India Day 3: Wedding

Today is Maneesh’s big day! He is still stressed out, up early trying to sort out details for the reception tomorrow. I remember how stressed I was about things not coming through in Belize, and we didn’t care much. Or have 4 days of events. Or 1/10th the guests.

We had a long breakfast waiting to be pushed out the door, but the push never came, and apparently everything was ready and just waiting on us. Today Jenn isn’t joining, she’s managed to convince the girls to let her come along and get henna with them and watch Maneesh’s cleansing ritual before his beautification for the wedding can begin. I tell her to take lots of pictures and video as I jump in the van with Omer and Gabe.

Today’s conversation starts off as irreverent as yesterday’s ended. But we also end up on topics like the app Peeple which sounds like a mess, religion (1 Secular Jew, 1 Christian, 1 Atheist, with 1 Hindu guide and 1 Muslim driver). We also talk about startups since Gabe has 2, one of which is looking especially promising, and the other having unrealized potential with Omer having just started his own. I have a few ideas for things I’d like to try, one of which relates to a project of Gabe’s so I’m happy to pick his brain. Most of my thought so far has been with the engineering side and feasibility, most of which I know the answers to now but this is more the business and funding side we’re talking about with 2 MBAs in the car.

Our first stop is at the zoo. It’s a bit run down, but nicely shaded and pleasant. This is the first chance I have to use the other new piece of camera gear, my 70-300L IS. It’s a nice way to spend the day. Although I feel bad for the Indian Rhino in particular as unlike the other creatures that seemed to have decent enclosures, this poor guy was cramped inside a small room inside his bigger enclosure, looking so forlorn…

Inside the zoo’s perimeter is also a museum which we buy entrance to. Inside there isn’t actually much to look at, and one of the exhibit, a life sciences one, mostly shows creatures in the zoo itself, but in stuffed form. This felt extra weird to me. The most interesting exhibit though was the one on coins where you could see the progression from simple coins, to ones cast from molds similar to the Greeks, and then onto ones with Hindu motifs before being replaced with Islamic script in the time of the Mughals, and then back again as they become modern currency.

After that we went to lunch at the Vintana hotel by Taj, a high end place. The menu felt more like belonging to an international version of the Cheesecake Factory with its breadth of dishes. Omer ordered some grilled chicken with vegetables and Gabe and I shared some tandoori vegetables and Chicken. We also had cokes, and other drinks. Our guide now off his fast was able to join us, so we bought him lunch. Running low on cash I had the others pay me in cash and I put the balance on my credit card with no foreign transaction fees.

We’re asked if we’d like a view of the Eco Park, which turns out to be identically sized park just like the elephant one from yesterday, but with more plant life. There is still marble everywhere thought it looks like from the outside. We decline and elect to just go to the hotel.

We have one more stop though first, Maneesh’s college and the one where both his father and mother taught at one point. The grounds are quiet, and the main building which I think is now mostly administrative, is very ornate. On the grounds are also stables with horses so I snap a few pictures for Jenn.

Back at the hotel Jenn is already in the room and ready for a nap, but we have 30 minutes until we’re supposed to expect help for the sari from a cousin, and not much longer for a turban wrap for me. We lay in bed and I try to move photos over from my camera to my laptop but don’t have much luck. I manage to finish my first journal entry, now a couple of days late, but whenever I’ve had time I’ve always ended up falling asleep instead.

We also exchange stories about the day and I get to hear about today’s ceremony at Maneesh’s house. It’s more of much the same, with a tree planted in the middle tied with string. The ceremony starts with 5 married women (it has to be an odd number and primes seem preferable). They don’t have 5 married women except with Jenn involved so it’s good she came. There is something to do regarding a cloth place over their heads and hand prints, but I’m sadly still in the dark. Then the young girls dip into cups of mineral oil and paint his toes knees and hands shoulders and head, eventually reversing the order. At the end hes drenched in this yellow water and heads for a shower. I’m looking forward to sitting down with Maneesh when we’re all back state side and getting the low down on all the details.

Everything is late for the wedding. The turban wrapping guy is over 1 hour late and 2 hours later than planned and Jenn isn’t wrapped in her Sari. Apparently our phone in our room isn’t working which explains why we haven’t been getting the 7am calls that breakfast is open everyone has been complaining about. I eventually find Leena and ask for her help but and 30 minutes later Jenn is still there with her skirt and top but no wrap. We all finish our bright pink turbans off and are ready to go so I go back to our room to find Jenn getting the finishing touches with Leena’s girls, and an aunt. Wow she looks amazing. The sari accentuates her curves and the festive colors suit her.

All the groomsmen are in the same bright pink turbans with his best men a variant on it. The turbans are extremely tight and press on the ears. When I first stood up it made me actually feel wobbly. The pink is an auspicious color for weddings traditionally and are a represent a particular god. The color doesn’t particularly suit me and my pinker skin tone, but it at least goes with my baby blue and silver kurta.

We’re now all set to go, but Maneesh’s mother isn’t ready. Something isn’t perfect and I’ve never seen Maneesh so stressed out.  Sharmila told him he could NOT be late, and we were supposed to be there at 8, and it’s now 9 and we’re not even in the car. Maneesh is wearing a more elaborate outfit, but the fabric is so thick it’s like 3 layers of wool and incredibly hot buttoned right up to the top. I tell him to go stand in front of the fan for a bit and breathe. I told him how our wedding started an hour late and everything worked out just fine. His car is outside waiting for him, covered in garlands of flowers along with a pair of drummers to play the party out the door.

Eventually with great fanfare everything is ready 1 hour and 30 minutes late and Maneesh gets in his car and the guests find their rides. Our group of Americans with Vineet included fill a car already so we’re quick to be ready to go and arrive first at the destination.

Having never been to an Indian wedding before, we have no idea what we’re doing and just walk in. We’re greeted by Sharmila’s mother who asks politely “how did you beat Maneesh here?” to which I responded “our driver must have known a short cut”. This in fact was her gentile way of saying “why are you guys here?” which we discovered after milling about for a bit and then looking for others from our group. Outside we found the girls and they told us we’re supposed to lead him in dancing, so we all go back up to the road where we find his car parked. It’s not long before the blanks get filled in as a brightly painted truck blasting music is lead down the street by a generator cart. Behind the truck are 6 pairs of men carrying ornate lamps on their heads. We’re encouraged to jump in the middle and start dancing. After a bit it becomes just the girls and I stand back as Omer and Vineet come to us with cups filled with Rum and Sprite. I offer Jenn some and she takes a big drink before realizing it’s boozy. It’s not long before we’re all sweating in the heat, the ladies more so. It’s hot but a lot of fun. We take nearly 30 minutes to go 300 ft or so to the entrance of the party, but there we’re met with rushing servers with platters of water and some appetizers.

Maneesh has another ceremony to perform with the brother of the bride so we go inside and chow down on appetizers and grab a seat. From there he’s moved to a giant two-person throne with his bride and take photos in turn with anyone who wants to.

There is a tradition where the bride’s family steals the shoes of the groom and before the final ceremony they bribe him for them back as he needs them for the final part. It’s apparently a fun game where the groom’s family tries to protect the shoes, while the bride’s family tries to steal them. The girls on team Maneesh are on top of it and wisk them away. The groomsmen have the job to negotiate a price for them back in the advent that they do get nabbed.

After a while it’s dinner time, and my stomach is already a mess, and after a couple of bites I give up for a bit and head to take a photo with Maneesh leaving Omer to watch our stuff. Only he walks off to talk to a girl and our plates get taken. Luckily our phones did not. Oh well, I didn’t feel like eating anyway, I’ll just skip directly to dessert which has been much nicer to me. I try to find a bathroom which it takes a few tries, but I find someone with directions, only there isn’t any toilet paper. I ask around, but no one has any. I had given a brief thought about packing our emergency roll, but then got distracted.

Then Maneesh and his close family join up at the head table to eat, and by now most people leave, some saying good bye, others just leaving. I say hi, and check in and ask about the toilet paper situation, but no luck! Apparently the event is BYOTP.

Finally it’s time for the main ceremony where they walk around a fire 7 times as a witness. Only that doesn’t really go at any speed either, and there is so much ceremony before it. He can hardly walk without having to do something with the priest. Speaking of walking he doesn’t have his shoes yet, just socks. The kids in charge of capturing them have been unsuccessful. Go team Maneesh!

Finally we get to the walking ceremony and people are falling asleep left and right, even Maneesh’s mom to which Gabe says “you know you’ve lost the crowd when the moms are falling asleep”. One rotation after the next, Maneesh leads Sharmila, and each time some additional thing is added, like them being tied together. I can’t even remember all of the iterations, but eventually they’ve done 6 of their 7 laps, and the really long one starts. By now they’re serving coffee and snacks and this probably takes another hour. One of Leena’s girls is asleep on her aunt. Almost done, but now it’s the priest’s turn to blackmail the groom before he allows them the final lap! What leverage! Heh. Then finally they do their final lap and sit back down. I think they’re done, but no, it’s 3am, and they have another step where he paints the part in her hair. Sharmila’s mother really wants everything done proper and interrupts at least once to tell them they’re not doing it right. There is another ceremony but they can’t find the person that would fill that role, I think it’s supposed to be an older friend, but Maneesh is the oldest of his group. Ok now we’re done! They’re married! Except the shoe barter never happened! I’m fit to burst at this point. I’ve needed to use the restroom for 4hrs or more and I’m exhausted and we have to wake up at 6:45 and they’re taking the negotiation over stolen shoes so serious!

Finally Maneesh has won his bride. I don’t think I can do another Indian wedding. If you’re Indian and single, I’m sorry we can’t be that close of friends!

I congratulate Maneesh and he says he’s coming with us and reflexively I word something how I feel and tell him to hurry the fuck up then! Wow I regret it immediately, we just really need to go in different cars because he’s still going to be here a while and I clearly need to pass out.

We gather our group and rush back to the hotel for some much needed though poor sleep.

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