I've just returned from a 4 1/2 day trip to
Some Basics about Bangla
Arriving at midday all I could see were clouds, or what I assumed to be clouds. However, it seems likely that it was really just pollution. In my time in
On the drive from the airport to Asif's house there were 5 things that I kept noticing.
1. Pollution - which later led to headaches, and really sore eyes.
2. Power lines - many of which are illegally connected, tumble across the city.
3. Traffic - the theory in
4. Staring - normally passengers have to leave the airport building to find their friends or family. This means that hundreds of Bengalis stand behind a long fence 30 metres from the airport doors, looking for their friends. This also meant that there were hundreds of Bengalis staring at me.
5. Poverty - it's very difficult to describe just how poor most people in
Luxury in Poverty
My friend lives in a mansion, across the street from the Prime Minister. The house was built by the British over 100 years ago. I'm not sure how many rooms were in the house - we were given a tour of the family's living area but I could see more rooms in behind. In the backyard there were at least 7 shacks for the servants to live, and more around the side for the security personnel.
Pre Wedding: The Holud
A Muslim Bengali wedding is composed of many parts. Prior to the actual marriage both the Bride and Groom have their own Holud. At each ceremony the betrothed takes a seat on a stage and is surrounded by food. While there are musical performances each guest at the Holud comes and sits with the Bride or Groom, paints their face with tumeric paste and feeds them.
One of Asif’s uncles explained to us that a Muslim wedding is supposed to be boring, for the Bride and Groom. Each ceremony we attended certainly lived up to that explanation. All the ceremonies seemed to consist of the Bride and Groom sitting on stages for hours at a time, and having their photo taken over and over again!
The actual marriage was quite boring. We drove to the bride’s (Zafreen) house, and some segregation of the sexes was attempted. The boys I traveled with sat with the groom and his male relatives while I sat in Zafreen’s bedroom with all the female relatives. First her mother, and mother in law dressed her in mountains of gold jewelry (it took almost half an hour to put it all on), then they veiled her, and the Imam came in with 1 of her uncles, and 2 of Asif’s uncles. The bride had to utter “I’m willing” in the presence of these men, and then sign a contract. At that moment she and Asif were married – and Asif had done nothing! The Imam and the uncles then went to Asif to tell him the good news. Some prayers were sung, and Asif signed the contract.
We went back to Asif’s house to prepare for the wedding dinner (not the reception though, this was only Thursday and the reception was not until Sunday). I was brought a fancier sari to wear, and an Aunt took me shopping for jewelry. At the Holud I was the most underdressed woman, wearing very western jewelry with my sari, so an Aunt took me to buy some serious bling.
The Wedding Dinner
At 2 costumed horses (from the Presidential Guard) arrived with their costumed handlers. Once dressed, the groom and his brother mounted the horses and were veiled with garlands of jasmine and roses. We then paraded to the dining hall. A 22 piece military band led the way, followed by the horses and a long convoy of cars. At every intersection police were controlling the traffic to allow us to pass.
Obviously, the reason we went to
If it hadn’t been for the wedding, I probably wouldn’t have gone to