part of INDIA...Would encourage ANYONE to go, and I cant wait till I can go AGAIN..Keep up the blogging!! I LOVE IT...Love you...hugs....

Keep Your Lid On said...

Thank YOU once again for transporting me to another place! What a treat to read about the traditions and getting to imagine the smells and textures. I bet their are a lot of women who could use the "sweet" pampering here in the U.S. :)
AND, when we meet, YOU WILL perform Soldier Boy!

Micah Yoder said...

An experience of this sort is invaluable. It expands horizons and builds cross-cultural bridges.
Reading your post reminded me of the importance of community and family.
Thanks for sharing!

Sarah said...

Ernie, you taught them the soldier boy?! Ha. that's so great :) I know what you mean about how they dance with their hands; it was the same way here at a wedding that I went to. It's definitely different but quite beautiful.

Kudos Kitchen said...

Hi Erin! What an incredible blog you have here. I'll definitely have to bookmark your site and come back a whole lot more often. It's like taking a mini vacation and never leaving my office chair. Your writing is very captivating and I love all your pictures and stories. I love learning about the foods in different cultures and countries. So glad to have found you.

Erin Kiser said...

WOW nine comments! I'm so excited, this is probably the most my blog has ever seen! You guys are awesome! Thanks for reading my blog and letting my know what you think! I had such an awesome time in India and I'm glad I can share it with you! <3

Naomi Wipf said...

Erin, this has nothing to do with this post. But I was just flipping through your pages, and I thought I'd tell you how much you mean to me. I love you. thanks for being there for me through all of this. <3

ps. I like this blog post (: