Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Marriage (without dowry)

First, as Indian weddings are such a barrage of the senses, especially visual, I must insist that anyone who reads this blog also view the photo album!

I met Sid soon after arriving in India and, as he claims, he became my first friend. The timing of our meeting also happened to be very shortly before he became engaged in a semi-arranged marriage. As a result I’ve been somewhat peripherally on the scene through the engagement, the dating that followed (I explained to Sid’s dad Jagan that this is actually the reverse order of how we do things at home!), shopping for the wedding, and finally my first Indian wedding. Perfect excuse to wear my new saree!

I was invited to stay at the family’s house and experienced every part of three of the four days worth of ceremonies. Aside from the extreme length of the wedding (4 days with the actual marriage day ceremonies lasting over eight hours), and the sheer number of guests (somewhere between 6 and 800, rough estimate), I thought the biggest difference had to do with the family aspect. The marriage is very much viewed as a marriage of families not individuals. This aspect was especially accentuated by the fact that Divya will be moving into the joint family household. Due to the sharp contrasts with western weddings, Sid’s marriage, more than any other experience I’ve had, drove home how focused on the individual western society is.

One of the best parts of the day was when Sid decided he didn’t actually want to get married and announced that he was off to Varanasi to become a monk! Ok, so this wasn’t actually that surprising as it’s a traditional part of the ceremony. He was even aided by the priest who outfitted Sid with a monk’s bag, a hat, a scarf, and an umbrella. Sid then marched out the door of the marriage hall, pursued by an “angry” crowd of Divya’s cousins. One took Sid’s shoes to prevent him from going any further and another berated him for leaving. The crowd that gathered was much amused and even included a 95-year-old aunt who hobbled out to observe the antics. Eventually Sid was convinced and returned inside to continue the ceremony. Crisis averted.

Another highlight took place at the after party, a small gathering of about twelve close family friends for dinner and drinks. We mingled, discussed the wedding, took turns toasting the new couple, and sang and danced along to “100 Nostalgic Songs.” Himkar Uncle, who it was decided could be a character straight out of Seinfeld, treated us all to his Kung Fu Fighting dance routine. By the end of the night, when the song was on possibly its 10th or so round, Jagan, Himkar, and two of their friends jumped up and put on a show stopping performance complete with high kicks, killer jabs, and appropriately fierce karate faces. I’d take that over the Electric Slide any day!

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