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Published: February 23rd 2018
On Sunday, Ishan had tons of rituals that I didn’t sit in on – though I did see him covered in turmeric (haldi) at one point, which I believe is traditionally applied the morning of the wedding day as a symbol of blessing and to make your skin glow (brides do this too, but as we were in Shubha's hometown, she wasn't at the hotel for all of her rituals). Even though all of his family members were so great at taking care of me, he asked if I wanted to go out with some of his childhood friends and Shubha’s brother for an afternoon adventure. I was a little antsy, so I jumped at the opportunity to get out of the hotel and see something new, and off we went.
I initially thought we were going to take a drive out to the Pakistan border (~90km away), and I excitedly asked if we’d see more camels out there since I saw some the previous morning on our drive into town, but he said not likely. Instead we took a little desert safari to the sand dunes and hung out for a while. I didn’t really want to sit down
at first because I didn’t want to get my clothes all full of sand, but the grains were actually so fine, it was more like cinnamon colored dust, and it wasn’t a problem at all. We were at the top of a big hill, which I think it was some sort of Army base or other military related place, and Shubha’s brother left us for a while. For a little while I thought he had just run off to go to the bathroom or something, but he was gone for longer than that and it seems like just as I started to wonder where he’d gone, he came back to us RIDING A CAMEL. An actual living, walking, desert-living, no-water-drinking, camel. He was so excited to show me the camel and was like ok your turn to ride it, and I’m like nooooooooooo I’m not riding that poor thing! Using animals for human entertainment (food, clothes, riding, etc.) goes against my normal values and I protested as much as I could until I caved and rode it. I felt bad that he went out of his way to do this for me, to give me a special fun time, and
Here I am. On a camel.
I felt obligated to partake, but at the same time honored that I was considered so special for him to even want or care enough to go out of his way. (*Insert reminders of Ben’s elephant ride in Kerala and Julianne’s goat sacrifice in Kenya.) He heard me say I liked camels and that I wanted to see more of them, so the guy brought me a damn camel – I mean, that’s kind of pretty awesome if you think about it. I pet the camel, got on him/her, and was launched up ten or so feet in the air as he stood, then paraded around the camp like a crazy person. OMG look at the white chick on the camel. There was even a woman who was so excited about the whole thing that she asked for some photos, then apparently kept watching/staring at me after I got back. We’ll call that #celebritymoment number four. After I got off, I bowed to the camel with my hands together and thanked him for allowing me to ride him.
After everyone had their fill of sand, and a short dance party at the bottom of the hill, we went to
At the bottom of the hill, where the guys had a little dance party.
a cow temple. He understood how much I liked cows, and saw how excited I got every time I saw one on the way over, so again went out of his way to make sure I was having a good time and brought me to see the cows! There were tons of cows, and they even had a cow hospital with veterinarians taking care of the sick ones.
That evening, I was wrapped in my first saree, and the festivities began…slowly. Ishan was dressed in his traditional suit complete with turban, pearls, scarf, and jootis (the only word I remembered was for the fancy shoes), and looked like a prince. When everyone was finally ready (first I was told 6:00, then 8:00, then just whenever, lol) he sat down for a few more rituals, and all of the men were presented with pink turbans of their own, and the photos began – or really, continued. After some time, I think around 9:30, the parade finally started. It’s called a baraat, and is a tradition where the groom rides on a decorated white horse to meet his soon-to-be-bride and is accompanied by his family who dance and celebrate him on
Prince and Queen...with Prince Junior
Photo session with several dozen people and an unknown number of cameras - this was shortly before the parade started.
his journey. Ishan’s adorable nephew was also dressed like him and sat with him on the horse. There were two trucks with gigantic speakers playing loud music leading the group, plus a fancy band that went with us the whole way. And when I say the whole way, I mean to imply that it was a long way. We didn’t reach the wedding venue where Shubha was until nearly midnight. Everybody was really enjoying everything, and we stopped a million times to dance – it’s really a bummer that Ishan had to sit there and watch us all have fun and was unable to join, but oh well, that’s the tradition. I believe there was a ceremonial greeting of the two families, though Shubha wasn’t there herself, but I didn’t see it and was shuffled inside by some cousin-sisters to sit after that long walk/dance in heels. There was more dancing and eating, and Ishan and Shubha ceremonially placed garlands of flowers around each other’s necks while flower petal confetti was showering all around them. This, too, took place while people were just mosey-ing about, still dancing or eating or chatting – none of the (what I’m used
Ishan and nephew on the regal horse.
to) sitting quietly while everyone gives their full attention to this particular event. After the garlands were exchanged, the couple once again had to sit patiently on a fancy couch while dozens of people came to take photos with them. Remember how I said Ishan looked like a prince? Well, Shubha was his princess for sure. Dressed in traditional red and gold, complete with mehndi (henna), nath (fancy nose ring linked to her ear), tikka (fancy jewelry for her forehead), bangles with dangling chandelier-style charms, plus every other kind of gold jewelry imaginable. I expect it was quite difficult to move around with all of that stuff, but damn she looked beautifully extravagant, and the two of them together were something else.
Unfortunately, I had to catch a 3:00 am train, so I wasn’t able to see their actual marriage ceremony, but everything I did get to see was awesome, and as the night grew into morning, I was even able to visit with the couple for a few minutes before I left. I was also very thankful that I wasn’t just dropped off at the train station, but accompanied the whole way, even during the 45-minute delay, and
all the way in the car and directly to my bunk. Thank you again!
P.S. When I was driven back to the hotel to change and get my bags for the train ride, I was more than shocked to learn that it was only two, count them two, blocks away from the wedding venue. And it took more than 2 hours by foot…we just took the scenic route I guess, LOL. I remember seeing the venue from the hotel when we first started and thinking “Oh, wow, that place over there looks fancy, look at all the lights and everything” and having no idea that was where we’d end up. Feet = dead
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