13th May 2015. It was nine thirty in the night, but the day seemed to have just dawned at the Uppal residence. Everybody was out and about. A makeshift throne was being prepared for the modern-day queen of 18, Cherrygate Lane. Turmeric and scented oils were being concocted in an urn to make the sacred haldi paste. Aunts and uncles, cousins and friends had descended from far and wide, and could be caught sitting around sipping on their teas and martinis. The air was festive, the mood exuberant.
I was the newest entrant into this huge conundrum of family and friends. So obviously I was going around greeting everyone, introducing myself to some of the members I didn't know (of whom there were many) and then slinking back into a corner and willing myself invisible. I have this thing where I get all clammy and self-conscious in the company of too many new faces. At social gatherings I generally tend to lurk on the sides, alone, until I'm forcibly included in a conversation. That's just how I am. But I digress.
So as I was sitting behind the kitchen table, updating my folks back home on our safe arrival, I heard footsteps coming down the wooden staircase. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a dainty little thing enter the room wearing clothes I wouldn't exactly call, um...festive. Why, it was our very own pretty bride Neha, all ready and dressed
up down for her Haldi ceremony! Wearing her best clothes for the occasion wouldn't have been a
very bright idea anyway. Much like stepping out on Holi in brand new, shining
white clothes (something only Bollywood celebrities and other insane
people do) isn't.
For all those who think traditional Indian ceremonies in the West lack the charm and ritualistic authenticity that is found here in India, what I observed was actually completely otherwise. For the entire evening, and for that matter the entire duration of the wedding, I almost forgot I was in the US and not in India. (Excepting the scenic locales, of course.) Sure, there initially was some confusion regarding what all to put into the haldi paste, and whether olive oil would do in place of mustard oil without bringing down the auspiciousness quotient of the sacred paste. But the rest of it was pretty much smooth and very much 'Indian'. Take a look.
|The proud father beginning the haldi-lagaoing ceremony. Look at the smiles! So much feels.|
|And the chirpy little sister, Anisha. I so envy the bond these two siblings share - it's amazing.|
|The adorable nani of the bride. A real fun person to talk to!|
|The bride's Bombay-wali mami. And the ecstatic looking bride herself. I couldn't imagine being half as happy as her if I were being smeared with haldi paste left, right and center. But then, I'm not half as sweet as Neha either. So.|
|The bride's bua and chachi (i.e. my mom) making sure her legs get some haldi-ka-nikhaar too.|
|The haldified Neha dancing to Bhangra beats with her awesome cousin |
|And that's me, your 'phoren-return' narrator, with my dadi's sister - so technically my dadi-masi - so in short, dadi only. Duh.|
By the time I went to sleep on my first evening in the US, I had already taken about a hundred and fifty pictures and added a posse of new relatives to my extended family tree. Way to begin a holiday! But like I said, this was just the first day. There was so much more to come, and I have so much more to tell you all. So stay tuned and I'll treat you to all my US stories as I keep taking trips down memory lane.
You can find the previous post in the series HERE.
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