The engine roared in little plumes of rumbles ‘plert plert plert’. Grinding gears could be heard when the driver didn’t hold the clutch down long enough. As quickly as a blink of an eye the rickshaw went flying into on coming traffic. It was a rush that I had not experienced since I was a youth being ‘rebellious’ driving on the wrong side of the road. I’m hanging on the back with a guy from Bombay, his choice of words, and a young boy assisting the tempo driver.
“NOW THIS IS INDIA!” He had to scream to be heard over the honking and fluttering engines. With a tilt of my head, I smiled in agreement. “ENJOY THE DANGER. IT’S DANGEROUS, BUT YOU’LL FEEL ALIVE.” This time he followed with a roaring laugh. The laugh sounded like it came from a much bigger man.
The tempo veered again into the other lane passing a truck overloaded with people. I felt each of their eyes pasted on me. A foreigner hanging on the back of a tempo was an amusing site to them. I smiled at them and readjusted my grip.
“I’m here for a wedding,” for a moment I had forgotten that he was there. I was completely intertwined in my own world, a world that is slowly being reshaped by its new environment. A face of confusion was enough for him to repeat himself. “I’m here for a wedding.”
I was puzzled, why would he be telling me this. I thought ‘ok, cool’. Then I thought maybe he was trying to be nice. Hospitality is a dominant trait in Indian culture. “Oh! That’s very nice!” I screamed louder than needed. I was still trying to adjust my voice to the surrounding sounds.
He shook his head from side to side, like an old bobble head I had as a child, and smiled. “You will come.”
I began to laugh. “I will come?” I didn’t know this man. I had been to a wedding before and they’re big enough for anyone to sneak in. I remembered that and realized that I would go. I corrected my first statement, “I will come.” I began to laugh again. I thought a new adventure to begin.
“Good, right now.” He banged on the top of the roof. The tempo driver slowed to stop. He jumped off and grabbed my sleeve. I stepped off the bumper and took out my billfold. “Nahi Nahi! You’re my guest. I pay.” I accepted defeat and put it back in my pocket.
We walked about two blocks to the left off the main road. I was not very familiar with the area. From the main road you could hear the drums beating. A block closer you could hear a man singing in Hindi. I still did not know my newly made friends name. He seemed to be five to ten years older than me. He was well dressed; trendy, or with the times.
“I’m Finny, by the way.” I extended my hand and presented a smile.
“I’m Kamelsh. It is very nice to meet you Finny. Now we go to wedding.” He smiled and pointed out the entrance to the wedding. What appeared to be a pile of motorcycles and scooters surrounded the gate. It was at this point that I realized the motorcade of cars trying to find a close spot.
The constant stares of being a foreigner had phased a while ago. At the wedding the fact that I am not from here hit me like a freight train. As soon as someone would turn their head they’d lock in on my presence. I would notice people staring at me through out the night. They’d turn their head in my direction to see what I was doing when they’d have a chance.
I go through the crowd overwhelmed. All my senses are not working. At times I can only see and hear. Then it will change to see and smell. I shake hands with lines and lines of people. Some initially sticking out there hand, others press their hands together first. Kamelsh is enjoying the attention. Every so often he’ll say, “This is Finny, he’s my very good friend.” I smile in agreement. I’ll let him have it.
After a while I can hear, see, smell, touch, and taste. We’re sitting at a table eating delicious food. The beauty of the wedding finally sets. There are tons of people dressed lavishly in traditional clothing. The walls of the location are draped in beautiful tapestry. The band is accompanied with dancers. The food area seems endless.
“So, are you related to anyone here?” I asked him out of curiosity.
“Yes, the bride is my cousins’ grandmother’s sister’s son’s daughter.” I laughed in confusion. There was a long line of succession that was too much for me to follow. He smiled in confusion, but a confusion of why I was laughing.
I was able to compose myself. “I see, how many people do you think are here?”
He shook his head around. As if he was quickly scanning. He shook his right hand from side to side allowing his head to mimic it. “Four to five thousand.” I believed him immediately. That’d be the right number. I took in the view.