The family living on the neighbouring houseboat were celebrating their son's marriage all weekend - from our roof terrace we had seen them deck the boat with fairy lights, erect a large Kashmiri tent on shore, and sit for hours preparing food. We had heard the women practising their religious songs, raw and rousing. We did not, however, expect an invitation! But the family who
own our boat insisted we were welcome as their guests so we stepped ashore, were guided into the tent and found ourselves amidst a large group of women, while the men did their own thing outside. I chatted to an excited teenage girl whose eyes lit up when I mentioned Ireland: it turned out that her 17 year old brother is a boarder at Sligo Grammar School! I attempted to initiate a conversation with him, after being introduced, but he appeared paralysed...he obviously didn't want some Sligo teacher spying on him in his holidays!
We were treated to more stirring call-and-response chanting from the women, with their clay-bodied drums ,before the men joined us and the wedding band got people dancing with their lively Kashmiri pop. A vegetarian's nightmare of a feast followed (all manner of unidentified animal parts appeared!) and then things settled down as a
male group began their hypnotic chant-style religious music, accompanied by tablas and another exotic-sounding instrument...it was quite other-worldly and I could have listened all night but I was exhausted so I returned to the boat and was lulled to sleep by the chants drifting over me.
There had been no sign of the bride at all: she was apparently at her home enjoying her own party and the couple would unite the following day for a quiet ceremony when most of the guests had dispersed. It's an arranged marriage and I couldn't help but wonder how she was feeling the night before this life changing union with a man she may not have even met very often...