India: A splendid wedding!

8th of February 2015, Jaipur, Rajasthan = the official Wedding day for Wendy and Saurabh.

Since I’m cheesy and romantic at heart, I’m just going to say that Wendy and Saurabh married around the same time as my favorite Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great and his wife Jodha (she exemplified the Mughal’s tolerance of religious differences and their inclusive policies). Ok to be correct, the greatest ruler of the Mughal Dynasty in India and his wife married 453 years ago on 6 February at Sambhar near Jaipur when they were both 20 years old….anyways, close enough! Whether it is Wendy and Saurabh or Akbar and Jodha, the two couldn’t be any more different yet they are brought together as one and it is that love that we need to remember and respect.

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Saying a quick hi to Wendy along with Diana

Hi Friends!

A few things before we get to see you beautiful party people in India:
Please arrive at the Jai Mahal (wedding venue) at 1 pm (an hour later than what was originally written on the invitation) on Saturday, Feb 7.
We have arranged transportation for you between the wedding venue and your accommodation on Feb 7 and 8. You only need to arrange for your own ride to the wedding venue at 1 pm on Feb 7.
On Feb 7 we will be able to tell you what time the festivities begin on Feb 8 (India is a pretty chilled out country and the event timing for day 2 are still in flux). :p
If you have purchased your own sari, feel free to wear it on the first day (Feb 7).
But for those of you who are performing, please also bring your change of clothes/dance costumes with you if you plan to change for your dance/singing performance (which will happen on the evening of the first day Feb 7). Saris are pretty hard to dance in. :p
Love you all to bits and see you soon!

Wendy & Saurabh

With the wedding invitation clutched in one hand, I entered the gates of the Jai Mahal (the wedding venue). Diana and I were wowed by the grounds of this 5 star hotel which is a 270-year-old Indo-Saracenic architectural masterpiece set amidst green gardens. The wedding kicked off at 1pm after we went sari shopping in the morning.SONY DSC

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Like all Indian weddings, it’s colorful and filled with happiness. There were many activities at the venue from singing contest to games to dancing to fortune telling and more. SONY DSCSONY DSC

Before joining in the fun,  Mehndi, a ceremonial art form typically for brides at weddings was also made available for the guests. The Henna paste from a plastic cone was applied on both my arms and after 20 minutes, the mud dried and cracked leaving behind a beautiful intricate design that will last for days.  Looking back, the wedding was wonderfully organized. Colorful, cheerful and extremely educational, it offered a great insight into the richness of Indian culture as well as a great way to meet new people and socialize. It was great to find some time to congratulate Wendy and it was super to not only meet her family but also her husband Saurabh and his family.

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With the beautiful Wendy 

I understand that it might be weird but I was so bouncy and happy to have that chance to meet their family. The truth is, I’m obsessed with my friend’s family and in particular their parents. Being the kidult that I am, I see them as: ” Well-educated parents do not allow their kids to play with idiots like me so if I’m on my best behavior then Aunty and Uncle will definitely allow me to be invited to their kids future birthday party.” FACEPALM- There is no hope left for me. Anywhos, let’s just say that I was high- completely high during the two days that was Wendy and Saurabh’s Wedding. I felt great happiness since I was invited to share that positive feeling and looking back, I thank them for their generosity!

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With Sarah’s father and his comrades

Wendy and Saurabh’s wedding is short by Indian standards. I’ve heard of Indian weddings lasting for 3 days or more. On the second and last day of their super wedding, I learnt a lot about Indian culture, symbols and rituals.  Basically, the 8th of February is “tie-the-knot” day and this is when friends and family play a huge part in the wedding. I was super excited and a tad nervous since I was going to perform that night. Weddings bring two families together and since this is one of those rare and beautiful interracial weddings, lots of people attended the important celebration. 

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The bride and groom placed wedding rings on each other whilst in blindfolds.

 

SONY DSCAfter playing chess with Saurabh’s nephews and waiting for the drizzle to finish, it was time to prepare for the evening ceremony. Both the bride and groom were ceremoniously decorated and Wendy had Mehndi (symbolizes the “awakening of inner light”) on both her hand and feet. Very rich in culture and deep in symbols, many steps are involved in the whole process. Since this was held in Jaipur (North India), the rituals and style is different from the South. Judging by the holy Sanskrit vows, it must be a Prajapatya marriage.

After lunch, I had great chats with Saurabh’s family members. His aunt is a doctor and a member of parliament so we chatted about social policies. Another aunt is a fashion designer, an uncle is a geopolitical scholar, another a photographer and Saurabh’s father who served in the Indian Army not only taught me chess but also chatted with me about Sino-India relations. After the long conversation, I witnessed the Tel Baan ceremony and watched on with absolute fascination.

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Paste made from herbs, mustard oil, fresh milk curds, henna and turmeric were applied symbolically to Saurabh’s feet, knees, hands, shoulders and head seven times (I’m guessing it was seven times due to the Seven Saptapadi) from bottom to top and then top to bottom. Darkness slowly descended upon us so we sat around chatting and waiting for the bride and groom.

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The bride and groom emerged and the dance performance started. When Wendy asked if I could do a dance for her, I couldn’t decline. This is a big moment for her and I can’t stuff it up so in order to prepare for my routine, I learnt traditional dance from the Indian Embassy in Beijing as well as watched Bollywood MVs from Eros Entertainment on youtube—-trying my best to mash up a good upbeat music and to learn the corresponding moves. Looking back…the normal thing to do is to pick something other than Indian music since trying to dance to Bollywood music in front of dancing kings and queens is a great way to embarrass myself. Nevertheless, me + Bollywood makes a great combination for this festive celebration so I went crazy with “Tattad Tattad.” I forgot a couple of moves but I was glad that people enjoyed it and most importantly, I’ve re-ignited my passion for dancing and my love for Bollywood.

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Learning a few moves from the free evening performances at Jai Mahal

 

After the dance is the most important ritual – the Saptapadi or the seven step ritual/ Saat Phere (seven rounds).

SONY DSCEach steps corresponds to a vow the groom makes to the bride and vice versa. The holy language Sanskrit is used to pronounce the vows and the holy fire (Agni) burns in the middle. After every vow, Wendy, led by Saurabh walked around the fire with the end of their garments tied together (symbolizes a lifelong bond). This is called the ritual of agnipradakshinam. As I watched on, I couldn’t take my eyes away from the pleasant smiles on all the family’s faces. Like the fire, I am the yajna- the divine witness to this holy union. There are so many things that comes in the way of love- so many challenges…so many “it won’t work”. I am tremendously happy that these two lovebirds will build a nest of their own and from the bottom of my heart, I wish that happiness and fragrance (Saurabh means fragrance in Hindi)  will stay with them for a lifetime! May everyone find that special someone to grow old with. What a honor it is to participate in this wonderful and important life event! 

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Thank you!

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