Snapshots From An Indian Wedding
Last weekend my beautiful friend Yamuna was married in a storm of confetti and colour and I have never experienced anything like it. The air was close and we spent the weekend in a haze of heat and sunshine, sleeping on a rooftop under the stars and celebrating their love. (I can't explain just how special it is to know that our first Indian marriage was the love marriage of such a dear friend). We travelled out to her village- a nine hour drive from Hyderabad- by semi-sleeper bus. The adventures began early, as at quarter past four in the morning the bus stopped and we all got off to stretch our legs.
Outside the sky was clear, icy black with abundant stars. We trailed behind a group of sari-clad women down a dusty street in the darkness, not entirely sure of where we were, looking for a washroom. We passed a building and one of them said "It is open only." Naively I think this means the washroom is inside, and unlocked. It turned out that in rural India "open" doesn't mean unlocked but nonexistent. Whatever I thought culture shock was when I first arrived here was nothing to what I felt last weekend. Everything was so different to our Hyderabad home. It felt like I was relearning how to conquer India all over again. Yamuna assures us that we settled in well, but for most of the weekend I had that strange, yet wholly wonderful feeling you sometimes get in a foreign place; as though you've been transplanted into a novel or a play, simply the result of being somewhere so at odds with your everyday existence.
Yamuna is our friend, which meant we got to be there for all of her wedding - before as she was getting ready, during and afterwards and that was really special. We got ready and had breakfast with some of her family members who very kindly welcomed us into their home despite our sleep deprived appearance and the fact that we were total strangers. They let us all have a quick bucket shower so that we didn't look half bad, then helped us get our saris on and fed us breakfast. "This is heart, this is feet" the non-english speaking grandmother told me as she handed me my plate (!!!) before her granddaughter clarified "she means this one is spicy, this one is not" I won't lie, for a second I genuinely thought I might have been misinformed about what upma was for the past eight months! (Upma, by the way, is almost like dry porridge? It's got lots of veg through it and it's a common breakfast item in south India.) Once we were done with breakfast we walked down to the wedding and saw Yamuna.
We stood on the stage beside her and watched alongside her family as they went through all the many, many rituals of a Hindu marriage, before throwing rice at the newly married couple when it was time. It was an absolutely beautiful thing to be able to witness and I'm so, so happy I got to be there to see it. In India marriages last for a few days, and so the following night we walked through the streets watching everyone dance and sing, as the newlyweds followed on a brightly lit and decorated tractor. Drums were played as fireworks were set off all around us (maybe just a little too close for comfort.) It was certainly a completely different experience from every other wedding I've been to in my life, and according to all the other Indian women - completely different from theirs also. Different states do marriage differently, so we've spent a week finding out about the different marriages of many of our Indian friends. Not one of them has been the same.
So here we are sleeping out in the open on a strangers roof in a little Indian village somewhere in Andhra Pradesh. Despite the absolutely stunning sky- being able to see most of the constellations in person was quite a cool experience - in true Indian style nothing is ever so simple. At two in the morning we were shaken awake with the news a storm was coming and it was about to rain. The storm and resultant rain evoked a longing for home. We ended up sleeping on the floor of another house and I dreamt I was in Scotland. Sometimes a little escapism is all a girl needs.
The following evening we ate dinner outside in the midst of a powercut that lasted nearly an hour, with only the car headlights to give us light. Thanks to the storm there were insects everywhere (and I mean, everywhere) and for some reason decided they quite liked me, so went in my hair, down my back, on my arms, in my water, in my food - EVERYWHERE. Alex was so calm during this while I was completely freaking out. I don't do well with bugs normally, but on this magnitude and without a free hand to bat them away I was beside myself. Even when they left, I had that lingering fear of being sure I could feel one or two crawling around.
There were also hundreds of moths flying about that terrified me but thankfully they liked all the artificial light coming from the car headlights, and so stayed away from us mostly. Except of course, when in a moment of complete idiocy, I couldn't see where I was going because of the power cut, and so thought it would be a good idea to turn my phone's torch on. FYI: NOT A GOOD IDEA. Cue all the moths swarming my unsuspecting self, and my phone freezing as I tried to turn off the light!! Everyone knew how freaked out I had been, and so were absolutely hysterical watching me trying to get myself out of this situation. I don't like moths much these days. Wonder why that is, eh?
|the rooftop ^|
We spent the next day sightseeing before getting the bus back to Hyderabad that night. We visited the Veerbhadra Temple in Lepakshi. In Telugu Lepakshi means "rise, bird" as it is said this is the spot where Jatayu fell, wounded in a battle against Ravana - as is written in Ramayana. The Ramaya is one of the largest ancient texts in world literature and in Hindu tradition, it is considered to be the adi-kavya (first poem). It depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal father, the ideal wife and the ideal king. It is written that after the battle, Sri Rama arrived and told the bird to rise- giving the place the name Lepakshi.
The coolest thing about the temple though is that it is balancing on the so called hanging pillar- a pillar that's not attached to the ground and so sticks, cloth, newspaper etc are all passed underneath to show this. It's slightly dislodged as apparently the British tried to discover how it was still standing by attempting to move it. Thankfully, their efforts failed and the temple is still in use today. So that was so interesting to see.
It was an interesting, beautiful and altogether different way to spend a weekend, and I doubt I'll ever forget it.