The first step in the wedding process was for Rahul to be “baptized” as a Brahmin. This ritual allowed him to wear the sacred thread as an adult. Rahul's family decided to take advantage of the ceremony to initiate his brother and cousin along with several other female cousins. Two Kashmiri priests arrived to perform the ceremony. A dais, decorated with flowers, was constructed inside the reception area. On the first day the girls were baptized. Starting in the morning, the ceremony continued until the late afternoon, with the head priest chanting while performing various rituals. Reciting words in Sanskrit, he made a small fire and poured ghee (butter) into it. Pots of colorful offerings, flowers, spices and food were distributed around the dais.
The ceremony was more elaborate for the “boys”. The priests spent the whole night preparing for the ceremony. The next morning the ritual started. The head priest constructed an intricate powder mandala laid out around different kinds of food and crisscrossed with lines in different colors. Bowls with offerings of food, flowers and spices were laid out to be thrown into the fire. The chanting lasted longer this time. Often the boys were required to repeat line-by-line after the priest. Rahul's uncle, Raj, provided assistance, guidance and support. At one point the priest gave us a “tikka”, a special blessing that consisted of a red mark on our foreheads.
Finally, the moment that everyone had been waiting for arrived. The boys sat in their underwear under a white sheet while the female family members smeared their faces and torsos with a mixture of yoghurt with yellow turmeric. After undergoing that they were dressed in yellow monks' robes. Rahul wore a goatskin over his costume. Relatives came forth to congratulate the boys and to place envelopes of money into their begging bowls. After that, they were dressed in fine clothes with jeweled turbans and whisked off to the local temple to make a final offering.
We relaxed and watched the rituals, taking time to chat with the guests. Delicious vegetarian food was served at lunch and at dinner. In the evening, guests would meet on the lawn by the pool to socialize. Most of Rahul's family, well off by Indian standards, had their own businesses. We learned about their work. One of his uncles distributed textile machines. He had been importing and servicing equipment from a German manufacturer for over three generations; in parallel with three successive generations of the family-run business in Germany. Other relatives were in the shipping business or were fashion or industrial designers. One of Rahul's cousins was starting his own business making and exporting powdered masala tea.
A friend of one of the distant relatives had started his own business making dress shirts. He invited us to see his factory the next day. We gladly accepted the chance to see the inside of an Indian “sweatshop”. The small factory was squeezed into an unassuming-looking building in the industrial part of town. The entire process of making the shirts was in progress, from cutting the fabric to sewing the seams and collars to ironing and putting the finished shirts into individual plastic packages. There was even a special machine to cut the buttonholes and to sew on the buttons. The quality control expert showed us how the finished products were judged as he marked flaws with a pencil on fabric. The tailors, taking home over $100 per month, were earning good money for skilled labor in Bombay.