The mood was festive in the village. Though the fear of the Portuguese interrupting the wedding loomed large, the villagers still went ahead holding the wedding but with low fun fare. The courtyard in front of Kayani’s house was richly decorated. Colorful lanterns were tied around to light the place. Mattresses were set at one part of the courtyard for the guests.
In the center of the courtyard, the priest sat chanting mantras in front of the sacred fire. At the auspicious time the priest called out to the two families to bring the bride and groom. The two were carried out of Kayani’s house on a wooden pedestal.
While Kayani sat on one wearing a bright red sari, her head lowered and her face covered in the hem of her sari, the groom bore a spot white kurta, a traditional dress. They were lowered on the ground on the other side of the sacred fire.
The priest continued with the chanting. Behind him, Rosalin stood with some other girls, giggling and joking with them as they watched Kayani. One of the girls said something in Rosalin’s ears. Rosalin stifled her laughter and then walked across to Kayani. She lowered herself and slowly lifted Kayani’s veil. She took a long look at her. ‘You look so beautiful.’ Kayani blushed. Behind her, Rosalin could hear the children creating a ruckus as they ran helter shelter playing. Rosalin got closer and whispered in her ears. ‘Take care tonight. Don’t let your husband keep you awake all night or you’ll end up keeping the others awake.’
Kayani’s face turned red. She whispered back. ‘Wait till your turn comes.’
‘Oh yes but my might first night would be absolute divine.’ The two giggled.
Suddenly a big silence spread around as if on cue. Rosalin turned around to find Fr. Kane walking in the courtyard. The guests all stood still staring at him questioningly. Fr. Kane walked over and stood near the bridal couple. The village elders looked at him with suspicion. One of them whispered loud enough for the words to reach Fr. Kane’s years. ‘What’s he doing here?’ She pointed out indicating Fr. Kane.
Rosalin quickly walked over to Fr. Kane as Kayani’s mother called out to her. Rosalin went over to her. ‘What’s he doing here?’
‘Oh him. Kayani invited him for the wedding.’
‘Well you better ask him to leave. Now! We don’t want any of your people over here.’ She blurted out and walked over to where Kayani’s father stood with the village elders.
The whole crowd watched at him with hostility. Fr. Kane smiled around, ignoring their unpleasant looks and walked over to Kayani. He slowly lowered himself as he pulled out something from his pocket. He took hold of Kayani’s hand and placed the object in her palm.
‘This is for you. Hope it brings you lots of peace and happiness in your married life and safeguard you from all harm.’
Kayani looked at the object in her palm. It was cross, encrusted with precious stones. She slowly brought it to her lips and kissed it in reverence and then clutched it tightly. Fr. Kane got up and placed his hand on her head. ‘Bless you child.’
He turned around and walked towards the exit. Rosalin ran after him. ‘Padre, won’t you stay back for the rituals?’ She questioned him.
‘I wish I could but I have some impending work.’ He smiled back at the villagers and slowly walked out leaving Rosalin staring at her retreating back. ’
You are such a gentle and understanding soul.’ She thought to herself.
‘Give me that.’ She heard Kayani’s mother screaming. She turned around to find Kayani’s mother groping Kayani’s palm for the cross. Getting it, she threw it angrily in the fire. ‘Panditji, you start with the rituals.’
A single tear flowed down Kayani’s cheeks as the priest started his chanting again. The crowd slowly circled the bridal couple. Rosalin stood rooted to the spot as Kayani’s mother glared at her through the crowd. Rosalin slowly stepped backwards and then turned around and walked out of the courtyard.
She ran through the village street. In the distance she could see the ghostly figure of Fr. Kane walking gracefully across the street in his white cassock. ‘Padre!’ She called out loudly. Fr. Kane stopped and turned. Rosalin ran up puffing. ‘Sorry Padre for what happened out there.’
‘It’s ok Senora.’
‘That was sweet of you what you gave Kayani.’
‘That’s what I am here for. To spread God’s words.’
Rosalin smiled at him.
‘I hope you don’t do this with me at my wedding.’
‘Do what?’ Fr. Kane looked at her confused.
‘I mean leaving my wedding half way Padre. I want you to stay till the end for my wedding.’
‘Senora, how can I not stay. It will be an honor for me. By the way, congratulations! I heard the news from the Viceroy.’ Fr. Kane extended his hand. Rosalin gently took it. ‘Obrigado.’
There was a long pause. ‘I guess I better get back at the Church. Have a long day tomorrow at the hospital.’
Fr. Kane pulled his hand away and walked away. Rosalin watched his retreating back till he disappeared around the lane.