As our car pushed through traffic in Gurgaon outside of New Delhi in India, my mother looked out the window in disbelief. What had been fields of trees and open land just ten years ago was now piled high with glass structures, buildings and high-rises designed in contemporary sweeping styles that seemed alien. My mother, who had grown up in New Delhi, struggled to recognize buildings, roads and landscapes, now changed with fly-overs, bypasses and overhead metro tracks.
Finally we entered into the heart of Delhi, passed government buildings and embassies and arrived at the ITC Maurya, a five-star luxury hotel where an entire tower had been reserved for our family’s wedding party. Security guards checked the baggage and women in matching make-up and saris greeted us, gave us our room key and draped maroon and saffron colored garlands around our necks to welcome us.
But don’t mistake the sound of luxury for a laid back time. We arrived just before 5 p.m., and had to be dressed and ready to leave in the lobby by 6 p.m. The elegant room I shared with my mother suddenly got really cramped with bags, clothes, shoes, jewelry boxes — and mirror space was shrinking. Just two rooms down my aunt and cousin were getting ready. It seemed like every five seconds someone was ringing the doorbell to our room. This chaos became the pre-show routine before each event.
Indian weddings last for days, and each day there is a different ceremony. In hindsight, it was all a colorful blur and to recap each moment would take pages. Most Indian weddings are a big deal, but big is underwhelming in this instance, when the family allegedly spent somewhere in the ballpark of what would be $3 million on this ordeal.
The first night was an introduction to glamour, and I was hardly prepared for how the event decoration alone would transport me to another world. Thousands of tea lights and red drapery guided guests into an area with seating, a dance floor, and an open bar. Waiters floated between mingling groups with snacks and drinks, and professional photographers and videographers captured the moments when guests greeted the groom’s parents. Before long I was wrapped in a historic moment; three generations of my family members in a circle on the dance floor, dancing Gangnam Style. I’ll never forget it.
Day two took us to the Taj Hotel for a private concert by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, apparently a big deal. The wedding party spilled out into three different rooms and food was served on the lawn. My cousins and I made it a point to find seating for just us since our feet were killing us, and we finally got a chance to talk and get to know each other. Having been flung all over the world, this was my first real introduction to my second cousins; sisters by Indian standards. I was surprised by how much us girls had in common. My mother pointed out that we had a picture of me as a child in traditional Indian clothes sitting on the fountain in the main lobby, so I took another picture of myself there, now 20 years later.
The third day was by far my favorite, although the bride and groom were actually married on the fourth day. This event took place on the lawn of the bride’s home. A massive pink and purple tent stretched over the football-field-sized lawn, under which elegant seating was arranged in the center. All around the outside of the seating were different booths; a foot massage booth, tarot reading, cupcakes, chocolate milk, tea leaf reading, two open bars, and one of the biggest buffets I’ve ever seen including a personal pizza chef. The important mehndi ceremony was held there, at which women have their hands decorated in intricate designs pasted on with henna and dyed into the skin. As I write this, my mehndi has now faded completely, almost a month later. Dancers put on a show, and the bride and groom’s friends did, too. At the end of the night, my cousins and I danced on stage with an Indian Idol star, and as I looked around at the swirling colors and smiling beautiful faces I knew this was a once in a lifetime big, fat Indian wedding.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.