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My Big Fat Indian Wedding

INDIA | Wednesday, 18 February 2015 | Views [306]

 

There are some moments where I forget where I am. India is getting more and more normal to me and sometimes I forget I’m abroad at all. Then, there are other moments where I think, “yep, I’m in India.”

I’ve been here for almost a month now and can officially check going to an Indian wedding off my bucket list. When the girl I’m rooming with and I told our host mom, Asha, that we’d like to go to a wedding our first week here she went, “Oh sure, I go to one this weekend. You will come.”

Our first weekend in India and we were getting dressed up in saris. Mine was pink and gold and I was in Indian heaven. I felt as exotic as a Swedish person can get. My sari, tied in a way that was native to the state of Karnataka, had three parts: a blouse, which is like a cute little crop top, an ankle-length underskirt to tuck the sari into, and the lengthy fabric that is the infamous sari. Indian women have unattainably slim arms and shoulders and, well, lets just say it took a few different blouses to fit around these guns. Once I found my not-too-constricting fit, I let Asha tuck the 6-foot sari into my blush pink and modest underskirt and drape the rest of the shiny fabric over me in a complex way that I will probably never remember.

We put silver bindis on our foreheads. A bindi is the small dot or jewel men and women wear on their foreheads. I was worried about being disrespectful towards Hindus and general Indian culture, but apparently it’s not strictly a Hindu decoration. It’s more like a style statement than a religious one. I had a gold headband I put around my forehead to cram every Indian style I knew in one look, but I felt like I was over-doing it a little. Then my host sister Misha came in the room, looked at me, and told me I needed more jewelry. I put on two armfuls of bangles and pink dangly earrings. At noon, Asha, my roommate Krissy and I all piled into a car and drove into the dusty, crowded Bangalore streets.

The wedding was for our neighbor’s son. I knew the family was Brahman, which is high caste, but I had no idea what to expect. Bollywood movies fizzled away in my head as the reality of the wedding hit me. We walked into a large auditorium filled with the most color I’ve ever seen packed into one room. Women in India are always in beautiful, bright colors, but for weddings they really outdo themselves. They were in the most fantastic shades of rich magenta and dark blue along with every single color in the rainbow, walking gracefully with their intricate, embroidered details dancing across their saris. They wore necklace upon necklace and ten bangles to an arm. I’m sorry to Indian men, but they looked a little lackluster in comparison. What was an even larger contrast were the rows of cream-colored plastic lawn chairs that the sparkling saris draped over as the women sat and talked.

In fact, everyone was pretty much sitting and talking. I became very confused. Had it started yet? Is this some type of intermission? Then, Asha began introducing us to her friends. The first question Krissy and I would get was, “Where are you from?” Or, in my case, a man just came up, pointed, and asked, “Germany?” When we would say USA, each male would yell, “BARAK OBAMA!” as if they won a trivia game. Actually, people all over India do this. He visited Delhi in January over Republic Day, and it was all anyone would talk with us about for the first two weeks.

South Indian weddings are a lot of sitting down, talking, and eating. Krissy and I felt a little uncomfortable at first (we had tight blouses, tight drawstring skirts, and couldn’t really understand Indian-English), but we were welcomed into the wedding with so much warmth and excitement that the discomfort faded quickly. The wedding lasts for a minimum of three days. Yeah, you read that right. Three. Day. Minimum. What happens during these three+ days? A lot of old Indian traditions are played out upon a stage that everyone at the wedding more or less ignores, besides the camera people, bride and groom, and most of the wedding party. There they walk around a circle seven times, get blessed, get their photos taken, and participate in hundreds of other traditional ceremonial measures to ensure good karma for the years of marriage to come.

Clearly, I am very ignorant about the traditions that happen during the wedding. But, I am very knowledgeable about what happens behind the scenes. Brides normally have nine different outfit changes, each one more amazing than the next. There is SO MUCH FOOD, and that is one of the reasons to go to all three wedding days, apart from watching the beginning of everlasting love. It’s given to you on a banana leaf and they film you while you’re eating, so everyone who’s watching the wedding can watch you eat. I think the camera lingered on the only white people (me and Krissy) for a little longer than normal. Then you go upstairs and chat. There you will find close family, 100 members of their extended family, 60 of their closest friends, college friends, high school friends, grade school friends, 16 of their friend’s cousins, their neighbor’s postman, the person who cuts their hair, their aunt’s neighbor, their out-of-town friends they met once on a trip to Delhi, their friend’s grandmother’s sister’s best-friend’s neighbor, a couple they met on a train, and someone who happened to be walking outside when it began. Basically, everyone is invited.

With that mentality, they are so open and welcoming to newcomers. Krissy and I got the royal treatment as everyone wanted to take pictures with us, give us blessings, introduce us to all of their family and friends there, and tell us all about their traditions. One of the most endearing qualities Indians have is how proud they are of their traditions. One middle-aged man came up to me and asked where I was from. I told him USA and he said, “Oh, yes, BARAK OBAMA!” Then asked me what my opinion on the nuclear deal was. When I pretended to not understand him, he started talking about the turmeric powder marks on my face, given to me by some of the lovely wedding party, and the toe rings that the brides wear. He looked at me sternly and said, “The most important thing you need to know about Indian customs is: Everything has a REASON!” and shot his finger triumphantly up in the air.

As Krissy and I were trying to leave, three teenage girls asked to take our picture. Being white is like being a mini-celebrity, because pale complexions are a novelty and very highly revered. I think I was born in the wrong country.

We had to get dragged away from the girls, who took maybe ten pictures with us, and were so sweet. Everyone was so sweet. I would take a South Indian wedding over any other kind. Where else can you look like a dream, sit and talk to hundreds of people, get free food that you eat with your hands, and leave the wedding with a coconut as a gift? India. Only India.

Tags: food, india, party, wedding

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