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Nice Day for a White (Pink) Wedding

9 August 2008

About two weeks ago, I attended my first Indian wedding. (I meant to write this earlier, but I’ve been out of station twice, as my Indian friends would say (once with Mike – yeah!), and my internet has been on the fritz, as Steve Taylor would say.) The wedding was for my two friends A. and P., not that I needed to become their friends to go to the wedding. Pretty much I was invited within two minutes of meeting the couple – that’s just the way it is around here. And it’s something I love about India – the people are generally open and welcoming and want to share the joy of their lives with you.

The process of attending an Indian wedding began several weeks ago with the buying of the sari. A couple friends and I went to a wholesale sari shop in Bangalore and sifted through two floors of gorgeous silks, satins, georgettes – you name it, they had it. I walked out with two satin saris, only needing one but unable to resist a second. (Unfortunately, in my mind, they are much too fancy to wear anywhere but to a wedding, so unless I make the concerted effort to meet more engaged Indian couples, I’m just going to have some pretty fabric sitting on a shelf. Which, in some ways, is not so much a bad thing.)

Now that I had the sari, I just had to learn how to put it on. My dear friend P. came to my flat, where all of the ex-pat ladies from our circle had gathered, about a week before the wedding to give us sari-tying lessons. P. wears a lot of saris, and they are always impeccable, never a pleat out of place and always the perfect amount of drape. Alas, despite two hours of lessons and numerous rounds of tying and untying, I still felt pretty hopeless at it. I can make a respectable effort, but, on my own, I will never make my sari look even as graceful as P. on a bad day.

Sari skillz! I actually tied this sari myself. Boo-ya!

Sari skillz! I actually tied this sari myself. Boo-ya!

Armed with the requisite outfit and some sari skillz, I was ready to attend the wedding. I had to leave work early because the wedding started at 5 p.m. on a weekday. This, of course, made no sense in my American mind, until it was explained to me that all weddings (In Chennai? In Tamil Nadu? I don’t know.) must be completed by 6 pm to be valid. I still haven’t learned why this is the case. However, I do think that with the way some of the powers that be think around here, it’s probably because there was one incident back in 1932 where a couple married at 6:05 p.m. and then divorced after a particularly nasty argument over the wedding cake at 6:10 p.m., so some government official extrapolated from that incident that weddings shouldn’t happen later in the day because the stress level obviously rises too sharply after 6 p.m. If there is anyone out there that knows the real reason, I’d love to hear it. (By the way, this thought comes from somewhere, really – apparently, on New Year’s Eve last year, a hotel built a dance floor over a swimming pool, and, as anyone who has ever seen It’s A Wonderful Life knows, that’s a bad idea. Sometime before midnight, the floor collapsed, and very sadly, a few people drowned. Someone with power decided the only way to respond was to ensure that ALL clubs, even those that wisely built their dance floors on solid ground, must close by 11:30 p.m. until further notice. However, as far as I am aware, there is still no regulation against building a dance floor over a swimming pool. Now that’s what I call logic.)

Even with leaving work early, I didn’t leave the flat until after 5 p.m. and arrived at the church (this was a Christian wedding, by the way) with my friends about five minutes after the couple was pronounced husband and wife (which apparently happened pretty early on, due to the aforementioned 6 p.m. deadline). I did make it for the sermon, a hymn, and the signing of the register, which took place in a room to the side of the church with all the attendants, about 20 children, and half of the relatives. I craned my neck to see what was happening but didn’t have much luck. While they congregated in the side room, we sang songs in Tamil, or I should say, I sat there while most of the rest of the people sang songs in Tamil, chiming in only at the point where we sang the couple’s names in a song with about 20 verses.

And then it was over. A. and P. walked down the aisle, and we were ushered out a side door. Where a few of us were then attacked by P.’s great uncle’s cousin three times removed (or something like that), who wanted to talk about his son who was an engineer (or something like that) in Florida (or somewhere like that), while snapping pictures of us on his mobile phone. I know I should be used to it by now, but I’m still kind of creeped out by the number of people I don’t know who have asked me to pose for pictures in random locations. I guess it’s really not all that different if I take pictures of people on the street to show that I’m in India. Okay, fine. I’ll stop hatin’ now.

Lovely ladies posing for the paparazzi (I know there is a better copy of this somewhere... I'll try to find it)

Lovely ladies posing for the paparazzi (I know there is a better copy of this somewhere. I'll try to find it. Maybe I should ask P's great uncle's cousin...)

After extricating ourselves from the paparazzi, our group headed over to the backyard of the church all decked out with a lot of chairs, two buffet lines, and a large white stage lit by floodlights for the couple. The rest of the evening was filled with chatting with friends, drinking tons of water, eating delicious biryani and other Indian treats while standing since our chairs were pinched by one of the other thousand guests (really, there were that many) while we stood in the buffet line, taking pictures, trying to keep my heels from sinking too far into the ground so my sari didn’t drag, and sweating (those saris hold in the heat!). It was fun and crazy and tiring and at times overwhelming, but it was great to be there and experience it. Here are some pictures to tell the story better than I feel like I can.

On the Way to the Wedding in the Auto - Please note how straight my hair is. In about 20 minutes, it would not look this way, so I want you to admire it now.

On the Way to the Wedding in the Auto - Please note how straight my hair is. In about 20 minutes, it would not look this way, so I want you to admire it now.

My Sari Guru and I - You can't really tell in this picture, but P's sari is impeccable and mine is all rumpled. You can see the floodlit stage in the background, which is awesome.

My Sari Guru and I - You can't really tell in this picture, but P's sari is impeccable and mine is all rumpled. You can see the floodlit stage in the background, which is awesome.

A Close-Up of the Stage - A. and P. sat politely in the sweltering heat through an umpteen number of speeches, including ones that recounted their entire resumes and the resumes of half the people in their families. It was amazing.

A Close-Up of the Stage - A. and P. sat politely in the sweltering heat through an umpteen number of speeches, including ones that recounted their entire resumes and the resumes of half the people in their families. It was amazing.

Look at all those people!

Look at all those people! And these are only the ones I could fit in the frame.

Me with friends E. & S. - S's sari was gorgeous.

Me with friends E. & S. - S's sari was gorgeous.

I love this picture of my friends A. and M. They look like they are posing for the paparazzi on the Bollywood red carpet.

I love this picture of my friends A. and M. They look like they are posing for the paparazzi on the Bollywood red carpet.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. D.A.D. permalink
    12 August 2008 8:08 pm

    You’re lookin’ good, daughter. I am enjoying all of your posts.

  2. Unity permalink
    12 August 2008 10:33 pm

    Wow Christine–that does sound like a fun experience. You look great in the sari & I cannot wait to see it up close when you return to Chicago. Everytime I am on Devon walking past the shops that sell sari’s I think of you. Miss you loads & it was great to see the video in church this past Sunday.

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