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For The Love Of Sanju

Posted on Saturday, March 21, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

On our first day in Udaipur, we wandered up and down the streets in and around our guesthouse searching for good internet cafes. During that quest, we met a local artist and would-be ladies man named Sanju. Despite his soft mullet and intense stare, Sanju seemed harmless enough so we let him pull us into his shop. He immediately sat Shannon down at a small table and began to paint her fingernail.

 

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At first neither of us really understood what was happening. He worked intently for a good three or four minutes, blew on it and told Shannon to take a look.

 

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The picture does not do it justice but it is a highly detailed drawing of an elephant.

 

Then he gestured for me to sit down and he began to apply small, careful, but swift strokes with a tiny little brush. Miniature paintings are one of the region’s artesan specialties.

 

 

When he was finished, the drawing he had created was truly remarkable. He went over it with a coat of clear nail polish, blew on it and released my hand so I could examine his work.

 

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It was a peacock with its head in the center and its tailfeathers spreading out in every direction.

 

We sat and chatted with Sanju and his friend Lucky for some time. At one point they mentioned that they were going a wedding celebration in the evening, an older friend who was getting married for the second time to a woman who was also divorced. This situation is quite rare in India. Sanju and Lucky asked us if we wanted to come to the wedding with them. We thought they were joking. How can you just roll up to somebody’s wedding celebration with a couple of random white chicks?

 

But they assured us that it would not be a big deal. We went and asked our friendly and reliable Internet café manager/travel agent and he told us to go for it. Then he said, since we were going as friends of friends of the groom, we should purchase a tie to bring as a gift. We went and found a small shop selling ties and picked one out and had it wrapped.

 

Later in the evening, we met back up with Sanju and Lucky. Suddenly we were on the back of a couple of motorcycles zipping down the narrow streets weaving back and forth between pedestrians, other motorcycles, autorickshaws and cows. It was intense. I don’t think my face came out of a horrified grimace until we reached our final destination all the way across town.

 

The wedding celebration was technically day three of the wedding experience and since both the bride and groom were Muslim, it was much more subdued than non-Muslim India weddings. Still, it was packed with people all dressed in their best suits and gorgeous saris in hues of orange, vermilion, red and pink trimmed with gold.

 

We were sporting our snazzy new kurtas, and although we looked sharp for our standards, we stood no chance of competing with the lovely grace of the Indian women present. Each woman there shimmered with gold bangles and earrings and rings. Even the children were all dressed in their best outfits. Little girls as young as two and three years old were wearing thick black eyeliner and deep red lipstick.

 

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Sanju and Lucky led us into the main room and, although everyone was in the middle of piling food on their plates and engaged in boisterous conversation, seemingly all eyes turned toward us as we entered. Then the two professional photographers and the videographer marched over to us and shined a blinding, and rather large spotlight on the four of us. The groom came over and we exchanged introductions and posed for a dozen or so photos.

 

Later, Sanju escorted us upstairs where the bride and all of her female relatives were congregating. We approached the bride and kneeled down next to where she was sitting so the photographers could snap another collection of photos of us and then we headed back downstairs.

 

And the children at the wedding were quite curious about us. As soon as they saw our cameras they were all over us, clamoring to be in a picture. Then as soon as the flash went off, they would scurry over to examine the result.

 

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One of our favorites of the wedding guests was this little boy dressed all in black. He had quite a bit of spunk and was really working his shiny, snazzy suit.

 

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Later that night, Lucky ended up confessing his strong feelings for Cousin Shannon. And then the next night, Sanju did the same thing. He prefaced his admission with, “Although we have only been dating for two days….” Shannon met his gaze with absolute bewilderment. As soon as Sanju saw her gleaming smile, he said he knew instantly that she was a very good person. He said he immediately felt a strong connection to her.

 

Yadda yadda yadda.

 

She tried to play it cool and noncommittal, but the intensity of Sanju’s ardor for her weighed heavily on her shoulders. She tried to walk the fine edge of not leading him on while still being open and friendly. I foresee this trait of Shannon’s getting us into some hot water many more times along our journey.

 

Somehow, I don’t seem to possess this same trait. And Sanju picked up on this. Although he held out his hand and greeted me with the honorific “Helenji” when we would walked by, there was no hint of a smile in his eyes for he knew me to be his enemy. Rather than “Helenji: Charming cousin of his beloved Shannon” I was “Helenji: Coldhearted Cockblock.”

 

It progressed to the point where he would cross his arms and sulk if we walked by and didn’t have time to sit and chitchat over a cup of chai. Needless to say, we were not incredibly sorry about leaving town at dawn without having said our last goodbyes. With his penchant for belting out mournful old-school Bollywood ballads, Sanju would not have let Shannon leave Udaipur without a good dose of melodrama.

 

 

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