Celebrations began well before I arrived, and I arrived very unorganised. First a fitting for my lehenga* which needed to be sewn. Then it was straight to the local “jeweller” where I was lavished in plastic bangles, each arm long enough to cover a can. It was a good day for that salesman after also purchasing a bindi and huge bell shape earrings, which will most likely never be worn again unless I’m feeling especially festive this Christmas. We had to move quick in order to make the Mehndi* party at the grooms’ house thoughtfully moved to the night before the wedding because of an unorganised foreigner; and I was still yet to buy slippers. Feeling like the ugly step sister the standard Australian size 9 shoe was proving difficult to find, and so we settled with a tight fit and the classic phrase ‘she’ll be right’.
On cue, before heading to the function, I was fed again by Aunty* like I had every two hours since I landed. Nitin picked us up; Prachi and I. The three of us and the groom all met in Leh, Ladakh and travelled through the Himalayas of India earlier that year, they were friends since school and I was the new kid. Ashish; about to be married and looking happier than ever, was, in extreme terms, under house arrest. For two days before the wedding he wore a small hand-made anklet to represent that he could not leave the house, or the rugs out the front which was under a huge lavish tent weeping of red and gold that had held functions over the last week as it would tonight.
Although I wasn’t hungry I was made to eat again and started to worry about the measurements that had been taken only a few hours ago. There was no getting out of it I was about to get my Mehndi which would make my hands useless limbs for the next 2 hours. However, I would be too distracted to notice because that’s when Ashish began to tell me the most amazing love story I’ve ever heard.
This was an arranged traditional Hindu wedding as I was told, and as 290 out of 300 guests will continue to assume. But this giddy little birdy told me that this romance began years before the first “arranged” meeting only a few months prior. It was a secret love stemming back from high school, but to increase their chances of family approval they set up the parents from each side to meet as if they hadn’t known each other (with a little help from Ashish’s sister who was the only family member who knew). Parents are less critical when it’s their own discovery and the couple hurdled through compatible star signs, matching religion, appropriate wealth and harmonising families in order to gain the approval to be wed.
It was hard work, it was beautiful, colourful, loud and it was a wedding I will never forget.
Lehenga* – A three-piece modernised traditional Indian garment
Mehndi* – Traditional Indian body art by a paste made from the henna plant
Aunty* – Out of respect and as a guest in their home I referred to the mother of the house as a family member