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The Bride Wore Red

INDIA | Wednesday, 14 May 2014 | Views [931] | Scholarship Entry

Indian weddings are deafening. What seemed like millions of voices pierced our ears as we entered a courtyard full of chaos. Music blared. A hundred faces turned and stared—the Americans had arrived.

An unexpected invitation brought us here. The brightness of our saris—cloaking us in culture—clashed with the darkness of the night. We were ushered in like royalty, told to eat the delicacies that lined the tented walls around us. And then we were told to dance. The headstrong auntie made all the men leave the dance floor to make room. We danced and laughed for a few songs, trying to ignore the circle of men around us with their flashing cameras. We retreated from the attention, and then the auntie led us to her.

The first time I saw her, she took my breath away.

The bride wore deep crimson red. Golden threads swirled through the fabric. Jewels adorned her. Golden bangles hung around her wrists. Belled anklets clinked when she shifted her feet uncomfortably. The light shimmered off the golden chain stretching from her nose ring to her right earring. She was embellished. Awaiting her groom.

I never knew her name. But her deep brown eyes haunt me. Her gaze rarely left the floor of the tiny room. Our eyes met only once, hers wide, wet, overwhelmed. She was leaving everything she knew to marry someone chosen for her. To leave her family. To live with him and his family in a different village. She was terrified.

Our translator, Nivya, saw our unease.

“This is the Indian way,” she said. “One must look sad on her wedding day.”

“In America, we are overjoyed, and we show it! Not here?” my friend questioned.

“No,” Nivya replied. “But it is just tradition.”

I balked. This was no pretense of tradition. This was agony, stealing glances toward these strangers in her bedroom. My eyes filled with tears as I realized the culturally infused emotions I was barging in on. I blinked them back, but I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

As we left, the groom’s party arrived. Incense filled the air around us with a thick grey haze. Drums pounded. Unnerved, we hurried to the car. The men were crazed. They danced. They hammered our car windows.

We saw the groom, subdued, his eyes fixed on the ground as he tottered off the skinny white horse he had rode upon in the midst of his crowd. The bride, so scared of the unknown and yet so beautifully prepared and adorned for it, entered my mind again. I looked back as we drove away, wondering how their eyes would meet.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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