The Girl at the Wedding
In 2014 I co-led a Me to We trip to Rajasthan, India. We spent most of our time in the countryside connecting with local women and children, learning about artisan and education projects and helping with some school building.
At the end of our trip we spent a day in the beautiful city of Udaipur, also known as the Venice of India. Udaipur is located on tranquil Lake Pichola whose shores are dotted with marble palaces, temples and ornate havelis, traditional decorated residences of the region. The Aravalli Range circles the city and adds a beautiful purple hued backdrop.
We explored the city’s narrow streets and endless stalls of fabrics, jewelry, and traditional crafts. As our small mini bus headed back out to the countryside at the end of the day we passed a wedding procession complete with groom on a white horse, a marching band, and an entourage of family and friends elegantly dressed for the celebration. It was a Bollywood moment!
The wedding guests spotted us as we pressed our faces to the van windows and waved us into the crowd. That was all the invitation we needed! Our van pulled over and we leapt out, instantly absorbed into the crowd of dancing merry makers. It was a magical cross-cultural spontaneous moment. They took pictures of us, we took pictures of them as we all danced together down the street.
My favourite image from this fun event is of a young girl sandwiched between the colourful saris of her mother and aunties. It reminds me of how I often felt when I was a child in a crowd or at a party—shy, curious, awkward. Our eyes connected briefly in a moment of stillness, while the wild raucous crowd jostled around us. I was delighted with my co-author and poet Janice Friis’ imaginative riff on the image. You can read more of Janice’s impressions of my portraits in our book The Light Within—Two Artists One Vision.
After the Wedding
She stands alone
surrounded by her colourful aunties and others —
a three quarter profile portrait of sweetness and light en plein air et l’air du temps.
She looks straight through you: an optical illusion
used by Renaissance artists to draw you into the story.
Dressed to the nines, the women are faceless but
oh my, they have a full jewelry box of bangles on their arms,
in their finest silk saris of bright jewel & garden tones:
saffron amber, mint turquoise, fuchsia-rose sapphire, orchid amethyst;
embellished with tiny mirrors, heavy beading, intricate embroidery in beautiful layered designs.
The picture is full of abstract juxtapositions, planes, triangles, lights and shadows
bringing a sense of purpose, stability, safety to the viewer who partakes in this moment
this zig-zag movement of flesh & fine fabric...
time captured and suspended, we only see the girl’s luminous dark long-lashed eyes
haunting engaged innocence on the momentous cusp of maturity.
Think what she has to look forward to wearing when she is older!
Think what her life will be, in what world, where in the wrinkles of time;
it is midday after a long morning of visiting meandering listening yawning with
honey-sweet hot tea, bonbons and the din of chatterlaughs.
She remembers the platters and feasting fit for a princess, plates weighed down with
lotus leaves, carved watermelon art, star-of-anise cookies, lichee, Turkish delight,
passion fruit, dried apricots, dates, sugared nuts, ice-cold lemon tea and rose water.
Everywhere the light is brilliant with excitement,
Aunties’ perfumes, salty sweat, the close, too close mingling jostling crowding too much….
the girl tries to look brave but she now, in the sparkly moment the camera clicks,
would rather be home, so weary of the day’s plans and noise, wanting to be
curled up with her tapestry pillows, warm breezes on her face, ready to succumb to dreams.
But wait! There is still a sense of anticipation in the air
a joie de vivre that bubbles like a San Pellegrino in a hand blown glass.
Hence she casts a wary eye to the observer — Is there more to this? Can we go home now?
Shhhhhh, sweetie, let me give you a big happy hug, soon soon….
what will she fantasize during her siesta — the stuff of happiness
an optimistic surrender to the white ambient music of noise,
the sleepy twinkling haze of REM images shapes journeys;
too young to grasp the joyful hard work of celebrations, relationships
but too old to weep tears of boredom, she lets go to manage the wait —
one day soon, too soon she will don her own expensive sari and bangles
and prepare for the richness of party rites and foods,
creating and sharing her own future rights and wishes while
forging a different new exciting path from the one
her aunties have shown her today