India Day 1: Shopping

We started a bit late with breakfast down in the lobby. The food was good, a mix of western and Indian options, and I had a bit of both. Yesterday we ate so much all day, it felt like that’s all we did. Slept, watched movies, and ate. In fact that is basically all we did. So to be hungry this morning surprised me.

We set out as a group an hour later than planned, something that would become a theme to go shopping. Leena, Maneesh’s sister came with us, taking us first to mall for Jenn’s outfits. We needed a pre-made outfit called a Salwar Kameez and a Sari. We found the first one in a dept store easy enough, but we needed a petticoat for the Sari and the dept store didn’t have one. The dept store also didn’t have a top that fit for Jenn. We went to another store downstairs and again struck out with a petticoat but we were told where to find one. They did have a top that fit, so we purchased a sari. The top needed to be altered some however so while that was being done we went and had some food in the food court. Because Jenn was using a premade top though, the extra fabric used to make the top also had to be removed and somewhere else we’d need to get the hem sewn back in to keep it from fraying. So that’s two items still on the list for her.

Leaving the food court we saw a rat scurry away… not the best sign for cleanliness.

From here we went to meet Maneesh at a men’s store. He had to go without us because he was to pick up his friend Gabe at the airport around 1pm. Now around 2:30 we meet up at the next store to find Gabe already decked out in a kurta with fancy shoes and a sash. The store was amazingly clean and elegant, and the staff really helpful and involved right down to helping put on pants which was a bit … weird. I ended up with a mint green to go with Jenn’s wine kameez and then a pale blue with silver for the wedding night to go with her light peach sari. Omer ended up with navy and blue kurtas, and Gabe with blue-green and red ones. Maneesh of course refused to let us pay…

From here we had 2 cars and could easily split up so Leena, Jenn and I went looking for her petticoat and a tailor to fix the hem. Our first place had the petticoat in a matching color, but didn’t have someone to do the hem, so off we went to find another place, this time down a back alley.

At this point let me say how crazy driving is here. Everywhere had its own kind of crazy. In Los Angeles people drive 80mph while texting. In Istanbul they dive bomb and make lanes where they don’t exist. Here there is traffic of all speeds and people weaving every which way, the speeds don’t get particularly high, but its organized chaos with a constant background din of honking to basically communicate “on your right!” as they pass, or “STOP” or god knows what else.

Finally we’re off to the hotel where we take a nap and feel like we’re barely able to stay awake when the alarm goes off. We get dressed in our new outfits and head down stairs to meet everyone, except no one else is ready. It’s about an hour before we finally get in a car somewhere.

We arrive at the club where Sharmila’s family is having there Sangeet. This particular event of the wedding is hosted by the bride’s family. The groom’s friends and family come, share dinner, and then leave and the bride’s family dances. Or that’s my understanding of how they’re meant to go. Tomorrow the groom’s side has their version and it happens in reverse. Tonight’s event is at some sort of country club on a green lawn with a temporary dance floor and bar set up with tables and chairs interspersed and food being prepared on one side.

Immediately we’re met by Chandni, Sharmila’s sister who introducers herself and gets us situated. It’s not long before Sharmila finds us to introduce herself. This is the first time any of us are actually getting to meet her as every time she’s been in LA Maneesh has had her booked full and all to himself haha. But not we get to have our first impressions and she strikes me as gorgeous, smart, and very confident. She has very bright and expressive eyes, and a nice smile, speaking very well. I have nothing but a good first impression of the person that’s to marry one of my closest friends. Not that I had any doubts. I take the opportunity to tell her my joke that we had to come to the wedding to make sure she existed since we hadn’t ever met her, and it wasn’t impossible Maneesh had just hired an attractive model to pose with him.

Our table is COVERED in grasshoppers but at least I don’t see a lot of mosquitos. We forgot to spray ourselves so fingers crossed. Not a minute has gone by before we’re already being offered appetizers.

Our group of Californians though sticks together pretty tightly in this new situation, but after a couple of glasses of wine from the bar things lighten up. Sharmila’s best friend encourages every one to dance and announces that her friends from Chicago have put together a dance which they perform with great gusto if not the best coordination. Then Maneesh tells us we’re up soon to dance and we all look at each other like no one told us we needed to coordinate a dance. No matter how out of sync the Chicago friends were, we’ve no way to be anything but worse! But hey, we’re here so we take the dance floor to some Indian techno and do our best to have fun with it, and before long others have joined us until there is no room on the little dance floor. It’s funny, the DJ played modern Indian techno, but that meant most no one knew how to dance to it, the older generation certainly not, and the younger generation mostly living in America or not part of the dance scene. Leena’s husband though sure has some moves though, and danced with his adorable 11year old fraternal twin daughters.

We abandon the floor and find a place to sit and relax and are joined by Maneesh’s 1st cousin Vineet, and eventually a couple family friends. We have a nice conversation, largely about travel before dinner is served.

Dinner was amazing (as was the wine we’d been drinking all night), and as soon as the food was gone so was the party. Maneesh had another wedding to go to, so he had bailed some time ago. I think at this point that had been the cue for the Groom’s side to leave but no one grabbed us so we just partied along until past 1pm when everything was shut down. We all loaded up and headed home with the driver nearly literally FLYING down the road. I was a bit drunk by this point but luckily managed to collect all of my belongings from the van and get back to my room to zonk out.


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