A raucous clamour arose in the street outside. I was just stepping over Lakshmi’s mop for the fifth time – we don’t usually get in each other’s way so much. She gestured toward the road and said, “It’s a sait’s wedding.” It was the bridegroom’s party, led by a brass band, walking toward the marriage hall at the end of the street. Lakshmi looked at me with an arch smile and said, “Ayya (a term of respect, referring to R) is a sait, isn’t he?” A sait is a rich man, but I asked, “What is a sait?” She said, “Someone who wears lots of gold jewellry.” I gestured toward myself – I almost never wear jewellry (I don’t own much, for that matter, unlike most Indian ladies, from the middle class on up) – and said, “No gold here,” and she laughed. Not a very satisfactory exchange.
I decided to go out and take pictures of the band. I like the marriage bands, frankly, because they are so bad. They dress like members of American high school bands, and usually there is quite a divergence of sound among the members of the ensemble. This group, in addition to the brass section in red and gold uniforms, had a small flatbed truck on which were a man with a drum set and a singer, belting into a microphone “It’s the Time to Disco.” This is not a song from the American seventies, but from a quite recent Hindi movie. It was deafening.
As I waited for them to come a little closer, two Gujarati ladies in silk and diamonds – saitanis indeed – left the rather ragtag procession and walked up to me, and asked if they could use the bathroom. I was surprised, but I led them inside, and then returned to see whether I had missed the photo op. I was in time to take a couple of poor photographs, and to be capered at by a clown.
... I thought there was a story in this, but I don't seem to be able to find it.
(update: Tilo, ever thoughtful, wrote this comment: "I wonder why Lakshmi said that saits are people who wear lots of gold because when Uma who works in my house says 'sait' she is talking about a North-Indian family who mostly live in the traditional way i.e extended family - actually sometimes not even that. They could be nuclear and are mostly Marwaris or Gujarathis in reality..." This makes a lot more sense than my confused take on my encounter with Lakshmi - since my husband is, in fact, Gujarati. Thanks, Tilo!)