My cousin G’s wedding was one of the reasons I really wanted to be in Chennai for the winter holidays. She called me sometime in August when she was fixing the date and the venue and confirmed that the kids and P were off for Christmas/New Year. I assured her that we would make it and then all our plans went phut! ( see http://www.punctuatelife.com/2013/01/14/the-chennai-chronicles-part-1/)
The wedding was in the last week of December and was preceded by a Mehendi ceremony. The boys didn’t want to go, so A and I went with my parents and brother. It was by the beach, in an open pavilion with divans and bolsters along the low walls. G was sitting at the far end of the room, her feet covered with mehendi (henna tattoos). A lady was working on her hands and deftly covering it with fine lines of green paste from a cone.
My daughter couldn’t wait to get mehendi on her hands, so my mom and I had to take turns feeding her. I was paranoid that she would get it on her nice clothes. I kept nagging her to stretch her arms out and not touch her clothes. Soon after I put mehendi on my hands, I sat down on the couch to talk to G. I ended up putting my hands on my lap and got it all over my saree. I had to wash it all off and also had a wet spot on the front of my saree. So much for nagging A about not getting it on her clothes.
The groom’s side is Finnish and G got all the ladies sarees with matching blouses, which they wore to the mehendi ceremony. With matching bangles and they were very eager to do some Bollywood moves. So my brother stepped up and decided to lead. It was a lot of fun to dance in a group and the steps were so funny that we were in stitches by the end of the dance.
The Finnish ladies were not done and went on to do some fine gyrations that made the rest of us applaud in admiration. There was also a Killi Josiyam person. Basically tarot cards which are laid out in front of a parrot. The killi or parrot walks over the cards and picks one with its beak. The bird hands it over to the astrologer who then interprets it. My daughter gave it a shot and the parrot picked Unnikrishna (baby Krishna) and the astrologer rattled off some well-rehearsed lines – work hard at school. Donate to charity (which was odd!)
We ate a sumptuous dinner and then drove back home. Most of the guests were staying at the hotel and so the party continued for several hours after us city dwellers had called it a night.
The wedding was the next day. The mandapam was supposed to be set up outside but the rain played spoilsport and the ceremony had to be indoors. The path outside, with stairs leading up to the mandap was strewn with flowers. There were plates of roses all along the low walls of the verandah. The mandapam was beautifully decorated with white flowers and lotuses. G looked divine in her gold zari saree, exquisite choli and traditional jewellery. J was wearing a sherwani which was almost the same color and carried it off pretty well. I figured he was hot in it (although it was officially winter in Chennai – if you can call misty weather with a few scattered downpours, winter!)
They made a beautiful couple and I hope they live a long life together making many happy memories and with much laughter and joy.
It was a traditional Kerala wedding. They say Kerala weddings are so short that if you blink you’ll miss it. So here’s how it’s done. The bridegroom waits for the bride at the mandapam. The bride walks to mandapam accompanied by little girls carrying trays of flowers and women (both single and married) carrying oil lamps. My daughter and I were part of that group. G joined J at the mandapam and he tied the taali (mangalsutra or chain with a small pendant that consecrates the union) with the nadaswaram and thavil playing in the background. They exchanged garlands and then got the blessings of all the older family members. They first touched the feet of their parents, grandparents, great aunts and uncles. Then the rest of the gathering went up to the couple and threw rice & flowers (akshata) on them and blessed them.
J’s side of the family brought some of their wedding traditions to the table. After a toast by the groom’s brother some of the ladies sang Finnish songs (complete with a drum) and actions. Not one to be outdone, G’s aunt decided to sing a Hebrew song – Hava Nagila and we all joined in.
And then there was the elephant! Yes a real live elephant. The not-so-eager groom was garlanded by the pachyderm. Locals, expats, everyone alike were uber excited to see the elephant (my kids included!) The cameras kept flashing and everyone wanted to pose with the animal.
After dinner, which was a delectable spread (my mouth is watering just thinking about it!) everyone was in the mood for dancing. After a few rounds of Finnish dancing, holding hands and going around in a circle, my brother did his number. Then the group kinda split up and P and I went to get the kids. The kids were all pumped up and wanted to keep dancing. So P and I ended up dancing with them at the edge of the dance floor. After a while we got tired but A & N didn’t want to call it quits.
And then it happened. The DJ played this Korean song that went viral – Gangnam style. N had learnt all the moves and he broke into an animated dance. It was so much fun to watch this little guy do all the moves. The grand finale – he slid between my brother’s legs like they do in the video. It was hilarious!
When we had enough of the dancing, we took a walk to the beach and stood there breathing in the salty night air and soaking up the sound of the waves lapping onto the moonlit shore. We then drove back to the city.
I’ll remember this wedding for a long long time. Not because of the elephant or the venue or anything. But just because it was the first wedding my kids have ever attended. Also, it was so much fun and sometimes I wish I was still in India so I could dress up and go for a wedding every month (oh yeah! and that’s just a conservative estimate!). Thank you G and J for inviting us! God bless you.