Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Wedding Weekend

Back in the tranquility of RUSHA after a frenetic weekend in Bangalore, dashing hither and thither for the various wedding related activities during which Sudhir & Victoria tied the knot, and in a hindu ceremony there really is a knot tying moment. Victoria & I met in a Haveli in Jaipur in January 2007 where she & I were both taking our parents, who were visiting their relocated daughters, around the golden triangle in the North of India. The Haveli, which is a hotel converted from an old Persian Town House, was a lovely building with islamic architectural features, including a courtyard and decorative stonework and was run as if it still were an old Persian townhouse. We were treated like house guests, all those staying dining with the family at night in the communal dining room. Victoria & I discovered that despite being 1000km from where we lived, we were in fact practically neighbours in the South of India, her being in Bangalore and I, in Vellore a mere 4 hour train ride away, which is nothing when considering distance in India. We also discovered that we had many other things in common, although a Brahmin fiance was not one of them - only Victoria had one of those -  so we became and have stayed good friends, spending much time together in Bangalore, Kerala and even on one occasion, Cumbria, where she visited on one of her trips home. After 7 years together, Victoria & Sudhir have finally overcome almost all the obstacles which culture, family, religion and India can throw at a transcontinental couple who fall in love and celebrated their wedding over the weekend. It is a small matter of detail that India still has a teeny trump card in that the bureaucracy of getting legal recognition of such a marriage whilst on a tourist visa (the only one Victoria is eligible for) without indulging in huge or indeed any amounts of baksheesh, was overwhelming and truthfully was not resolved before the ceremony, but if ever a public declaration of intent were made, Sudhir & Victoria after three days and four wedding events are more married than most people. It is only a matter of time and because Victoria quite rightly wants to make sure that it is legit in EVERY sense, so no illicit channels are being used, much to the disappointment of the cogs in the bureaucratic wheels.

The events kicked off on Saturday with a warm up party. Sudhir's family being Brahmin, neither eat meat nor drink alcohol. So the actual wedding itself would be a dry, vegetarian occasion, with potentially no music. Victoria was worried about the ability of people to mingle cross-culturally for the first time with only tender coconut juice as lubrication to the default Indian melodic background sound of frogs informing the world as to their mating intents, so they decided to have a warm up ceremony with booze and music to get the party started, which indeed it did. It was a light-hearted fun evening, with Sudhir's friends enthusiastically teaching the English visitors how to screw in the lightbulb to a loud, pulsing Indian beat. I am delighted to introduce outfit number one (for me, of course), a pale, powder blue chudidhar & pant suit, with silver highlights and beaded detail. Victoria looked lovely too.


On sunday, there was the Mendhi Event. This is the Hindu tradition of covering the bride's arms and legs with intricately patterned henna, a stains which lasts for for weeks. It is an occasion for women only, although a couple of men did sneak in, and it starts with the women in the bridegrooms family conducting a pooja (blessing) for the bride. This entails lots of turmeric & red sandal paste being rubbed into the hair parting, forehead, cheeks, feet and various other places, with yellow dyed rice being chucked here about the place, jasmine flowers placed in the hair and lots of walking around either chanting, or, because this is modern India, answering the many, many calls which came through any one of the dozens of mobile phones attending with their owners. Once the pooja is over, the bride settles down for the henna paste artistry. This takes four hours. Luckily Victoria is big into yoga and meditation, so sitting still for so long for her was not too arduous; she managed it all with great dignity, dressed in her sari and still with rice and cumin seeds (not, as I erroneously heard, human seeds) in her hair and without smudging the henna paste before it dried.


The house was full of bustling people, some of whom were also having much less extensive henna applied, there was food and tea and juice, all of which had to be hand fed to Victoria because she was unable to use any of her limbs. There was a lovely atmosphere and it allowed more mingling between the women. The two girls doing the henna were somewhat overwhelmed by the numbers and so there was not time for them to do my hands, but Victoria's sister's foster daughter was keen to have a bash and she did a great job on me.




On monday morning, the wedding ceremony took place in the garden of a beautiful resort, under a traditional Mandap, decorated with jasmine flowers, marigolds, banana leaves and roses, which completely covered every inch including the roof. There was a lovely Indian lady official (can't remember what it is called) who conducted the service in Sanskrit and translating & explaining the significance of it for the guests, and a priest chanted the vows which are beautiful. In a traditional Hindu wedding, a knot is tied between the brides sari shawl & the husbands kurta or dhoti, they perform the Saptapadi - seven steps around the Holy Fire, Agni, the deity who is the chief witness to the marriage. These seven steps, starting with the right foot, correspond to seven vows the couple take. The seven vows vary from state to state, but they incorporate the ideas of being blessed with strength in their relationship, a happy family life, riches in all ways, happiness, honesty & integrity, honour each other and above all be good friends. It was wonderful having the translation of not only the vows but also of the symbolic actions. I am sure Victoria was glad to discover that the reason she had honey & curd smeared all over her face was to represent the ability to sweeten any sour notes within their marriage. Victoria's mother symbolically placed her daughters foot on a rock to symbolise that she was giving her to her husband and showing her the strength of their future partnership.








My outfit? A black & gold number with diamante sandals (same ones as from saturday to be truthful...)


(Me & Celine)

Still one event to go, more later....

3 comments:

Hannah Scheilling said...

Arabella

Thank you so much for the joy that you have just brought me. I am Hannah, a long term school friend of Victoria's. I was not able to join her in India for her wedding and have been desperately awaiting news of the big day (or should I say days?). I have been using my husband's Facebook account to no avail but found your blog. I love your account and all the fabulous photos. I've been shedding tears of joy. You look gorgeous in all of them. I love the outfits. Keep them coming.

Many many thanks, Hannah

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