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The Wedding

In the morning, I awoke to the sound of the band already playing. It was good they were able to wake us as the guys who were supposed to wake us at 4:45 weren't even up then. I ventured out of the room in search of somebody who could tell me what we were supposed to do next, including what to wear. A bunch of the family members were slowly getting up, getting their coffee, and beginning to get ready for the day. I found one guy- I think he was an uncle and asked. The initial response I got was to just wear what I was wearing- grubby pajamas. The logic was: yesterday you wore Indian clothes, today we want to see you in American clothes. I was not convinced that my dirty pjs were appropriate, so I went into another room to double-check. The women in the room were already in full sari. Apparently, they had been up since 3 am getting dressed. Based on that, I went back into my room and got my sari on- mostly. When I went to ask for some help, they were very impressed at how far I had gotten on my own. One cousin started to finish dressing me, when an aunt picked up on the fact that I had worn that sari the night before. So, I was given a new sari to wear for the new day. Additionally, they offered me a bindi and seemed surprised that I was game for anything. They also decided that I needed some jewelry. After several tries with bracelets that were too small to physically fit me, I was able to squeeze my big hands into some. Now, I was officially dressed- full Indian-style.

Phil and I wandered downstairs, as per our previous instructions, the wedding was about to start. Nobody else was in the wedding hall room though. Apparently, the wedding was starting on "Indian time." It did mean that we got the privilege of seeing the pre-wedding preparations that Rajah was going through, so the lateness was ok. Rajah was wearing some strings and explained that they indicated his status as married vs. unmarried. Also, he was wearing some yellow ones that indicated that the wedding ceremonies MUST go on, no matter what. I asked, "what if you got hit by a car, lost the arm the strings were on, and had to go to the hospital?" The response was that he'd have to get married within the 2-day time period anyway. anyway. Those are some powerful strings! Since he wasn't allowed to take one off without putting a new one on first, there was a priest in the room helping him get dressed and ready as well. Eventually, everybody was ready to start. Rajah's family gathered around him. Then, they opened and umbrella and started to walk out. I was confused. Somebody explained to me that he was walking out of the wedding, declaring that he would like to remain a bachelor and go back to school. I was more confused. I was thinking "WTJ? What about the yellow strings? Plus, he had somebody pay for this gorgeous wedding, dragged us across the world, and he's not going to get married?" When Rajah got part of the way out, it was explained to us that this was ceremonial, which calmed the nerves and made sense. Deepa's parents had to now give chase and tell him about her. They were supposed to explain to him how wonderful she is and all of the reasons he should marry her. Eventually, they "convinced" him and he brought his family back into the wedding hall.

But, it wasn't quite time to tie the knot yet. First, Rajah and Deepa were lifted into chairs and played some sort of game where they tried to lasso each other with flower leis. Then, they had to sit in a swing together. The women in their families washed their feet with milk, to symbolize something or other, then carried sweets in a circle around the swing. Everything was happening so fast that I wasn't quite able to keep up with it all. I do remember that at some point they lit a fire, and at another they threw food at and around the couple. It was actually quite humorous watching grown women scatter whole plates of donut holes on the floor- inside.

After all of that, it was finally time to move to the stage and get the next part started. Just like yesterday, the priests were in charge, telling everybody where to stand, what to do, and what to say. One priest kept signaling to the band, waving them to play and stop. I still didn't get what they were all about, until it was explained to me. There are certain moments that are "auspicious." If somebody wanted to curse the marriage, those would be the right moments to do so. In order to drown out any potential curses, the band was playing loudly at those moments (kind of like why we shake graggers on Purim). And "playing" is a relative term. I don't think they were playing any songs, just notes. It sounded more like the band was warming up for thirty seconds, taking a break for a couple of minutes, and then warming up for a few seconds again. However, now that it was explained to me, it made sense. In between the band playing, I was able to catch some of what was going on in the ceremony, although none of it was in English, so I didn't really understand too much. It was still pretty amazing to watch though. There was so much going on. The parents were busy giving gifts and clothes (which, of course, meant Deepa had to do some more quick changing and missed some of the ceremony). We threw some petals. People were moving all around. People were putting strings on other people. There was so much activity, I know I missed plenty. At some points, I was distracted by one of Rajah's cousins who taught me a secret handshake. I did, however, notice when they lit the fire in the middle of the canopy area on the stage. (May I remind you it is indoors?) At first, I figured that there would be some incense or candle-type fire. Then, they threw on the cow patties. Now, I understand that cows are holy and the cow dung is traditional fuel, but we were inside. And, they didn't just let it burn. The priest fanned it around so that the smoke was dispersed throughout the room. The weather condition inside that building now matched the smokey weather in Delhi. With the haze in the air, the ceremony kept going. We touched a sari, somebody washed somebody else's feet and finally it was time for Deepa and Rajah to be officially married. Rajah led Deepa around the wedding canopy 7 times, each time stopping her to stand on a stone. Again, I'm not sure what all of the significance was, but I'm sure there was some as they kept stopping at people and saying stuff while making their circuits. At the end, the families welcomed the new couple and Rajah roped Deepa. They were married. That didn't mean the ceremonies were over though. Next, we threw rice at them and Rajah tried to catch it in his clothes. This was followed by relatives bringing him money. The two of them just sat there as a whole line of people gave them wads of cash.

At some point, eventually, this was all over. It was something close to noon maybe and I was starving as I was too enthralled with the pomp and circumstance to bother to go down to the dining area and grab some of the non-stop food. I grabbed food and then went up to change. I was glad I was wearing somebody else's sari as the whole thing reeked of burnt cow dung- not so pleasant to shove into luggage with other items. On our way out, we got to see Rajah and Deepa feed each other and eat their first meal together as a married couple. They were then going to go to Rajah's parents' house for some sort of "over the threshold" ceremony. We, on the other hand, were going to go to Gandhi market. We grabbed a tuktuk taxi to the market. Again, we got an opportunity to people-watch. One thing I noticed was that there were a bunch of people cleaning with short brooms. They were collecting the dirt, and then just dumping it into the street. When the taxi arrived, we just got out wherever and walked around. My main goal was to absorb the sights and sounds of the market. I am always interested in what types of items are for sale, especially what types of foods (even though I know I can't eat most of it). There were a ton of food vendors selling all sorts of fresh vegetables and fruits. Most of the foods were relatively common, even in the US, but they did have these interesting little mini-bananas as well as whole tamarind pods. The real beauty of the market was not only the arrays of colorful foods, but the flowers as well. The vendors had large baskets of picked flowers as well as baskets of strands of flowers, just like the ones that decorated the wedding hall. They were so bright and abundant that it made you ignore all of the trash all over the place. We also ducked inside a few shops that seemed interesting or might have some stuff that we were looking to buy. One bookstore had a little table full of cute children's books- titles such as The Terrible Serpent, The Death of Narakasura, and The Abduction of Aniruddha. Most of the shops were clothing shops, though, many of them sari shops. After trying a couple, I was able to get a great deal on some saris to bring back to people at home. I also got some of the stainless steel bowls they use for sambar. While I negotiated for those, I still paid a pretty American price. To be fair- the price was way less than they would have cost in the US, but was probably double what somebody from around there would have paid. I was ok with this though, as they were very inexpensive. Phil got the deal of the day though. We passed a suit store with a sign out front that seemed too good to be true. It said that they would tailor a suit (pants and jacket) for you for about $60. But wait, that's not all. For that low, low price, you also get a free second set of pants, shirt, belt, tie, and handkerchief. He picked out the fabrics; they took his measurements; and we got instructions to come back for a fitting later in the week. Of course, the most exciting part of the market wasn't the flowers or the deal. It was the cows- talk about the concept of free range. These were more like free reign. They were just hanging around wherever, lazing about as if this was their own personal beach resort. I do have to admit that I was pulling a Cosmos- taking a picture of every cow I saw. They never ceased to amaze me. When we thought it was almost time for the next of the wedding activities to begin, we grabbed a taxi back to the wedding hall. Again, we ate lunch on a banana leaf. One of the lunch items, sweet pachadi, was one of the most fabulous foods I ate on the whole trip. (If anybody knows a good recipe, please let me know.) After lunch, we discovered that the next activities were starting on "Indian time" again. We should have known by now that if we shoed up to things at the times people told us, we'd be doing a lot of waiting. So, in the meantime, we got a much-needed nap. When we woke, we went downstairs and the fun began. It was explained to us that, back in the day, girls would get married at 8 and boys at 13. In order to get to know their new spouses better, the kids would play some traditional games with each other. First though, Deepa had to sing in order to get Rajah to play, another tradition that harkens back to the old days. The first games they played were on the floor. One involved crushing crackers into the hair of the other person. The family members would try to defend their person and keep the food out. They also played that game with some rice they threw. Next, they rolled a ball back and forth and played some sort of keep-away with it. Afterward, it was sing-along time. Rajah's brother had various movie snippets played on the tv in the room and people sang along with the movies. One movie has a scene where the man is trying to win a girl over by singing to her form outside. His friend does the singing, while he moves his mouth. To this song, Rajah's brother sat behind him, singing, while Rajah lip-sang. Another song chosen was about how bad marriage was- at least they have a sense of humor. Towards the end, we all got up and danced to one of the songs, Indian-style. It was so much fun!

But, the fun had to end. We started to get into the taxi that would take us back to the hotel. Rajah was going to come with us and make sure that the hotel guys were straight, but he kept getting delayed because Deepa's mom was crying. When we did eventually get to our hotel (which was American clean), we were pretty worn out from the day's events and slight lack of sleep, but we did want to grab some dinner before hitting the hay. We wandered to this place across the street that advertised that they had burgers and pizza. Phil was craving some meat, so we went in. I don't think I saw any burgers on their menu, and they definitely turned out to be a vegetarian restaurant. However, they did have a whole pizza section of the menu. I asked about what was on the "Washington DC Pizza," and I think I heard something about peppers and onions, so I ordered it. It turned out to be mushrooms, peppers, onions, and tomatoes, so I just picked the mushrooms off and ate it. Phil asked about what was on the "Special Pizza." The guy had a hard time explaining it to us, so Phil just ordered cheese pizza. We also attempted to order bottled water, but the guy was not understanding us and so we went without. The guy obviously didn't understand Phil either, as he ended up bringing out special pizza. And boy, was this pizza "special." It had peppers, tomatoes, onions (pretty normal so far), but then it also had cashews and little pieces of fruit like what you find in fruit cakes. It was definitely special. Also, the pizza sauce tasted like ketchup with tamarind and some spice mixed in, but definitely not Italian spices. It was certainly an experience. Part of the experience also came from the napkins. I had noticed that napkins in India weren't absorbent like in the US. They are made of some sort of thin plastic and are not very good for wiping pizza sauce off of your hands. About 20 napkins later, we were cleaned up from dinner and decided to go for a walk to see what else was around, and hopefully find a cyber cafe. We found one and used the internet for dirt cheap. The computers were old and slow by our standards, but they were pretty popular in India. The first cyber cafe we went to was full, and directed us to another one further down the block. For most of the time were were there, that one was also full.

By the time we were done, we were pretty exhausted as today was a very full day. Knowing that we also had a full day ahead, we retired to our rooms to get clean and go to bed. That is when I discovered that there was no hot water in my room. Too tired to call the front desk to complain (especially since I hadn't been expecting it anyway) I just took a (short) cold shower and went to bed.

Priest prepping Rajah

Priest prepping Rajah


The Walkout

The Walkout


Gandhi Bazar

Gandhi Bazar


Woman selling flowers

Woman selling flowers


Flowers at the market

Flowers at the market


Cooking store

Cooking store


Cow

Cow


Singing Along

Singing Along

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in India

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