Monday, 18 February, 2019
We were invited to a wedding. It was out of the blue almost. But it happened.
Krish has a friend he met online, Avi. He lives in Leicester, he’s visited us once, and he makes long phone calls to one or the other of us pretty regularly. He’s a great guy, a real pleasure to know and chat to. Genuine, polite and curious. Avi says things that surprise you – that’s because he is so honest about how he feels. This happily includes good things about you – he speaks openly about his feelings around you and what you have to say. It’s quite refreshing.
Avi looked after his mum, who had Alzheimers, for years. His dad also had health issues. Avi’s life was completely tied up with that and he couldn’t ever do much outside the house. Then his mum died. His dad decided to take Avi on a trip of a lifetime to his own birthplace in India. Avi would call us to say how much he wanted to leave, how bad things were in India. Then when it was almost time for him to come back to the UK, his dad became ill and was put into hospital. Avi’s return was postponed while his dad went from serious to recovering, back to serious. The government stepped in and told Avi he’d overstayed his visa and sent him back to the UK to reapply. As soon as his new application was granted, back he went. While on his stopover on the way back to India, he got word his dad had just died. It broke my heart that had he been granted passage one day earlier, he would have been there.
His parents had wanted him to marry but every woman he met didn’t make the grade. With both parents now gone, Avi became more determined. Not too many months later, he called to say ‘I’m getting married.’ That’s a weird feeling. I knew our friendship would change, I knew his life would change, I wondered how it would be since it was an arranged marriage and he barely knew his fiancee.
A few months went by and I didn’t expect to be invited to the wedding but one day he called us to ask if we would be there. It felt like a great honour. Of course the day came – we had booked a hotel to take in the two days of celebration that we were invited to. The photos will tell the story!
Some narrative. I’ve never been to a Muslim wedding. There were hundreds of people. The women and children were dressed up very elaborately. Very often families dressed alike – the women in identical dresses and the men in matching colours – sometimes just a tie that matched the women’s dresses. There was heavy make up and jewellery. There was a lot of hugging.
The stage was arranged with thrones, and a sofa – white satin and gold. When the Nikah happened (the religious ceremony) the bride went up to a balcony at the far end of the hall and sat there with an attendant. The imam and Avi and close family members formed a circle of chairs down on the hall floor around them, but only the men. Chanting – not sounding too far from Hebrew – began, followed by a sermon or teaching of sorts, about marriage. When the bride came back, Avi and Farrah sat together on the stage and people came up to visit, take photos, and deliver gifts. This was often boxes filled with clothing, shoes, jewellery… it was very showy. The whole thing was fascinating and once again I felt privileged to be there.
And of course there was food.