Previously, on The West Wing…

Just kidding, guys. Except for real: I miss The West Wing. A reunion episode would probably make me just as happy as (or probably happier than) I will be when Arrested (hopefully) comes back on.

So, my family came to India to go to a wedding, right? And I haven’t even really talked about it yet, even though it was basically a highlight of this trip…

My cousin, Midhusha got married! Hooray! Congrats! I’ve been to Hindu weddings before, and only one other really Tamil wedding that was also of my family’s caste or whatever, but this time I was actually old enough to be able to semi-understand what was going on around me.

My first realization is how different weddings are from one another here. Not just in the colors of the flowers and the saris and all that, but the ceremonial stuff is SO DIFFERENT from one state to another, and from one caste to another, and from one family to another.

Second realization: the endless traditions and cultural meanings behind Hindu weddings are SO COOL. I still don’t understand half of them, but it’s just awesome to watch them, and realize that used to be a practical reason behind doing them.

The wedding was in Colombo, the capitol of Sri Lanka. We stayed with my aunt (my Athai) which was an amazing experience itself for me. My dad’s side of the family is really big, but I don’t know them very well since they’re all over here, and, well, I’m usually not. He’s the youngest of 6, so my brother and I are the youngest cousins, and my oldest cousin has kids my age. My aunt that we stayed with, was #3 out of 6, and the athai whose daughter was getting married is #4 out of 6 kids. What was amazing about staying with my older aunt was that I got to STAY with my family. All the time. So it went beyond that awkward conversation that we usually had for the 1-2 hours we spent visiting before just leaving and heading back to the U.S. I felt like I actually got to know my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, it was awesome.

In our traditions, when the first daughter of a family gets married, there are special ceremonial things that must be done. The bride’s eldest or youngest uncle on her mother’s side has to “give her away.” Sadly, my oldest uncle passed away last year. As the youngest brother, my dad ended up doing a lot of the ceremonial things, and as his wife, my mom also got really involved. I think it was weird for my dad to do it, since my oldest uncle had always done those kinds of thing for the family (he was also the one that did all the ceremonial things for my parents’ wedding), but it was kind of cool that my family played a role in the wedding.

So, typically, a Hindu wedding consists of 3 days. The first day is kind of the presenting of the bride. Wearing a (beautiful) sari, she receives another (beautiful) sari as a gift, on a platter, from her family. Everyone prays for her, she leaves, changes into the new sari (as a symbol of preparing for the wedding, I guess), then everyone blesses her and then we take tons of pictures and we all eat delicious food and go home. This took place on Saturday for Midhusha.

If the daughter is the first to get married in the household, then there’s a separate day (not included in the 3 days) where all of the first-daughter stuff goes down. To keep everything auspicious, this event was held on the same day as the wedding day (Monday), at like, 4:30am. Woooo. But really, it was pretty cool. They do all these ceremonial things and everyone’s feet get really tired (if you’re close family, you get to hang out on stage next to the bride, nbd…but you have to stand). Then the bride changes into her wedding sari, and there’s about a million other mini-ceremonies and traditions, and blessings that happen, and then they do a different set of mini-ceremonies and traditions and blessings for the groom, and THEN the couple does a bunch of mini-ceremonies and traditions and blessings together and THEN they get married. It sounds really long, but…well, yeah it’s pretty long. But way cool, trust me.

I’m sorry, I wish I had some wedding pictures to show you, but they’re all on my dad’s camera and he’s back in NC by now…

The last day of the wedding is the reception (this was on the following Saturday). Everyone just gets to dress up again, and the bride and groom play games (like mancala!) to get to know one another better (since most weddings here are arranged and whatnot). Then everyone takes a MILLION pictures, and you’re done!

Note: this is just a fraction of the ceremonial stuff that’s performed. There’s stuff that happens on the “off” days too, but they’re not events that everyone goes to see, they’re more like traditions that the bride, groom, and the respective families keep. Example: after the wedding, since now the bride has a ‘new family’ (her husband’s), the bride’s family goes over to the husband’s family’s house, and are served coffee and tea and snacks (in typical Indian fashion).

And I think that’s all I’m going to say about the wedding. There’s a lot more that could be said, but it’d probably take another 900 words.

(SORRY about the length. I only know the extremes when it comes to blogging, I guess.)

(Some) pictures to come.

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