Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Longest Day

June 24th, the longest day. Err... isn't it supposed to be June 21st ??? Well not this year. I was in Delhi for a friends wedding. Had arrived the previous night and was staying with Nikhil, my to be brother-in-law. "Delhi is hot!". Well I'm talking about the weather. Just a few hours earlier I was in Bangalore where people were contemplating over whether they should take out their sweaters from the closet. We decided to drive around a bit in the morning as I chose historical sites over malls. Red Fort was .... well red. The person at the counter didn't feel like telling us that there were separate tickets for the museums. Luckily we saw the person at the side pick up some. "Delhi is hot!". The weather again. Chill, I'll let you know when I have something else in mind. Anyways the trees inside didn't provide us shade for long as I discovered the hard way. They had some velvety black occupants and one particular chap didn't like me much :-) Good luck they say. Yeah. Yeah. If I was lucky I wouldn't be standing there in the first place. We finally decided to cool ourselves down with the sprinklers. The two of us became little kids as we ran around following the spray of water, spurting out of this device that employs simple physics principles in ingenious ways. The energy in the universe remains constant. We were witness to this phenomenon as the force of moving water turned the nozzle around and finally transferred the energy to us. "Cool!".

Finally I went home and got dressed up and after a few minutes landed up at Saurabh's place, just in time to catch the last of the 'Sehra Bandi' ceremony. 'Sehra' means the wedding turban and 'bandi' means 'to tie'. Well I haven't been for a complete Hindu/Jain marriage so I was taking notes. I mean I've been to Hindu marriages before but just for the important part, the food! Maxime, someone I know from Bangalore was sitting on the sofa taking notes too. This was to be the second Indian marriage he would be attending. He is basically from Switzerland, planning for a PhD in network security. This being his fourth visit to India. On the way to Saurabh's place I realized that the distance from his place to the marriage hall is pretty far. Hey I'm smart. I can figure these things out. "Is the Baraat gonna walk/dance the full distance." I mean I can run long distances but "Delhi is hot!". My fears were allayed when they put Saurabh up on the horse and he went just a little distance ahead. The cameras were on till just before he got off. The plan was to go by car to another hall where the 'Baraat' would start. I felt like wacking the horse on its behind so that it galloped ahead a bit. However I didn't want all his family members to start staring at me. Yeah.. what if the horse ran far far away :-)

I got into a car filled with a lot of kids. Maxime was along with me. Then he started to speak to me in Hindi. This guy knows a lot of words and sentences! We were listening to some Hindi songs and he recognised words. He also spoke to the kids in Hindi. They were entertained. In addition to that he knows some Tamil, English, French, Portuguese. God knows which other languages. He also writes letters in Hindi!! In fact at times his responses were faster in Hindi than they were in English.

On the way we realised that we were lost so we started asking for directions. Again most people were not very enthusiastic to help out. Finally we reached the 'Baraat' hall where there was some more puja. Met Tushit, who I had met in Bangalore before. Met Meenakshi, Saurabh's childhood friend who had an experience coming to Delhi from Mumbai where she spent more than 10 hours at the airport. After that we came out as I saw a similar looking horse. Nobody should know that we came all the way by car :-) The 'Baraat' then proceeded towards the marriage hall. This is the first time I've been in a 'baraat' procession, as opposed to watching thousands of them pass by in my home town.

Neha, the groom's sister was pretty happy as she danced and danced along the way, accompanied by all of us. We even stopped traffic along the way. Everyone was honking adding to the sound of the music. Outside the hall everyone danced and danced as if there was no tomorrow. Finally the bride's people welcomed us with garlands. I got one too :-) Wearing a garland gave us special status as the girl's side welcomed us inside the hall. We took out the garlands after some time but Maxime decided to stick on to his one. Finally he took it off. Met Neeti there as she is doing an internship in Delhi, learning the ropes, makes the rules we follow. "But what about following the spirit of the rule", I asked her once. She didn't say anything. I know one day she will :-) Neeti and Saurabh are my play buddies, ever ready to freak out and do anything wild.

Then we saw the bride coming out with a chunni which is a long, flowing veil, held over her by her sisters. She came on to the dias where they were to have the garland ceremony. They have this thing where they lift up the person so that the other one can't put the garland on. Saurabh introduced me to the others up there as the bodybuilder from Maharashtra as I took my place infront. Hey... it was a college competition. A college of geeks. The first time I won there was no tough competition. The guy who had won the previous year saw me and decided to back out :-) The second time I had to fight off some stiff competition. Trained quite a bit for the second one. Anyways bodybuilder from Maharashtra... I'm not complaining :-)

Then I get an SMS from my mom. "Allaboy how r u ? What r u doing? sms. 2morrow is r wedd anniversary". She was basically worried (as usual) as to how and when I would be going back home. Although the words didn't reflect that, the time did. C'mon I'm a bodybuilder from Maharashtra. I can take care of myself. Its about 10-15 secs after the sms, while I'm walking to a quiter place outside. My mom calls, "I sent you an sms. You got it na?". She is famous for this :-)

Food! My biological clock tells me its time for dinner. I tell the others that I'll go on a reconnaisance mission before we attack. I was a little worried when I just saw some fruits and chaats when I entered the food court. Was relieved to know that the food court was actually downstairs. After food it was time for the actual wedding. Tushit and Meenakshi left. Neeti also did the vanishing act. So Maxime and myself decided to start taking notes again.

The pujari made them throw stuff into the fire, chanting verses. They walked around the fire tied to each other so that neither one can run away :-) When some ladies were busy chatting (making noise) the pujari told them,"Do you remember what you said when you got married". "No", was the answer. "Then listen!". He also made 4 men from the girls side stand in four corners and forgot about them. Finally he asked to sit after about an hour. The whole ceremony took about 3 hours or more. A christian marriage takes about 1 hour. The exchange of vows being about 10-15 mins. Thats it. The priest asks the couple stuff and they say "I do". Then he asks "If anyone has any objections that these two not be wed, let them speak now or forever hold their peace". Sometimes you would see the bride or groom slyly look over their shoulder to make sure non of their exs decide that they suddenly have an objection :-) I remember when we were small we once did a mock wedding. We made someone the priest who said all the dialogues. We even had flower girls and page boys. We got Derrick married to Diamee. They exchanged wedding vows, even wedding rings made of golden eclair wrappers. I don't remember if anyone had any objections when the priest asked us if we did.

So do people actually get married just because they exchange marriage vows. Sometimes it takes 10 mins, sometimes 3 hours. Different languages, different customs. Sometimes they don't know what they are saying cause they are kids. Thats child marriage. Ok so the two people have to be willing to be married to call it a marriage. Derrick and Diamee were kids... they were willing ??? Also are people married the picosecond after they say "I do". Or are they already married before that, the moment they decided that they wanted to be. My parents engagement was the next day, 29 years. Maybe they are married cause they have exchanged and renewed their wedding vows over the past 29 years. hmmmmm.

After the ceremony the brides sisters and friends wanted Rs 50,001 from Saurabh to give him his shoes back. Dude, I'll sell you mine for 25,000, err 20,000, err... 15 ... forget it. Met the married couple after the ceremony. It was about 4am ish. I tried to say something witty. I'm thinking to myself, "That was not witty at all. It sounded so much better and different in my head." Time to give my brain some rest.

It was about 5:30am by the time I reached the bed. I was planning to visit the Taj Mahal the same day. Had done some inquiries about the mode of travel the previous day. It was gonna take 3-4 hours either way. Maybe if I don't sleep I can make ZZZzzzzzzz.

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