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Tribal beats

Often desi Indians indict NRIs for overlooking traditions. But here was an exception.

india Updated: Feb 24, 2006 01:46 IST

Often desi Indians indict NRIs for overlooking traditions. But here was an exception. After staying in Liverpool for over 41 years, Dhuni Soren, a doctor, returned home to Dumka in Jharkhand, to get his only daughter, Shilpee, married in traditional Santhal style.

In fact, it was the marriage of the millennium in the tiny dusty town, and more than 8,000 tribal natives from different parts of Jharkhand thronged the marriage pandal to catch a glimpse of the sahib-jamai (the White bridegroom), Daniel Fahy, from Ireland. The 18-odd sahib guests who had arrived from Europe and Australia piqued their curiosity even further. Those who were not invited, or could not attend the marriage, were not disappointed, as every moment of the ceremony was shown live on the local cable television network.

It was an unusual sight as the groom took active part in Dak babla (worshipping of the water God) before tying the knot with his doctor bride. Painted with turmeric on his face and all over his body, the fair groom smiled and bowed at people as tribal women — young and old — danced around him, in rhythm with the loud drum beats.

There was a long line of inquisitive people all along the road as the groom’s sahib company boogied and took a long march to reach the bride’s house.

The excitement and curiosity was obviously not restricted to the local people. The overseas guests filmed every minute of the entire Santhal wedding episode, to show it to their friends back home.“It’s great to see that even the educated Santhal elites, after staying for so long outside the country, still solemnise the marriages so conventionally,” said Peter Anderson, a history teacher at the University of Copenhagen.

Even politicians made the best use of the high-profile marriage as a platform to maintain their contacts with the who’s who of Jharkhand. The political guests included Union Coal Minister Sibu Soren, former Chief Minister Babulal Marandi and MP Stephen Marandi. The serving Chief Minister, Arjun Munda, could not make it to the marriage as he was caught in a series of important meetings.

But Sibu Soren proved that he was definitely the smartest among the politicians in Jharkhand. As the groom’s squad danced down the street to reach the bride’s house, Soren’s convoy appeared, and he disembarked from the vehicle.

With folded hands, Soren walked straight to the open jeep, where the sahib groom was sitting in his traditional headgear. The coal minister hugged and blessed the sahib-jamai and zoomed away. After all, in politics, marriages and tradition always play an important role. And, when it involves NRIs, it becomes far more important.