Sunday, April 20, 2008

UP Nights... Films, Barat, and Kulfi

An afternoon by the Taj pool, and a fantastic book, "In Spite of the Gods" later, I embarked for a movie at the local cinema. The first Pakistani movie to show in India in many years, I chose to watch a well-rated film called "Khuda Ke Liye," or "In the name of God." Though the movie was in Urdu, its spoken form is remarkably similar to Hindi, and so I managed the basics that along with visual tips allow for decent understanding. Khuda Ke Liye was a fantastic movie that, while lacking in much acting prowess, articulated a complex modern Pakistani, and Muslim, dynamic in the post-9/11 world. A British Pakistani girl is married by her father, and against her will, to an extremist cousin in Waziristan, marooned in Western Pakistan to the chagrin of her feckless mother. Captive in a Pashto village, the protagonist battles between accepting a culture unknown to her, but her own, and squelching a hatred for her father. Her husband, a young musician turned rock-to-faith, joins in a battle alongside the Taliban as his progressive brother moves to Chicago to marry his American love. While one man lives free, another is persecuted as an extremist. All too familiarly, a World Bank friend explained the plight of a former Stanford classmate of ours who was deported, despite a fervid love of American opportunity, for having studied Chemical Engineering.

Exiting the theater, I used the local bathroom to don my Sherwani and I quickly made for my good friend's wedding. As I was escorted out the exit, half of the hotel staff offered a hand to shut the heavy door of my white Ambassador car, waving with smiles and compliments, and asking who my Indian bride was. At the residence, with photographs, marigolds, and bountiful traditions of puja and dance and incredibly loud band music, we began the wedding festivities. Though I've before been to Andhran, Keralan, and Maharashtran weddings, I hadn't yet been to one from Uttar Pradesh, or the North. The Barat, or procession, began from the groom's residence.

Fit with a white horse, twenty men to carry heavy lights atop their heads, a truck blasting the recent Bollywood hits like Darde Disco and Mauja hi Mauja, and even a small man pushing a generator, we danced for two hours down the streets. Snaking through the darkened streets, through air suffused with heavy heat, a lingering presence of the afternoon sun, we danced and danced as the white horse and my princely friend followed. Eventually reaching the wedding hall, Kushagra bribed his way inside, paying handsomely to the bride's sisters and family to make his entrance. As we tossed marigold petals atop their regal attire, and they exchanged flowers and furtive glances, they were slowly (quite) conjoined in marriage. To celebrate, after a liquor and contraceptive yatra for the newly interested parties at 4am, we celebrated by eating all of the remaining ice cream (kulfi) from the ceremony. An hour later I flew home and went to work, having only just changed from my Sherwani.

1 comment:

Kamran said...

wow.. u're 24 and visited 50+ countries.. lucky you!