Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Don't Get Married Indian Style

After a 28 hr train ride, where i struggled with Indian names and faces and relations, passed out from 37 degree heat, and accidentally dropped my glasses down the toilet (but luckily (veeery luckily) the train was stopped at that moment, so i just grabbed them out of my own shit from under the train); we arrived in Mumbai at 5am.

Wedding preps and events began that morning, starting with an engagement ceremony. The couple weren't officially engaged yet, apparently, 'cause this swami dude needs to be involved. The couple had only been in each other's presence for 15 minutes previous to this day, though they'd talked on the phone at length. Arranged marriages are still more popular than i'd thought.

I was able to talk about things w/ the groom at length on the train ride over, and it was cool to hear his view about fate, compromise, and the importance of family relations.

Much to my surprise, indian Jain weddings aren't the same as western weddings. Here's some things i noted.
  • people don't pay much attention to whatever words of song the holy man is leading with. People wander in and out, have a smoke or a nap, kids crawl on and off the stage, even the groom or bride have side conversations in the midst of things.
  • if 600 people come to the wedding, there is no need to meet everyone. The wedding isn't to make the couple happy, it's to make the families happy. Weirdly, what this means is that more than 1/2 of the attendees only attend the buffet meal part of the wedding and pbly don't even see the bride or groom. This is considered normal. Seriously.
  • no drinking
  • The vast majority of people will leave before the actual wedding. If 600 people came to this wedding, maybe 60 stayed to see the "wedding". Maybe 30 stayed to the end of the ceremony (myself included). Why, you ask? Please see the itinerary below.
1. Engagement ceremony. The man stands around for a long time. Eventually a group of women come, holding a veil before the bride's face. They stand around for a long time. Eventually they shuffle to the stage. Traditional/symbolic gifts are given from each family. Holy man guy sings some songs and says some stuff that nobody can hear. It all takes a long time.

2. Veg meal #1. People in India will also complain about the food.

3. nap time.

4. the Party. The groom is decked out like a maharajah. He sits on a white horse. A band of drummers, horns, keyboard and singer bust out some traditional and bollywood style tracks. People are coaxed to dance. Money is waved in the air over dancers. The procession goes down the street to another hall. i bust out the only Bollywood dance moves i know, which were very well-received.

5. the Arrival. Everyone stands around for a long time. Then we go to a hall where the bride is waiting. Some people on stage talk (nothing is miked), and then maybe 2 hrs worth of photos are taken, w/ different groups lining up with the conjugal couple.

6. Dinner, as served by friends and family on the bride side. This is after 23:00, btw. Some servers are shockingly pushy trying to literally shove sweets into the mouths of the guests.

7. After midight: the wedding. The holyman talks and sings a bunch. He lights a fire on the stage. Smoke proceeds to irritate everyone's eyes and lungs. The couple walks around the fire 7 times, each time symbolic of something like, "I will always respect your family" or "I will always give you all of my money." Apparently not all vows are kept.

8. It's not over yet, because... the bride has stolen the groom's shoes! And he must negotiate to get them back. This monetary issue can be a real headache at some weddings. This time around they came bk for roughly $75 CDN.

9. Bed time. Everyone's completely knackered. It is now 4 am. The marital couple will not likely consummate their wedding this night, but will wait until they are more comfortable with each other.

Everyone slept for about 1 hr before heading off bk to the train for Mumbai, this time including the bride. She will now embark on a new life, in a new city, living with her husband's family, looking for a new job.

I was rather touched by the courage with which people accept the mores of their culture and religion. I wish the newly weds much harmony and happiness.

But i am also touched by my friend's comment from 4am last night. "If there is one lesson you learn from all of this, it's don't get married Indian style!"

No comments: