Children usually find a way to steal the show at a wedding. There were no ring bearers, and no flower girls for Raj and Jyothi, but as an event for whole families there were plenty of children who were as beautifully decorated as their mothers. Many of the children had never seen a white person before and had a hard time not staring at two gringos. I tried to make eye contact and smile at them all. I smiled at one young girl and she suddenly looked down, as if she got caught. We met a number of the guest families through the children. They walked by and the children stopped and starred. I would smile at them and signal to come sit with us. Some children came right over at the invitation and others stood and continued to stare shyly as their parents nudged them to meet us.
Three children in particular took a special liking to us. It started with a little tap on the shoulder and introduction of names. And, as children do, they ran away giggling. Then they were back for more greetings, and more running away giggling. They offered us both a few short-stemmed flowers, for which we graciously accepted and thanked them, as they again ran away giggling. I looked at my purple gerber daisies and hoped they did not come from one of the arrangements. Greg had the same thoughts about his traditional daisies, which, curiously, seemed to match the garland around the stage.
After lunch, which I only hoped was not all over my face or down my front, we went back upstairs to the wedding. We started to make our way across the room for seats that were not directly in front of the speakers, but were stopped by the photographers stationed in front of the stage so they could pose us for a photo. Rajeev saw us and called us up on stage to have the formal group photo taken. We lined up for the photo and our three young friends were posed right in front of us. I laughed. We had only met them two hours previously, and I don’t even remember if we met their parents.
After a second photo with just the four of us, we descended the stage and were greeted by our three young friends who presented us with ice cream cups. Ugh. I had just left my ice cream on my plantain leaf because, once again, I had eaten myself silly. What do you do with an ice cream up (two each, actually) on a warm day, in a busy room, wearing someone else’s formal clothes, with no room for even a bite? I think Greg may have eaten his. I sat holding mine until they started to melt. I did not want the girls to see me not eat them, or they would have felt badly. As the dixie cups were getting ready to drip onto the purple saree the man sitting next to me noticed my anxiety and took them to a woman standing near the top of the stairs. She appeared to be staff more than a guest, and was pleased to have them.
I hoped the girls had not noticed that someone else consumed the ice cream they shared, but I spotted one of them up on stage in a group photo. We tried to figure out who her her family was, but she was in another photo. And another. And another. She lined up with the children in the large group photo with Jyothi’s family so we think she must have been a niece. Or maybe she just slipped in with the children. We never did figure out who were parents were.
After the wedding photos concluded and I changed back into my western clothes, Rajeev’s mother hurried me out of the dressing room for a child’s birthday. On the stage a large group stood around our little friend who stood in the center cutting two, round cakes. I think we made her birthday as she fed us a bite of cake before handing it to us to finish ourselves. We still have no idea who her parents are.