WARNING: this is a long-ish post with lots of photos.
In late 2014, I got a call from Jasmine. She was calling from Rameswaram and we first struggled to communicate in my broken Tamil. She was quick to fix this and switched to Hindi which surprised me. I made a note to find out how this came to be. Her sister, Rizwana was to be wed in April and they were hunting for a female photographer. I'd been wanting to shoot a Muslim wedding for a while so I jumped at the chance. So one fine hot April evening I set off on the Rameswaram Express (Did I mention I love train journeys?).
My train arrived in the wee hours of the morning and I was whisked away to what I now know is one of the best hotels in Rameswaram. It didn't take me long to fall into a deep sleep only to be woken up around 9. My lovely host, Jasmine had sent a friend over to make sure I would catch breakfast. I politely refused and went back to sleep. After that there were multiple unsuccessful attempts at waking me up for lunch. Finally, Jasmine sent reinforcements and made sure I was accompanied to the lunch being hosted by her family near the wedding venue. There I was introduced to the lovely Kalam family. The head of the family, Mr. Kalam, runs a successful Sea Shell business (more on this later). I stuffed myself and excused myself to use this free afternoon to explore town.
Rameswaram is a tourist town, welcoming over 30,000 visitors every day according to some sources. The main attraction is the Ramanathaswamy Temple. Rameswaram is one of the holy pilgrimage sites for Hindus from all over India (and the world).
I also went into to check out the wedding venue, which is the largest venue available there (run by the Tamil Nadu government)
That evening there was ladies only event for Rizwana, where all the women of the community applied mehendi on her hands, put on jewellery and fed her generously with pomegranate seeds. I actually did manage a glimpse of the groom, Irshad, that night, but it wouldn't be until half way into the wedding, that I would see him again.
The next morning, it was time for the wedding ceremony. A simple affair where the men and women were separated out in adjoining tents. After some prayers, Irshad's mother tied the "Thali" on Rizwana to complete the wedding.
I'd insisted that we go to Dhanushkodi the next day to take some photos of the two of them but it all depended on them waking up! Going by the looks of how tired they were at the end of the wedding, I had my doubts but nevertheless I woke up early the next day but only to pouring rain! But it being my last chance to see Dhanushkodi, I dragged myself out and made it to the 4wheel gypsy that would take me there. It rained the whole time I was there and I wasnt even able to step out of the vehicle.
On the return journey, Rizwana called me and said she & Irshad wanted to go back! I hoped the weather would get better for my next trip except this time, it was just way too sunny!
The last thing before I boarded my train, was at to attend a small ritual at Jasmine's home where Irshad and Rizwana would play some ice-breaking games.
Pallanguzhi was one of the games being played. Interesting note: It belongs to a family of games called 'mancala' whose variants are played in parts of east coast and western Africa, Maldives, Philippines, the US, Europe, the Caribbean, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan!
...and on that note, I bid Rameswaram goodbye!
Photos taken with OnePlusOne, Fuji X100 and Nikon DLSRs