Everything’s brown. That was the first thought which entered my mind when I stepped off the train and looked at my Indian hometown Malda. I had been excited for my cousin’s wedding coming up in two days, but as I looked around, my spirits dampened. Compared to sunny California, where I lived, my surroundings here seemed awfully bleak. The platform, previously the color of black cement, had become jaded with time and sprinkled with a caramel dust. The people were brown, faces tanned and covered with dirt. Their clothes were soiled with grime, all symbols of the grueling task of survival they faced daily. The autos and rickshaws, as hard as the owners tried to keep them clean, contained an ever-present hue of a coffee color. I suppressed a sigh at the uniformity. Where were the colors of India?
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
The temperature at noon rose to a sweltering 110 degrees Fahrenheit on the wedding day. The air was overbearingly humid, and my clothes stuck to my body uncomfortably. One of the morning rituals had involved rubbing turmeric paste on our faces and bodies to make them glow for the evening. Instead, I’d been left with a sickly yellow hue on my skin that was impossible to get rid of. I definitely was not looking forward to the wedding ceremony that evening. I did not even want to look at the extravagantly beaded and heavy, black and red salwar kameez that had been laid out for me. Flopping on my bed, I opened a book and hoped my parents would forget about me and leave by themselves. Suddenly, they rushed into the room wearing their clothes for the night. I was stunned. My mother had wrapped a vibrant red-yellow sari around herself with a matching gold necklace and a pair of radiant earrings. Even my father had donned a shiny, blue kurta rather than his usual white or black. This burst of colors was like a rainbow after a long shower. My hopes for the night instantly rose.
I dressed up and went in search of my cousin, curious to see how he looked in his wedding costume. He invited me to ride the groom’s car with him to the wedding venue, which, in India, is an honor; so I was naturally ecstatic. Suddenly, a group of large horns and noisy drums announced their presence in front of the car. My cousin told me they would be a part of the groom’s procession to the venue. I gaped. By the time we were there, the entirety of India would know that a wedding was taking place!
As we arrived there, the groom’s friends and family started to dance around the car. Individuals of all ages leaped and sang and laughed around us, enjoying the moment and celebrating the day. People on the streets joined, throwing their hands in the air and bouncing with the beat. I had never experienced such abandon or bliss. They were letting go of their daily struggles and work. They were letting go of the brown. I was beholding an entire new set of colors of India, the colors of joy and love and celebration.
My cousin emerged from the car as the king, followed by me, his awestruck loyal. Firecrackers lit up the sky. As the king went inside to meet his queen, I was swept by the colors around me. I realized that even though I’d missed them at first, they had always been there. For these unique colors lived in the Indian people. They were the true colors of India.
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