Monday, March 21, 2016

A Wedding in India - Chandigarh, Part II

Saturday, March 5, 2016

After a wonderful day in Amritsar, it was wedding time! We woke up and had breakfast at our hotel, the Hotel Icon, which was quite nice. I also snapped this shot of the morning's newspaper for Caitlin and Tej:

Around 9:30am, we started making our way to Beat Breakers Chandigarh, where we'd have a lesson for the group dance we'd perform that night at the reception. Did you know that I've been wanting to do a choreographed dance for a while now? Well, I have! Getting to the studio was a bit of an adventure (our auto-rickshaw driver started off by taking us a mile in the wrong direction until finally I started shouting directions using google maps), and then the studio was hidden upstairs above a little bookstore called Books and Brew. On google maps, these two locations appeared to be about a block apart, and neither of those locations was the correct one, but we were in the right shopping center and eventually found it, stumbling in about 5 minutes late. Somehow, we were still the first people there, but the rest of the crowd made their way, and we started dancing only about 15 minutes late.

Honestly, the dance lesson was one of the highlights of the trip for me. We had such a blast, even though it was about 95 degrees in the studio. The men and the women each had different parts, and it was shockingly hard to learn what our instructors seemed to think were very simple steps. After about two hours of practicing, we'd come up with a dance for the first 1:20 of the song, and decided that's where we'd have the DJ stop it. Here's the whole song, if you're interested:

I'll post video of our practice dances and the final performance later, once I get them from Emily or Jon.

After the lesson, I headed back to the Hotel Mountview with Abby and Caitlin's sister Kelly, to shower and eat lunch before the mehndi. Roger went back to our hotel to finish up some work, and I ended up emailing him to come over to the hotel once he finished with all my stuff, as I didn't realize quite how quickly the afternoon would go by (or how little I'd be able to do for myself once the henna was on).

The artist who worked on our henna was incredible. His designs were really spectacular (I got a peacock, and I also loved the fish couple he'd drawn on Caitlin's the day before), and he worked so incredibly quickly. I was the first to go, and this intricate design only took about a half hour. After that, I hung out with the other ladies on the balcony of the hotel, letting it dry in the sun.

Eventually, Roger and the other guys made their way to our room, and all of us did a little more practicing, trying to teach Jon, Kelly's fiancé, the dance, since he'd missed the lesson that morning. Ultimately we were not successful, and he volunteered to tape our dance instead, but it was still a blast playing around with everyone.

Eventually, Abby and I made our way down to Caitlin's room, where her hairdresser and make up artist could help us tie our saris. I got a tongue clucking because I hadn't ironed mine, so it wouldn't pleat properly, but ultimately, I thought it ended up looking pretty nice. But, India Lesson #6: those petticoats are really tight! I ended up having a bruise on my waist from how tightly it was tied. Kelly was also sweet enough to do my hair for the night. Roger got ready in another room with the guys. Here's the final product:

Once my sari was tied, I headed out to give Caitlin a little space before the big moment, and our little group hung around, not sure if we were allowed to watch Tej come in on a horse and dismount. (We probably could have, but after taking a few minutes to peek at the marching band and his pose, we headed back toward the tent where the reception was.)

If rain on your wedding day is a good sign, I think Caitlin and Tej are in for a long and happy marriage! Of the four days when they had wedding events, it rained on three of them, including the reception. We watched as the hotel staff brought all the supplies inside, and then as it let up again, bring them all back outside. Luckily, Caitlin, still inside and waiting to be brought to her groom, had no idea it had been raining. After Tej and his family made their way outside, we gathered to bring Caitlin out. We were under an awning, and standing behind her, seeing her outline in the the rain falling in front of the flood lights was such a cool and memorable moment. After a minute, she said, "Is it raining?" It was indeed. We walked out in the rain, and took some photos under the beautiful tents, but ultimately the hotel staff had to bring everything back inside a second time, and we continued the party indoors.

The reception was a ton of fun, with dancing, incredible food, and some lovely conversation with new friends. Tej's friends and family were so welcoming, and it was fun to hear about different wedding traditions from them. Did you know, for example, that in India, rain on your wedding day is good luck, but it also means that you either eat too much or licked the serving spoon when you were a kid?

Our dance performance went off pretty well, although I ended up tripping on my shoes about midway through. I would honestly like to bring choreographed group dances for weddings back to the US. It was so, so much fun.

At the end of the evening, we gathered our things to head home as Caitlin and Tej enjoyed a meal with their families. As I grabbed the keys to Caitlin's room, where some of our things were stored, Chris let me know that Caitlin had been a little concerned that the room was untidy when she left, so we did a quick clean up, and then I ran outside and stole a flower display to put on her dresser. It was nice to be able to do something sweet for the person who had been so considerate of our needs and helpful during our trip!

Sunday, March 6, 2016
The next morning, it was off to the Gurudwara Saacha Dhan Sahib for the Anand Karaj (blissful union) ceremony. The dress was more casual that day, but I think Caitlin looked even more beautiful than she had the night before (and honestly, that's pretty hard to beat).

The ceremony was lovely, and it was interesting to see what a Sikh wedding ceremony has in common with the Jewish and Christian ceremonies we've been to. Some things are universal (two people in love), and some things are different, of course. It was also really nice that the ceremony was translated, so we could see what was being said as it was happening.

After the wedding, Caitlin shook her kaliras over all the unmarried women to see who would get married next, and her lovely sister, Kelly, too the honor!

It was a beautiful, and moving ceremony, and the brunch afterward was so tasty, and a perfect way to welcome Caitlin and Tej to married life!

As we all left, Tej's sister, Guneet, told us that we all had to dance to show how happy we were and ensure they would have a happy marriage, and of course, we all complied, and Tej and Caitlin danced into life together!

After the brunch, Roger and I had a few hours to spend in Chandigarh before we grabbed the train back to Delhi, so we decided to stop at the Chandigarh Rock Garden.

Nek Chand, a self-taught artist, build the garden himself, and it features tons of strange and wonderful features and artwork, from waterfalls and sculpture to swings and a mirror room.

While we were wandering around, we stumbled onto Chloe and Francisco, who had also decided to spend the afternoon there. We found out later that Abby and Chris had also been there a bit before the four of us. It was quite the place to be for the wedding group!

Sadly, it started to rain a little bit after we met up with them, and so the four of us left the garden and headed to the Hotel Mountview to say goodbye to Caitlin and Tej. When we got there, Tej asked, "On a scale from 1 to 10, how much of a waste of time was the Rock Garden?" Our answer? "Zero! Worth every minute spent in this awesome, weird place!"

After a bit of time hanging out at the hotel, we headed back to pick up our luggage, and meet everyone at the train station for our train back to Delhi. The train was very comfortable and included an even bigger meal than our first train did. One of the snacks they served were samosas, and Caitlin's father, who was sitting behind us, had never had one before. It was a lot of fun to hear him try it for the first time - they're so delicious, and it was really cute to hear his description of what it tasted like.

After the train arrived, we tried to help Caitlin's family with their luggage and finding a cab, but they were already set and on their way, greeted at the door of the train by porters and a driver from their hotel. Talk about service! We didn't even get to say goodbye, it moved so quickly!

The rest of our group headed to the prepaid taxi line and said our goodbyes before we all headed in different directions. Chloe and Francisco were planning to spend some time in Delhi, while Emily and Karuna were on their way to Nepal. As for Roger and me? We were on our way to Rajastan. Now, you can choose your own adventure for which post you'd like to see next. (I recommend dancing...)

Up next: we dance like fools at the wedding reception!


Up next: we spend some time in Rajasthan and say goodbye to India.

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