The Hindu Wedding

January 6, 2016


Together with my Aussie mates, Thor, Jillian, and Ian, we made our way down the gangway, through the gauntlet of cabbies on the dock, then shepherded by a quasi-official taxi wrangler to a van driven by a young man who spoke English better than I speak Sinhalese. A mutually agreeable price was quickly negotiated and we were soon making our way out of the port.

It was drizzling. Combined with the heat and the smog, this was humidity you not only felt, but could see. Thankfully, the cab was air conditioned. More or less.

We received a thorough tour of Colombo, old and new, with several stops around this amazing city. It was surprisingly busy for a Sunday.

We had spent the past three days in India. So we drew some swift comparisons between the two countries, especially considering the close proximity of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) to India’s southernmost tip. Parts of Colombo were quite clean and modern, even opulent, but older parts of the city had that familiar chaos, filth and neglect of India. While we didn’t venture outside the city proper, there was not the usual complement of cows and goats wandering in the streets as we saw in India. So…it smelled better. Not great. Just better.

Given the dozens of grand cathedrals, ancient churches, and elaborate mosques and temples we’d visited during the past few months, we’d pretty much had our fill. But our driver was insistent that we spend time at a massive Hindu temple in the middle of the city. Our shoes were collected outside and we were led inside. It quickly became obvious why our driver was so excited about us being there. We found ourselves standing in the middle of a wedding ceremony, the bride, groom and priest seated on the floor, surrounded by their beaming extended families.

I couldn’t help feeling like we were intruding on a very private moment in the lives of these families. What would happen if a cabload of Sri Lankans suddenly walked in on an Irish or Italian Catholic wedding in America? Somebody would be throwing fists.

But, on the other hand, I was witnessing something few people ever see. This was the reason I had taken this journey.

I understood none of what was being said, but was mesmerized by the colors of their clothing and the flowers, the huge, beaming smiles. Hiding behind the camera’s eyepiece, I felt the tears begin to well and my throat tighten. It was hard not to be swept up by the joy and beauty of it all.