A week ago I visited the Little Rann of Kutch. Several tribes lived around the desert: Rabari, Mir, Bharwad, Koli. Some stood out more than others. Rabari women, for instance, were beautiful, and the Bharwad men seemed to be in their finest clothes day after day.
One day while driving through the Dasada village, I spotted two Bharwad men holding hands as they ambled along. They were dressed in white, wore turbans, and jewelry dangled off their head, neck, ears, wrists, and around their waist. The waistbelt was interesting. Held together by silver link chains, old coins with profiles of King George and Empress Victoria dangled at regular intervals. Watching me, a guide spoke up.
"They have to wear this. It is important."
"What, this waistbelt with the coins? Then how come the others aren't wearing it?" I asked him, wondering if forgetting to wear one resulted in unpleasant things.
"No, no. They have to wear jewelry. Like ladies," he said, and settled into his seat.
This seemed to make sense to him, and I'm sure it was clear, but I imagined right then a gay tribe.
"Look, are they trying to be like ladies?"
"Yes, but not like ladies. They have to wear jewels to attract ladies. In September they stand below an umbrella and ladies will maybe go more to whoever has more jewelry. They go and stand under the man's umbrella and - foosh! - their marriage is over."
"They are married?"
"Yes, their marriage is over."
Blimey. Right then I was surprised by the simplicity of it all. No talk of magic and connections, or angst about family ties. Just like that the deal was done. The shiniest man was the most attractive. What a wonderful culture, I thought, and glazed over into a mellow mood.
Back in the city, it doesn't seem all that quaint anymore. People dress well, people earn money, and they attract a mate. The difference is it's a little more obvious in the village. But there is one other crucial difference. Since women don't know how Bharwad weddings are done, you can invite them under your umbrella. While they think about chivalry or whether you're just being slimy, you can snigger knowing that you've just got married.