A holy man came to the house and read the holy book for 3 days, 24 hours a day, I assume hat there must have been at least 2 of them. There was a loudspeaker on the roof just in case we wanted to let the whole neighbourhood know that the holy book was being read and this was ocasionally turned on. No matter that the neighbours might have just sat down to watch 'The Bill', just turn on the loudspeakers. There was no drinking or boisterous behaviour whilst the holy man was there but we seemed to make up for it when he finally left. Heleft with a lot of ceremony carrying the book on his head.
On the day that the girls were having their arms Henna'd, the bride took 4 hours with two people working on her, the boys went on a bus trip to the closing of the border at Attari. It was a 90 minute drive to get there and we had to wait around for the border to close. Jatinders dad had arranged things for us but we didn't really know what to expect. Thousands of people turn up on both sides of the border every night to witness and participate in the spectacle. We were given VIP plus treatment, sitting right on the border gate. There were two grandstands, one for the riff raff, one for VIP's and then there was us, it was almost embarassing. This is where visiting heads of state would sit.
The ceremony itself is one of the most bizzare things that I have ever witnessed, the crowd reacts like at a football match
. Border guards march up to the gate with arms and legs flying and then try to out stomp each other, all the time the crowds on both sides of the border are going beserk.
When we returned to wedding central things were really hotting up, the girls had been Henna'd and there was some religous ceremony going on that evening. The night before the wedding it is traditional to go around to neigbours houses and sing and dance until they give you money to go away. Unfortunately the natives got it into their heads that Australians love to dance. In India women dance with women and men dance with men. I must say that the young lads were very enthusiastic dancers. One point worth noting at this event is that we were followed around by the official wedding video. This involved 3 blokes with a video camera and lighting. The lighting had to be plugged in at each house we went to and one poor bugger had the job of pushing two bare wires into an electric socket at each house. Apparently paying him was cheaper than buying a plug.
The wedding was a half hour drive to a wedding palace. The Australians were all dressed in traditional Punjabi clothes whilst the Indians were all in western suits. The entrance was through an avenue of flowers and arches and to make a big impression the Australians were to be led in by a marching band, bagpipes, drums and drum major, it was supposed to look very impressive with about 1000 people watching
. The band set off and we just fell in behind looking dignified, unfortunately the band turned around and headed back towards us, so we ran away, the locals were polite enough not to mention it later but it must have looked funny. There was food galore, it really was a grand affair. The actual wedding was at a nearby temple and just for close family and friends, which included us. Then it was back to the palace for further embarassment. There was a Bollywood style show of singing and dancing going on with a compere yelling something in Hindi. Eventually we heard Australia mentioned and were trooped out to the front for everyone to look at, if that wasn't enough they got us to dance and entertain the crowd, I knew that there would come a time when we had to earn our keep. It was like "what can we get the Australians to do next?" Give them alcohol and they start dancing. I still can't believe that I did it, what's worse is that it is all on video.
The next day we drove down to Bhatinda for the groom's reception but the events of the day before and the long drive meant that the Australians were not going to perform.
The wedding was everything that it was cracked up to be, an extravaganza of titanic proportions. Jatinder's family were fantastic, at first it was difficult to figure out what they thought was most important, the wedding or us, then I realised that we were a part of the wedding like the catering and the flowers, "did you remember to organise the Australians?" We couldn't have hoped for more hospitality, apart from the bride and groom we were the main attraction, we were at the front of everything that happened. I don't know that I've ever felt so important, if only they could see what our status is in Australia they'd probably feel cheated. The ceromonies and preparations sort of built up in intensity every day, the early stuff sort of passed me by a bit but the women seemed to get excited. The tailor who made our clothes invited us all around for dinner but I fell asleep and missed it. However, this was typical of the hospitality, we were eating all the time.