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Knights Off The Grid

My Scholarship entry - A local encounter that changed my life

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 9 April 2012 | Views [2002] | Comments [1] | Scholarship Entry

Puja gives me a convoluted look made of equal parts optimism and boredom. Her face, a Mumbai roadmap of wrinkles caked in Day-glo chalk, is so hypnotic that it takes a moment to realize she’s requesting a handout. Not knowing proper Indian elephant feeding protocol, I do nothing.

A cacophony of trumpets—our cue to come to order—echoes up the alley. Seconds later, a dozen torchbearers materialize out of the crowd, fire their lanterns, and march into the dusk. A ragtag ensemble of flutes, horns, and varying percussion quickly follows suit, while a troupe of adolescent girls, each wearing traditional Rajasthani festival attire, dances effortlessly in their wake.

The camels lumber by. Perched atop the lead ungulate, the bride resembles a Disney princess as she waves to the crowd. Puja, me and the throng of other guests are awash in a contagious air of raucous celebration as we bring up the rear.

Weeks prior, as I deplaned and took in that first breath of Mumbai air—a strangely approachable buffet of exhaust, incense, humidity, curry, and urine—I knew that to make this trip successful, truly successful, I needed to witness an Indian wedding. I had no plans as to how to make this happen, no inside track with well-connected locals, and a foreboding sense that it was potentially deadly to appear, uninvited and alone, at a third-world familial celebration.

Fast forward twenty days and I'm wearing a turban; I'm dancing like nobody's watching; I'm surrounded by a bewildering array of sights typically reserved for a child’s imagination.

Locals cheer from every available vantage point as we parade through Udaipur’s 15th century labyrinth. Considering my competition includes an elephant, a bride and camels, I’m bursting with pride at the number of photo requests I receive from both guests and bystanders alike. Only later, when approached by a visibly flustered wedding coordinator, do I discover the source of the attention: my turban has been on backwards the entire evening.

Tags: travel writing scholarship 2012

Comments

1

India and Africa have similar cultures, its nice to note this from your story. cheers.

  amazinggrace Apr 19, 2012 1:12 AM

 

 

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