Scene: The wedding of my lifetime
No, I didn’t get married. But I did go to a wedding…with another 10,000 people. To say that weddings here are a big deal is an understatement. But this one was extreme.
It all started with a mass email from an HKS classmate, who was writing on behalf of another HKS classmate, whose sister was getting married. “You’re all invited to Jaipur.” How could I turn down a trip to the Pink City (painted so to welcome the Prince of Wales during a visit in 1853) for my first Indian wedding?
Words and photos won’t do the experience justice, but here goes...
Think marathon. Weddings can be week-long affairs. We spent Saturday at the bride’s house for a series of rituals – religious offerings, jewelry adornment, gift giving, etc.
The bride and her parents with several priests, surrounded by female relatives and friends.
Suitcases of gifts from the groom’s family – a jewelry set to enrich each outfit.
My first and hopefully not my last "mehndi" experience. Every woman at work the next week took my hands into theirs exclaiming that such dark mehndi means that my husband is going to love me very much. Thank you?
After a group nap back at the hotel, the gang got gussied up. Two friends spent 20 minutes tucking and pleading my sari into all of the right places.
Post-photo shoot, we arrived at the reception - an open field fit for a carnival, framed by garlands and food stalls. First the groom’s entrance, preceded by a brass band and another of bagpipe players wearing kilts (???). With fireworks exploding overhead, the groom arrived atop a painted elephant and then a white horse, the standard limo of Indian weddings. The bride arrived on foot with just us humans in tow. Maybe I should have offered to carry her?
Next stop: this flower-adorned stage where the couple finally met. For the next five hours, they and their immediate families stood here to receive thousands of guests who literally pushed their way through the family-turned-security bouncers to bestow blessings.
Amidst this scene, we were treated like royalty. When the lines for plates and food got straight up unruly, we were assigned our own waitstaff and this absurd serving of ice cream.
At 1 am, when most of the guests had finally left and the couple exited the stage, I declared "We did it!"
Irony times two. "We" hadn't done anything...and the actual wedding hadn't happened yet. Rather than "stick" out the humidity until the final ceremony at dawn, we decided to head back to the hotel to rest our exhausted bodies in preparation for an ambitious day of sightseeing. I think I'll always regret that decision.
The most memorable moment of the entire weekend was the next night. After we briefly welcomed the new couple back in to the bride's house, it was time for her to literally leave her family to join her groom's at his house where she would now live. As an outsider wholly unfamiliar with this culture, I might attribute the lack of American-style wedding emotion displayed up until this moment to the business and the piety of the affair, the anxieties of marrying a near stranger, chaos and orderliness, exhaustion and expectations. But the feelings poured out of everyone's eyeballs when the front door opened and closed. We all wept and wept and wept.
The only appropriate ending to such an intense weekend: Parminder with our gift to the new couple, signed “Best Wishes from Harvard University friends.”
PS. I've been trying for days to upload videos without any success, so will keep you posted of any e-progress.
6 years ago