February 2018

The dashing bride and groom. Photos © Jen Carswell

Gathering energy for the strenuous journey to come.

Riding to the temple, at least part of the way.

Natasha and I, pretty in pink and burgundy.

Hiding At An Indian Wedding

Every little girl likes playing dress-up. I was a fairy queen, a rock star, a Ninja Turtle and the list goes on. But at 27, I have few occasions. An Indian wedding a few weeks ago allowed me such a long-awaited opportunity. Besides the fact that my salwar kameez was extraordinarily hot (to the point of causing dizziness), I thoroughly enjoyed my Indian make-over and the chance to be part of a wedding ceremony so different from my usual experiences as friends and loved-ones tie the knot.

At around 11am, Natasha, her mother, my mother and I arrived at the groom’s apartment. Ajay Abbi was having his red turban meticulously wrapped around his head. We headed into a different room where the rest of the women were seated, patiently. Waiting. No one really spoke much and the majority of the entertainment was provided by the year and a half year old Roma. She was full of energy, which she mostly used to keep from wearing her traditional, rather pointy shoes. I had tried on similar ones earlier in the week and they are unbelievably uncomfortable. I understood her desire to be bare-footed.

As I scooped up the big-eyed, curly-haired toddler, Natasha said, “but I thought you didn’t like kids.”

“I like the cute ones.”

Then there were a few sweets and some tea. Outside, the horse was also getting all dolled up. An elaborately ornamented saddle, with flaps and bells and other hanging things were being strapped on the unimpressed filly. Both the horse and the bride took less time to get ready than the groom.

When he finally emerged, he was followed by the numerous photographers hired to capture all of the day’s special moments. Ajay sat in a chair, at which time a garland made out of 20 rupee notes (30 cents) was placed around his neck. This is meant to bring him and his new wife financial prosperity. The idea of money came up regularly. Often various people would wave money over others heads, to bring them good luck in this domain. The bills were then given away to someone else, usually the musicians or children. Natasha made off with 250 rupees by the end of the day.

A mask with hanging beads was tied in front of the groom’s face. And then retied, and then again, as it refused to stay in place. There was drum music as he FINALLY made his way from the apartment to the horse. He was accompanied by dancing and singing. The horse was then led about 100 metres with the groom triumphantly riding, continually batting the beads out of his face. All around people were dancing and singing, attracting curious onlookers from balconies and windows. Normally, the groom rides the horse to the temple. After 5 minutes, Ajay’s chariot was transformed into a Suzuki Swift. The temple was apparently too far by foot.

Normally, the groom and his family are supposed to arrive before the bride. But this, too, was modernised. When we arrived, she was already there. He had taken too long to get ready.

The marriage took place in a Hindu temple, but Ashish is Sikh and Pooja, his bride, is Sindhi. The difference of religion meant that the families did not agree to the marriage, and therefore did not pay for any of it. Until the day before the wedding, the immediate families were not sure to attend. In the end, everyone was there to celebrate.

In the temple, men and women covered their heads. There was music as the bride and groom prayed and walked around a pagoda-esque structure. In Hindu weddings, they go around 7 times, in Sikh weddings 4. Everything else, I did not understand. It was very hot, especially in my heavy, jewelled outfit. Standing up made my head spin.

Afterwards, more food and more photos. The tensions about the marriage meant that it was smaller than most and that the reception proceeded the ceremony and was not later on in the evening. Natasha explained that there are literally a million traditional prayers and ceremonies and blessings, half of which they had probably forgotten. She also said that Indian weddings are quite traditional and that all of the parties and normal pre-nuptial shenanigans occur during the days preceding the wedding. And if you count all of the various get-togethers, an Indian marriage can last for an entire week.

Having attempted to look dignified as I melted in my kameez, I was very happy to put my yellow and white flowered-dress back on. Throughout the day, I had gone rather unnoticed, and did not stand out as the foreigner at the wedding. As Natasha (who was also wearing Western garb), my mom (newly changed) and I confronted the rain and the muck, I noticed other party-goers taking our picture. So, in the end, it was more than just a dress-up, but a brief and delightful disappearing act.

Jen Carswell

February 9, 2010 by admin · Leave a Comment 

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