Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Showers of blessing

So, it rained the whole time we were in Durban. It was a cooling rain, leaving the air fresh smelling. For a wedding weekend, it was ideal, as the heat was kept in abeyance and the breezes kept the humidity at bay. All weekend there were mentions of “showers of blessings” from my husband to his mother to the wedding guests. Everyone seemed pleased at the rain.

Durban is a hilly city…a San Franciscan would feel right at home there! So undulating is the landscape that a house on a flat plot of land is a rare…and costly…find. So I was not surprised when we went to visit my mother-in-law’s cousin and found her house perched precariously on the edge of a dizzyingly steep hill. That I had to scamper down that hill on a narrow, roughly-poured set of stairs, however, was a surprise.

Saturday morning saw us at Mum’s house, a suitcase containing my sari and other accoutrements in hand. She had made arrangements for the daughter of her cousin to do my hair, and flowers in the hair is a necessary part of the bride’s attire. The cousin’s daughter is a hair dresser, and the cousin is considered some kind of an expert at draping and tying wedding saris, so I was bundled off to be made presentable. After two stops for flowers, we were on our way to the hair dresser. What nobody told me was that the cousin worked out of her house!

And so I came to this little brick house clinging to the side of a hillside steep enough to make a mountain goat swoon, and I had to clamber down these rough stairs to the miniscule cement pad outside the door. Thank goodness the door opened into the room because if I had had to step off that little pad to allow the door to swing, I would surely have rolled down that hill like a cheese wheel in Gloucestershire! The inside of the little salon was far from glam, but she had all the necessary tools and equipment and four women were packed inside the tiny room! Clearly, the lack of glamour and upmarket cachet was no barrier to business success and I was soon to see why…this girl could do magic with hair!

I have cranky hair. It is fine, thin, aggressively straight, and abundant. I keep it cut in a graduated bob, the kind that is short in the back, but has long, chin-length sides. Think Charlize Theron in Aeon Flux, just blonde and without the pointy bits on the cheeks. Yes…like Posh Spice, but I had the haircut a full year before she stole it from me. Anyway, my challenge to this young lady was to find a way to give me an “up do” sufficient to anchor a bunch of flowers at the crown of my head…and I mean anchor. It was going to have to stay in place for better than 12 hours, with no slipping and sliding in hair so baby fine that bobby pins slide out of it…no mean task!

Well, to my absolute amazement, she succeeded! That night, exhausted and unable to get the pins out alone, I begged Hubby to help. “Good grief!” he exclaimed upon seeing the pins. “She’s built a whole superstructure in there!” And indeed she had! She had started by putting a baby ponytail at the crown of my head and then building a grid of pins…affixed to the pony tail elastic... to use as a platform to secure the flowers to. It was amazing! And effective! And damned difficult to undo!

Once she was done with my hair I hiked back up that narrow, uneven flight of stairs to the dooryard. The driveway from the road to the dooryard was so steep that hubby parked our little rent-a-Polo on the street for fear up being unable to get it up the driveway and into the road again! Inside the main house now, I was led to a room where I shucked my jeans and T-shirt and started climbing into my wedding finery. First the petticoat, or underskirt. This was gold-coloured cotton, red and gold being the traditional Hindu wedding colours. The skirt has a draw string waist which must be tied tightly and securely, for the success or failure of draping a sari depends on this petticoat and it’s snug fit.

Next the blouse, a short, midriff-baring scoop-necked top. Mine was of gold silk shantung, custom made for my full figure and bosom. A row of tiny, hidden hooks and eyes march up the front of this little scrap of a top, making the front closure look like a seam.

Now the sari. Starting at the plain end, a corner is tucked into the right side waistband of my petticoat and the six+ yards of fabric wrapped around me until it comes to the front again and overlaps the original tuck. The sari fabric is now yanked and pulled and twitched and adjusted until the proper length is achieved. Since I was getting married and that is done barefoot, the sari was adjusted for the flat sandals I was wearing. Eventually the length was properly adjusted and now it was time to pleat. Seven pleats of approximately 4 inches in depth were made over my left leg and tucked into the waistband of the petticoat. More tugging and twitching and adjusting, and finally the pallau was thrown over my shoulder.

Now, the pallau has to be draped and secured so it doesn’t keep falling down. Cousin took a single safety pin and secured the back of the pallau through my bra strap and blouse, and then began the job of draping the front of the sari so that I would not have it in my way during the ceremony. Finally satisfied, she took the decorative sari pin and secured the pallau to my left shoulder. I was dressed!

Now, the mad dash back to Mum’s…Hubby still hadn’t changed…and then on to the temple. We arrived late…“we wondered if the had bride run away!” one of the uncles quipped…but eventually we arrived at the tiny private temple, took our seats at the front of the assembled guests, and waited for the Brahmin (priest) to call us forward.

We kicked off our shoes and stood and, accompanied by the soft rains showering blessings upon us, stepped into the temple.


  1. Hey, Sweet Violet,
    I love the wedding picture, and can't wait for the story for the magazine!!
    I have posted an award for you on my blog, http://candlesandcrafts.blogspot.com/
    Take Care,
    Kat :)

  2. What a lovely time you had - and a hair style like Charlize... oh I say!!! ;)

    The rain in humid Durbs must have been an absolute blessing too! When I am there my curly thick hair frizzes up something awful :( I look AWFUL!!! Same happens in Cape Town... the only place my hair behaves in South Africa is Joburg... dry air is the trick! haha

  3. Congrats SV!

    (from an ex Mweb blogger)

  4. Congratulations SV!

    (from an ex Mweb blogger)

  5. wow the series of pics illustrating how to wear a saree is excellent. Now why havent I seen this before. It would be so useful.


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