I spent half the week in Suva, uninspired to take any photos, and came home to more rain and a muddy road that reminds me of driving on an inch of snow (fun! – but not photogenic). So I’m giving you a rare One Subject Blog.
Before I went to Suva, I went to the first night of the three day wedding. I didn’t get photos of the ceremony – but I did document ONE of the customs: the gift to the mother of the bride (or groom, depending on which one you are related to). They call it DAAL – or something like that. I made one for the mother of the bride.
It is Very Specific. You need to put in exactly the right stuff, or …. well, it’s just not right. Ok ….
You start with a new basin.
You put in some uncooked white rice.
Then some Urdi dhal. These two substances get all stirred together.
It does not matter the order of putting the rest of the things in there, so long as they are all in.
You have to put in some “doob” grass, which grows wild here.
You have to put in a knuckle of “haldi” root – which is turmeric.
You have to put in EXACTLY twenty-five cents, in coins.
You need to put in a sari for the mother – but it can be another dress or a salwaar kameez, nowadays. I have to say I was REALLY happy with this sari I found for Vinita. It is so pretty.
You are supposed to put in a shirt for the father. I was stoked to find this shirt that was such a good match to the sari. The parents will look terrific together going to future functions in these clothes. (Women collect so many saris at weddings, that quite a few are just kept and given away as other presents in the future … I wanted to insure that the one I gave would get put into service 🙂 )
At this point, you might also include gifts for the other son(s) and daughter(s) – but it is not required, and I cheaped out.
Do you think we’re done? Oh no, we’re not done yet.
The gift needs some sweets – meaning Indian sweets. So here they are. Unfortunately, I put this Daal (or whatever it’s called) together the day before I presented it. And the next day I saw a parade of ants trying to get in…… sigh.
Now this is not required, but it is a good idea: a card of best wishes, telling who the present is from.
Now it is all wrapped in a YELLOW cloth. Not content with the basic customs, most people then decorate the yellow cloth with additional sparkly garlands, etc. But for me – enough already!! I think the plain yellow is elegant in its simplicity!
Now the actual time for the presentation of these presents is on the second night of the wedding. All the gift bearers line up in an intricately decorated stage of sorts, scores of guests looking on, a live band soaking the air with Indian music – but I was going to be in Suva by then, so I carried my Daal over the day before.
Here I present it to the mother of the bride. Note how she has a scarf on her head, and she uses the edges of the scarf to receive the basin.
Too bad I didn’t get a photo of the final step. The mother then gives the present-giver a 20 cent coin.
Why the rice and urdi dhal? Why the doob grass? The turmeric? The exactly five cent difference in coin exchange? Mysteries beyond mysteries.
Yesterday, I was back at their house and one of the old ladies was there patiently separating the white rice from the black urdi … what a job. And I still don’t know why.
Anyway – there is one more photo I can share. Quite the vanity shot. This sari was a gift from my brother Rakesh 2 years ago, and Friday was the first time I wore it.
Prettiest sari EVER.
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