Wednesday, May 25, 2011

365 Jobs, Day 145: The Mandap (Part One)

Saturday, May 25, 2002

For the first 54 years of my life, I've never even heard of a mandap.  Now I'm supposed to build one for my daughter's wedding.  (It's pronounced "mun-dup," by the way.)

I call the father of the groom.  A lovely man.  He has a soft voice, an Indian accent.  We are at the mercy of crappy cell phone technology long distance to Minnesota.  I think he says that a metal structure is preferred but that I can substitute wood if I must.  I also think he says that wood is considered ugly in Indian culture, so every inch of the mandap should be covered with flowers.  (None of this is true, but that's what I think I hear at the time.) 

Then I watch Monsoon Wedding with Aunt Lila.  Half way through the movie, Lila elbows me and whispers, "We're in deep trouble."  The Indian wedding depicted in that film would require years of preparation.

For our situation, the design for the mandap has to allow pre-cut and pre-drilled pieces to be quickly assembled on the morning of the wedding, then easily disassembled after the ceremony in a facility we are renting for one day only.  Further, the mandap should be light-weight but sturdy enough to stand 8 feet tall with a 12 foot span supporting a heavy load of flowers.

I come up with a plan of 2x2 posts, one at each corner, supporting a top frame of doubled 1x3's, one on each side of the post with short pieces of 2x2 blocking along the middle.  I'm a little nervous about that 12 foot span of doubled 1x3's.  I wouldn't want some impetuous teenager to try to do chin-ups.  For flowers, though, it should hold.

Napkin sketch of the mandap design

I buy clear heart redwood for the posts, clear select redwood for the beams.  I stain it with a wash of white, rendering it light in color with the grain still visible.

Meanwhile, since a wedding party will be held at our home, I have a self-imposed deadline to finish the construction of a house I began building in 1979.  What remains is what we call "the powder room," which is simply a half-bath (why do people call a room with neither shower nor bath a half-bath?).  With help from my son - plus heavy doses of ibuprofen for my back - I finish the job two days before the wedding.  It's taken 23 years, a major earthquake, a furnace fire, a termite infestation, several falling trees, the damage of 3 dogs, the life cycle of 3 pickup trucks, the raising of 3 children, and now a wedding to complete this house.  But it's done, with a mandap for a bonus.

Flowers must be cheaper in India.  There is no way we can afford to cover this mandap with blossoms.  We do buy a truckload of color for the ceremony and the mandap combined.  What we also have - in wretched excess - is English ivy, an invasive species that has overwhelmed our redwood forest and our own yard in particular.  The deep green leaves of ivy will look wonderful when twined among the flowers.  Our friends Heidi and Richard gather ivy from the yard and wrap experimental arrangements around the 1x3's, weaving blossoms.

Other dramas unfold.  Indian custom has the groom arriving at the wedding astride a white horse.  Many phone calls fail to overcome problems of logistics and insurance and such simple questions as who will clean up the rented facility after the horse is gone?  Finally I have a suggestion: could the groom arrive in a white Mustang convertible?  Everyone embraces the idea.  The white Mustang is rented.

Another last-minute drama involves an expired passport, frantic phone calls, copious amounts of money, the wrong shipping label on a FedEx overnight, the package lost in Memphis, more phone calls - and hours before the wedding, the passport is delivered.  Whew. 

Now I have a truckload of partly flower-and-ivy bedecked lumber, each a separate piece, ready to assemble tomorrow.  Tonight is the mehndi party.

A wedding is the joining of two families.  In this case, it is the joining of two cultures as well.  Tonight is Punjabi culture.  We are guests of the groom's family, entering a different world.  An Indian mehndi party involves gifts of jewelry, henna designs painted on hands.  

The groom's entire extended family is here.  The aunties are high-spirited live wires.  There is Indian music, exuberant dancing - again, the aunties are wild - singing, food, drink, joy.  These folk know how to celebrate a marriage.

My only worry: will the mandap, the focal point of tomorrow's ceremony, be acceptable?  Will it even stand?

The story continues here: The Mandap (Part Two)

and then there's a postscript here: The Wedding Mandap (Part Three)

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