The Wedding

Trip Start Jun 05, 2007
Trip End Aug 2007

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Flag of Nepal  ,
Monday, June 25, 2007

Shruti and Vijay had been dating for several years, so theirs was considered a love marriage rather than an arranged marriage. Regardless, it was still extremely traditional and from what they told me, very typical for a Newari (the ethnic group of both families) wedding.  Last year they consulted an astrologer to determine if they were indeed a suitable match and to find out when the most auspicious dates would be for the marriage.  There are only certain months of the year when Newari weddings occur.  They were told that they could not marry last year and were given the general timing of the wedding for late June, 2007.  Once the date got closer, they were given the exact date and time (sometime between 3 and 4 AM)  The wedding actually consisted of several days of parties and ceremonies and I just arrived for the last three days.   There is a photo attached of the framed astrological proclamation of when they should be married.
I arrived at Shruti's house late on Thursday night and was welcomed by Krisha's sons Ajay and Vijay, and a few of their family members.  Mostly that event was for Shruti's family.  We ate some dinner, played cards and just relaxed until the appointed time.  Everything was delicious except for one thing.  There is a photo of Ajay eating one.  It's some kind of skin wrapped around some type of other meat thing and tied with a string.  I can't say I'm a fan.   We all tried to stay awake and finally it was announced that the ceremony would begin in the kitchen.  Shruti was covered in a very heavy red sari, lots of gold jewelry, garlands, much makeup, and red veil.  Vijay also wore many garlands but looked much more comfortable in a suit and special hat.  They sat with a Brahman priest and Shruti's father on the floor with trays of fruits, powders, rice, flowers, yogurt and other ritual objects.  For about an hour we watch as the priest instructed Shruti and Vijay to pick up objects, set them down, pick up rice, set it down.  Put tikka (the different powders and things) on their foreheads, what we know as a bindi, pass objects around.  Touch certain objects, taste things, drink water, and over and over again.  I do not know the significance of all of these things, but it was interesting nonetheless.  Vijay gave Shruti lots of jewelry and tikka on her head, they exchanged rings, she circled him a number of times, we all received tikka on our foreheads, the rituals with the objects continued, and then it was completed.  I returned to my hotel about 5:30AM for a nap.
At about 11 I left to go to the next event, in a downtown restaurant/party center.   Vijay had come with Shruti's family, but soon Krishna, Ajay and more of their family (though not his wife) arrived in a flower covered car, escorted by a very loud marching band.   We ate lunch, and the next ceremony began, with many of the same rituals as before.  In addition, this one included Shruti receiving gifts, congratulations, and goodbyes from her friends and family.  In return for each gift, she gave them a handful of nuts to symbolize all the love and things they had given her throughout her life.  In marriage, she officially left her family and joined her husband's family.  She was so sad, everyone was crying and it was difficult to watch.  She would be fairly independent and visit her family freely, but I can't imagine what this would have been like for brides who would leave for a different village, and not know when and/or if they would return.   The ceremony continued with an official hand over between her dad and Krishna.  He put some kind of anklet on her to signify his promise to take care of her.  At the instruction of the Brahman, they then shared bites to signify their first meal as a new family and ceremoniously fed each other different combinations.  After more rituals and tikkas all around, that part of the ritual was completed. 
Again escorted by the marching band, Shruti and Vijay left in the car to return to Krishna's family house.  We all followed through the center of Katmandu in a processional with the band and walked to a bus stop.  We all got on a city bus and were dropped off in Krishna's neighborhood, where the band continued and we followed through the winding streets to their front door.  The band was made up of bass and snare drums, trumpets, a type of horn that looked like a flugelhorn (held sideways, smaller than a French horn, any guesses?), and a clarinet that was strangely klezmeratic.  In the small streets the sound echo was deafening and put a unifying skip in our step. At the door Krishna's wife gave Shruti a key, and conducted some more rituals including yet another forehead tikka to welcome her into her new home. think they had been doing this for days and that there was still more to come...I was so tired already, and not even wearing a heavy sari or loads of jewelry to weigh me down.
We went inside for another hour or two of similar rituals, with more of the same tikka-ing, object passing around, food tasting, etc... This time each member of Shruti's new family offered her a gift in welcome and introduction.  Shruti had met many family members over the years at other events but it was symbolic  gesture to recognize her joining the family.  We all ate a traditional snack of lentil flour cakes, egg, a piece of meat and a fried fish and then had time to relax.  The whiskey came out and Shruti finally got to change into a lighter outfit.  I headed back to the hotel to give them time without an outsider and was happy to call it an early night. 
The next day (Sunday) I bought some gifts, had to go to the airline office to confirm my flight, and visited Durbar Square, another World Heritage Site downtown.  I was leaving on Monday and felt like I had seen only a fraction of what was available in Katmandu, let alone the rest of Nepal.  Still, as I wandered around the dusty streets, got turned around again and again, and saw so many beautiful things, I was so glad I made the trip, even if it was too short.  During the lunch the day before, Krishna's niece Shreejana took me down the street to for my very own kurta, a Nepali outfit that I could wear to the final reception the next day.  It was pretty amazing.  The fabric was sorted with matching patterns for tops and pants with a matching scarf.  We chose one I liked, and they measured me, asked me what kind of neckline and pant shape I wanted and that was it.  For about $25, I picked up my custom-made kurta.  They said it took 1 hours for the actual labor and even threw in a complementary pack of bindis.  I got my hair blown out, and planned to surprise Krishna that night with my new Nepali look. 
The food at the wedding events was great, always rice, salads, a maybe a curry or two and always plenty of fried appetizers.  Nepali food is pretty simple, very similar to Northern Indian cuisine.  I was very surprised to eat a beef-like morsel at the ceremony, knowing that cows were holy and forbidden to be eaten.  I later learned it was bison.  How about that?  I loved having a little curry, yogurt, chapatti and masala tea for breakfast.  Above all however, I found my favorite dish.  Kreplach, wonton, ravioli, perogi, gyoza, etc...they've got nothing on the Nepali dumpling, the momo.  So so so good.  I had some for lunch Sunday and will attempt to recreate them often.
The evening party was held at the Ashoka Party Palace, a former movie theater.  By that time I had met many family members and knew some people to speak with.  I got many compliments on my gurta and I think they were excited to know I appreciated all their hospitality and beautiful culture.  We again ate a festive meal and waited for the final ceremony of the night.  Around 11 PM, Shruti's family joined the party for a "face-check." They came to find out if she was being taken care of, and to offer one more gift of fruits and cake.  I inquired what would happen if her face didn't check out, and they said that she'd still have to stay put, there was no going back.  She and Vijay returned to her family's house around midnight for one last meal, and I headed back to the hotel.  A friend of the family took me back on his motorcycle and the mist that had frizzed my straightened hair earlier, had turned to rain as we rode through town and the curls fought back one by one.  I pinched myself to confirm the surreal feeling running through me and tried to keep my eyes open through the rain to enjoy the ride.  Soaked and trying to play it very cool with mascara smears on my face, I thanked my ride, woke the guard to let me in and tried not to wake the sleeping desk staff on my way upstairs. 
The morning of my flight I had one last breakfast and shopping run and that was it.  I had been reluctant to stay in such a touristy part of town, Thamel, away from the wedding events, but was glad I did.  Even though the streets were loud and busy, the restaurants were tucked away with quiet gardens.  Everyone at the hotel was so helpful with my late comings and goings and I highly recommend the Garuda it to any budget traveler.  Just beware if you need a soft bed.  Even though I didn't even leave the city and saw only a tiny corner of the place, I am completely hooked and am so glad I went to Nepal.  Any takers?  I have a winter break next year and it won't be the rainy season anymore.  One last adrenaline-fueled, rocket-speed taxi ride to the airport and it was back to Thailand. 
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sumi Shio on


can you please tell me where you found that place where they make custom made t-shirt in 20 minutes.

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