I lead you with this famous Bollywood quote, as it seems appropriate for a post about attending my first Indian wedding. It means, “Love happens only once, so does marriage.” Also, the only other dialogue I know from Indian movies is “Jai ho” and “Aja, aja”, but Amen; come on! come on! doesn’t make for very a good title. Or anything else for that matter. They are, however, still fun to say.
It all started Thursday, the day after the “sleepover” with Adam I mentioned in the above post. A mutual friend from our Belgium days, Aga, flew in from the US just in time for the bride’s Henna (Mehndi) Party. Aga and I thought this would be 20 girls sitting around on cushions while Dimple (the bride’s name) got “henna’ed”…clue #1 that we were clueless about Indian weddings!
Dimple’s family lives among two houses side by side. The combined backyard had been completely transformed by a colorful fabric tent, turning the whole thing into a cheerful oasis. Oh, and there were at least 100 people there. Aga and I were also the only people not in a sari or other Indian-wear. Correction: the only females not in Indian attire. The men were mostly dressed in Western styles, but all had matching scarves (a party treat from the bride). I snagged one for Del but he does not seem inclined to wear it.
Dimple was secluded in a room, her hands almost done. Aga and I sort of pushed our way back there, not understanding that the bride was supposed to be secluded at this point, due to the high risk of smudging her henna if distracted. And we immediately understood this; her henna job was gorgeous and delicate, ultimately taking 5 hours – just for the hands! She said that we were, however, special guests, so we visited for 10 minutes ooh-ing and ahh-ing, also over the fact that neither of us had seen her in at least a year. She has not only lost a substantial amount of weight, but also gone from girl to woman, in a sense. Our sweet, casual friend Dimple now sat before us like genie from a bottle. With a low braid languishing over her shoulder and reaching towards her stomach, movie-star make-up, a mega-watt smile and a joyfully embroidered, almost neon-orange dress, she was absolutely jaw-to-the-floor stunning. I’m sure the beaming happiness helped.
After causing her to giggle (and thus, smudge), Aga and I excused ourselves and joined the rest of the guests in the tent, where several women were offering henna. We’d been advised there would be “an Indian queue”, which meant we had to throw some elbows to get in line. But we managed. It was such a new world for us, being the minority for a change. We got many stares but all was cheerful and friendly and welcoming. We’re not very good at henna though, as ideally one sits still for 2 hours afterwards as not to ruin it. We did not have the luxury of being secluded, however, and crowds do not make for good mehndi.
Meanwhile, dinner was served. Surprise – it was spicy! (Over the course of this wedding we were fed 4 times. I’ve never been so generously fed and so starving in all my life…) Dimple made her entrance, led to a stage/lounging-throne at the front of the room, where she could be more social while her feet mehndi got done. During the henna process her relatives and friends serve her, feed her, everything-her as not to ruin the drying art. Given the effort required to preserve the design, it was not hard for me to imagine the ancient beginnings of this ritual – what a statement of rank and wealth an elaborate henna job was. (There goes Anthropology-me again…)
As for Aga and I, we both got fairly smudged; plus, it is body heat which determines the final color. This means that we both have beautiful light brown lacy designs on our arms, followed by smudgy dirty-orange hands. Any illusion of cool reserve is shattered for amateures like us, who don’t know well enough to ask for it on the (less heat-prone) back of the hand instead.
Oh dear. Work is not going to be happy…