If you haven’t read it yet – A wedding ceremony after all – part 1
After the religious ceremony
After the ritual when Amma allowed me to get changed, even though I hadn’t yet considered whether or not I would take off my saree or keep it for the day, she didn’t have to say it twice: I went straight to my wardrobe and looked through my nicest suits. One of them still fitted my round tummy, so I got changed into it. The weather had cooled down quite a lot in the afternoon anyway, and I was glad I could wear something warmer and more comfortable…
The wedding puja had taken so long (although I was happy mine hadn’t lasted all night!) that I ended up having my ‘lunch’ at 5 pm, and I don’t know by what miracle I had not starved. After food I went to look at the tent from the terrace; the evening meal was almost ready and it smelled gorgeous, but I was so full that it was funny to already think about dinner! Then I went back to my room for that nap I had so wanted before the ceremony, and I managed to sleep for a good half hour.
When I emerged for my room, at about 7, some guests had already started to arrive to have their meal, and Amma invited me to do the same, but there was no way I could eat just two hours after my ‘lunch’! I didn’t know what to do and where to go; the house was so crowded and animated that I felt a bit lost. In the end I went upstairs to see what was going on. During ‘official’ family occasions, men and women are always separated, so the women were upstairs while all the men were downstairs or outside. My sisters-in-law and some other female cousins were getting ready for the party in the bedroom. It was so full with chatting and laughing ladies that I couldn’t even go inside. So I sat down near the door and just watched the spectacle. They were taking ages, putting on their best sarees, deciding on hairstyles, powdering their faces… I was already wearing my nice suit and I had deemed that my morning make-up was still fine, but I started having an inferiority complex for not thinking of getting ready again for the party. Because whatever I do, Indian women just seem to always be more elegant and beautiful than me. I started considering putting another saree on, but then I just couldn’t be bothered asking anyone for help because they were all so busy getting ready themselves, and it was too cold so I wanted to cover my pregnant belly to avoid getting ill. Still I went back down to my room to re-do my make up a bit, and I made myself a new (simple) hairstyle twisting two strands of hair into pins on each side of my face. I came back up feeling a little better, and everyone said I looked lovely, but I couldn’t help but thinking they all looked better than me, with longer and bigger hair in their more elaborate hair-styles and their beautiful lipstick (I don’t like lipstick on myself so I always choose discreet ones). On the one hand I kept feeling ‘inferior’, on the other hand, deep down, I didn’t really care and couldn’t help thinking natural, make-up-free beauty is more comfortable and easier to handle.
About two hours passed by between my alternatively sitting with the girls and going to the terrace to have a look at the reception in the tent. Then at about 9 or 10 I went downstairs. Some of the boys were trying to make a sound system with our old speakers and our laptop, but it didn’t work very well. Within minutes, one of Kishan’s friends brought his DJ gear as a present for us. The two speakers were huge, and the boys put on the Bollywood music really loud.
Of course it was far too loud and already destroying my eardrums, so I decided that for our party I wouldn’t have any of it. I went to see the boys and asked them to put the music a bit down. I didn’t want to be old and boring, and I did enjoy having some upbeat music on, but I wanted to be reasonable and I didn’t want to be in pain! But the Indians just couldn’t make any sense of my request. Although the music was still very loud, a friend of Kishan’s complained to me that he couldn’t hear the music well enough and it didn’t feel like a party to him anymore. Another put the music far too low and I had to explain that it wasn’t what I wanted either. In the end I went to set the volume myself, but somehow disturbed by my weird intrusion, one would put the volume down, another up far too loud, then another would say that I wanted it low and he would put the volume back too low… So the volume went up and down like that, because they just couldn’t help not touching the volume button after I had set it. Then an uncle (in the large sense of the term) came up and started shouting that I couldn’t stand the music and he stopped it altogether! I tried to explain myself to him as well but he wouldn’t listen or understand so I gave up and we had no music at all for a while!!! What was so difficult to understand in my subtle request, I still don’t know…
In the meantime I went to find Kishan, whom I had hardly seen all day except during the religious ceremony, since he was so busy. I told him that I wouldn’t tolerate not to eat with him, as it was ‘our’ day, and even though I was starting to get hungry I’d wait for him. He told me I should wait until the ladies came to eat so I’d be eating with them, or at least until all the elders (men) had finished eating. By the time we ‘could’ eat, he got another job to do (connecting the water pump back to the house supply because our tank was empty) and eventually he did come to eat with me!
I had wondered whether the food would be spicy as hell, but no, it was absolutely amazing: a mixed vegetable dish, some delicious matar paneer (cheese and green peas dish), salad, papad and raita (yoghurt dish) with puris (deep fried chapatis), palak-puris (puris stuffed with spinach) and rasgulla for desert – not too spicy, not too oily, not too salty, not too sweet… Yum, yum yum! I was also happy to see that the food was indeed served in non-disposable plates, so no nasty polystyrene trays would be thrown into poor Mother Nature. However, we didn’t make it as far as having proper glasses but had disposable plastic glasses and even disposable plastic spoons… Ah well… At least the chai (tea) cups were made of cardboard…
And then suddenly the music came back, far too loud again, but I gave up trying to have it my way… I was happy that the music had come back, even Bollywood, because I was in a funny mood. Then I saw Kishan’s brother and his friend rush to the ‘dance-floor’ (i.e. the road in front of our house) and start some really funny dance moves. I had never seen him dance, I didn’t even think he knew how to, and I found it hilarious. It was so much fun to see them waving their arms around in all directions. One of our neighbours then joined the group, and he was even funnier, moving his tall and skinny body in a sort of waving robot-dance! But the ‘DJ’s’ were terrible. I guess, just like Indians can’t watch a single program on TV but constantly have to switch channels back and forth, they were unable to play a song without interrupting it after two minutes to play another one!! Then the music would stop completely and start again, the dancers would stop moving in disappointment and shout at the DJ, so they’d put some music back on and the waving arms resumed. The party went on like that for quite a while. Older men sat next to the dancers around a fire chewing their tobacco and betel nuts, while all the women looked at the dancing boys from inside the house. After the oldest, most ‘respected’ guests had gone, the closer members of the family and friends remained, so those who hadn’t dared dancing before joined in. Two of Kishan’s brothers-in-law made it to my amazement, and some of the boys tried to push the shier ones on the dance floor to try and make them dance, but they just looked really uncomfortable trying to fight and run away. Of course everyone wanted me to dance but I was shy too, because although I love dancing, Bollywood isn’t my cup of tea, and especially I don’t like to be a circus freak everybody wants to watch. So either I danced with my small nephews, or I did simple silly dance moved without much conviction. I didn’t want to shake my belly too much either. I think during the whole party I managed to dance with Kishan for about one minute…
After a while folk drummers arrived and took over the Bollywood music (This is what folk drummers sound like.) At that point two of my sisters-in-law came to dance for a bit, shaking their arms and bums in a very folky, Indian way. But they had to be prompted, and never danced more than two minutes at a time. Another aunty did dance and was totally into it, but apart from that, absolutely no woman danced. All this repression and shyness due to Hindu rules and ‘what the community would say’, I guess… Still, the party was fun. At the end it was really cold though, so I went to my room to get a thick sweater, and I took advantage of my hood to stick in some earplugs no-one would see, because the Bollywood music had resumed and I could no longer take the loudness!
The party ended at about 2am and although there was a lot of tidying up for the family, I really needed to bed. Some people had gone to sleep long before, and indeed the entire house became a dormitory. We had rented piles upon piles of quilts for everyone to sleep on the floors. When I woke up for a pee at about 5am, I had to step over all the sleeping bodies on my way to the loo, as all the floors of our house except for bathrooms and kitchen were covered! There were two cousins and one aunty on the floor of my room. I was glad I had my bed all to myself – Kishan was not allowed to sleep with me since we had three guests sleeping in our room. He was sleeping with an uncle in our shop, four or five people were in the lobby (which is normally the garage for our two bicycles and the motorbike), more people in both our guestrooms and our upstairs bedroom and living room. Kishan told me that we were about forty people sleeping at home in total! Oh, and by the way, we didn’t feed fifty people but about 250!!!
The house remained very full with family members for almost a week after the ceremony.