Return to India, Part 6: A cow, blessed and safe; Suji takes me to lunch, then goes out with Bhanu to do some wedding shopping
The big plan for this day was for Suji and Bhanu to go out and do some wedding shopping. First, before they did, Suji wanted to take me out for lunch. Even before that, I needed to take a walk, so I did and I met this cow. Such cows wander freely and wherever they go, they bring blessings with them. Many Americans like to use the slang phrase, "Holy cow!" to describe something that seems unbelievable. This is where the phrase comes from. Here, cows are considered sacred. This is a holy cow.
Not all Hindus are vegetarian, and there are many Muslims, a fair number of Christians and people of other faiths or lack of faiths, so many restaurants do serve meat - but not one time did I see beef on the menu. As I mentioned before, I did not go into McDonald's, but I was told that even in McDonald's there is no beef. They have what they call hamburgers on the menu, but they are made from chicken.
I did not see pork on any menu, either, as Muslims are not supposed to eat pork. The restaurateurs do not want to offend either Hindus or Muslims. I saw chicken, mutton and fish. This cow, and all other cows, bulls and calves that I saw, were all as safe as safe can be.
If Sandy had been with me, she might well have hugged this cow. She always did that kind of thing - even to animals not considered to be particularly sacred - although in Hindu, all animal life is considered sacred - but cows more so.
Come lunch time - which came not at noon but a bit after, Suji got onto her motorbike, I climbed on behind and off we went. She covered her face with a scarf because of the dust and smoke in the air and to keep the sun off her skin.
Suji told me it would be fine if I ordered a meat dish, but when I am with my Hindu relatives, it feels better to eat vegetarian, to eat what they do. Most of the item names on the menu mean nothing to me, so I asked Suji to order for me. I cannot remember the names of the dishes... one was a puree made of spinach and spice...but... oh, all were so superb!
No American jokes about the waiter's finger! He didn't know.
Just as we reached the house coming back, this fruit seller came by.
Before we went inside, Suji exchanged greetings and plesantries with neighbors who had not seen her since June, when she had left to go to London. They all seemed excited about her pending wedding.
I don't want anybody to see this gold and get the wrong idea. Having gold does not mean you are rich. In India, just about everybody has gold. Gold is very important to the culture. When traffic forces the vehicle you are riding in to stop, it is not unusual to have a thin, frail, woman from the street come up to you, begging, and to see gold on her.
Murthy claims that there is more processed gold in India than in all the other countries of the world combined, that there is gold in every single home. In terms of gold, he says, India is the richest country in the world. I don't know if this is a statistical fact or not, but it does seem that everyone owns gold - and they go for the purest gold they can get: as close to 24 karats as possible.
Here, the family examines some of the gold they will carry with them on the train to the wedding. The parents of the groom had also requested that they bring them a certain amount of gold as gifts, and in India, such a request from the family of the groom cannot be denied. Traditionally, it would be part of the dowry the wife is expected to bring into the family of the husband. Suji and her family had borrowed money in order to honor all the requests of the groom's family.
A bit afterward, a good friend, Prema, stopped by. It was the first time they had seen each other since June. Prima is studying medicine and dentistry, at the top of the honor roll and is a lecturer at a medical college. I am told that she has written some brilliant papers.
Suji showed one of the sarees she would wear at her wedding. Remember the photo of Soundarya with the garland draped around it that I posted in part 2? Remember how I stated that it sat on a mantle, along with other items Sandy had brought into the house? The book case in the background is part of that mantle and the little elephant statue is one of the items Sandy had brought into the house.
When it came time to go shopping, we stepped outside to get into Prema's car, so we could go pay a visit at the home of her parents. As we walked to the car, this cat came skitting by...
...and then these crows rose above us. Cats and crows. How could I not think of Sandy? These were the two animals most special between us - although the crows would be ravens on the Alaska side. Of course, how could I not think of Sandy, anyway? All the time? I was in India - her country. I had moved over from Murthy and Vasanthi's to the home of Ravi and Bhanu, her parents, the home where she had once lived, the home where I had photographed her being blessed multiple times by her parents, grandfather and many relatives and friends in a function that took place in the early morning of her wedding day - and then in another with Anil about midnight afterwards.
Soon, we passed by a Van Heusan store. This is a men's store, and would be of no use to us on this night. We needed stores that catered to women - to brides to be. Suji did plan to buy me a suit to wear to the wedding - an Indian suit, not a western suit like those associated with Van Heusen.
At the home of Prema's parents Bhanu and Suji greeted her baby daughter, Aditi.
Prema, her husband Hemeth, Aditi and parents.
We left Prema's house for the shopping area in an auto ric. Evening was drawing nigh.
Then, instead of a Van Heusen's catering to men, we drew near to Fashion Point, catering to women. A man who looked like he might be the storekeeper signaled directions to two others on the floor above as they lowered a new glamour-banner into place.
We would not go into this store, but, just this evening's wedding shopping was about to begin. Originally, I had planned to skip this little vignette and go right into the shopping spree, but I didn't have time to figure it out this evening, so I did this instead.
I will post it next - maybe before I got to bed. Probably not. I had to get very early this morning to take Margie into town so she could babysit for two days. Then, tomorrow night, Lavina has to go to Phoenix for a conference. She did not want to leave Lynxton behind, so she is bringing him and taking Margie, too, so Margie can babysit Lynxton while Lavina attends her conference.
I don't think it will be that much fun. This is the time of year when the nice weather leaves Phoenix and it starts to get hot and Margie has no spending money. They return to Anchorage one week from tonight, but I probably will not see Margie again until Thursday night of next week, or maybe Friday, because she will need to stay in Anchorage and babysit.
"These days, it seems like I'm always home alone," I told her last night.
"Now you know what it's like," she answered.