Over the summer I worked at John Paul Slum Development Project, an NGO that strives to “enhance the lives of the downtrodden in Pune.” JPSDP works with street children, victims of HIV/AIDS, and sex workers in the city’s slums. I worked in the Mukta project with sex workers. It was my responsibility to interview sex workers and peer educators (current/former sex workers trained to conduct health check ups with other sex workers) about the female condom. If the women were unaware of the product I taught them how to use it and talked about taking control over safer sex practices. If the women knew about it, we discussed the challenges of using and promoting the female condom and brainstormed ways to overcome these obstacles.
This weekend I had the honor of attending my first Indian wedding. Our Indian friend Aditya was able to get all 16 Alliance students invited because he is best friends with the groom. All he had to say was “it would make me really happy if these people could come,” and just like that we were invited. Indians are incredibly welcoming and hospitable! We woke up early to put on our saris, a seemingly daunting task. Our host mom wrapped us and sent us on our way to the wedding hall. Everyone looked stunning in their colorful clothes and complimented us on our saris. During the ceremony, we were given a handful of holy rice to throw on the bride and groom. This practice symbolizes holiness showering down on the newlyweds. At one point, the groomsmen held the groom up. At first, I thought this was similar to the hora, but apparently they lift the groom to make it more challenging for the bride to adorn him with a marriage garland.
The couple seemed so happy to be with each other and greeted every guest personally. They laughed when I said Abhunundun and were happy that we came to experience our first Indian marriage ceremony with them. It was a beautiful day and definitely one of the highlights of my trip.