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Poonam’s Wedding

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We arrived at Ghumarwin just as the sun was setting. We had been invited to stay overnight at Poonam’s family home but thought there would be too much going on. We found a really cheap guest house instead on the other side of town. The wedding ceremony was held outdoors in a tent.

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I was given a man’s Kullu cap on arrival. Lucky me!

The wedding was supposed to begin at 8:30 p.m., but unfortunately the groom and his party — who were driving to Ghumarwin from Delhi — had been delayed in traffic. This was the night I was saved by socks.

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Poonam heard I had arrived and sent for me to join her in her room, where she was starting her photo shoot. I did a little photo shoot of my own.

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She was spectacular from head to toe. Literally.

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The groom’s arrival at 1:30 a.m. was heralded by fireworks.

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Trying to catch a glimpse of the groom.

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Saying Goodbye

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On my last morning in Bhanwar, it was less hazy than it had been. I could see the snowcapped Himalayas from Prem’s rooftop which had been hiding in the mist all along. We all kind of moped around. I wished I could stay longer, but it was time to go to Poonam’s wedding.

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Nabu (left), Archna (right) and their mother.

The girls next door had been calling to me all morning. “Auntie, please, don’t go!” They all knew there were only a few hours left before I had to leave. I went over to say goodbye. They were so lovely and had come over the most often to visit and dance. I took pictures of them with their¬† mother. I’m sorry to say I don’t know their mother’s name. No one had actually introduced her to me.

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Prem needed to iron a shirt, but he had to make a repair first.

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Meena was busy making lunch, so Prem ironed the shirt and pants he was going to wear that day. He always wears a dress shirt and slacks when he’s on the job.

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It had been a very special week for me, getting to know this lovely family and their neighbors. We had shared so much fun and laughter. They had taken care of me just as if I were a member of the family. We went down to the car. The children hugged me one last time. And Meena, unlike the shy, fleeting embrace she had given me on our first meeting, held onto me for a long time. When she released me, a tear slid down her cheek. I was so moved.

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“Don’t cry, Meena,” I said. “I will come again.”

I will most certainly come again, and I’ll make every effort to return even before Priya’s wedding.

Shopping in Sarkaghat

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The attractions of a small town are many when you’re from a village. Priya and Anku were happy to go shopping because it meant they got out of a day’s chores around the house.

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I’m easily amused.

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Yet another temple wasn’t worth a passing glance to the family, who has probably seen it before.¬†Prem, with his tour guide sensibilities, pointed it out to me. I noticed the colors and how nicely the scene was framed. But there was hunting (shopping) to do, and I didn’t want to go in.

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Sarkaghat looked like any other small Indian town: crowded business district with buildings very close together. Narrow streets, no sidewalks, open drains.

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Shops were all open fronted with garage-door-type roll down doors to lock up at night.

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Colorful sacks of lentils and beans.

Meena and the kids went to buy clothes and a few other things. I suggested we split up because I was going very slowly, looking at everything and taking pictures. If we had all gone at my pace, it would have taken forever. Prem and I looked in a general store for a flashlight. No flashlight here, but I got a bar of laundry soap.

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Prem noticed a sweets shop where a man was selling one of my favorite treats: jalebis!

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Warm, crunchy jalebis with a sugar syrup coating. Yum!

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Hey, let’s run up and down this terrifying staircase a few dozen times. Or not.

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We found a flashlight, then Prem needed to add minutes to his phone. We stopped at a phone store, and Prem said I could use the internet there. It seemed like an odd sort of internet cafe service, to be in a mobile phone store. They handed me the store’s laptop and had me sit at a makeshift desk with a wobbly chair not the right height. I hadn’t been able to get online for a week at this point, so however odd it was, it didn’t matter. When I went to pay after finishing my emails, the young man said there was no charge, that he was happy to be of service. Turned out he was a friend of Prem’s and was just being nice!

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Finished with our shopping, we headed back home. There was one last stop. We pulled over at this tiny store on the way back. Meena needed some cauliflower, herbs and a few other things. We didn’t even need to get out of the car. Prem called the order out the window. The man wrapped everything in newspaper and brought it to the car.

Going to Sarkaghat

There was only one outing during my week’s stay, which was my choice. I really did enjoy myself relaxing at Prem’s home and visiting with the neighbor relatives. We went shopping one day in Sarkaghat, a town maybe 20 kilometers away. It took about an hour to get there. Here’s why.

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The roads were not conducive to high speed driving.

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We ran into a little traffic.

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The roads were also a bit narrow.

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Then there was a total traffic jam.

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Another slowdown.

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And there were lots of buses.