Monday started out like any other Monday. Even though it was our last Monday here we were still dragging a bit. We came into work and began our tasks for the day. At about mid-day our friend Devender came in and invited us to a wedding celebration taking place in the village. A couple of employees at the CDL were having their children get married. I thought it an odd day for a wedding…a Monday…in November…but it was explained to me on the ride over. In the Hindi culture there is a strong astrological influence. If you’ve ever had your birthchart read you are starting to get the idea of how these things go. They determine which days are meant for the two to wed. Based on the influence of the starts the professionals that handle this matter (and they are seriously professionals) decided on Monday, November 22. It was a 30 minute drive along one of the roughest roads we had driven on in our visit. Unpaved, rocky, slow. We arrived and my nerves were in complete control. I didn’t know how we would be received. I didn’t know if I was going to offend anyone by just showing up at their wedding. Such a thing is unheard of in America, which I now realize is a sad state of affairs. We traveled up a rocky path by foot past a barn where the bride’s father keeps his cows. I love the smell of livestock. It’s genuine smell that tells your senses that you are outside with nature. Some people see it as just disgusting but to me it smells like life. As we reached the top we walked into a tent filled with beautifully dressed men and women. In the center of the crowd was the bride and groom. Sitting still and taking pictures with the many people who had come to wish them well. There was a small burning fire and a few offerings that others had brought as gifts. Before we knew it there was our driver Pradeep. It was his nephew who was getting married. He was so excited to see us that he made us come over and take a picture with the bride and groom. I am not a fan of taking pictures of myself but I jumped in and immediately felt like I was part of a very important day. This is where things started to get a little crazy…
So after that all of our work colleagues, who were also at the wedding, invited us to have some “indian wine”. I thought sure. I thought maybe it was the wine fermented with goat droppings but I was in for a more potent surprise. We enter a porch at the front of the house. The floor was made of mud and cow droppings. surprisingly it was sturdy, soft, and very good at insulating heat. This was fascinating to me. Again…these people do so much with so little. As we sit they open a bag and out comes three bottles of single-malt whiskey brewed right here in India. This was no wine.
So.. here I am… 1pm in the afternoon drinking straight whiskey on an empty stomach with 12 other colleagues. It was amazing. Before I knew it I was laughing hysterically at the jokes and I couldn’t feel my face. Lol. But I felt safe, comfortable, these gentlemen were treating me as an honored guest at such a special occasion. Then when I ask them about the Indian tobacco, the provided me with a try of some tobacco grown in Kasauli, wrapped in banyen leaves. They were a bouquet I had never smelled with tobacco before. Before I knew it I was in the old boys club. I was laughing, drinking, and finally letting go of some of the anxieties I had about being in India. These people were great people. They were so gracious with their time and energy. And they genuinely wanted to bring me into their circle rather than push me out. This is a lesson I hope I keep forever with it comes to others who are different from me. I struggle every day to not judge those who I disagree with. Most of the time the religious and Republicans. I’m not always successful but I try every day and I am making progress. So once the drinks were complete I was invited to the dance floor. If you know me… you know I had to show em’ how to get down on the good foot (see photos on photobucket). I had such a great time. Before I knew it the entire wedding group, including bride and groom were staring at me and the others on the dance floor. They had these huge smiles on their faces…and so did I. After breaking it down we ate. We sat on burlap mats on a rooftop and servers came around and plopped food on our plates with their bare hands. The food was contained in old plastic paint buckets. And I can honestly say… if paint makes that food taste that good…then damn it… I want all of my food from this point forward served in paint buckets. The food was amazing. It was home cooked, given from the heart, warm, spicy, sweet, and just plain delicious. We laughed and ate and just had a great time not as colleagues but as a collective group of humans enjoying our social capabilities. What a day.
Once we left the wedding Devender explained to me that in the Hindu culture it is custom to treat your guests like a god. Not because they really think we are gods but because they believe that the gods in their culture can come into their lives in any form. And they never want to treat anyone so bad because they may be a god, and they may be mistreating their divine leaders. This to me was touching. This idea to me eludes most monotheistic religions. I never have seen a Christian, Jew, or Muslim say that God or Allah may be present in a guest…a very different guest…that comes to embrace their culture. We should learn from this. I should learn from this. I do not believe in a deity but damn it I do believe in the end result of what I experienced. Love, compassion, joy, excitement, comfort ,and respect. These things I will never forget and I hope I get the opportunity to greet some of these scientists on American borders and offer them the same experience. I have confidence that with my family and friends we will be able to provide that same feeling. Take this with you to your thanksgiving tables when you look at maybe a few new faces whether they be new children, old relatives, old friends, or maybe just someone you know who needs a hot meal and a hug. Take this with you and remember that you too can have them walk out that door with the same feeling I had on just another extraordinary Monday 🙂