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3 December 2013 / leggypeggy

Two weddings and a funeral

Indian bride

Indian groomHello, called out a male voice.

I looked up from hanging out laundry on the roof of our hostel in Bharatpur. There he was on the next-door roof only a metre away.

Hello, I replied. He motioned me to approach. I waved, smiled, helloed again and hung up one of Poor John’s shirts. Hello, he called, come, come, he insisted.

Turns out he wants to invite us to his sister’s wedding that night. But we are six people and these are the best clothes we have, I said, pointing to my camping pants and merino top. This news didn’t faze him in the slightest.

Fortunately, Anand appeared on the roof and chatted with the fellow in Hindi. Soon it was all settled—we were going to a wedding.

As the day progressed, the neighbour on the other side of the hostel invited us to his daughter’s wedding. Two weddings in one night, and we look like a bunch of hillbillies! But I guess we were lucky to be limited to only two.

The months that follow Diwali are considered auspicious for marriage, and across India there are hundreds of weddings every night of the week until January. Perhaps it’s also auspicious to have a few foreigners among the guests.

Of course, weddings aren’t limited to a single night. Festivities spread over most of a week. They begin with female friends and family members singing for the couple, followed the next day with the women having their hands and feet decorated with red–orange henna dye.

henna hands

Henna on hands

Day three is set aside for the bride and groom’s skin treatment of turmeric, sandalwood and oil. This is supposed to give them a radiant glow, which I suppose is confirmed by the photos.

The next day is for worshipping in the temple. There’s another round of worshipping on day five, which is also the day of the actual wedding and reception.

During the afternoon of ‘our’ weddings, three groups of women went by on their way to temple. I might not have noticed except that an enthusiastic band of musicians accompanied each group.

Come evening, there was some disagreement as to which wedding we’d attend first. The second invitation was from a good friend of the hostel owner, whereas the first was from someone not so well known.

Wedding sweets

Sugary sweets in sugary syrup

The better-known neighbour took precedence, and soon we were on our way to a very large and lavish affair. We snaked through traffic, and past three or four other weddings that were in progress. Huge floodlit, decorated entryways make it easy to spot a wedding venue.

As we approached our event, we passed a groom on horseback (a groom normally arrives on a white mare) and it was only later that we were told that he had nothing to do with the wedding we were attending.

Once inside we discovered that weddings are not about the religious ceremony—that happens later in the night after all the guests have gone home. We’d been invited to the reception and gift-giving.

silver dress

Silver party dress

And what a shindig it was! Music, flashing lights, crowds of all ages and food, food and more food. We added our cash gift to the collection table and made a circuit of the buffet—the array of food was ginormous.

I photographed many wedding guests. One young fellow popped up in almost every pic, and we later learned that he was the bride’s little brother.

But we foreigners were certainly the most popular photo subjects. I’m sure our faces appear on countless Facebook pages. We had to leave before the bride and groom ever appeared, so in future they’ll probably always wonder who we were.

After a quick phone call to the bride’s brother (remember him from the rooftop?), we were on our way to the next event.

Wedding guests, India

A young crowd of guests

wedding entry

Enter in style

This wedding was much more low-key and running on schedule. The bride and groom were already there and the centre of attention. Most of the food was gone, but dosas (a flat bread) were constantly being made.

The bride looked gorgeous, nervous, shy and pleased—all at the same time. He looked dumbfounded, but then broke into smiles as he relaxed amidst the sea of well-wishers.

Frankly, I preferred the second wedding to the first. It was more intimate and probably more in keeping with tradition. Deepti said most weddings are simpler affairs, held in the bride’s home.

But I’m not sure sure how many wedding occur in the home. Everywhere we’ve gone in India (and we’ve covered almost 4000 kilometres) since Diwali early in November, we’ve seen elaborate wedding venues being set up or knocked down.

But I digress. Deepti went on to explain that the day after a wedding reception is a family event. The couple go to the groom’s home for a welcoming ceremony, followed by a trip to the temple. Finally they return to the groom’s home where the bride cooks (especially sweets) for everyone. Deepti said, Can you cook? is a common pre-marriage question.

Wedding bangles

An arm full of bangles

Ultimately, the couple must register their marriage with the government, but that can happen later.

In the past, honeymoons were not all that common, but Deepti says that’s changing.

As we’ve continued our travels, Deepti has pointed out many honeymoon couples. How can you tell? She laughed and said, That’s easy! The silly smiles, nose rings and bangles up her arms are obvious signs.

A gentle man’s funeral

But on to the funeral, which wasn’t in India.

When I have an internet connection, which hasn’t been all that often, I try to check the online edition of the Canberra Times. That’s how I learned Lindsay Mitchell had died in November.

I never ‘knew’ Mr Mitchell, but he washed car windscreens (including mine) for many years at the corner of Northbourne Avenue and Barry Drive.

He was thin and scruffy and, like lots of people, I had always assumed he was a drug addict who worked to support his habit. How wrong I was. He was on methadone and spent a lot of the money he earned helping others, especially homeless young people.

The Canberra Times wrote two articles—one about his life (including a tribute from the city’s Chief Minister) and another about his funeral. Both made it clear he was a gentleman and a gentle man.

13 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Lesley Snow / Dec 4 2013 12:12 pm

    Riveting as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Dec 5 2013 4:12 am

      Thanks Lesley. Mind you, it was nice to be a guest and not the organiser. 🙂

      Like

  2. Sy S. / Dec 5 2013 12:25 am

    LP, The people of Indian (generally speaking) and especially the younger students are very friendly… which I had always admired, even though a 3rd world, poor country. Very good that you were able to be invited to two weddings and noticed differences in between them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Dec 5 2013 4:13 am

      You are so right Sy. The people we have met have been so friendly and helpful. And, yes, there was a marked difference between the wedding. Feel very privileged to have attended both.

      Like

  3. Anh / Dec 5 2013 10:59 am

    Hi Peggy, are you & Renae back by 15/12?

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Dec 5 2013 2:14 pm

      Hi Anh, yes we will all be home by then.

      Like

      • anh / Dec 5 2013 2:25 pm

        Please come to my place at 5PM. Can you please ask Renae on my behalf too. Tks.

        Like

      • leggypeggy / Dec 5 2013 2:42 pm

        Hi again, we get home late this coming Monday. I can’t remember if we have any other plans on the 15th, so I’ll need to check when I get home. Renae is already on her way home, and back in the office on Monday, so you can check with her more easily then than I can. Hope that’s okay.

        Like

  4. Anh / Dec 5 2013 2:51 pm

    Hope you & John can come. We’re off to the Gold Coast and back next week. I will e-mail Renae at work. Tks Peggy.

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Dec 5 2013 3:02 pm

      Hope we can make it too. I’ll email you when I get home. Safe travels to you.

      Like

  5. lmo58 / Dec 6 2013 7:12 pm

    Your trip has had everything Peggy! Fancy being invited to two weddings on the same day! See you soon. Travel safely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Dec 6 2013 10:29 pm

      It sure has been a trip of variety. And tonight we’re going to a tango exhibition—in India!

      Like

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