On our wedding day in February 2002, we did not have a photographer so I decided to create a small collection of paintings to commemorate our special day. I saw this image of us in one of the candid photos taken with our camera and the first thought was that it was a portrait of happiness. My brother-in-law Prasanna seems to recall taking the picture and a sense of satisfaction that he captured something good. He did, and I am forever grateful that I have this one good image.

Portrait of Happiness Hindu Wedding Ceremony by oil painter Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar

Portrait of Happiness Hindu Wedding Ceremony by oil painter Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar

My husband and I were instructed, by the Brahmin Pandit Phadke, during the wedding ceremony to “go to the window, look out and find signs of Nature.” It is important that the wedding couple finds a sign of Nature, as they need to witness to God’s presence in their life. Nature, being sustained by God, lives without effort or thought of how it will live. The couple is to realize that God is the active force underneath their lives, sustaining them, not man.

I had been sitting through an hour of Sanskrit and Marathi not understanding a word of what was being said. When we went over to the window I swept back the windows covering in a flourish and began singing in a low voice for his ears only, “The hills are alive with the sounds of music” since it just seemed like the perfect tune to greet the sunlight pouring through the window. It was even more funny because outside the window was nothing but cement buildings, steel pipes, electrical wires, rooftops, and billboard signs. The pollution obscured the sun to some extent and reduced the colors of the view to white, lavender, blues and grays. The hills were alive with business and traffic, not the songs of birds and bees, burbling creeks flowing over well-polished rocks, nor the whisper of the wind in the trees.  Had we not claimed to see signs of nature the priest would have started that part of the ceremony all over again, as is rumored. This portrait of happiness is quite genuine for another reason, albeit a hidden one.

oil painter Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar in a saree

oil painter Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar in a saree

After 3.5 months of backpacking through India, spending just over 2 weeks on trains, a few days on boats and share jeep rides with a side of terror, we were about to go home. I will never forget one moment of this phenomenal adventure through India, but I sure wish I had a photo of my face upon returning to the US. Now that would be a real portrait of happiness.

 

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