Our Second Visit to Simhatulam Temple

On our second visit to Simhatulam Temple, R, who was initially supposed to come with us on the study abroad but ended up not being able to, came with us during her visit to Vizag. While we were at the temple, she and C decided they wanted to shave their heads (like E did on our first visit).

Just a couple of baldies!

Wedding Take Two

The second wedding we went to was the niece of our other translator Rajah Lakhmi. This was a Brahman wedding, which is considered to be the highest caste in India. This was also an arranged marriage, but because the bride was still in school they had a year long engagement so they had time to get to know each other. 

Rajah Lakshmi told us to come at 2 pm, so we did. However, it turned out the rest of the guests arrived at 7:30 so we had some time to kill.

Christian and I on the roof's structure

The bride and groom posed for pictures at every stage of the marriage ceremony

Mother of the bride, sister of the bride, bride, bride's grandmother (l to r)
The girls all joined the bride as she was getting ready; she will wear seven sarees throughout the night.

The wedding party

The bride carries a special coconut throughout the wedding ceremonies which was blessed and offered to a god

The bride sat in the flower-box for four hours; her father and brother carried her out to the stage for one of the marriage ceremonies. At this point a Brahman priest was blessing her prior to the ceremony.

At this portion of the Brahman marriage ceremony the bride and groom sit on opposite sides of a white sheet; they cannot see each other and perform rituals including the bride washing the grooms hands under the sheet.

The groom with the Hindu symbol for prosperity on the white sheet

Here they are placing patties of jaggary, a mix of other spices, and tiger rice on each other's heads as the Brahman priest chanted

Now they are 90% married! At this point it was 2 in the morning, so the six of us headed home rather than stay for the final ceremony at 4 am

An Auspicious Week for Weddings

The first wedding of the week was for the cousin of our translator, Madhu. As are 90% of marriages in South India, Madhu's cousin's marriage was arranged. Madhu explained the process for an arranged marriage; first the man goes to a local priest and tells him that he wants to get married. Next the priest sorts through the women who have told him they want to get married and picks out a few who are a suitable match for the man (based on a balance of appearance, education, financial stability, and caste). The potential groom then goes through the girls chosen by the priest, chooses one of the girls, and he and his parents meet her and her parents. After the parents talk, if they decided their children were a suitable match, the groom-to-be asks how his potential future bride feels about getting married. If she is okay with it, the parents sort out a dowry and plan a wedding!

Wedding henna

Dressed in our wedding best

According to Hindu tradition, it is best to get married at the time the stars dictate is most auspicious (which is the only adjective I hear). In the case of this wedding, it happened to be at 3:59 am. The dinner was at 7 pm, so we all headed out at 6 to begin the wedding festivities!

The entire alleyway was strung with lights and they lit off firecrackers from their hands next to a crowd of people. One was accidentally knocked off its course and burst just above a little boy

The dance party ended up being a lets-watch-the-American-girls-dance party, so we quickly got uncomfortable and stopped

The bride and groom sat in those chairs for five hours under the hot lights without any food or drink
(Sorry about the poor quality)

Remember those DARE classes where they tell you to 'Just say no' to drugs? The same thing applies when a man hands you a child and asks if he can take a snap. Just say no. Otherwise, before you know it, you're surrounded by a crowd with camera phones.

At the end of it all, we were happily exhausted!

Picture Summary of January

Group of children who followed us around for a few hours

Beautiful Muggulu (the beautiful and colorful powder drawings) at a competition during a Pongal festival. Early every morning one of the girls at the house makes one on the dirt road in front of our house to welcome prosperity and welcome others into our home.

All of a sudden we were ushered onto a stage--we still aren't sure why

One of our translators, Madhu
Oh hello food poisoning
Indian subway

Chenari and her husband--it's blurry, but I love how happy they are as newlyweds!

Every Step You Take, They'll Be Watching You

There are some very distinct social differences between the U.S. and India; one of these is the social acceptance of staring. In India, not only is it completely socially acceptable but it's the norm to blatantly stare at anyone walking by. Well, as long as that anyone is white.

Everywhere we go we are a major object of attention and everyone stares; we are the only white people I've seen in Visakhapatnam so far and we stand out quite a bit. However; the types of staring can vary.

1) The Gape-and-Recover
This type of staring is usually reserved for use by children or mothers with children. It starts with a startled gaping from afar, but once they recover from their shock they they will approach us and talk to us. They ask us what our names are and laugh at our inability to pronounce theirs.

2) The Drive-by
When scooters drive us as we are walking, they can tell when coming from any direction that we are white. As the scooter passes us, everyone riding turns his or her head to keep us in their line of sight. This usually makes us worried for the lives of the passengers because no one on the scooter is watching where the scooter is headed.

3) The Rickshaw Duck
We mainly travel around Visakhapatnam on rickshaws, which has a low-hanging roof which blocks the view of our faces from the average passerby. In order to see our faces, people on the road come as close as they can to the rickshaw while traveling on their scooter, rickshaw, bike, or car and duck their heads as low as they can in order to see our faces in the rickshaw.

4) The Leer
My least favorite of the stares; it's quite unsettling and causes me to locate and move towards the nearest guy who's on the program with me. It involves a group of men standing together just watching us as we walk down the street; occasionally there is an attempt of contact. This usually just means the boldest of the group comes over and asks for a 'snap' or a kiss, at which point C, the lone male in our group, shoos the leerers away.

5) The Pass-by
This is my second least favorite type of staring; beaten only by the leering stare. It's similar to the drive by but is specific to buses. It happens often; buses pass by and everyone on the bus presses themselves to the window and watch us pass; this means there are usually upwards of 50 pairs of eyes silently watching from the bus window as it passes. Even worse is when the bus is stopped and as we walk past the bus every eye is on us as we slowly pass the long bus.

While all this staring can be unsettling, a majority of the time it comes from a pure curiosity at the oddity that is white BYU students wandering around.