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Published: March 18th 2012
Today seemed to involve constant rides from the Maharani Bagh to the Hotel Shilpi and back again. The first was a false start as, when I reached the Hotel Shilpi, the 9.30a.m. ceremony had already been postponed until 12.30p.m..
When I returned three hours later, Pintu was having another messy massage.
Today, he wore the same black tunic, gold necklace and glittering brooch as yesterday but a different turban, this time a predominantly-orange one without a tail. The turban man had been more or less on time! A large gold ornament with its traditional swastika symbol and lots of tassels was added to one side when he was seated at the corner shrine alongside his parents; they wore similar ornaments, Ranveer on his pink, orange and yellow turban and Gajendra over the top of her fuchsia-pink sari. The pundit performed a puja ceremony, after which we all moved outside to more drumming and clanging of cymbals.
Packages of cloth and turban lengths were then given to Pintu and to members of his family who had recently married. (I later learned one possible meaning of the term 'an Indian Gift' - i.e. a gift you receive in anticipation of
it being returned to you or passed on to another person. The term may have originated among North American (Red) Indians, although it certainly seemed to apply here in Asian India too. It transpired that, while some of these packages of fabric were used, most of them were secured in metal trunks and then given away at the next marriage ceremony!)
Drinks and lunch followed, the ladies seated on the ground in the pretty, shaded garden and the men at tables in the hotel’s dark and dingy dining room. As I’ve mentioned previously the Shilpi was a state-owned hotel but, while its bedrooms were comfortable enough, its public areas seriously lacked investment and could have done with a good scrub and a lick of paint!
Afterwards, I popped into Pintu’s room to tell him I would be returning to the Maharani Bagh for a nap and, to my surprise - and merriment, was greeted by him wearing a bright white face pack. It was, of course, another tradition preparing him for his bride!
That evening, the celebrations started in earnest. Pintu wore yet another outfit, including a terrific off-white shervani (a long coat) with a
design in gold threads, a large gold anklet on each ankle, the family jewels around his neck, and another specially-tied red, yellow and green turban - this one with a tail and a bit sticking up at the top, suitably adorned with a gold and jewelled chain.
At one stage, a voluminous garland of white, red and yellow flowers was put over his head. It was clearly very heavy and, even after copious thinning out of the masses of blooms, it was eventually abandoned.
Lots of welcome ceremonies and seemingly-endless family photos followed. Pintu took it all in his stride, seldom smiling properly – and then only off-camera - as to show teeth on such a serious occasion would have been considered improper.
Exiting the hotel, we were greeted with the most horrendous sound. Drummers of the traditional sort competed with those from a mobile band wearing a uniform of red tunic, baggy white trousers, red boots and peaked cap, set off with yards of gold braid. Their music, produced by horns, trumpets and other wind instruments played tunelessly in time to rapid drumming, was amplified by giant loudspeakers mounted atop a four-wheeled cart that they pushed
right up to the hotel steps.
Out came Pintu, dressed every bit like a Rajput prince, his coat and jewels sparkling in the light of hundreds of coloured lamps covering the outside of the hotel building like a huge concrete Christmas tree. He was helped onto a black and white horse bedecked with ornamental bridle and saddle. The animal must have been deaf because it stood motionless while children nearby covered their ears against the indescribable noise. Pradeep’s five-year-old son Mahi, in a red turban with a silver star on the front, green silk tunic and black jodhpur trousers – another prince, in miniature, climbed up in front.
Down the hotel’s steeply-sloping driveway went the procession - horse riders up front, followed by the guests and the comically-dressed band with their booming cart. Boys, dangerously carrying fluorescent strips wired to the mains, lit their way. Once outside the decorated entrance gate, the procession turned around and made its way back up the slope, resulting in the band’s decibel level dropping noticeably as the musicians put all their efforts into preventing the heavy cart from sliding back downhill.
Pintu dismounted and the crowd started to disperse. Newly-arrived guests
...that only reduced its volume to push the mobile amplifier and speakers back up the steep slope
were welcomed in the traditional manner, drummers accompanying the application of a red tilak spot between the eyes and placing of a sweetmeat in the mouth, each guest then making a suitable donation.
We all proceeded to a reception area that had been created to Pintu’s specification at one side of the hotel. I’d seen it a few days before, when it was just bare, dry, bumpy earth. The transformation was amazing; a textile carpet now covered the ground, billowing white and blue fabric attached to tall poles formed walls on every side. A separate covered area, like a giant tent, had been created to permit drinks and non-vegetarian food to be served hidden from the view of those observing strict vegetarian and teetotal lifestyles.
Kitchens were concealed behind the drapes in one corner and, being interested in such things, I paid them a visit. There, I found one of the Maharani Bagh's chefs stirring a vast pan of rice and vegetables over a fierce gas flame. He'd already prepared, in another kitchen to one side, similarly-huge pans of mutton in a spicy sauce and chicken in a curry-based sauce - both sampled at his insistence and both
In one of the kitchens
One of the Maharani Bagh's chefs (to the right of the pot) stirred the vegetables while his assistant added the rice
After a lengthy and enjoyable meal, with copious glasses of water, beer and whisky provided to all who wanted them, Shibu gathered together a group of people and ushered us up to the hotel’s garden. There, to everyone’s surprise was a giant heart-shaped cake, which he’d arranged to commemorate Khuman and Sailesh’s wedding anniversary today. The throng of relatives gleefully vied with one another to feed pieces of the cake to the happy couple. The children looked on in anticipation of trying some of the creamy cake for themselves.
It was a fitting end to a day that, despite alcohol being liberally available, turned out to be a joyous yet reasonably sober affair and I was back at the Maharani Bagh by about 11.00pm. We all needed some rest prior to tomorrow’s long and tedious journey to Jaipur for the marriage itself. Please scroll down for lots more pictures
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