Let the Wedding
My freshly hennaed hand.
Imy and his new wife.
October 22, 2007
This evening it all started.
And how did it start?
With all of the females in a room getting our hands hennaed. And this man was a pro. And truly was. He moved quickly and
made beautiful designs. I personally loved what he did with my left palm – it started with a sun and then he started making
fishies. It might not sound like something you would want on your hand for weeks but I am personally happy that I get to look
at that each time I study my palm. Viva la fishies.
After getting hennafied, more of the traditions continued. They started with sitting in a room of females. The woman in the
family sang around a circle while Lateefa (the bride-to-be) sat in the middle. They took turns brushing her hair and then
started tying things into her hair with braids. But here’s the sad part – she looked so…well…sad. I could not stop staring at the
blank and hollow look on her face. I started thinking about what she was about to enter into – saying good-bye to the life and
family that she knows and going off to be part of a new family…a new family she doesn’t even know. She is about to spend the
rest of her life with someone she doesn’t yet know. Seriously…there are people that I’ve dated that I have been completely
crazy about in the beginning only to be driven crazy by every little thing a few months into it…and don’t even get me started
about guys I have met and was initially totally annoyed and bothered by them. Talk about a crap shoot when it comes to
happiness. I know that would be one crap shoot I would lose. I get ill over certain disgusting little habits. How in the world do
you know what your future holds? I’m such a cynic, huh? But I was really just basing this on the look on her face. All I could
think was ‘Damn, I’d be an f-ing mess right now if that was me.’ We did make eye contact at one point and she gave me a little
smile. That was a bit reassuring. But only a bit.
The next part of the part of the night belonged to Imy (the cousin of Feroz who is the groom-to-be). We all stood around him
while he got his pinky hennaed. Then people wrapped paper around the finger, followed by wrapping some cold hard cash
around it. This happened while more music was being played and songs being sung.
After these two traditions were over, we all sat around and ate. We met another girl, Ramona, from Germany who is also
attending the marriage. I think we are all excited to see what comes next during the next few days…
October 23, 2007
1:00 am (so it is technically October 24, 2007…)
So we basically pulled an ‘I’m going to an Indian wedding’ rookie move. While I assumed this the past couple days, tonight it
Of course we thought that any Indian wedding requires wearing a sari.
Haha. Joke is on us. We are getting a crash course in Indian culture. I can at least say that. How were we to know that saris are
only worn for Hindu marriages and not Kashmiri Muslim marriages? How were we to know that virtually every tradition for
these two different types of marriages would be different?
Christine and I decided we would play dress up tomorrow night and put on our saris to take pictures of each other…but we
wouldn’t leave our houseboat wearing them. After that, my sari is going to be perfect for Halloween 2008 when I am going to
be ‘Indian Princess Jen’. Gotta get some use out of it!
Luckily upon arriving in Kashmir Feroz’s wife Shazia lent us each an outfit to wear. I love everything about mine. And it’s a
good thing since this is going to be what I am wearing three nights in a row.
So this was what we were wearing when we were in the hall in the house yesterday that was lined with pillows and women
sitting along the perimeter. We were waiting for the guests of honor (Imy and Lateefa). But in the meantime we would listen to
the band playing Kashmiri music and the women singing songs. This lasted for a while. The girl in band started singing. It was a
voice that would have my friends preferred to listen to me sing. In fact, they might have started begging me to sing. I think
this is all that needs to be said about how good her voice was.
In due time, Imy and Lateefa walked in together following a number of people carrying candelabras with candles and a woman
carrying a cake. More singing took place and they took a seat at side-by-side chairs. This was the time that photographs were
taken with the family members. Then came Imy’s finger being once again hennaed and wrapped with more money.
Around this time I noticed something and I told Christine that I knew where her shoes were when she needed them. She said
“Oh. They’re outside the room, right?” To which I replied “Nope. They’re on that woman’s feet over there.” Pretty funny. This
seems to be a normal practice out here. It happened to us yesterday as well when we could only find one of my shoes and one
of Christine’s shoes – turned out a woman in another room was wearing one of each of our flip-flops.
After the cake cutting and the cake eating dancing followed. There was a guy and a girl and they were going to town. But then
they started pulling woman out to dance. A bit intimidating considering nobody else was dancing. Christina, an Australian
woman, was the first to be pulled out and she took it like a champ. I was amazed by a person’s ability to do this without the
effects of alcohol. Feroz came up to me and told me to go and dance. Um…really hard to do something like this at a dry
wedding. I told him I would do it tomorrow. Minutes later the guy dancer was in front of me with his arm out reaching for me
to go dance. It was so weird – I ended up getting up without much of a fight and got right into it. I mean I really got into it. I
was mimicking all of the moves he was doing…and I have to admit, I wasn’t half bad! Then the girl grabbed me out there and
we started doing one of those things where you cross your arms and grab each other’s arms and start spinning around really
fast (a la Leo and Kate in the basement party in Titanic). I was on a natural high out there not even realizing that the whole
room was watching and that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
When I was done, I came back over to Christine. It turned out she took some pictures. I looked at all of them and one thing
was consistent – the look on my face. There was one thing I thought when I saw these – ‘Oh my God. This is what all of my
friends talk about when I am dancing.’ I say this because they all laugh about a certain ‘look’ I get on my face when I dance. I
am always in denial when they make these claims and I tell them that they are exaggerating. But now I have seen it. And
considering my facial expression is the same in every picture that was taken, I have no choice but to own up to it now. I am not
proud of it but I will at least accept it.
I guess the dancing got me a bit worn out. That…and our early morning…and it being so late right now. But we’ll be back for
October 24, 2007
The traditions continued this morning with Imy receiving a hair trimming and a facial hair trimming. We missed it. ‘Sleeping in’
has become a novelty that we haven’t been able to enjoy until this morning. So we took advantage. We made it in time for Imy
to come out after a long bath (another tradition) and getting changed into one of his outfits. We went by while he was getting
ready to make his entrance into the tent to give him his gift then (since we didn’t really know when this was supposed to be
done). When he made his way out of the houseboat, it was all about hugs to the family members. His dad, uncles, aunts, mom,
etc. Then he sat in his chair in the woman’s tent (there is one for males and one for females). Picture-taking and gift-giving
then ensued. That’s when Christine and I looked at each other and said “Hmmm. Maybe this was when we should have given
him his envelope.” That’s okay though. Just another rookie Kashmiri Indian wedding move. I told Christine that we should
have googled this topic beforehand to get the proper protocol. Lesson has been learned. There was also a drink being given to
everybody in the tent – it was a milky beverage with different Kashmiri spices (like cardamom and saffron) in it. The Indians
absolutely loved this stuff. For our Western palates, it was something that had to be taken in a bit more slowly. A little bit later,
Lateefa was the guest of honor in the women’s tent. We learned a thing or two from earlier. This would be the time that we
would give her the envelope. And during these times of gift-giving, there is a family member sitting right next to the person
writing down the exact rupee amount that was being given (similar to how presents are recorded at your birthday party when
you are a kid). Could almost make it embarrassing if you don’t give enough. At least at home that is how it would be – it is
probably not the case out here.
And then there was Lateefa’s face. A face that we have seen smiling many times since we have been here. But not today. I
have never seen a person look so upset to be receiving money.
We just saw Imy off as he is going to the bride’s house to bring her back here. He came down in a new frock and got into the
backseat of the decorated car. The next time we see him, he will be accompanied by his ‘wife’. And it’s so crazy that they are
already ‘married’ yet they haven’t even seen each other yet. Apparently it became official when the bride and groom were
asked in their respective homes a few questions asking if they were giving their consent. And then a paper was signed on each
end. And a new husband and wife were born.
As we saw Imy’s car off, there was a fireworks display in the sky.
Now we are relaxing a bit – more music is taking place right now but we’re going to take a break for an hour or two and
unwind. Christine and I just keep saying to each other that we can’t wait to see Imy’s bride. Personally, I can’t wait to look at
their faces and their body language. I’m just remembering an Indian wedding last year that I crashed with Feroz and the bride
and groom looked absolutely miserable. I told Christine there is a chance that we might be seeing something like that tonight.
(And again tomorrow, for that matter.)
We just finished watching Imy come back with his new bride.
While we were waiting in the house listening to music and watching a dancer, we were told ‘Imy’s on his way back with his new
bride’ almost in a way like ‘Imy’s on his way back with his new car.’ Okay. Maybe not quite like that. But kind of.
When they came into the room, they sat side-by-side with the girl’s face hidden behind a veil. The singing continued for a while
before her face was shown. In the meantime, I was trying to study body language. And it was pretty sad. She was breathing
extremely heavily and Imy, a guy who oozes personality, just seemed a bit checked-out. Imy’s mother removed the veil to
show the new wife. It is safe to say that it was far from happiness on her face. People came by and either kissed her on the
cheek, touched her face or added more gold to the collection already on her wrists and hands. The whole time they were sitting
there, they never once looked at each other. Never. According to Christina (the woman from Australia) who was at the bride’s
house when Imy came to get her, there had not yet been one word exchanged yet. I kept glancing at Christina in an ‘Oh my
God…is this not the saddest thing?’ kind of way. I think most people don’t look as sad as the bride did at funerals (actually,
Ramona said this afternoon that she went to an Indian funeral a couple weeks ago and the people there, in fact, did look
happier than the bride today).
A little bit later, the bride was taken away by the arm (which was a good thing because she would have totally collapsed
otherwise) while Imy went to the continuation of the celebration upstairs that was taking place for his cousin, Lateefa, who’s
going to be going through all of this tomorrow night. (We would later find out the bride was taken to a different room in the
We went upstairs to find Imy happy and charismatic while dancing with his relatives. Now that was the Imy we came to know.
Lateefa also seemed to be happy and smiling (something that isn’t as common on her the past couple days). She was then
seated with her uncle in front of two cakes. They tore off small pieces and put them into people’s mouths.
And then it was time for more dancing and singing for them… At least now the mood seemed a bit more joyous.
Just like after traveling through the Middle East, Indian weddings have left me more confused and having more questions than
I came here with.
October 25, 2007
If you want to see something sad, there is no need to rent a movie like ‘Beaches’ or ‘Love Story’…all you have to do is attend an
We had the day to ourselves (where we managed to do some Kashmiri shopping) and then the evening started with fireworks
and upbeat music. We had to rush to get ready because we didn’t want to miss a thing. We showered and threw on our
Kashmiri wedding attire pronto and got out just in time to see the fireworks going off in the sky. Score for us and our timing!
The car drove up. It was Nasir – Lateefa’s new husband – coming to fetch his bride. We were so curious to see how this night
was going to go. Where they going to look miserable? Were they not? Hmmm….
We were taken into the women’s room in the hall where Lateefa and Kulsum (Imy’s wife) were sitting solemnly side-by-side.
They looked beautiful, as did their outfits…but DAMN did they look depressed. But then something happened. Kulsum
whispered something to Lateefa…and then they laughed. Laughed! I hadn’t seen such a thing from either of them. Amazing!
We sat next to a woman who was part of the Lodi dynasty. This actually meant something to me since I have been to the Lodi
Colony in Delhi. I told her this and she informed me this was named after her family. Wow. She was a beautiful and lovely older
woman. But it still shocked me that she was so forthcoming with being part of ‘a dynasty’. Most people at home would keep
that under wraps. Though she wasn’t bragging about it. It was just interesting. She now lives in England.
We headed upstairs for a few minutes to check out the groom. Imy wanted me to tell him which girl had the better guy. True
Imy. Christine and I both agree that Imy’s wife is a lucky woman. Though it was great to hear Imy tell me tonight that he is
‘really, really happy’ with a huge smile on his face. Gives me some reassurance of this whole thing.
Dinner was then served in this room and a little bit later, both of them were led out.
Enter Suriya and Saima…
Two sisters – 9 years old and 5 years old – came up to us and started chatting away. Man, were they cutie pies. At first it was
just a matter of practicing English (I assume) but then…as Suriya would say… we had ‘a new friendship’. I’ll have to admit – I
might have been somewhat of a bad influence as I got the two of them to take crazy pictures with me. It was so much fun
though! They wanted us to sing an American song. We sang ‘You are my sunshine’. We asked them to sing a song. I nearly
freaked out when they started singing a song from ‘Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna’ – the Bollywood movie I saw last year. They were
excited when I knew the song. Then I busted out with ‘Where’s the party tonight’. The three of us started to sing. Man, was
this fun! I then started reminiscing about the movie. Suriya told me she likes SRK. I told her I was an Abhishek fan. She gave
me a bad look. She eventually warmed up to the idea of Abhishek. We started taking more crazy pictures. I was so sad when
we finally had to say good-bye to them to head downstairs to catch Lateefa and Nasir as they left.
I watched Lateefa get veiled. Once again they both looked solemn and numb as they boarded into the car and left.
And now the wedding was over. So many events. So many traditions. And we got to be a part of it. Pretty incredible.
Now it’s just time to find something to do with that saree of mine…
October 26, 2007
On our way to the airport this morning, we asked Ali (Feroz’s dad) more questions that were on our mind. He basically
informed us that Imy married a cousin (his aunt’s daughter). And that a lot of the unhappiness was actually ‘an act’. He told us
that the brides and grooms had been in touch via phones for months in advance. This made me much happier to hear…
|Cousins who are the soon-to-be
groom and bride.