Last week a few girls and I entered a temple during the evening when they were conducting their night closing ritual. We encountered a family who discussed the purpose of the ritual with us, and encouraged us to participate. After having our fill of rice, milk and banana, we made dinner plans with the family.
Today we met the 15 year old Indhu and her father outside their home. The four of us are bombarded with love, curiosity and food. The first course was given while w were sitting in the living room, exchanging stories and insights into Indian culture. The second course was a cake told over photo tours of other Indian temples. The children, Indhu, her sister, and male cousin gave us gifts of jewelry both hand made and purchased.
The third course was spicy traditional Tamil food prepared by the mother and grandmother who had come to visit from Chennai. The did not eat with us but hovered over us, adding more food and water to our dinner. The grandmother taught us the proper way to make the most of our meal while eating off of bamboo plates with our hands. After having several refills of dinner, we turned our plates inward to show respect and that we enjoyed our meals. We had brought a cake to the family as a gift for having us for dinner, we ate that as well.
After the full course meal we talked more about Tamil culture and the family showed us the wedding and baby pictures and the preserved clothes. The baby dress is kept and worn by all the children for good luck and kept neatly folded in the bedroom. The sari worn by the mother was a beautiful violet purple with handmade gold stitching. She allowed us to touch her wedding gown and marvel at its delicate beauty. She had only worn it twice. That too was kept folded in the bedroom. With Indhu as a model we learned how to properly dress a sari, and were given proper instructions on where to go for our own and how much the asking price should be.
We exchanged currency, and talked about the markings on coins and dollar bills. The father gave us 10 rupees each and everyone in the family signed them to show that it was special. We gave them euro coins that the kids loved to look at and flip in their hands.