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Today was the big day, the impetus for the whole trip to Sri Lanka, the wedding ceremony of Kim’s friend Sarmi to her fiancée Khalid.
The ceremony lasted from about 8:30 to noon and was nothing like a ceremony I’d ever seen. Indeed, even now that I’ve had a few days to process it and Wikipedia it, I don’t have a clue what happened. It was a beautiful chaos. Up on the brightly decorated stage were Khalid and Sarmi and a varying multitude of 15 to 30 other people at any one time, looking sort of like the couple of honor’s colorful and multi-aged rap posse. Some were dressed in western clothes, others in more traditional robes, and some shirtless with some body paint. There were also about five photographers who took the prized positions at the front of the stage, thus blocking the majority of the proceedings for us and making our understanding of the proceedings additionally challenging. In the glimpses seen around the photographers’ asses, there was chanting, circling around small flames, the throwing of flower petals at the newlyweds, blessing with water, all the while a Sri Lankan or Indian band played some music. During the slower periods, some people on the stage pulled out their cell phones to attend to other pressing matters.
Meanwhile, the couple hundred or so in the audience only paid cursory attention to the proceedings. They talked amongst each other and were served various forms of refreshment throughout. We were told later that the ceremony was traditional for Tamil Hindus, Sarmi’s family’s ethnic group. Khalid’s family on the other hand is Sri Lankan Muslim and he was born and raised in the US, so he seemed as uncertain of what was going on as we were. Of course, he was on some powerful painkillers for a seriously injured back, so maybe that played a part.
After the ceremony came to an end, we were invited to a fantastic buffet of vegetarian Sri Lankan cuisine. Sarmi’s father said that a Sri Lankan wedding is judged by its food, so in order to express our appreciation we ate ourselves silly.
In the evening, we went to the Mount Lavinia Hotel to celebrate the birthday of our friend Laura, who had also come to Sri Lanka for the wedding. Just like everywhere else in Sri Lanka, despite being decidedly upscale the prices at the hotel are very reasonable. We smoked shisha there for only 1000 rupees ($8) and bought a whole cake for another 1000.
Jutting out into the sea and facing up the beach towards Colombo, Mount Lavinia Hotel was a spectacular setting for what turned out to be a practically hurricane-force monsoon. It was our first rain of the trip, and man did it rain. We suspected the wind and rain were particularly fierce even for Sri Lankan standards, as glass was being blown away and smashed all over on the hotel’s covered terrace. We braved it out outside as long as possible, but eventually us and some other hardy locals had to beat a retreat to the safe confines inside, from which we could watch the storm and the waves pound the city of Colombo. It was quite the dazzling show to celebrate Laura’s birthday.
- If going to a specific address in Sri Lanka, be sure to get physical points of reference (e.g. a couple blocks past the Hilton Hotel in Colombo 5) as well as the actual address. We were only given the address for the ceremony, which led to a wild and stressful shit-show of a tuk-tuk adventure around Colombo looking for the place.
- Be sure to know if and when Poson will occur during your stay and plan accordingly if you, like me, like to enjoy an alcoholic beverage (or few) every day while traveling. Alcohol consumption is ok during this period, but it is not sold anywhere.