9am December 4, 2004 Colombo, Sri Lanka
The unthinkable has happened. I’ve lost one of the memory cards. Thankfully it’s the card of the descent and the photos from the Grand Palace, Bangkok. At least Keli has those and I’m not too worried about the photos from Poring. If it had been Phang Nga, I would have been devastated — or worse from Mt. K.
Oh well, shit happens.
So the wedding. I arrived in Colombo and attempted to go buy a washing machine. To my surprise I couldn’t find a duty free “shop” with this at first. Wandering around the arrival terminal I finally discover this amazing warehouse with everything under the sun. I find the machine my mum indicated and oops — not allowed because I don’t hold a Sri Lankan passport anymore.
“Sir I understand, and you seem like a nice person and we would let you go through, but they are checking outside now because of a new government budget. Oh and it’s just as cheap outside…” (Customs official).
Probably a good thing — no delivery anyway!
The driver and van I had requested are waiting for me — his name is Ranjith. As I talk to him my Sinhalese starts improving, it’s quite comical trying to communicate at first. He’s a nice guy and drives fairly carefully. Finally at 2am I am at my parent’s house. After an extended homecoming I fall asleep to millions of mosquitos draining my blood. Yay. Good to be in muggy Sri Lanka again.
In the morning we drive to Kandy in the central hill country. As with all our trips in the past, after we drive a short way my Mum decideds she can’t remember what we did with the dogs so off we went back to check. This always happens.
Traffic is unbelievable. My dad and my oldest brother (Harsha) have gone on ahead in my brother’s car. Seems like an odd thing for the groom to drive his own car to his own wedding. I mean his mind must be on other things! But they said they would drive slow and carefully. As I said, the traffic is unbelievable. I feel like I’m playing a computer game.
Hmm, I wonder if we could make a game called “Asian Taxi”. As the levels increase, the drivers get more annoying and incomprehensible and then the traffic gets more insane. The task? Get from one area to another in an asian city. Could be a number one seller methinks!
My other brother, Miuru, says that with the new government budget, they had increased all traffic fines including one for “careless driving” from Rs. 200 to Rs. 1500. In response the bus drivers, instead of driving more carefully and reducing the fines, increased the fares to cope with the fines. I love Sri Lankans!
The drive is fairly uneventful and we arrive in Kandy 6 hours later — note that this is a 110km drive, so you can imagine the pace and traffic from just that. That night we check into the Earl’s Regency Hotel where the wedding is to be held, visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth and buy all sorts of clothes and things that I need. It’s sweet my brother is all stressed — doesn’t say it but he is. It’s a 5am start the next morning and I am feeling slightly sick from travelling.
My brother is up at 4:30 (at least) — mind you I did wake up a couple times in the night thinking wild animals were attacking only to discover that it was him snoring. By 6am we are ready and breakfast is here. Soon the dress-up guy is there at the room with the clothes. I chivalrously allow my brother to get dressed first (well ‘cos I’m evil and wanted to take photos).
The costume is layers upon layers of clothes, designed to make you look fat (not jolly) and basically like a Kandyan prince from the last century (19th/18th centuries). It’s pretty cumbersome and quite heavy to wear. I hope a photo came out to attach to this journal.
At 7:45 we go to meet the bride and the bridal party for photos (my brother has chosen well, Shalika is very pretty and very nice, she will be very good for him). Some of the photos make no bloody sense — there’s a lot of acting involved — e.g. the bride looking to the heavens. Oh yes and the bridal bouquet has started fermenting which lends a “lovely” fragrance to the proceedings.
By 9:30 we are all tiring of photos. Shalika plaintively says “I think this is enough now!” Her three cousins who are the youngest bridesmaids are very cute (all under 9 years I think) and I shamelessly tease them that the gel used in their hair won’t wash away. I am evil; they are shocked.
At 10am the groom and his party are downstairs with the drummers and dancers and the procession heads to the ballroom. As my brother enters, his feet are washed according to tradition and then we all stand next to a “Poruwa” which is a traditionally-made wedding stand. Finally at the appointed time the bridal party is also ushered in by dancers and drummers.
Did I meantion that the costume I was wearing was making breathing a little difficult? Oh and going to the bathroom would have been impossible. Um I’m sure this would have made the kings and princes quite irritable. Anyway, back to the ceremony.
The bridal party stands on the other side of the “Poruwa”. The entire proceeding is blessed with prayers and finally at the proper time (to the second — my father, the time fanatic, is keeping track of it), the couple stands on the Poruwa and carry out some traditional stuff which I have no clue about. These appointed times, by the way, are dictated by the star alignments. Pretty, ummm, complicated. And again at the right time they descend, light a ceremonial lamp (and almost set hundreds of flowers on fire by mistake) and then sign the marriage certificates. That’s it my brother is officially married!
After a few more photos I make a beeline to get out of the costime. My poor brother has to wear it till lunch. Ha Ha. Hope he didn’t have to go to the bathroom.
Later in the afternoon, the couple “go away” on their honeymoon. Actually they came through a back entrance and return to the hotel. Anyway, that’s that, my brother is married off — now for god’s sake have some children so that I can get off the hook for grandchildren! The next ceremony is the “Homecoming” when the couple return to their (my parent’s) house. That’s on Monday. We returned to Colombo later that evening.
Plan for Saturday (today), go shopping and meet Apsara the journalist I’ve been corresponding with and her friends.