Bangalore - The Wedding

Trip Start Apr 15, 2006
Trip End May 08, 2006

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Flag of India  ,
Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Here are some of the things that I love about India. My flight from Cochin to Bangalore was about 40 minutes long and yet still, we were served dinner. Yes, we had to scarf it down in about 2 minutes flat as no sooner did they put it down on our trays then the captain announced that we were about to land but, the point is that no matter how short the flight you get fed. Food is very important in India and I for one think that is a great aspect of life to focus on. What I also love is that after landing in Bangalore - one of the largest, most developed cities in India, I saw cows on the street within 5 minutes of the drive from the airport to the hotel. It makes you smile! And never ceases to amuse me - clearly.
Unfortunately, like the other cities that I have visited in India, Bangalore is dusty and polluted. There was the usual smell of something burning which I had forgotten during my time in Kerala. Very packed city and tons of cars, bikes, and auto rickshaws everywhere. I did miss the green I had grown accustomed to seeing but this will be my final stop in India (aside from a day trip here and there) so I will have to get used to it.
My hotel of course paled in comparison to my luxury accommodations in Cochin but I knew that I was spoiling myself and it's good to be back on budget and have access to Internet at $1 per hour as opposed to $5. I am in a very central location in Bangalore and my room comes with a nice STRONG AC, good water pressure (even if there is no separate shower or tub) and cable TV. All for less than $40/night. Can't beat it. And they are very nice and friendly so that is good. I caught up with my friend Theepan who explained how to get to the wedding and said that it started at about 8:30/9:00 AM! Yikes.
The next morning I put on my wedding outfit worrying the whole time that I would stick out like a sore thumb. I guess it shouldn't matter at this point because I stick out anyway all the time but still - I was pretty nervous about having chosen the wrong thing to wear. I found the wedding hall with only a few hitches and arrived just in time for the morning ceremony which included several parts. The final ceremony of the morning was the actual marriage. This was a Brahamin wedding and had some very strict rules and customs that had to be followed.
Background on the couple: The groom is best friends with Theepan (hence how I got the kind invite). They went to college together in Auckland. It was an arranged marriage - sort of. The modern form of arranged marriages is that there are web sites that parents can use to post the info on their sons/daughters. The parents of the groom found his wife online. They introduced the two (via phone) and that was that. From what I can put together, the two proceeded to have a long distance relationship via phone and Emil (she lives in India he is the States). After a few months he flew out to meet her in person and they got engaged. A few months later he flew out again and they got married. If he did not like her when he met her I believe he could have said no but apparently they hit it off and are perfect for each other. They make a very cute couple when you look at them.
By the time I met them they were in day 3 of the three day wedding and looked like they could barely stand up. I felt so badly for them. But still they had a smile on their faces - even if it was pasted.
The morning ceremony was really the most important one - the one that officially ended with them as husband and wife. They both sat on the floor of a stage in the front of the room for many MANY hours. There were Hindu priests performing the ceremony. A key component was a burning fire in the center which after awhile made the place pretty smoky. A friend of the family described to me what was going on at each stage. At some point a sadhu showed up and there was a lot of commotion. A Sadhu is a holy person, one who is trying to achieve enlightenment, often addressed as swamiji. This swamiji is apparently a very popular one. he flew in from the Himalayas just to give his blessing and then he was right out the door again. There was more commotion around him than the bride and groom. one of the guests insisted that I go to him. she said that no matter what your problem is if you go to him and he blesses you the problem would go away. Tempting. However, to get his blessing you had to kneel down at his feet and kiss the ground and it was so unnatural for me to do so that I had to skip this part. So much for leaving my troubles behind in India. Between blowing off the pesky Pushkar priests and not getting the swamiji's blessing I am pretty much screwed. Later the same guest who wanted me to get his blessing was telling me that she believed in all religions and after visiting a holy church Mary came to her in her dreams and spoke to her. Hmmm.
The friend of the family who was telling me about the wedding told me more about this swamiji and how he has renounced all of his belongings and material wealth does not matter to him as he has found inner, spiritual wealth. At the same time he told me that he has raised tons of money to give to the poor and usually flies business class wherever he goes. Very interesting. I didn't want to point out the obvious because clearly I was missing the point.
Back to the wedding - the ceremony finally ended with the bride sitting on her fathers lap and being handed over to the groom. Then it was on to lunch that was served in mass production style. We sat at long tables - like at a cafeteria. Each setting had a banana leaf and the waiters walked down each row with a bucket of some sort of food and would spoon a lump on the banana leaf. At the end there were about 9 lumps of various food on my leaf. All vegetables - this was a Brahmin wedding so strict vegetarian. It was delicious. I have no idea what I was eating but when there is no meat involved there is very little worry as well. And of course, I had to eat it all with my fingers which is always a challenge. A very sweet girl sat with Theepan and I and showed me how to eat. We had a few hours break after then when I roamed around the streets with Theepan in search of an internet cafe. Although this was a pretty nice suburb there were tons of children begging on the street and they would walk with you for blocks grabbing your hand and asking for money. It was tough to see and I was not used to it.
Next step was the games part of the wedding. Because in the old days the bride and groom didn't know each other until the day of the wedding, they would have games that they would play in the afternoon that would allow them to have physical contact with each other so they could become comfortable. Lots of touching and laughing. It was cute. Then they sang a duet and the bride had the most beautiful voice. Amazing. Then she was off to the beauty parlor to get ready for the evening. She had already changed into three or four different saris at this point. The groom sat around with us for a few more songs and then we had a another break. Theepan and I found another internet cafe - some Red Bull for the groom (he was desperate for it) and then back to the final ceremony.
At last my outfit seemed to match the occasion. I tried to get a sari but just couldn't so I wore a top and skirt. 90% of the women were wearing saris. They are VERY complicated to wear - I kid you not! But that evening, there was a fair share mix of Saris and skirts (though it was mostly the little girls wearing skirts - oh well). The evening portion of the wedding was the shortest. Sort of. All that it involved was the husband and wife standing on a stage (both in new outfits of course) and greeting guests. You would walk on stage. Say hello. Take a picture. And that was it. For them, this lasted the entire evening given that there were several hundred guests (and this was a small wedding - most of the family could not make it for some reason). For me, it was a five minute wait on line. Quick hello. Quick picture (I have no idea what that will be like when they get it - I was once again the ONLY Westerner at the wedding) and then dinner. The dinner was amazing per usual. One of the other guests told us that a wedding is deemed good or bad based on the food served. That is all that matters. I guess not so different from our weddings except that this was the BEST wedding meal I had ever had.
there was no dancing or partying. i was confused as my only other Indian wedding example was from the movie Bend it Like Beckham where there is tons of dancing and celebrating. I was told that was a Punjabi wedding and this was a Brahmin wedding and the two are very different. Lesson learned.
And that was it. Long day over. Got back to the hotel at about 10pm. It was a very emotional and long day. Beautiful to watch the ceremonies and I was so glad to have had the opportunity.
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