Today another sleep in. Our weary wedding bodies trying desperately to tell us something – catch up! After a night in without dancing in our saris or eating delicious and authentic Indian vegetarian dishes we felt much better equipped to attend another wedding function. We are staying here for another day for another wedding – Spanish Rahul and Sonam’s wedding function tonight, and we depart in the morning via train to Delhi at 10:10am.
A 6-person tuk tuk (perfect for all of us) appeared in the taxi area near our hotel. So we stood around it, waiting for the driver to reveal himself. He did and he could take us down to our Punjabi family’s home for 200 rupees ($4). So we lugged the bags – full of saris, sparkling shoes, and Steve’s traditional Punjabi hired outfit plus the bought makeup into the open tuk tuk. Let me say just now it was freezing – around 10 degrees in the open air tuk tuk vehicle. We arrived to smiling and welcoming faces at our Punjabi family’s house – the always friendly Neetu, the smiling Sarika, the welcoming man of the house Manish, and the helpful Deepak. Our bags containing the saris were taken across the road, to a neighbour’s home where we could change and get the much needed assistance required to actually put a sari on properly. But first we were invited to eat something!
The Punjabi family seems to always have food available, or a chai or coffee with sweet Indian biscuits. If we didn’t eat with them there’s the look of something wrong? We had just eaten before arriving, but try explaining that to each Punjabi family who desire you to eat! At the moment we are quite happily eating only two meals a day, so our stomachs seem to have contracted slightly since being on the road. But we took a small amount of food on a large plate and ate something to keep them satisfied. The hospitality of our family in Jalandhar is just amazing.
The women of the family had had their henna done on their hands earlier in the afternoon. This wedding was Aarti’s (Garry’s wife) eldest brother’s (Spanish Rahul) wedding function, so the family members would be dressing up magnificently as they would be on show tonight. The previous wedding we attended, we represented the brides side of the family. This time we were on the groom’s side of the family. So we were interested to see what the differences were. The Hindus hold their weddings in the evening, whereas the Sikhs hold theirs in the mornings. We are obviously attending the Hindu variety with the certain black bags forming under our eyes!
Tonight’s function is a ring ceremony. The groom, the groom’s family, and the bride’s family attend the function to bless the rings and perform a religious service with the groom. We didn’t see any of this on the bride’s side, as the bride the bride isn’t involved in this, but arrives to the function when it is finished. We were lucky to be there to witness the whole ceremony from start to finish at a function room attended by close family members and friends. The ring ceremony begins with the groom sitting cross legged on the floor with his family members surrounding him on one side, his bride’s close family on the other. Incense is burnt and the rings blessed by a priest.
This takes some time to perform, while guests arrive and enjoy the tasty vegetarian finger food on offer. It’s so unlike our Western weddings – some people watch, others don’t. Chairs are set up theatre style if people wish to sit down and watch, but no one can has a clear view to the bridal couple because the videographer and photographer and their lineup of lights and cameramen are standing in front of the stage. So those keen to see some of the wedding action stand up near the stage. Tables are located towards the back of the function room and set up for dining and the male drinking quarter. Not many women, actually none, venture into this area as women are not permitted to drink in public.
The bride enters after the ceremony is performed, walking through the front door in a gown (not a wedding dress; that’s tomorrow night) and is greeted by her new family – sister in laws and LOTS of photos and video are taken. Portable lights are up and moved about to follow the bride to where the groom is standing on the stage. The groom takes the bride’s patterned henna hand (with more pics and video taken of the moment) and the on lookers (us) clap. I think this is when the rings are exchanged. It was too crowded for me to see exactly what was occurring, and my sari made my ability to move quickly impossible!
Mobility is an issue when I’m not used to 6 metres of cloth wrapping around my body and I’m in heels. Then the bride and groom sit on the regal looking couch and have LOTS of photos and video taken with their various family member groups. It takes hours and hours and hours, all while the guests mingle, watch, eat, drink and dance on the small dance floor. But I think I’ve mentioned about this process before.
We were shown to a table towards the back of the function room, and asked if we would like a beer, whisky or vodka. At the other wedding there was no alcohol available. But because we are foreign guests, we were “privileged” so I tell them I’d have a beer. The beer is poured into a tall glass and as I take the first sip, I feel the women sitting across from me on another table staring at me. I’m uncertain if this is quite ‘kosha’, so a quick check in with Garry to ensure I’m not in fact crossing a line by drinking here is done. I’ve been given the all clear and I continue drinking from my glass and getting used to their stares as I try and sip my beer as lady-like as possible.
The food at wedding functions are vegetarian. It is an amazing array of dishes on offer served in Bay maries, and it’s quite filling. Once the bride and groom are done with the photos, they finally step down from the stage and have a short dance. The music blares loud all night, making any conversation in bits of English and bits of Hindi difficult. However, I did understand what the young man sitting with us meant when he offered all our underage girls a drink of apple flavoured vodka!
As the night progressed, men of the family cornered Steve asking if we’d stay for the wedding – tomorrow night. We had already purchased train tickets for the 18th, replacing the airline tickets of the 17th. It was a crazy proposition, and as we discussed the possibility in the corner of the function room, the girls got wind of the idea and weighed in on the conversation. They wanted to stay for the wedding. Ash wanted to stay for her birthday on the 19th too. We were having so much fun with our Punjabi family, and we really connected with the groom Spanish Rahul so much so that we plan on visiting him in Spain later on in the year. So with an attitude of YOLO (You Only Live Once) and an Indian head wobble, we had the family assist with cancelling train tickets on the spot in the corner of a wedding function room.
Some more dancing later, and lots of smiles from our Punjabi family members (the word had got out that we were staying for the wedding) the night ended late, or should I say early in the morning and we walked outside into the near freezing conditions and settled fog on the street to cram into two small white hatchbacks and be driven back to our hotel.
As my head hit the pillow I drifted to sleep wondering if we would we ever escape the Punjab wedding season.
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