* Photographs were taken by DWP (Cindy and Kane Ryan). This was DWP’s first time shooting a wedding.
(Interested in having DWP shoot your wedding or special event, contact email@example.com)
Life is Beautiful
Though rather short for an Indian celebration of marriage, (one day compared to the usual three or four days of feasting and celebrating), Sarah and Ashley were married with panache in the St. Vincent Pallotti Catholic Church in the Marol neighbourhood of Mumbai. Because Ashley now lives and works in Qatar and Sarah was back at her home in Canada, they relied on the creative energies of their Mumbai friends (Pradeep, Darshana, Supriya, Amit, Richa & Danny) and family who cobbled together a stylish and poignant event with only a few weeks notice. Along with Sarah’s mom, Rita Petrescu, who flew in from Canada and Ashley’s mom, Amelia Fernandes, from Mumbai, we danced, ate, and celebrated with exuberance for hours.
Dressed in a gold-patterned kurta, Ashley was the very handsome epitome of refined Indian elegance and beautiful Sarah perfectly blended the two cultures with her choice of a fitted, draped white dress, a halo of jasmine and a glittering maangtika. The ceremony was a traditional rite of marriage mass. Later the reception was led with the finesse of a game show host, by the Master of Ceremony. Francis, dressed in a very slick shiny suit that John Travolta’s Saturday Night Live character could only aspire to, kept everyone energized with theme dances and a fast-paced, action-packed evening in traditional Goan style. The reception hall was a bedazzled display of lights, garlands (a hand-made gift from the Girls Can Be women), fresh flowers and Canadian flag centrepieces. The highlight of the evening was Sarah and Ashley’s entrance to the reception. The MC had everyone stand in anticipation of the newlyweds arrival to the booming Star Wars theme music and throw confetti on them as they paraded the circle of guests. This was the kickstart to a wedding reception I will never forget. The wedding was broadcast live on UStream thanks to Ashley’s friend Pradeep and a laptop. Friends and family tuned in from around the world. Also not forgotten was Sarah and Ashley’s determination to include people from the Saki Naka pipeline slum where they met. Dressed in beautiful sarees, the GCB women and their children were excited to attend their first Catholic wedding. Ranjana and kindergarten teacher Usha and family made it to the reception, very excited to be part of this beautiful occasion. When the music stopped and the clean-up began and we all slowly dribbled out of the building, not really wanting the night to end, Ashley and Sarah had the caterers pack up the left-over food to distribute to pavement dwellers on their way to their honeymoon hotel. They also helped the GCB women by hiring them to decorate envelopes with a photo insert given out to everyone at the reception as a thank-you. The cake was brought to the slum community the next day and handed out in chunks and when the small pieces were gone, the plate was licked clean of any remaining icing and crumbs. Their wedding linked two cultures and two thoughtful, generous people who value their families and their friends and who will live their lives with compassion for others.
Written in their own words. By Sarah and Ashley.
It’s hard not to believe in fate when the universe nudges you along like a gale force wind. Last September, a long-planned sabbatical from my job as a reporter at the Times Colonist newspaper came upon me. All but one of my plans for the year fell through – and it was a loose-made plan. The Christmas previous, I met Cindy and Todd Ryan at a mutual friend’s party and spent most of the night talking with them about their son Kane’s charity work with the Dirty Wall Project in a Mumbai slum community. A few months later, Kane told me more over a few drinks on the Canoe Club patio and gave me an invite to visit. Not long after that, with fellowships denied and travel buddies bailed, I found myself alone on a plane to India with a year to kill. On that journey, I wrote in my journal wise words from a woman I met doing relief work in flood-ravaged Mozambique years before: Open your heart to know your heart’s desire.
Kane and his parents greeted me at the airport. I stepped into the cacophonous sauna of Bombay and felt strangely at home. I spent my first few days in the Saki Naka slum community playing with children, drinking chai in homes the size of my bathroom and following around the Ryans. On the third day, Dirty Wall and Janvi Trust held a Diwali party in the garden they’d transformed from a dump. This is where I met my future husband.
I spotted Ashley standing with Kane’s dad, Todd, in the garden. He stood out not only because he looked like an old school Bollywood star, think brown Cary Grant, but also because he appeared so fresh and clean in a pressed shirt and jeans. The rest of us were covered in dust and sweat and children. Ashley is a longtime friend of Ashley Pereira who operates the Indian charity Janvi Trust. They grew up in the same building a few minutes away and their families attend the same nearby Catholic Church. He had also become quite close to the Ryans.
When Todd introduced Ashley and I we gave each other a smile with a future in it. Through writing, phone calls, visits and my eventual return to Mumbai after a few months’ adventures our relationship unfolded with clear commitment and love. The road has not been easy. We’ve faced several difficulties; stares, criticism, racism, bureaucracy, geography, money – from both our cultures. But with every closed door came an open window and helping hands. One example; Ashley was supposed to come visit Canada this summer to meet my family and announce our engagement. After paying hundreds of dollars and providing all the required paperwork his visitor visa was denied. The Canadian consulate officer was not convinced he’d leave after his intended two-week stay and he came from a country of poor income earners. I was indignant at such a prejudiced response but Ashley and his friends pulled into action, organizing a wedding for us in less than a month.
We were married July 26 in the Catholic and Goan tradition with nearly 200 friends and neighbours, including my mother Rita and Cindy Ryan who came all the way from Canada. It was the best day of my life and I’m still in shock at how it all came to be. I’ll have stories to tell for a lifetime in Victoria. Ashley and I both feel that the way we met, in the slum, at an event to help poor people, has shaped and influenced our relationship. In our own ways, we’ve adopted Dirty Wall’s mantra to “See a Need and Fill It” and hope to continue to do so the rest of our lives. We plan to have a Canadian wedding celebration in 2013.
Little did I know what amazing surprises the future held for me when I resigned from my previous job in Qatar to head back home to Bombay. Through strange twists and turns my career path meandered over the past 10 years, which took me to the Gulf and then back again to Bombay. Being without a job for the first 6 months and then working on a part-time contract with a University in Qatar from Bombay was like a dream.
The past two years of my sojourn in working from home on my part-time job contract with a company in Qatar made me look inward. I thank God for allowing the rough curves, which helped me become a better driver on the road of life. I still remember the day when I dropped by the community center at Saki Naka to thank Ashley Pereira for his kind assistance in helping me with my Police clearance certificate. The moment I climbed to the roof of the Center’s office, I was startled to see a white guy in his 20s playing with a kid from the slums. I questioned myself as to what was motivating Kane Ryan to go the extra mile to help, and almost be part of the daily lives of, people dwelling in the slums. I was amazed and captivated by the dedication of this Canadian gentleman who had dedicated his life to help the downtrodden in Indian society.
I still often reminisce the first football match I played with Kane before his parents could land in India for their long sojourn. The match was played at the St. Andrew’s College ground in Bandra in almost half a foot of muck. Thanks to Kane in the mid-field we were able to play a goal less draw with one of the best teams in the tournament.
Besides being a witness to the article which was published in the local Times of India Newspaper about Kane Ryan and his work with the Saki Naka slum community; Little did I know that with Kane’s parents in town soon would lead me to meeting my future wife Sarah Petrescu. Kane’s mom Cindy had already paired Sarah and myself in our first week of meeting each other. Todd, Kane’s dad had briefly introduced Sarah and myself at a local Diwali celebration at the Saki Naka slum community — which led to a rendezvous of adventures in Bangalore, Calcutta, Varanasi and culminated in Bombay.
With time I soon became a part of the Ryans’ household and have enjoyed every moment I’ve spent with them over lunch, dinner or coffee outings. Kane and his family have been a backbone in supporting Sarah and myself through all phases of our relationship, right up to our marriage and even continuing to do so this very day. I am very grateful for all they have done for me, and now my wife Sarah, and hope to always be part of their lives.
On behalf of DWP and everyone in Saki Naka, we wish Sarah and Ashley an amazing life together.
Kane and Cindy Ryanashley fernandes, bombay, charity, cindy ryan, Dirty Wall Project, donate, DWP, dwp wedding photographer, education, gcb, girls can be, India, Kane Ryan, marol wedding, Mumbai, mumbai wedding, non-profit, payal talwar, Photography, rita petrescu, saki naka, sarah petrescu, sarah petrescu times colonist, slum, Vancouver, victoria, wedding, wedding photographer