Dacey was much better this morning, and so was our breakfast! A proper buffet breakfast was on offer and the hot water had been fixed which was pure heaven. Garry and his brother Money popped over in the afternoon with two cars and we jumped in ready for a day of shopping and trying on saris for the evening function on the 14th. The actual wedding is on the evening of the 15th where we wear our rental outfits. Garry has told me that up to 1,000 people will be at that function. Say what! I can’t quite get my head around that figure. The 14th is a smaller wedding function, and we (girls) will all be wearing borrowed saris. So first stop for today was to Aarti’s family home to try on her sister in laws saris. We had chosen saris that were given to us to try on in the bags Garry and Aarti had dropped off and but they didn’t quite fit our broad shoulders and large boobs (well broader and larger than the sari blouses given to us).
We went to the family home and met the entire 15 people who live in the 3-storey plus rooftop home. Aarti is the middle of 3 with one younger (Ankit) and one older brother (Rahul who is getting married on 17th and 18th and lives in Spain). Aarti’s father died when he was just 41 from diabetes, so they moved in with her father’s brother’s family (ie her cousins) who have 3 children – 2 boys (Manish and Deepak) and 1 girl (Pooja who is married and living with her in laws). It all gets quite complicated when they talk of their cousins as brothers and sisters. Ash was curious to work out who was who so we asked Aarti’s older brother to write it all down on a napkin as we sat in their lounge room drinking chai.
We ventured up to the roof top and enjoyed a coffee and a dessert they had made. I’ve had the dessert before and it’s yummy but forget what it’s called. The sun was shining, and it was a lovely outlook. Garry flew a kite, I had a go, and Steve and Dacey played shuttlecock with 13-year old Diksha. We were having a conversation about the way Indian society treats its people, especially women and Diksha sat next to me and said “yes discrimination”, and mentioned learning about inequality at school and being an equal student at her school with the boys. I thought that the next generation just might have a shot at eradicating some of the more dogged cultural norms set out for girls in this country. Go Diksha!
However, there still remains deeply entrenched cultural norms around gender in India. For instance, girls when they marry move into their husband’s family home. But I asked what if it is my situation of having 4 girls – everyone will leave and no one will come into the home! But the answer was not what I really wanted to hear – “so you must try to have a boy”. The elderly in India are looked after by their children, well their sons and their daughter in laws look after them. Would that mean we have no one to look after us? Would we have to move in with my brother or a sister if I had one? I wondered what happened to Indian families who only had daughters.
We moved downstairs to one of the bedrooms where we could try on all the sari blouses and get them fitted. None actually fit us and there was not much margin to change the dimensions of the blouse. So new saris were brought in by the two daughter in laws and they helped us find the right ones. They’re tight, but that’s how they wear them. It all worked amazingly, and the girls were happy with their saris. Steve went off with the eldest brother, Manish on the back of a motorbike to take a look at the family business – hammer producing. I bet you would never have guessed that. He visited an industrial area where the factory was located, and where they sell hammers all over India.
We had lunch in the downstairs front room – fried rice which was yum. Billie didn’t like anything so she didn’t eat much. She hasn’t eaten much lately. Garry and Aarti had to leave to have the 20-week baby scan. Aarti is due in June and will have the baby at Sunshine hospital. While Steve was looking at hammers, we were invited to walk up two doors to a temple and take a look. We walked inside to pray to Lord Krishna and hand 100 rupees over for the spiritual privilege. It was quite fun. We danced and moved with a bunch of elderly Lord Krishna devotees who were in the temple praying and talking. They curled a rupee note up in their fingers and moved it a circular fashion just above our heads. Apparently that is a sign of being blessed. My Indian dance moves were highly commended by the elderly women, whereas my daughters need some more practice moving their arms and hips before the wedding day!
We returned to the family home with a marigold lei hanging from our necks. We then were ready to hit the shops with brother Deepak’s wife Sarika and finish our shopping for the wedding. Sarika lives in the family home and is a kind woman always smiling. She and Deepak have 2 children. She has assisted us with dressing for the wedding, and last night came down to the market area to help us choose our gowns and just be a part of the fun. Now she was leading the way as we walked to the main road that led into the market. We caught a tuk tuk with the six of us jumping in. Steve had gone on motorbike with Deepak to get his shopping needs complete. The tuk tuk journey was a squashed one, but better than meandering through the traffic on foot.
We were return shoppers, taking Dacey to the rental dress shop to choose her gown. And she did so with gusto – the first dress a lovely light green one with tulle on the bottom was chosen! And 1500 rupees later, we were out of one shop and on our way to the shoe shop to but shoes for both Dacey and Charlie.
Dacey also bought wedge shoes similar to Billie’s, but Charlie had to go to a different shoe store as no one seemed to cater for her size foot. In the end she spent a little more than everyone else and got tall golden heels! Steve was off with Deepak ordering his Indian suit, and a kulta for the 14th and purchasing shoes. We all met back at Aarti’s family home, and I returned to our hotel to collect some warmer clothing for us to wear to the Haveali a traditional Punjabi cultural show. It cost 450 rupees ($??)each, but the entire Punjabi family was going and we had been invited to go along with them. Nothing like feeling a part of the family. It’s such a wonderful experience for the girls. We fit in very easily with them all and enjoy each other’s company. Poor Billie hadn’t eaten all day, and the traditional meal was not her thing either. She felt bitterly cold too and quite unhappy looking tonight.
Haveali was great – and I got to see how proud Garry and the rest of his family are of their Punjab culture. There were demonstrations on traditional popcorn making (it tasted yum too), sour lassi (not so yum), weaving (with the old weaver – amazing), making clay pots (Dacey wanted to have a go and she made a pot from the spinning wheel), warm chai and golgappas (I enjoyed the chai but couldn’t face another golgappa experience). We got Steve to try a golgappa and he described it as tasting like sick. Charlie and Ash rode a horse for 50 rupee ($1), and we watched some traditional dancing Punjabi style. We then enjoyed dinner in an amazingly grand traditional restaurant (it felt like we were eating with royalty) with the whole Punjabi family, sitting at a very, very long table that was facing each other on stumpy wooden chairs. Waiters walked up and down the middle aisle serving water and food on the compartmentalised steel plates – a spoonful of this dish, a spoonful of that dish. It was another feast and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Afterwards we all left in cars, and drove back to the hotel. We got to bed at about 1:30am! We saw the loud Californians coming in too at that time, from their night before wedding function. They had taken a bottle of vodka and finished off more than half of the bottle (as there is no alcohol served at Punjabi weddings).
Another successful day of shopping and cultural appreciation. Steve showed us some photos that Deepak took of him in his hired outfit which brought a lot of smiles and giggles from the girls. Let’s just say he certainly looks the piece here in the Punjab. It promises to be some fun wedding night functions ahead for us all.