Friday, September 11, 2009; Day 19-20: India; 1:30 AM
We just finished watching our wedding video. In India, there is a tradition of taking a 3 to 4 hour video of the wedding, putting cheesy but comical animations, and adding the current Bollywood hits to the whole thing. Since our marriage was a bit different (got married within 1 week of the proposal, and it didn’t have the typical week-long events, rather just 1 dinner party) our video is about 1 hour long, no cheesy animations and you can hear people talking instead of dorky songs. The video here is on VHS, and the sound got damaged over the years, so it’s was even weirder. The copy we have in Chicago has sound, but I haven’t watched it in a long time. Some classic shots you’ll find in any wedding video is groups of people standing uncomfortably still for a minute or two while the thousand-watt bulbs warm you up like fried chicken in the window of a KFC. In the theory of relativity, everything is relative – a minute can seem like forever when you have to stand next to relatives in glaring light. Regardless, it’s a fun affair, all the relative get together, have a meal and then send the bride and groom off.
There is one thing that I would definitely change about Indian marriages, and that is the clothes. It’s anywhere from 80 to 110 degrees. The humidity is super high. Skin gets sticky within a few minutes of taking a shower. And, then the groom is bound to wear not only an undershirt with a kurta, but a shearwani. A shearwani is like a tuxedo, but a bit more constricting, because the buttons go all the way to the neck, ending with a clip to be sure no air gets in or out. The bride fairs no better, wearing a lehnga suit, typically heavy from accents, lace and sparkles. Don’t forget the makeup she has to endure to be a “picture perfect” doll for everyone to see. Sheikh Yasir Qadhi (I think it was him or maybe one of my buddies, don’t quote me on it) once said that we need to be careful about putting the bride on display. He said once at a wedding, the equivalent of a best man once said, “Damn bro, I knew you said that you’re fiancé was pretty, but I didn’t know she was this pretty.” Now, that’s just disgusting. May Allah protect us from becoming like that.
Sunday, September 13, 2009; Day 21: India; 5:47 AM
I just looked inside the tomb of Hazrat Shujauddin Saab. It’s this huge tomb/mausoleum, or durga, that people from all over come to visit that sits right in front of my grandfather’s house.
I will spend about 30 seconds explaining who the durga people are. They are of the Barelvi sect (as far as I know) of Muslims. They believe in saint-hood in Islam, and that we should pray, and prostrate to the graves of these saints. The prostration is apparently allowed because it’s different than the prostration that we do in our normal prayers. They are a very small sect, but are widely spread throughout Muslim lands. The Saudi’s have gotten rid of a lot of the structures that signified tombs to eliminate grave worship, also know as khabar parasti. The problem with grave worship is that prostration is only for the Big Guy, and no one else. Also, it can lead to idol worship and convert into a Hinduism type of religion with millions of idols.
I’ve never seen the inside of Hazrat Shujauddin’s mausoleum before, and I’ve been coming to India over 15 years. Why is that such a big deal? Because it’s literally steps away and any time I leave the house I pass it. It’s pretty sick. I forgot what the round thing on the top of masjid’s is called. It’s from old Muslim architecture. Anyway, that thing is huge from the inside. (Edit: It’s called a dome, duh). There are pigeons that’ve made their nests inside. It was eerily quiet inside. There were two men sitting in the corners reading the Quran. One man was dusting off the top of the grave covering, which was made of yellow and green shiny cloth with shiny sequins sewed on all over. A fourth was, surprisingly, prostrating to the grave, mumbling some prayer. We walked out as quietly as we walked in, never saying a word to each other.
I did a two-hour lecture on Friday to MBBS and MD graduates of Hyderabad medical schools on general topics of USMLE and how to get into residency in the United States. There were about 15 students. It was at a USMLE coaching center that used to be a Kaplan that I’m now involved with. I had done a lecture for them several months ago, but stopped because I was preparing for my boards.
I went to my brother-in-law’s father-in-law’s house, which in my confused and multi-crossing family tree, is actually my mother’s brother’s wife’s brother. Also, my mother’s father’s brother’s son’s son. Figure that out. He wanted some advice on how to manage his coronary artery disease. His physician opted to maximize medical management rather that an invasive strategy. It’s cheaper, and it doesn’t have the complication rate of angiograms and by-pass surgery. I told him to lose 15 kg’s (about 35 pounds), and re-consider having a discussion about the angiogram.
Sunday, September 13, 2009; Day 22 (since I’m writing another one today); 3:27 PM
I was going to look for the old-style tops and kites today. The old-style tops are the wooden ones that have a steel tip, and a string is wrapped around a ribbed bottom, which then is held while the top is thrown with a flick of the wrist. It is also known as a latu, which should not be confused with lota, which is the water can used to wash yourself after using the bathroom. I first played with this type of top during our first visit to India 15 years ago. It takes a little getting used to. If you wrap the string too loose, it will just un-wrangle from the top without giving it a spin. Even more dangerous is if you wrap the string too tight. In that case, the string (I keep saying string, when it’s actually a small rope; well it’s the size of shoe-string, so I guess it’s a string) may catch on the tip of the top (heh heh) and when you pull back on the string, the top decides to come along with it like a bullet and can pierce anything it hits, including skin. So after a few tries (and a few misguided tops) we got the hang of it. My mom purchased a dozen for us to take back to New York. One other thing – since the tip is steel, every time it hits the ground for each launch, it makes a dent or scratch on the floor. And since our kitchen floor in Brooklyn was linoleum, it looked like someone had riddled the floor with a mini-gun.
I spend some time on kites later, which is a fantastic sport (yes, sport, rich with it’s own tradition of taunts and curses when someone cuts your kite). Anyway, my search for latu’s and kites was cut short, because I got caught in the rain. My father-in-law needed help in purchasing fruits, because today we are sending iftar to the local masjid. We went to the gas-station (it’s actually a petrol-station, but who’s British?), and then it started raining. We stood under the roof of the small office at the station, but still managed to get soaked. There’s something you need to know about Indian rain. Remember in Forrest Gump when he was walking through the farmlands of Vietnam during the rain? He mentioned that sometimes the rain would fall sideways, and sometimes it felt like the rain was coming from underneath you? That’s the rains of the monsoon season. Big glops of water from every which way find their way to you. So we gave up on waiting and hopped on the scooter in the downpour.
The streets had become rivers. Driving on a bike, or even a car, when you cannot see the road because it’s completely covered with brown, muddy water can be very dangerous. There can be holes or even ditches that can swallow a motorcycle whole. Even worse is if someone left a manhole open. If you fall into a manhole, it means certain death. You drown almost immediately and come out the other end into the Musi River along with other rotting bodies.
But, we still rode on until we got to a Sabzi Mandi, an open fruit and vegetable market place. It’s similar to a famer’s market with everyone displaying their produce and yelling out prices. I’ve also been to a fish market. Hyderabad gets some great fish. My father-in-law is a great bargainer. He can make people cry, he bargains so hard. My brother-in-law also has this skill. When they buy cars, he walks into the dealership, tells the guy which car he wants, which trim level, which options, and how much he’s paying. If the salesman says no, he walks out. Then the salesman chases him and they reach a compromise.
On another note, check out Edmunds.com for a great expose on car dealerships. I’m not sure if I ever posted it before, but a reporter worked undercover as a car salesman and revealed the secrets of car dealers. It takes some time to read, but it’s separated into 12 parts, so you can read it at your own pace.
So I came home, heated up a bucket of water, took a nice warm bath, and now have a giant headache. Two and a half-hours until iftar time. Is it ok to say I’m hungry? Probably not, because it think it makes the fast weak. So I’m not hungry. There.