Saturday, June 4, 2011

Indian wedding - eating, shopping, dancing - can I stand the pace?

The other weekend I met my dear friend from San Jose, Anu, in Hydrebad for her niece's wedding. The generosity and warmth of her family were second to none and I had a wonderful time. The stamina and enthusiasm of the wedding party had me struggling to keep up for just one day of festivities, whereas for them this was already day 3 or 4 of the wedding activities, on top, for most of them, of a 20 plus hour flight from the US and associated jet lag!

In true indian style the arrangements were a little uncertain until the last moment - but all, as usual, worked out in the end! My day got off to a rather alarming (or not!!) start as having been tossing and turning all night worrying in case my alarm didn't behave as instructed, I did fall asleep and for some reason (user error Simon suggests!!) it actually didn't go off. Off to the airport and onto the plane with a new book - the hour long flight did not seem long enough.

Then met by a driver and taken to a guest house where Anu and the Delhi contingent were staying - all 30 of them. I met all Anu's delightful relatives - but I'm not sure I ever sorted out the cousins, in-laws, nephews. nieces, uncles and aunts. The laughter was flowing as we ate a late breakfast and everyone was so generous in their hospitality to this relative stranger descending upon their family occasion, only previously known by Anu and her mom!

After breakfast we headed to the temple so the bride (the gorgeous Ankita) and groom (the charming Shri) could be blessed by the priest. The temple was a wonderful marble building which had been basking in the baking hot Hydrebad sun all morning - it was now nearly noon. We took off our shoes - and now comes the character building part of the trip - had to climb up the glistening and gleaming bare marble steps to the top. Not quite walking on hot coals but as near as ever hope to get. The happy couple were blessed and we enjoyed the view over the city before we "hot footed" it back down to a relieved reunion with our shoes.

Hydrebad is famous for its biryanis and thus the next stop was a mouth watering biriani lunch. By now the party had swelled to include some of the grooms family, more friends and extended family. The goodwill and laughter overflowed and I felt incredibly welcome - this is a weekend I will always treasure.
The formality of the dress and some of the traditions is a wonderful compliment to the exuberance and sheer joy of all involved. The bride got to visit with all her relatives, looking glorious but also totally relaxed. See the beautiful bride with 2 of her aunts (Anu to the left)
Lunch over, it was now about 3.00 pm and I was envisioning a return to the guest house, a nice cup of chai and getting ready for the reception (scheduled for 7.00pm). However, I had overlooked the fact that Hydrabad is the pearl capital of india - so it was time to shop!!
And shop we did!! We took over the pearl shop, tried and tested, ummed and ahwed. From the simple strings, the mutltiple threads to the most elaborate sets, the contemporary to the traditional and back again.  From the pure white, through the subtle pastels to the brilliant primaries - they were there. Once one of our party had negotiated a flat 25% discount the shopping began in earnest. As it was now 5.00pm, an hour back to the guest house, time to sari-up, load all 30 spruced up folks onto the bus and drive to the reception.....I was getting a little concerned - but no-one else seemed distracted from the matter, or pearl, in hand.  

Eventually we returned to the guest house and of course had to have a cup of chai before the day took on a different hue - gone were the teeshirts and capris, the denim and cotton and its their place the most beautiful lush silks! Don't Anu, her sister and Mom look divine!
I tried on a lessor level to dress -up. I 'm not yet ready to go for the full sari - don't think I could carry it off!
I couldn't comment on the wonderful dress of the guests without showing you a picture of one of Anu's nephews - doesn't he look great in his full white Indian suit.
We then rolled up at the reception hall at about 9.00pm (scheduled kick off 7.00pm) and as you can see were one of the first to arrive - I have to learn to translate from time per invitation to expected time of arrival - there must be a formula!
The reception was amazing, once again the hospitality and joie de vivre overflowed. The bride and groom took position on the stage and greeted everyone - their huge smiles never looking less than 100% sincere. 
They were serenaded by unaccompanied relatives - who could actually sing, unabashed young guys singing love songs to the bride and groom - beautiful The groom's family, apparently thought their forte was in dance not song and danced with gusto for the happy couple:
Once again exuberance and sheer joy! Then everyone danced from the oldest to the youngest we strutted our stuff to the bollywood tunes. The brides and grooms family mingled,  the language of dance being universal. 
Even this little girl had the energy to boogie on into the wee hours. 
On arrival we had been offered plates of finger food which I decided was the food for the evening. But at some point after the midnight hour had long struck, dinner was announced!
At maybe 3.00am we were back on the bus headed for the guest house, where I tumbled into bed. The young ones stayed up all night playing charades but after a day of eating, shopping and dancing - you got to be kidding!
It was the most wonderful weekend and the hospitality and generosity of Anu's family is something I will always cherish!

Home to Bangalore for a nap - dream on. A quick turn around, then into town to see Chris Gayle do his stuff, wave our flags, and catapult RCB to the top of the IPL league. Go Bangalore! However this was a quick lived flush of success as in the play offs RCB weakly fizzled out.

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