Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Wedding in India - Chandigarh, Part I

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Chandigarh is the hometown of our friend Tej, and the city where the wedding would take place. I don't think we would have ended up there if it hadn't been for the wedding, so I'm really glad we did. It's a beautiful city planned by Le Courbusier, who I'd learned all about in French class, and it's home to many gardens, in addition to Tej's incredibly kind and accommodating family. This brings me to a fun thing about India which is that we harassed Caitlin and Tej and Tej's parents SO much this trip! I can't believe how much they ended up doing for all of their guests even though they were also at their own wedding. Sorry guys - but you really helped make the trip amazing!

Our first day in Chandigarh was a relaxing one. We had a tasty breakfast at our hotel, the Hotel Oyster, and then took a little wander around Chandigarh, which was much more walkable than Delhi, and easier to find directions for. We found the Zakir Hussain Rose Garden, and bought some freshly squeezed orange juice from a vendor outside. It was incredibly sweet, and I was pretty thrilled to spend 75 cents on what costs about $8 at most brunch places here. (I'm pretty sure the vendor was also thrilled for us to spend 75 cents, since we didn't haggle at all.)

The roses were really spectacular, and it was so nice to see them in March, since I always think of them as a June flower. We also spent some time chatting with a group of people who were visiting, and they told us about how they're building and marketing a solar-powered rickshaw with their company, Shree Kripa Motors. It was really interesting to hear about their ideas and what they're hoping to accomplish, as far as the environment and the economy goes.

We also stopped in the Leisure Valley Park for a snack, and wandered through the parks on our way to the Hotel Mountview, where Caitlin's family and friends were staying. If you're staying in Chandigarh, this is where you should stay. Our hotels were both nice, but this was only about $20 more each night, and it was definitely worth the extra money.

At the hotel, we met up with Tej and Caitlin's cousins Abby and Chris. Can I tell you that we fell in love with Abby and Chris? Oh my god, they were so cool. SO cool. You should click that link above and visit their blog, which covers the three months they spent traveling around the world for their honeymoon.

Anyway ... we headed with the two of them to the Elante Mall to meet up with Caitlin and start shopping for clothes while Tej met up with Emily and Karuna to bring them along later. Once they arrived, we separated out by gender, and shopped until we dropped. I wish we could have taken some photos of us trying on all our different outfits, but unfortunately, that's not allowed. I picked up a kurta to wear to the ceremony almost immediately at our very first stop, FabIndia.

Unfortunately, that's where my ease in dressing ceased. I loved these matching pants, but unfortunately, the large was a little too tight and the XL was out of stock. For the reception, we needed something a little fancier, and I wasn't sure that another bright pink shalwaar kameez I tried on would be fancy enough. Looking back, it would have been fine and I should have gone with my gut, but hindsight is 20/20 and I'll probably never wear a blinged out sari again, so. It's all good. Hours went by trying on lots of different clothes for all of us, and as the mall was closing, I still hadn't found an outfit for Saturday night's reception. Abby tried on a very beautiful, turquoise sari, and as the salesman was pulling it out for her, he also pulled a very beautiful, very bling-y sari in navy blue and red. I guess my color palette doesn't really change, no matter where I am, and so I was instantly drawn to it and at the last minute, she and I both bought the one that spoke to us.

We met up with the fellows after that, and found they'd also found some incredibly beautiful clothes. Roger even got a few items he'll be able to easily wear back in the states. Our mission (mostly) accomplished, the group (minus Emily and Karuna, who had snuck away for dinner earlier) headed over to Swaganth for some more delicious Indian food. I have no memory of what we ordered, but it was all extremely good, and we headed to sleep that night full and exhausted.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The next morning, Roger did some sightseeing in Chandigarh while I headed to Sector 17 with Emily and Karuna to do the last of our shopping. (I still needed pants and a dupatta, and Emily still needed an outfit for Sunday.) Roger saw the Open Hand Monument and spent some time in the Chandigarh Architecture Museum. I wish I'd been able to go with him, but I'm glad he was able to relay all the information back to me, because the creation of the city is a fascinating story of urban planning.

I found a lovely pair of duponi silk pants to wear to the ceremony (and hopefully to more events soon - they fit so well!) at Meena Bazaar, and a beautiful lace dupatta at Fancy Dupatta Corner in Sector 17. I liked the salesmen and the selection at Fancy so much that I ended up buying a number of other scarves from them, too. They had a great (and apparently fixed) price on pashmina, so I bought one for my mother and one for myself, and I also got some silk and wool blended scarves as gifts for friends at home.

After that, we headed back to Elante to meet Roger and pick up our clothes, which were being altered at the store. Sadly, the salesman told us nothing was ready, and that we'd have to come back at 5pm. Our ride to Amritsar was scheduled to pick us up at the Hotel Mountview at 2:30pm, and they'd told us it would be ready at 2pm, so this was clearly an issue. Somehow it came out that Emily and Karuna's lenghas were ready, but my sari top was not. After some conversation, they agreed to have the top ready for 3pm, along with other alterations for Emily and Karuna's outfits, which weren't quite perfect.

We called our driver, Harpinder, to reschedule his pick up to 3:30pm at the mall, and I'd thought he understood, but I was wrong, so he called Tej's dad (who had very kindly arranged for the ride - you see now that I was not exaggerating about how helpful they all were), to clarify, and of course Tej called us to find out what the hell we were doing. After I explained that our clothes weren't ready, he said, "Did you scream at them? Did you say you were calling the police?" and I said, "Um, no, but I told them we were unhappy. They're fixing it now. Do you want to talk to them?" He said, "No, you can handle this. You are handling this differently than I would, but it's going to be fine." India Lesson #5: If you don't get what you want in a store, threaten to call the police (YMMV - I did not try).

Roger and I grabbed a quick bite to eat at the mall food court while Emily and Karuna shopped for wedding jewelry. Eventually all of the clothes were ready, the sari top fit perfectly (which is what happens when you have something made to your exact measurements, I guess), and I was promised that I didn't need anything else for my sari. Not a thing. I was misled. Chris texted me later and said, "Do you know you need a petticoat for your sari?" and after some discussion, Abby was kind enough to search for them and pick me up one as well.  It seems they had quite the adventure trying to find them, as the (mostly male) sales associates at a variety of stores did not want to talk about where to find ladies' undergarments.

But, unaware of the necessity of a petticoat, we were ready to head to Amritsar. Harpinder—who we would quickly learn is awesome—picked us up at the mall and brought us to the Hotel Mountview, where Emily and Karuna were storing our luggage and overnight bags. Then, we were on the road!

Next up: we spend the day in Amritsar at the Golden Temple.

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