Monday, February 8, 2010

Hindu high jinx

Having nearly perfected the art of sari-tying, Sarah and I dutifully made our way to the Bhubanaeswar Club for Poonam and Debabrata's wedding. Poonam is the daughter of the State Information Commissioner and it was, as expected, a rather flash do. We were told it wasn't an entirely traditional wedding and from what I can gather this meant it was shorter than usual and the main event took place at lunchtime rather than late in the evening. It was my first Hindu wedding and, traditional or not, it was very different from your average English affair. For starters, it's the bridegroom who arrives in a smart white car covered in flowers whilst the bride patiently waits out of sight. You couldn't miss Debabrata's arrival though - he was preceded by a group of conch-playing acrobats, a live band and most of his male friends and relatives. The first time we got to see Poonam was when the parents pledged themselves to each other in a joining of the families ceremony to compliment the joining of the happy couple … except the bride looked far from happy. On enquiry, I found out that unlike an English bride, who is encouraged to smile throughout the day however nervous or sick she feels, at Hindu weddings the bride is expected to look sad because she's about to leave her family and looking happy about it is definitely not the done thing. After the family-joining ceremony, we wandered across the lawn to the dais where the main event took place. Even though it was supposedly shorter, it did go on for quite a long time. Fortunately, you weren't expected to diligently sit through the whole thing and there was a kind of garden party feel to the proceedings. There were rows of chairs in front of the stage but they were also serving a buffet lunch – with the usual mountains of food - which you could eat at large round tables under a fancy awning or you could just stand around and chat whilst watching the conch-playing acrobats. There was the occasional flurry of activity when people thronged towards to the front but to be perfectly honest I had no idea why or what was going on and I certainly missed the "I do" bit if, in fact, there was one. Then, although the ceremony still seemed to be going on, we realised that people were starting to wander off so we went went back to Sarah's flat for the rest of the afternoon before donning our saris again to return for the evening party. Here the guests had quadrupled in number and there was another enormous buffet - more like a food fair to be honest. People seemed really pleased that Sarah and I were wearing saris and we were made to feel very welcome - in fact I was quite surprised at just how many of Bhubaneswar's great and good I actually knew. The only thing missing was the alcohol – it really did feel strange to be togged up in my finery at a really smart wedding but not to have that glass of champagne in my hand. It didn't in any way spoil the day though which was both fascinating and good fun and we managed to slip in a quick glass of wine back at Sarah's before retiring to bed.  To see more pictures click here

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