Daniel Adler At An Indian Wedding

backpacking india

Daniel walked to Roshan’s shop slightly after six. He waited there and watched the end of what must have been 2012,  a clearly terrible movie despite the very nice notion of all surviving humans returning to the continent whence they originally came. Roshan played bad Indian music and showed him pictures of attractive American girls going to the waterfall with Golu as their tour guide. Again he was reminded of high school, when he used to go over to a friend’s house and wait to leave while time expired and that friend watched bad TV or diddled with video games, and by 630, Roshan, in his cool drawn-out downward tending lilt told him that that they’d leave at 7.

He rather likes writing in the third person, which Jonathan Franzen recommends as one of his top ten rules for writing, but which is the only one he really disagrees with, thinking instead that the first person voice of the blog is more powerful and intimate and of a more 21st century nature than the third person, of a more 19th century nature itself, but quibble quibble. He was not sure his stomach was sound after eating that wedding meal, especially that sweet pea watery side dish, which Roshan and his cousin wholeheartedly suggested he eat. He sipped it and tried to accustom himself to the taste. After such a long time of general good-stomachness, to get sick off that wedding meal would be totally backtracking. And even though his hotel proprietor reassured him after the wedding party, while he was sitting on the rooftop staring at the waxing moon and the gold-illumined palace and fort perched high on the cliff to his right, he still felt it going down his intestines and hoped he wouldn’t wake up gassy in the middle of the night like he did in Amritsar when he stayed at the Golden Temple for free with the Sikhs and that fat American waking up at 430 to catch her train and keeping him up while he tried to belch for like an hour before he was able to go back to sleep, he really hoped that wouldn’t happen.

But overall the wedding was quite fun and horrible, as in the sense of filled with horror. When he danced on the different colored lit up dance floor, Indian men, the only ones populating it, watched him and wanted to shake his hand, and even some of the attractive women who he had no chance of talking to due to the fact that you simply cannot try to fuck Indian women unless you invest serious time and possibly money, they also watched him silently without really watching him attentively, the way you’d watch a feral cat fight or overhear a dirty joke . After one or two minutes of dancing, the DJ was kind enough to start playing a Britney Spears song, one of the few Western songs he must have had. Then something hit his neck. A piece of food probably. It wasn’t necessarily sticky, although it was hard to tell since if it was, any stickiness would’ve immediately been washed away. Because it’s like 95 degrees at night in Bundi and one song of dancing equals soggy shirt and wiping your forehead with the back of your hand continuously until you walk over to the “mineral water” which the Indians simply let run after they refill their cups. And after Roshan had told him that the groom didn’t have much money and at a normal wedding you get to choose what you want to eat while here they come around and serve you, again like the Golden Temple in Amritsar, he had doubts that this was actually “mineral water” although it did hydrate him, obviously, it wasn’t like, brown and unswallowable; it’s just that he was slightly scared when he saw the disregard the Indians had for what was supposed to be more expensive water than what came out of the tap. But like Indian disregard means anything, come on… So after someone threw food at him it was clear he should get off the dance floor before resentment built any further.

He drank and hydrated and then sat with his friends and little Golu next to him and the servers came around with buckets and served him that watery sweet pea thing, and fried dough, and that syrupy ball you often get for dessert at Indian restaurants, and fried naan and a weird chutney vegetable or fruit, rather, because it had a pit, and the only thing he really liked, a red chickpea sauce, which he had seconds of. All this was satisfying, but not as satisfying as he’d thought it would be, partly because half the time he was thinking about it making him sick, and partly because he was thinking of the low quality of food they were serving, and how it was served from buckets the way you’d feed cattle, and prepared in huge vats for the hundreds, probably more like a thousand guests who showed up to the wedding since the groom has so many friends.

He became one of them when he and Roshan drove the groom to the scene. He wondered if he should give up shotgun for the groom since it was his special day and all, but disregarded this as his being overly considerate and instead decided to just take what was his, instead of making a big to-do about something that probably didn’t even cross anyone else’s mind (although it certainly might have). Moreover, in order not to have to keep getting in and out, and just assuming the backseat he didn’t want to potentially offend Roshan by making him look like his chauffeur when the groom was not in the car, which according to taxicab driving stereotypes, he was not inclined to do. When the groom did get out of the car in his gray polyester suit with tie clearly not Western, just a flat piece of fabric with a strangely wrinkled knot, which wasn’t a knot at all, but simply a three or four inch mess of wrinkles, he felt the groom’s slight nervousness as he dusted at an imaginary spot on the corner of his gray coat, and he remembered feeling that way before prom, that feeling of having to look good in front of a lot of people, and he imagined being in the groom’s position on such an important day, which made him feel like he better knew humanity, and like he kind of wanted to get married, not so much for sanctimoniously bonding himself to his best friend in marital law, but rather for having that important memory forever written in the proverbial books.

And all in all, it was a good wedding, for an Indian wedding without much money, since there were so many attendees and so many satisfied looking people, who he wondered how many of knew the groom, and who simply showed up for a free meal. There were so many that when they first arrived Roshan suggested they linger outside and drink another beer, and even when many had left and they entered, Roshan and his cousin hung around the entrance, scoping the scene as wallflowers, clearly intimidated by so many people, hiding on the perimeters of the makeshift fabric-hung walls. Since Daniel didn’t know anyone and didn’t really have an image or reputation to protect, he didn’t give a shit, was already attracting enough attention wherever he walked as the only white one out of a thousand Indians, and so even though he was unsure he should get back on the dance floor after that minor incident prior, Roshan and his cousin lured him into dancing with them, or rather, letting them dance with him. Their “moves” seemed to him 85-90% gay, since both Roshan and his cousin were kind of trying to grind on him and he felt slightly uncomfortable being the focal point of such unbridled male attention, which he maneuvered away from only by skillfully jump-360ing or rotating his hips away from their crotches. He knew his worry was unfounded, however, when he remembered that in India hand-holding between men is acceptable and appropriate and since Roshan and he were “brothers,” and he had accepted his invitation to this wedding he was fairly willing to be danced with, although not ground upon, and even let Roshan’s non-English speaking cousin, who continuously through the evening spoke to him in Hindi as though he understood, get away with similarly controversial moves.

All of this registering subconsciously with him as he tried to focus on enjoying the wedding food and acknowledging the all-too-lingering eye contact coming from across the row where a line of about fifty Indian men sat. When he had finished eating his bread and chickpeas and syrupy dough ball, which were the only parts of the meal he enjoyed, he turned to Roshan who was ready to leave for a while based on how he readily said “Cello,” which means let’s go, and has for the past few weeks for Daniel stopped conjuring images of orchestral stringed floor instruments. When they hopped onto Roshan’s scooter, which offered a much smoother ride than the one he rode today since, like Roxan, it’s new, he was very pleased that Roshan volunteered to take him back to his guest house instead of letting him walk, as he made poor Golu do, after he called him while they sat at the lake drinking, and conveyed to Roshan his sadness that they had forgotten him. That Golu was sad made Daniel sad, since the poor cute kid so often looked downcast and melancholy and is so skinny that Daniel was able to touch his thumb and forefinger around his bicep, although when he asked at the end of the night if Golu was happy he nodded, still looking at the ground, and despite Daniel’s doubts, after Golu’s resolve and wisdom at the swimming hole earlier in the day, he decided to just let it drop.

The wedding feast did go down without complication, giving Daniel a “perfect record” in Rajasthan, which is the kind of place, what with the friendly people and extraordinarily hot weather, where he’d like to maintain just that, a perfect record.

He rather likes writing in the third person, which Jonathan Franzen recommends as one of his top ten rules for writing, but which is the only one he really disagrees with, thinking instead that the first person voice of the blog is more powerful and intimate and of a more 21st century nature than the third person, of a more 19th century nature itself, but quibble quibble. He was not sure his stomach was sound after eating that wedding meal, especially that sweet pea watery side dish, which Roshan and his cousin wholeheartedly suggested he eat. He sipped it and tried to accustom himself to the taste. After such a long time of general good-stomachness, to get sick off that wedding meal would be totally backtracking. And even though his hotel proprietor reassured him after the wedding party, while he was sitting on the rooftop staring at the waxing moon and the gold-illumined palace and fort perched high on the cliff to his right, he still felt it going down his intestines and hoped he wouldn’t wake up gassy in the middle of the night like he did in Amritsar when he stayed at the Golden Temple for free with the Sikhs and that fat American waking up at 430 to catch her train and keeping him up while he tried to belch for like an hour before he was able to go back to sleep, he really hoped that wouldn’t happen.

But overall the wedding was quite fun and horrible, as in the sense of filled with horror. When he danced on the different colored lit up dance floor, Indian men, the only ones populating it, watched him and wanted to shake his hand, and even some of the attractive women who he had no chance of talking to due to the fact that you simply cannot try to fuck Indian women unless you invest serious time and possibly money, they also watched him silently without really watching him attentively, more of the way you’d watch a spectacle and feel ashamed or slightly happy about witnessing it for the sake of being able to tell your friends that you saw it. After one or two minutes of dancing, the DJ was kind enough to start playing a Britney Spears song, one of the few Western songs he must have had. Then something hit his neck. A piece of food probably. It wasn’t necessarily sticky, although it was hard to tell since if it was, any stickiness would’ve immediately been washed away. Because it’s like 95 degrees at night in Bundi and one song of dancing equals soggy shirt and wiping your forehead with the back of your hand continuously until you walk over to the “mineral water” which the Indians simply let run after they refill their cups. And after Roshan had told him that the groom didn’t have much money and at a normal wedding you get to choose what you want to eat while here they come around and serve you, again like the Golden Temple in Amritsar, he had doubts that this was actually “mineral water” although it did hydrate him, obviously, it wasn’t like, brown and unswallowable; it’s just that he was slightly scared when he saw the disregard the Indians had for what was supposed to be more expensive water than what came out of the tap. But like Indian disregard means anything, come on… So after someone threw food at him it was clear he should get off the dance floor before resentment built any further.

He drank and hydrated and then sat with his friends and little Golu next to him and the servers came around with buckets and served him that watery sweet pea thing, and fried dough, and that syrupy ball you often get for dessert at Indian restaurants, and fried naan and a weird chutney vegetable or fruit, rather, because it had a pit, and the only thing he really liked, a red chickpea sauce, which he had seconds of. All this was satisfying, but not as satisfying as he’d thought it would be, partly because half the time he was thinking about it making him sick, and partly because he was thinking of the low quality of food they were serving, and how it was served from buckets the way you’d feed animals, and prepared in huge vats for the hundreds, probably more like a thousand guests who showed up to the wedding since the groom has so many friends.

He became one of them when he and Roshan drove the groom to the scene. He wondered if he should give up shotgun for the groom since it was his special day and all, but disregarded this as his being overly considerate and instead decided to just take what was his, instead of making a big to-do about something that probably didn’t even cross anyone else’s mind (although it certainly might have) and, moreover, in order not to have to keep getting in and out, just assuming the backseat and potentially offending Roshan by making Roshan look like his chauffeur when the groom was not in the car, which according to taxicab driving stereotypes, he was not inclined to do. When the groom did get out of the car in his gray polyester suit with tie clearly not Western, just a flat piece of fabric with a strangely wrinkled knot, which wasn’t a knot at all, but simply a three or four inch mess of wrinkles, he felt the groom’s slight nervousness as he dusted at an imaginary spot on the corner of his gray coat, and he remembered feeling that way before prom, that feeling of having to look good in front of a lot of people, and he imagined being in the groom’s position on such an important day, which made him feel like he better knew humanity, and like he kind of wanted to get married, not so much for the sake of being with one woman for the rest of his life, but instead for having that kind of important memory forever written in the proverbial books.

And all in all, it was a good wedding, for an Indian wedding without much money, since there were so many attendees and so many satisfied looking people, who he wondered how many of knew the groom, and who simply showed up for a free meal. There were so many that Roshan suggested they linger outside and drink another beer, and even when many had left and they entered, Roshan and his cousin hung around the entrance, scoping the scene like wallflowers, clearly intimidated by so many people, hiding on the perimeters of the makeshift fabric-hung walls. Since Daniel didn’t know anyone and didn’t really have an image or reputation to protect, he didn’t give a shit, was already attracting enough attention wherever he walked as the only white one out of a thousand Indians, and so even though he was unsure he should get back on the dance floor after that minor incident prior, Roshan and his cousin lured him into dancing with them, or rather, letting them dance with him. Their “moves” seemed to him 85-90% gay, since both Roshan and his cousin were kind of trying to grind on him and he felt slightly uncomfortable being the focal point of such unbridled male attention, which he maneuvered away from only by skillfully jump-360ing or rotating his hips away from their crotches. He knew his worry was unfounded, however, when he remembered that in India hand-holding between men is acceptable and appropriate and since Roshan and he were “brothers,” and he had accepted his invitation to this wedding he was fairly willing to be danced with, although not ground upon, and even let Roshan’s non-English speaking cousin, who continuously through the evening spoke to him in Hindi as though he understood, get away with similarly controversial moves.

All of this registering subconsciously with him as he tried to focus on enjoying the wedding food and acknowledging the all-too-lingering eye contact coming from across the row where a line of about fifty Indian men sat. When he had finished eating his bread and chickpeas and syrupy dough ball, which were the only parts of the meal he enjoyed, he turned to Roshan who was ready to leave for a while based on how he readily said “Cello,” which means let’s go, and has for the past few weeks for Daniel stopped conjuring images of orchestral stringed floor instruments. When they hopped onto Roshan’s scooter, which offered a much smoother ride than the one he rode today since, like Roxan, it’s new, he was very pleased that Roshan volunteered to take him back to his guest house instead of letting him walk, as he made poor Golu do, after he called him while they sat at the lake drinking, and conveyed to Roshan his sadness that they had forgotten him. That Golu was sad made Daniel sad, since the poor cute kid so often looked downcast and melancholy and is so skinny that Daniel was able to touch his thumb and forefinger around his bicep, although when he asked at the end of the night if Golu was happy he nodded, still looking at the ground, and despite Daniel’s doubts, after Golu’s resolve and wisdom at the swimming hole earlier in the day, he decided to just let it drop.

The wedding feast did go down without complication, giving Daniel a “perfect record” in Rajasthan, which is the kind of place, what with the friendly people and extraordinarily hot weather, where he’d like to maintain just that, a perfect record.

Published by Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel was born in Brooklyn, NY, and has lived in Portland, Oregon. He studied literature and philosophy at NYU and creative writing at Edinburgh University. He is finishing an MFA in Fiction at University of South Carolina.

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