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Reporters on the Job

Wedding Debts: Wednesday's story about trying to curb the cost of Pakistani weddings (see story) was reported by an empathetic writer. This month, Owais Tohid is attending two weddings of relatives in Karachi. "We arrived on Dec. 4 and we have been at events almost every day since," he says. And that's just for the first wedding, held two days ago.

For Pakistanis, the key wedding events are the dholkis, the mehndi, the wedding itself, and the valima. The dhollkis is a drum and dance ceremony that often starts days or weeks before the wedding. "Every day, there's been more than 200 people. It's great fun. It starts at 10 p.m. and goes until 3 a.m. or 4 a.m.," he says. "It's a kind of practice for the main event." The day before the wedding, another party is centered on the mehndi, or henna-painting of the hands of the bride and bridegroom. There were more than 700 people at his brother-in-law's mehndi. The valima is a gathering the day after the wedding, celebrating the consummation of the union. It's paid for by the groom's family.

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Owais, who married four years ago, says that he and his wife insisted that no dowry be paid. But they were unable to persuade family members to cut back on the other lavish wedding traditions. "I'm thinking that I'll encourage my daughter to elope," he jokes.

A Neopolitan Welcome: In the neighborhoods of Naples, Italy, where Sophie Arie reported Wednesday's story about gangland murders, everyone knows everyone. "They've all lived there for generations. So I felt I was always being watched. If I stopped, someone would approach, and ask me what I was doing," she says.

After interviewing a priest who is challenging the crooks (see story), Sophie sat outside the church, jotting down notes, often pausing to look skyward while trying to recall some detail. "A neatly dressed man, maybe 70 years old, walked by. Then he turned around and hit me with a classic Italian one-liner: 'I can't walk past a beautiful lady without saying hello.' He asked for my number, oblivious to the 50-year age gap. I politely declined, and after some small talk, he said he had to go because his wife was waiting for him at home."

A few minutes later, a news vendor approached. "Are you an architect? We saw you looking up at the buildings," he asked. After Sophie explained, he relaxed, and told her tales of the "good old days of contraband cigarette smuggling." Says Sophie, "Initially, I didn't feel welcome. But once past the initial suspicion, they became more open and talked for hours."

David Clark Scott
World editor


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