Wedding at Bhubhaneshwar – Part Nine

This will be the last in the series describing my wedding at Bhubhaneshwar although I’m resisting the urge to stretch it out and make it an even ten. Also, I wanted to write on my other experiences in India including the stereotypical what-has-changed, and of course, our other wedding reception in Thane which was held jointly with my brother’s reception. Probably I will write on those at a later time. I have been pestering Ash to write her version of India and wedding experiences but she simply refuses to citing lack of inclination or motivation. Or is there more to it?

After wrapping up our Konark Temple visit, we were already running late for our lunch. Ash’s four aunts had collaborated on that front and were supposed to meet us near Ramchandi Temple which is located right at the spot where river Khushabhadra meets the sea. Legend has it that when the Muslim invader, Kalapahad invaded this region he tried breaking into this temple to break the idol when he was met at the entrance by a maiden who offered to open the door. But she wished to wash her feet before doing so and as Kalapahad waited for her, she sneaked away and guess what, she in fact was the goddess. I am not sure if the idol sprang into life and ran away or the so-called goddess took the idol with her but these stories are always highly exaggerated but nevertheless fun to hear. Anyway, I didn’t enter the temple so I can’t tell you how it is from the inside. I was more interested in its scenic location and spent time taking photographs of the beach and other sights.

Before others went to the temple, we had the typical picnic lunch with a large mat spread out on raised platform. Ash’s aunts had brought lunch in this huge tiffin box which was in fact an outsized version of your regular steel tiffin box that every officer-goer in India is familiar with. Everyone was delighted that we even had chenna pod petta as dessert at the end of yet another scrumptious lunch. The Oriya khatirdari was certainly exceeding all expectations and even nitpickers couldn’t find much to complain. With hunger satiated, everyone was ready for Jagannath’s darshan.

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Wedding at Bhubhaneshwar – Part Six

With the wedding ceremony and the reception over, everyone was much more relaxed and eager to get some sightseeing done. Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t really sleep in or have a lazy morning as we were supposed to get our wedding registration done in the local government office. Even though more than 300 people witnessed our wedding, we weren’t legally husband and wife until we had that piece of paper from the government that said so. As in any bureaucratic process, this usually takes time and needs oodles of patience (and money) but Ash’s relatives have been living here for quite a while. I am not sure if it in enshrined in Oriya law but I think it helps to be a Patnaik if you need to get any government or political work done in these parts.

Grievance & Consultation

We shuttled around a bit to couple of government offices until we met our lawyer who assured us that we would get our certificate in a day. Folks who plan to get married in destinations other than their hometown are advised to register their marriage in the town they are married in. I’m not sure if this is a rule but when certain legal procedures come accompanied with ‘strictly advised’, you are better off not doing otherwise. After much waiting, we were ushered into the office of the deputy commissioner who witnessed our signatures and we were married. Again. There was some minor jhol with my passport since it showed an U.S. address on my new one since it was renewed in the U.S. That reminds me to get it changed to my ‘permanent address’ in India. On our way out, I couldn’t help noticing that the office for Grievance & Consultation was located next door (see photo). I wonder if it was planned deliberately.

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Wedding at Bhubhaneshwar – Part Five

Everyone around seems more interested in the happenings on the wedding night than the wedding itself but unfortunately, those details cannot (or should not) be divulged. So if you came back expecting those details, you can leave now so I can proceed with the more ‘boring’ details :)

The wedding ceremony and lunch followed by the jhooti fiasco finished up by 3pm and the reception wasn’t until 7:30pm. We couldn’t take Ash ‘home’ since we weren’t home and Ginger wouldn’t give us our room until the next morning. We were booked for the night at Mayfair anyway. So post-wedding, I crashed in my brother’s room as we watched Lake Placid on Star Movies. Not exactly what you thought I would be doing after the wedding, eh? I wondered if the choice of the movie was a harbinger of things to come. Poor Ash on the other hand had to report for her makeup session couple of hours before the reception so she stayed put with her parents at Mayfair. Rest of our guests either snored away their afternoons or headed out to the city for some more shopping. Frankly, I couldn’t understand how could you continue shopping in a city not really known as a shopper’s paradise. These folks would go berserk in Dubai or Singapore. Probably they already had. Shopping, I feel, is more of a social activity that women enjoy whereas men have specific objectives when they are out to buy something.

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Wedding at Bhubhaneshwar – Part Four

Blogging your wedding day can be a difficult task because it might be the one post that your children or even you are most likely to read about in the distant future. You want to capture all the details but everything seems like a blur because so many people and so many things happening on a very important day of your life. Relatives had teased me the night before of my impending ‘doom’ and jokingly asked me to consider one last time before I took that ultimate step. I’m sure Ash faced similar ribbing or perhaps even more by her side of the family.

The wedding muhurat or rather the appointment with the priest since it was an Arya Samaj wedding was at 10:30 in the morning. My parents had insisted that I observe a fast until the wedding rites were completed. You wouldn’t want to be around me when I’m hungry and watching people wolf down a hearty breakfast of eggs, upma, idlis wasn’t helping. Fortunately, the buffet had plenty of options in fruits and juice and I prompted stuffed myself. Fortunately, everyone was ready and dressed up on time and we assembled in our hotel lobby ready to leave for the wedding venue. The wedding venue was at Mayfair Hotel, Bhubhaneshwar’s top-rated hotel or so we were told. As we stood outside the hotel, I spotted the familiar florally decorated car that I would sit in while the rest of my wedding party would walk alongside. Earlier, my relatives had entertained the idea of renting a horse (or rather a ghodi) but thankfully common sense prevailed and I was spared the ignominy of toppling down or dangling from the stirrups as the horse galloped away into the sunset. Yeah yeah, I am aware that the horses are usually used to the cacophony of a typical Indian wedding or even drugged to make them more docile than a sloth in hibernation but it doesn’t hurt to imagine the worst, right? I didn’t want to be blamed for running away from the wedding just because the horse felt I should.

Blowing the conches

We were greeted by a three-party ‘band’ that consisted of some vigorous conch blowing and they faithfully accompanied us doing their thing at regular intervals as we proceeded toward the venue. We were greeted outside by Ash’s dad who as instructed by the priest welcomed me in the usual traditional fashion as other relatives looked on excitedly. Since Ash is the first one to get married among her cousins, the excitement among her extended family was palpable. Incidentally females dominate her cousin gang and I or PJ (P. jiju) was subjected to much scrutiny by my saalis. After the traditional welcome, we were seated in an intermediate hall along with the rest of our wedding party and were served refreshments. Later on, I proceeded to the wedding mandap escorted by my sister (cousin) who was assigned the role of karavlee and my oldest mama.

Wedding Mandap

The wedding ceremony was short and simple since it was carried out according to the Arya Samaj tradition which essentially is a bare-bones version of a complete and drawn out Hindu wedding. Maharashtrian weddings can be a long and tedious affair that requires the constant attention of the people involved and that can be a bit difficult when you see people around you enjoying themselves and gobbling down sweets. Oriya weddings, I was told are equally long and to make it worse are done in the middle of the night. I guess, they must have the concept of suhag subah which involves both the bride and groom snoring their first day together. Anyway, our ceremony took a little under couple of hours and had our respective parents by our side at almost all times. Another feature of an Arya Samaj wedding is that the priest explains all rituals to us and although our priest’s knowledge of spoken English was a bit lacking (“…in your times of entertainment” What? you mean joy, right?), it was nevertheless useful to know what was going on. The ceremony also tries to be fair to the girl since there is no such thing as kanyadaan (women aren’t property that can be given away, right?) but still the ceremony is a tad misogynist. Another interesting tidbit was that husbands are expected to give their wife only three saris in their married life – one during the wedding, other when she is pregnant, and the last at his or her funeral. So technically, Ash has no right to ask for any more. It isn’t in the contract. Of course, nothing stops her from getting her own.

Other than that we had a regular Hindu wedding complete with a havan and saptapadi. We were even adorned with festive mukuts (crowns) which is more of an Oriya tradition and my parents ensured they had an opportunity to give Ash gifts during the ceremony. I was glad that my brother was taking photos with my Nikon D40 because he got far better and candid pictures (the ones that some of you have seen) than the ones the official photographer took. We had a brief photo session with various families both on my side and Ash’s side since everyone wanted their picture taken with the couple. Additionally, we must have touched the feet of nearly 100-odd people in one continuous round post-ceremony. Thankfully, lunch followed soon after and that’s it, we were married.

Joined hands

One downside of Hum Aapke Hai Kaun being such a big hit is that nowadays Punju traditions are considered Indian customs and like in any contemporary weddings, my jootis were targeted by my umpteen young saalis. But when Maharashtrians and Oriyas try to adopt alien cultures, there is bound to be a learning curve. It turned out that my saalis stole my dad’s jootis and I calmly found and wore mine much to their astonishment. Nevertheless, negotiations started in the right earnest. But being the shaana Bombay folks that we are, my cousins in turn stole Ash’s dad’s chappals and turned the tables. After much hulla-gulla and attempts at breaking the stalemate, my dad and uncles made my saalis dance (literally) which they were sporting enough to do. Cash was promptly coughed up and everyone was happy. Ash and I were content to stand back and watch everyone at least get along nicely. It was undoubtedly fun and helped break the ice of formality.

I had hoped to write about the reception as well but more than half of you have already stopped reading so I’ll save that for later.

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