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Published: February 25th 2018
My train ride from Suratgarh to Jammu was uneventful. I had an upper side bunk, and slept or attempted to sleep the entire way. I'd never ridden in a train before, and I assumed it would be like the metro where the station stops are clearly labeled from the inside and you can tell where you are all the time. That wasn't the case here, and since I also didn't have a window, and kept my curtain closed most of the time, I didn't really know where I was for most of the journey. At some point in the last hour or two of the ride, I lost my cell signal, so I wasn't sure how I was going to communicate my arrival, and just hoped that I'd pick up a signal or a WiFi connection once I reached the city. Jammu was the second to last stop on the train ride, and since I didn't have a signal, I had to guess where I was based on the time and number of stops since the last stop I was sure of my location, and as I was gathering my things, an employee ran up to me to tell me it
It was really orange the first night, but turned nice dark brown the next day.
was my stop and I had to get off (lucky!).
As I hauled my bags off the train and checked my surroundings, I still had no signal, so I just started following the crowd. I kept checking my phone for any connection as I made my way through the throngs of people and finally out to the front of the station, where I sat one of my bags down and began to contemplate how to get in touch with Shashank. Who looks trustworthy and is likely to speak English? I was on the lookout for a business woman of sorts; families = too busy, and men without wives are probably not a good option. Luckily, I didn't have to wait long (really only about 2 minutes from setting down my bag) before Shashank yelled out to me and came running up to greet me. Talk about perfect timing! Since I'd left Suratgarh 45 minutes late and we were out of touch, I had no idea how he managed to time that so well, but hey, it worked, so no complaints here.
He and his cousin dropped me off at my hotel first so I could change and recover
for a bit from my ride. Then, his uncle (the same one I'd met in Delhi on the famous shopping day last week) and cousin came back to pick me up and bring me to the decorated home for the sangeet
with Shashank's family. Naturally, I was well fed again, and even got involved in the dancing and mehndi (I only got one hand done though because I was a little hesitant to have both out of commission for several hours while it dried. After a few hours, I was brought back to my hotel to await the festivities that would begin the next day.
When I came back, the rituals were already in full force with Shashank and the family priest in one of the bedrooms. I was ushered in to watch, and family members flowed in and out throughout the day to participate or observe the goings on. I was present for the turmeric, which turned into an entire family event filled with laughter and teasing, with Shashank responding in fun by rubbing it on people who were acting the most mischievous. At one point in the day, I was asked to sit with the priest who
One of his many garlands of cash
said something in Hindi while he tied a red string around my right wrist. I'm not sure the exact significance of this, but felt honored to be included, and per the Googles
, it's both a symbol of blessing and to ward off evil. One of the rituals I told Shashank I wanted to be sure to be present for was when they made his turban. I'd never heard of that before, and couldn't picture how it would be done since I assumed they were always store-bought, but was told that's the common tradition in his hometown, and luckily got a front row seat for it. After he was all tied up, and suited with his traditional prince-ly outfit, and the rest of us were ready as well, he was presented by various family members with numerous garlands made of cash. Google was less helpful here in researching this tradition, but I'm guessing this is intended is used as a status symbol to show the groom's importance and also as a well-wishing gift to send him off with good fortune and prosperity at the start of his married life.
Once the money garlands were handed off, we met the band
and his decorated white horse outside to start the baraat. First we went about a block to a small temple, where some worshipping was done briefly before piling into cars to drive across town closer to the wedding venue. Then Shashank was presented with a sword, and we danced our way (while he watched us from the horse) to the elegantly decorated hall. Thankfully, one of his cousins kept the parade moving swiftly and we arrived in about 20-30 minutes, and there were even some fireworks. I say thankfully because one of my toes was still numb from being in heels for Ishan's 2-hour baraat two days prior, and even though I was more than pleased to be allowed to wear flats with my saree for this event (I wanted it tied higher since it was more sheer than the other one), it was still nice to have it be more brief. When he finally made his way to the doors where the women from Rupal's family was waiting to greet him, his cousins decided to play around and quickly led him away from the "guarded" entrance to another door, then another, playfully trying to avoid them, then finally back
to the original one which was tied with a ribbon he was supposed to cut in a symbolic gesture of her family giving permission for his entrance and accepting him as an addition to their family. There was some bargaining before an agreed upon price was exchanged as part of the game, and once both sides were happy, he cut the ribbon, and we all cheered.
After everyone was inside (all the while people eating and dancing, similar to the other wedding), Shashank, his cousins, and I all went to the fancy couch on stage at the front of the hall to wait for Rupal's arrival. I was under strict instruction to not leave to give her a place beside her groom no matter what, until they told me I could - this was a game they play in order to welcome the bride to their side of the family, by bargaining with her and her family. She was guided to us by her family, wearing the traditional red and gold, beautifully adorned with gold jewelry including the expected nath, tikka, mehndi, and bangles galore (with of course those fancy chandelier things on them). It was my first time
Bride and Groom
AKA Prince and Princess
seeing her, and she looked magnificent - just like a princess. When she made her way to the stage, the bargaining game was shorter than the first one at the entrance, but she sang for her seat, and we happily left so she could be with her prince. Naturally, there were tons of photographs, and they exchanged the traditional flower garlands, and there was eating, and dancing, and socializing. At one point some aunties and their son approached me for a photograph, and after they left, Shashank's cousin informed me that they were trying to arrange me with him, and much to my appreciation she informed them I wasn't interested. Let's call this #celebritymoment number five. (And also, yikes! I didn't come here to catch a husband! LOL)
The majority of the guests left late in the evening, and a handful of us accompanied the couple to the home where the actual marriage ceremony would take place. Because I'd missed this part of Ishan and Shubha's wedding, I was determined to stay up all night to witness the entire thing, and wasn't disappointed. I didn't understand most of what was happening, but the cousins filled me in on all the important stuff. The rituals took place outside with the priest, and the couple sat across a small fire from him as everything was conducted, only getting up after being tied together and walking symbolically in circles around the fire, each lap having a different significance. They were both presented with gifts, and at the end, we were given flower petals to shower the couple with. I was told that Indian girls always stay at home until they get married (and if they're not married by ~30-35, they never will be) and when she marries and leaves her home and parents, it's quite emotional, and not to be surprised if everyone (especially her family) was crying at the end of the night. One cousin took unofficial bets to see if we thought the Rupal would cry or not, and while he thought she wouldn't because she was so happy to begin her married life with Shashank, I bet against him, knowing that even in "boring" American weddings, brides almost always cry on their wedding day. (TBH, I even get a little teary at weddings, and I'm not a huge crier.) I won that bet, and the beautiful bride and her mom shed the most tears as she was ceremoniously led by Shashank into the next stage of their lives together as husband and wife.
The procession of vehicles made our way back to Shashank's family home, where at 6:00 am, they started playing games, the first of which was one where their rings were placed in a dish of pink-hued milk along with some other deceiving pieces of jewelry, and they had to race each other to see who would find one first. They each won one round, and I had to call it a night and was brought back to my hotel to sleep as the sun was rising.
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