Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Holy Cow! Tour
India 2008

On Sunday morning, we decide to go to church in Old Goa. The ride is a lovely road of brightly colored stucco villas and cottages, palms and succulents, the ever present cows and a little sea grass in the sand. We end up at Bom Jesus, the il Jesu of India. It was the Jesuits who came here, St. Francis Xavier, tore down a Hindu temple and put up the Catholic basilica. It was not possible, for reasons not entirely clear to me, to put a cross atop Bom Jesus and to this day, there is no defining, quintessential cross atop this church that once in the door, you can immediately identify as Jesuit. It's an utter delight to be here and walk down the aisle, and makes me think of Sunday morning at St. Al's, Sunday morning in Paris, Sunday morning in Florence. Sunday morning anywhere in a Jesuit church. You got marigolds here, though, and that's how you know you're in India. That and the saris.

This is the day I become enamored with Indian wedding jewelry. Originally a Moghul tribal custom, women receive beautiful gold necklaces from their husband on their wedding day, much as western women receive gold wedding rings. Theses necklaces are splendid in workmanship and of the most highest quality in gold and gems. They are best and properly worn with saris, with no collars, buttons or distractions to dim their dazzling splendor. I am absolutely smitten and immediately begin a search to find and buy wedding jewelry. It takes me a while to figure it all out, though. I have no idea what they really are--they look like fabulous gold necklaces to me and all I know is that everybody seems to have one.

I say to one woman, That is a FABULOUS necklace!

She: (murmuring with sweet smile) Thank you.
Me: I'd like to buy one of those!
She: (small smile but now with distinct upturned corners)
Me: Do ya know where I could get one?
She: no.
Me: Is there a jeweler....?
She: I do not know. My husbands buys this for me.
Me: ...anywhere? a place where you can get a beautiful golden necklace? do you know where
your husband...?
She: (bigger smile)(dancing eyes)
(now downcast eyes but still smiling)
Me: okay. Have a nice day.

I say, to the GNY, what the hell? What kind of a day is it when I can't make friends and get information? She says, Honey, that woman had something she wasn't telling yuuuuu.

We continue to walk around the church and see Francis Xavier's mortal remains. We peek into the sacristy and I realize that in a few hours, Joe Montana will get up and go to the sacristy in our church in The Kan, EWA, where he will prepare to serve mass. We see the adorable creche, a beach scene, with sea grass and cows. We are captivated by the Indian women, their faith and their practice of dressing up in glittering saris, braiding flowers into their hair, gathering their husband and children and going to church on Sunday morning. The women are definitely in the lead at Mass in India. It is a real happening here at Bom Jesus and a delicious slice of unedited, untouristed Indian life. Dogs in the gutter, seminarians arriving en masse, men hand in hand, the old, the young, everybody comes.

I see a gorgeous woman with several of these spectacular necklaces. They all have black beads, some more than others. They are absolutely incredible! This beautiful woman has 5 beautiful children and they walk in front of her and she in front of her husband. I say to her as she passes, THOSE NECKLACES ARE GORGEOUS! She smiles graciously, in pleasure and surprise and as her husband passes I say, DID YOU BUY THOSE FOR HER? His broad grin turns to a big, thin-lipped smile and he blinks hard and says YES I DID. She turns and gives him a beautiful secret look.

What am I missing here?

Well, this: I find out later than everyone has one of these necklaces because you get them when you get married. And you most likely get your mother's when she dies. The black beads are traditional, to ward off evil spirits. Of course, the women don't know where to buy them, because they don't buy them! According to the men and women I talked to, women really don't know. Only men buy them. It is tribal custom and originally, the necklace you wore was of course, distinctive to your tribe.

All I know is that I love Sunday in Goa and I love these beautiful gracious people. They are quite delighted to speak with you, although taken back and a bit afraid. The children are delightful, the elder have sassy eyes, the marigolds are plentiful and the balmy, soft air is thick with the smell of sandalwood.

Peace be with YOU!

The Maharani Jabel
On Location
Old Goa, Goa, India


Anonymous said...

Cultural relativism. I love it!

How very interesting about the necklaces. I must admit, I held my breath as I read about you calling out to those women, asking them questions. I wasn't sure what kind of response you were going to tell us you got. I was half expecting the "ugly American" bit and was relieved to see this was not the case.
You crack me up sometimes, Schmeebs. You and "your ways". (smiling, okay, maybe a few winks for good measure)

Also interesting to learn how Catholics do Catholic around the world. Truly, that relativisim business has always been a personal fascination.

These posts about India are superb!
Thank you.
Thank you so much.


Inland Empire Girl said...

I continue to enjoy learning more and more about this country I knew so little about. I love the part about the necklaces. I hope you live on one of the streets they have plowed! :)

MarmiteToasty said...

I to wondered what the response would be with your insistant questions lol.... I thought you would be dragged down a back alley and roughed up or something.......

Ya wanna necklace, ya will have to dump ya hubby and go marry one of them Indians... just make sure they can make curry :).... dam, I think I'll go find me an Indian, or a chinese cos I love chinese, dam now I want food and we aint had a take-away in well over a yer LOL.....

loving your tales.....


The Fool said...

Much cooler than the diamond ritual...


toadman said...
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