A big sleep in for us. By the time we got out of the sari outfits and folded the 6 metres of cloth away it was 2:45am! I was feeling good, and relieved I hadn’t needed to make a quick run to the restroom many times during the wedding function.
I woke up and received a message from Garry, which had been sent at 3am, saying we would visit a historical site today. So I called him back in the morning to see what was happening. There was an old fort that even Garry hadn’t visited about half an hour’s drive out of the city of Jalandhar. Because it was Sunday, his brother Money and brother in law Ankit were not working, so if we would like to go with them we were more than welcome to. Of course we’d love to go!
We arranged to meet downstairs at 1:30pm and head off in two cars.
We had breakfast downstairs in the hotel (as the woman manager had called to say we had 20 minutes before breakfast was closed). I had a bowl of cereal – cornflakes with hot milk, Dacey three bowls, Steve fried eggs and a lassi that never arrived!
The girls had decided to venture out before we left for the fort to see if they could locate and purchase makeup to use for tonight and the following night’s functions. We had decided to stay an extra night here so we could attend Spanish Rahul’s (Garry’s brother in law) wedding function on the night of the 17th. We cancelled flights online and would call the UK to confirm tomorrow as it was Sunday now. Our plan was then to catch a train to Delhi (424km) and have a look around the capital before making our way to Buldana where we would set up home for 2 months and catch up with Dr Moses.
At times the overwhelming nature and intensity of the Indian Punjabi wedding spreading over 5-7 days and attending back to back late night functions is quite draining. Our body clocks are now trained to stay up to 3am and sleep in until midday or 1pm. Don’t get me wrong, we are really enjoying the Punjabi wedding experience and the immense amount of hospitality shown to us and the friendships formed with the family, but this is starting to feel like we are a little trapped in groundhog wedding central Jalandhar. I’m not sure how they keep doing it – Garry has attended 4 weddings in January! That’s mammoth when you see what goes into these weddings and the timing of them.
The girls returned from their wander up the main street in Model Town with plenty of options to purchase makeup – some way too expensive but there were cheaper options. So Charlie and Dacey, with rupee clutched in their hands, headed back up the street to purchase their on-hold makeup that we could all use to look the part at the wedding functions coming up. We would not need our expensive makeup/sari lady tonight, as we were all wearing gowns, or skirts that could be put on easily by ourselves. Well that’s what we thought.
The gowns we’re all wearing have been rented from a cousin’s shop for 1500 rupee ($33) each and arrived in a plastic bag with a set of accompanying jewellery – heavy earrings and a matching piece of jewellery that hung down on the middle of the forehead and was tied into the hair (somehow). I had met women at previous functions who wore them and they looked stunning. Steve’s two traditional outfits were rented as well for a total of 3,000 rupees ($65). Attending the wedding is costing us more than we had anticipated it would, and yes the budget has definitely blown out, but we figure it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience something that we would not normally have the opportunity to do.
The cars arrived with Garry and Money in one, Ankit and his good friend Ravi in the other. It was time to do some sight-seeing in Jalandhar and visit the old fort in the Punjabi agricultural area of Jalandhar.
Driving out to the fort with loud Indian beats playing in the car, and the windows down with the cool air hitting our cheeks and blowing our hair was a lovely change to Model Town Market life. The pastures a vivid green, stretching out for miles. The roads (still) chaotic and (always) bumpy, but the way people live and work out here could be seen so easily – basic. It reminded me a lot of Buldana – people living a simple life, bullock and cart, agricultural producing, well built homes and more often than not rickety home built with whatever products could be found – tarps for roof, bricks to hold the tarp down, and the forever hanging of washing on any line found.
Ash travelled in the back of the car with Steve, me while Ankit drove and Ravi was passenger. We had stopped off to purchase a new ox cord, and Ankit suggested to Ash that she plug her phone in and listen to our music. After finally working out songs to play…we played Phil Collins and a few others. It was then that I looked over to Steve who had tears running down his face. I asked if he was okay, but he couldn’t get the words out. Ash and I looked at him waiting, and he said “I’m just feeling grateful that I get to do this with my family.” Magic. Of course as soon as he said this I had the tears flowing too. Ash in the middle of both of us telling us to pull it together! It was one of those moments in the back seat of a little car, music pumping, on a bumpy road in the rural area of Jalandhar in the Punjab that made him feel he was the luckiest man in the whole world. “I’m realising not many other dads are doing this, experiencing this with their family like I am. It’s just so amazing what we’re doing.” And we agreed, well I did and Ash kept asking Steve, “why are you crying, you’re so random Dad.” My quiet tears continued gently rolling down my cheeks while I watched Steve’s emotional response to what we were actually pulling off as a family this year. I grabbed his arm and said, “You know we did this – we have created this and we’re making this journey happen.”
Feeling grateful beyond words.
So back to the fort…it was amazing too. It stood out from the distance, lurking in the soft mist that settled in the countryside. The fort was discovered in 1919, and had been used as a prison previously. Although its history as a prison, the area inside the fort walls was quiet and peaceful, and a lovely way to spend some time out of the craziness of wedding central Jalandhar and have a chat with Garry, Ankit, Money and Ravi about their lives growing up in Jalandhar. We returned to Jalandhar city and stopped off at a street side café to have a chai, but who would have thought it “we don’t serve chai”! What? We’re in India godammit and you don’t serve chai??? Anyway water, colas and street food of tikki and chaat were enjoyed. The local boys, including Garry, enjoyed their many Golgappas, and we watched with amusing scrunched up noses.
The Indian Wedding Night
Tonight starts later than the precious night – arrive around 9:30pm. We get ready at our hotel, gowns on and makeup done. We girls go to the local hairdressers and get our hair straightened or curled for the night for 150-300 rupees each ($3-$6). Dacey wants curls, but due to her hair being so thick she spends by far the longest in the hairdresser’s chair.
We are all getting ready, looking amazing. Billie and Dacey are very excited about wearing their full length glittering gowns and come into Steve and my room and just twirl around in the doorway in front of a small mirror. Charlie is ready too, who has just spent the last hour applying the makeup on all of us and it looks great too! Steve is dressed up in his hired Punjabi suit too, this time it’s more of a white coat with red and gold in it. We call him Mr Punjabi – he certainly looks the part! And then there’s Ash. I dare not venture into the room, from reports filtering through, amongst the twirls in front of the mirror, she can’t quite work out her red skirt – it sits too low, and her makeup is not right. I leave her be, thinking it will work itself out, but she wanders into our room, with her trackies still on, no makeup applied and asserts she’s not going! Nothing is working for her, and she just can’t move on. She’s stuck in the world of ‘it’s not perfect’ so the world is going to end.
We try to coach her out of it, but she’s getting angrier by the coaching minute. Then I get angry with her, and then there’s an all-out war in the hotel room. Let’s just say we made the wedding function with all of us dressed in our hired outfits, most of us happy.
So I have come to realise that it’s not a wedding but a wedding function where a community is invited to attend. There are no real formalities for family members except if you are directly related to the bride or groom, and if you are on the photographers list for photos with the bridal couple. So it’s eat food, walk around the mammoth function centre – did I mention OUTDOOR function centre? It’s quite cold, and the females are not at all dressed appropriately for the cold weather outside. So we spend some time wandering around, looking at all the vegetarian food options on offer. My long gown is way too long for me, so I’m continually gathering one side of the material so I don’t fall flat on my face. Ash has spent most of the time since arriving with a group of Indian women who are trying to help her adjust her red skirt and make it fit properly. She is resisting how the Indian attire is worn – low on the hips with their midriff showing (but it is not to her liking). She is in good hands, and best left alone until she accepts it all.
I find out later that while the girls were helping Ash adjust her skirt, they met up with the bride Akit, who was in formal bridal costume, and bejewelled all over including the large oversized nose ring that brides wear in traditional wedding ceremonies like tonight. She looked amazing.
There is an inside function area too, where there is a stage for the bridal couple, and lots of tables and chairs for guests to sit and take in the wedding proceedings. A dance floor and a large TV playing music video clips (??). We find a seat with our friends Manish and his family. I’m just happy to be seated, while the girls go off looking for food. They return with ice-cream.
We then saw the slow procession of the bride coming towards the doorway, people were standing up to greet her inside. Akit was accompanied by the bothers or male members of her family who hold over her head a rectangular netting made from plant material. They walk alongside her as she makes her way slowly through the function room, and always in front of the videographer, to the stage where she is joined with the groom.
Then they both stand on a platform together which rises slowly up towards the ceiling. It’s like a real life bridal cake, then we watch as the contraption spins slowly around with them on it. All the time the video is recording and photos are taken. Finally, they are down on the ground and walk over to the stage to another regal looking couch for hours and hours of sitting together and photographs taken again.
The night is interesting as an observer from a totally different culture. We are told that the families of the bride and groom will make the official marriage vows around a bon fire with the various religious ceremonies taking place at 5am in the morning! Say what?? The bridal couple and their close family members don’t get to sleep until 8 or 9am in the morning.
For us it was a 3am bedtime, with the expectation of a very good and long night’s sleep. Tomorrow we had a smallish wedding function for the start of Spanish Rahul’s wedding. Let’s get to sleep now.