The local bus taking us to Kitipur was a white, slightly rusting, beaten-up minivan with nine tattered, leather seats. Over a crackled sound system, our soundtrack was an an eclectic mix of current Hindi hits interwoven with the unmistakable tones of Will.I.Am. I’m still not sure I understand how 21 adults happened to become squeezed aboard, but nevertheless we arrived at our destination intact (complete with a collection of newly formed bruises, a result of having been sitting like a battery chicken for over an hour). Accompanied by my friend Bunu, we attracted stares, whispered comments and brazen whistles from everyone we passed – dressed in my sari, and Bunu in a western-styled dress, we were a walking juxtaposition. And weren’t we at pains to forget it.
Walking half an hour into the countryside from where we were dropped, we arrived at the hilltop village where the wedding was taking place. Bunu, who had been my guide on the fantastic Annapurna Base Camp trek (which I have neglected to write about owing to the incredibly similar – and fantastic! – account of the mountains given to us by Olivia last week), had invited me to the wedding of her sister. Not one to turn down an invitation to join in with Nepali celebrations, I eagerly agreed.
The sprawl of houses in the vicinity were vacant, and I soon discovered that was because everyone had migrated to the furthermost house on the hilltop. The bride’s house was a buzz of colour and activity: everyone from the village was there, the women in their saris – red for if married, and the remaining colours for those unattached – and the men in their smart shirts. Dozens of children ran around playing with each other, or rather the unfortunate dogs, chickens, goats…
Bunu took me to see the couple, who had already been married by the time we arrived. Explaining that theirs had been an arranged marriage, she told me how her sister and her now-husband had grown up knowing each other, and that she believed them to have loved one another for a long time. The couple were sitting on a sofa in the centre of the celebrations, and I queued to wait my turn to place red tika on the forehead of the bride and groom and hand over my bridal gift. The rest of the day was spent mingling with the guests, posing for photographs (I was the only non-Nepali guest amongst the throngs) and eating a-plenty. Local dishes such as dal baati (rice with lentil puree), pickled vegetables and spicy buff (buffalo) curry were served in mammoth portions – and to my discomfort, I became rather the centre of attention while eating my mouth-wateringly-spicy lunch!
Apparently December is the month of weddings, and it is obvious that the villagers live the month in a constant state of general joy, celebration and merriment. As Bunu dropped me off the next day, she was preparing to make the 14-hour journey across the country to join her friend in celebrating her brother’s wedding. Joking with her that there is no rest for the wicked, she gleamed at me and said: “If I’m invited to a wedding, I say to them, ‘Why not, coconut?'”