Feb 9, 2014

Wedding season

Jaisalmer has been pretty relaxed so far. I came here because I'd read about the sandstone fort, the camel treks, the dunes that surround the city and it all sounded so exotic. There is the fort by night. About 2000 people still live inside. 

As I mentioned, in Udaipur I met some very nice people who came to Jaisalmer for a wedding. There's David, Helen, Anand, and Amelia. 

They invited me to come with them to the wedding too, because at an Indian wedding the more the merrier. To have a thousand people attend is very common. 

The wedding lasts three days and nights, sometimes four. I went to the last two. Another friend of David and Helen’s lent me some clothes to wear. 

Looking awkward in borrowed finery. This was the night of the sangeet, where the brides family has a dance for their side. Men and women congregate together and don't mingle very much during the wedding. 

A meal was served too. Men ate first and then the women went into a hall and the men served up thali trays. We sat on the floor and ate with our hands, often several women sharing one large tray. There were several vegetable curries, rice and chapattis, some sweets and some small fried snacks. 

Then we went outside and sat on chairs in front of a stage and the two brides - it was a double marriage - came down from an upper room accompanied by really loud drumming by the young boys. The brothers and male cousins held a silk sari over each bride's head like a canopy. People danced in front of them waving money around her head and then they threw the money into a bag for her. 

One of the bride's brothers got us to get up and do the same. Earlier in the evening one of her aunts had provided us with a banknote to throw. 

Then the young cousins got up on stage and danced. It was like watching a family talent show. The next day the grooms arrived on white horses with their families and in the evening the ceremony was held. I got there in time to see the brides and grooms sitting together with their hands tied and everyone watching them and eating a meal together.

It was an amazing sight as everyone was decked out in jewels and their finest clothing, and I KNOW you all want to see pictures but I haven't got any. First, it was dark and they wouldn't have turned out very well, and second, the only other people who had cameras were two hired photographers. At a wedding in Canada it would have been a flash frenzy, but here people were just content with looking and every time I pulled out my camera people looked at me. Maybe if I was closer to the family it would have been okay, but as the guest of a guest it felt rude.  

But anyway, it was great to be there and awfully kind of them to make me feel welcome. In case you were wondering, these were both arranged marriages, which is very much the norm especially outside of large cities. The brides and grooms have met a few times and spoken on the phone but they don't know each other very well. To me the actual people getting married seemed composed, quiet, and slightly shy in the middle of all the hubbub. For a look at how marriage is evolving in India I just finished a really interesting book called Marrying Anita, about an Indian-American woman's quest for love in New Delhi. Worth a read.  

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