Chris and I are recouping from the three-day wedding we attended in Chennai. Talk about a party! One India friend described it as, “You never really know what will happen next. It’s more or less total chaos that somehow manages to come out alright.” I agree!
Day One: Bobbles, Bangles, Bright Shiny Beads
The first night we attended the Mehndi at the home of the bride’s parents. This is traditionally a girls night where the bride and her friends lounge on giant floor pillows and have their hands and feet decorated with henna tattoos. We were then ‘bangled’ to match our outfits. My hands were so much bigger than the India girls that I had to slop lotion over my knuckles to help them slide on. Oh, did I mention the fortune telling and his parrot? He was spookily accurate with his assessment of me!
He told me:
• My life was normal until I turned 30, then suddenly became different. (True! That’s when I met Chris and EVERYTHING changed)
• My life was ruled by travel (duh, but how did he know?). He said that would continue. (Good news!)
• He said I had just bought a new house and it would be much better than the old one. Actually he said: “Madam, you’ll be having a new home now shortly in the future time. This new house very good for you, very good. Old house not so good, Madam. You should be leaving it. Take the new one and don’t bother with the other.” (Good advise?)
• He also knew about a recent health scare (my thyroid?) and said: “It will be coming no problems. No worries for you, Madam. Good health for long time, long time now will be yours.”
What a great prediction!
Day Two: Everybody gets into the Act
The next night the festivities where held at the Taj Hotel – The poshest of posh venues. There was an open bar for all 600+ guests, and a fab but (for Westerners) dangerously spicy huge buffet. After nearly two weeks here, our tastebuds have become accustomed to the heat, or have been killed off, I’m not sure which, but Chris and I both loved the food. All the ladies were colorfully attired in magnificently embroidered saris – what a treat for the eyes. In the west formal usually means black but not here. In fact we were warned that wearing black was very unlucky for a Hindu wedding. Our friend Bish, the brides father, was gorgeous in a salmon colored tunic and pink scarf. After Bish’s welcoming speech, there was more than 2 hours of non-stop dancing entertainment plus uproariously funny skits – all performed by friends and family members! Some dances were beautifully traditional and some, performed by pre-teen boys, were modern. One dance, a real production number, included the bride, the groom and about 10 other participants. They had been rehearsing for weeks. All were surprisingly very good. Bollywood watch out!
Can you image all this taking place at a wedding in Middle America???? With my predilection for costumes, forcing family members into plays and productions and let’s not forget the Queenvention - I think my Indian blood might be Eastern Indian, not Cherokee!
Day Three: The Moment
A Hindu holy man sets the date and time of a Hindu wedding. The families have little choice in the matter. The actual marriage ceremony is referred to as The Moment. Pity the bride (and the guests) who’s Moment must be 3:00am! Traditional northern India grooms arrive on horseback decked out in maharajah splendor. The groom is accompanied by the Indian equivalent of a drum pounding mariachi band, along with dozens of bearers toting flower draped lanterns on their heads to light the way. And just in case that didn’t get your attention, giant fireworks are set off every couple of meters. Surrounding the groom are HUNDREDS of his kin and friends singing, laughing and dancing nonstop. My god! Marti gras can’t hold a candle to it.
Later EVERYONE posed for pictures with the bridal couple – it took hours – but they endured smiling throughout. Then Misha changed clothes for the service. Can you image having to have two complete bridal outfits? Throughout the evening events there was live music performed, children raced around playing while other people stood talking and/or eating. It was so unlike the quiet, formal and (I think now) too solemn western marriages. It was fascinating and way to much fun.
Western weddings seem so ho-hum now!