When monkeys tie the knot
It all started with a phone call. I was being invited to a wedding. Sounded good. I’d finally make my debut in wedding photography.
I had it all planned. I wanted to spend a day each at the groom’s and the bride’s respectively. Now the only hiccup was I couldn’t interact with them. After all, they were no regular couple. They were monkeys.
Monkeys have an important place in Hindu mythology. They are worshiped as Lord Hanuman, the mighty ape that fought the devious Ravana alongside Lord Rama to create the epic Ramayana.
When I reached Talwas in the Indian state of Rajasthan, I went straight to the house of the ‘groom’, Raju. I immediately felt the excitement around the marriage. Many relatives of Raju’s caretaker Ramesh had come to attend the wedding. For them, it almost seemed they were attending the marriage ceremony of Ramesh’s son.
But very soon I sensed some apprehension in the air. Apparently the forest department officials had already warned Ramesh against the proposed marriage of his monkey. But like a stubborn father fighting for his son, he told me the wedding would happen as scheduled even if he had to go to jail for it.
Next, I went to Chinki, the bride’s village. Here the pre-wedding functions had already started. Women were dancing in the village temple compound, which was to be the wedding venue. The only one missing was the bride. When I inquired about her, I was told she was in hiding, in order to evade capture by the men in uniform.
By the wedding day, both monkeys and their handlers ran away into the jungles, as forest officers tried hard to stop the wedding.
I was asked by a person from the bride’s side to wait at a designated spot, as he’d send someone to pick me up and escort to the secret wedding venue (the location had been changed last minute to dodge the forest officers.) But after waiting for 6 hours I realized I had little hope, as I was still an outsider. It was time for me to shift gears. It was time to change the direction of the story with which in mind I’d reached Talwas.
I started taking pictures of how the excitement of thousands of visitors who’d come to witness the historic wedding had been dampened suddenly. After some time I was told the bride had been found in one of the fields tied to a tree.
The forest officials also reached the venue. And maybe, finally, they saw a small element of humor in the entire situation. They posed for pictures with the newly married bride who sported the traditional vermillion on her forehead, worn by married Hindu women.
Simultaneously, the temple gates were thrown open to the guests for the big wedding feast. Policemen who’d been stopping the crowds from going near the wedding venue, realized the latter were quite restless from not having been allowed to watch the ‘wedding of the Gods’. So the feast was finally where both, guests and forest officers, made peace.
And thus triumphed love, as in any good popcorn-worthy romantic caper.