Chennai and the Sru-Kalyanam!

#throwback
Three months late! I’m totally skipping like…weeks of my India trip and all of my time in Thailand so far to write this post about dearest Shrewpa’s wedding! Updates about the other bits in between may or may not follow in the months/ weeks to come, so stay tuned.

Robin (my friend from the UK who really wanted to attend an Indian wedding so I invited him to Shrew’s, with her permission) and I arrived in Chennai from Pondicherry. Pondi is only 150km away from Chennai, but it took almost 5 hours for that journey – don’t ask why; the only explanation is “It’s India”. After Robin dropped his stuff off at his hostel, we headed to meet my mum at her hotel.

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Mum in India!

Bit of backstory as to why my mum was there – when I told my family that I’d be travelling around India next and that I’d be in Chennai for Shrew’s wedding, they very excitedly decided to meet me there for a few days to check India out (after 20 years) and do some shopping. It worked out perfectly, because I needed to buy clothes for Shrew’s wedding anyway, so they could do the shopping, I could wear the clothes, and then they could take the clothes back to Singapore while I carried on enjoying life. My dad had gone to Thanjavur for a couple of days and my sister and niece weren’t arriving till the next day, so it was just mumsie, Robin and me for shopping day 1 of 1000000 (I kid, but it felt like we spent sooooooo many days shopping).

My aunt who lives in Chennai had invited us for lunch, so after stuffing our faces with superamazing biryani and mutton and chicken and all sorts of other things (it’s definitely a thing: Indian families = eat till you burst), we headed to an 11-storey Pothy’s to get ourselves wedding-ready. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I was overwhelmed before we even began but off we went.

Robin’s outfits were first order of business, and since he’s a guy, he was done with his outfits in about 20 minutes. He hung around valiantly for another 30 minutes or so while mum and I tried to pick outfits out for me, but eventually gave up and went back to his hostel, leaving mum and me to it. Good thing he did too, because we only finished with the shopping about 4 hours after that. x_x

 

 

 

 

End of Day 1 in Chennai.

Day 2 was slightly better – we visited the Kapaleeswarar temple and Valluvar Kottam, before picking my sister and niece, up from the airport. Decently fun, and the heat of Chennai made bearable by the fact that we were ferried around for most of the day in an air-conditioned car (perks of travelling with family)!

 

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Huge chariot at Valluvar Kottam

 

 

The next day was Shrew’s wedding Part 1! The morning was some sort of ceremony for the couple to get blessings from their elders so that the wedding would go smoothly (I think). Robin and I turned up mostly to mingle, to eat and to get some henna done. It was probably the only time I managed to have a conversation with the kalyana ponnu, Shrewpa.

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Kalyana ponnu, Shrew, and me, with a very distracted Shnoo

 

After that, it was back to the hotel to chill and relax before getting dressed for the evening celebrations! The nichayathartham, or engagement ceremony, is basically where the two families officially and publicly promise to marry their kids to each other. We basically spend most of it taking pictures and trying to figure out what was going on (as people usually do at Indian weddings).

 

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Wedding glow.

 

 

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No escaping now.

 

Robin and I showed up just in time for the Kasi Yaatra the next morning, where the groom pretends he’s going off to Kasi to live an ascetic life and the bride’s father stops him by promising his daughter’s hand in marriage. Rather elaborate play-acting which I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

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“Here is an umbrella full of flowers! Marry my sister!” – Karthik

 

After that, the bride and groom were hoisted on their uncle’s shoulders and they tried to garland each other. It looked like fun for the couple, but I can’t imagine how the uncles must have been feeling. (Bursting with joy, of course!)

 

Next was the couple being sat on a swing (that represents the ups and downs of married life, apparently) and fed bananas and milk by the married ladies of the family.

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Shrew’s face – ups of marriage, Ram’s face – downs of marriage.

 

The proceedings after that point were not too clear – some sort of prayers, and then more prayers, and then eventually Sru-Ram were married! Woooohooooo!

 

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But we decided to take pictures anyway.

 

Throughout all of that, there was a ton of food, and one of Shrew’s uncles constantly kept checking in on us about whether we were enjoying the food and festivities. It was good fun and like at all Indian weddings, I ate too much.

After that, it was time for some much needed R&R before I got dressed to go for the evening reception. Robin wasn’t feeling very well, so I didn’t have a date but still, it’s hard not to have a good time when there’s good food. And just like that, it was the end of SruRam Kalyanam! Thank you both for having us at your wedding!

 

The wedding was over, but our stay in Chennai was not. The next day, Robin and I met up with my parents, sister and niece (cute little grub child I want to eat her) to head to Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We tried (and failed) to pass ourselves off as locals, and ended up getting a guided tour around, which was pretty informative.

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With the family at Mahabalipuram.

 

The rest of the time my sister and niece were there were spent shopping and eating for the most part, so I’ll skip over that to the other interesting thing to happen in Chennai.

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I was squashed in the back with all the shopping. -_-

My sister and niece had left, and my parents wanted to do more shopping (surprise) before they left, so Robin and I bailed to go to an amusement park instead. It was quite a hassle getting there – for some reason, some of the buses on that route said they wouldn’t stop at the amusement park, so we ended up having to wait ages to get the right bus and it was all very annoying but finally we managed to get there. The entrance fee wasn’t cheap but it was worth it. We were expecting to have a laugh at the lame rides, but it ended up being pretty fun. We went on a few of the major rides (not the scariest one though – who knows when the last time was that the rides had been serviced), and had a pretty good time! Not a must-go, but decent enough to kill a few hours.

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Check out the tacky dragons at the amusement park – Dizzeeworld!

Then it was time to say bye to the parents before their flight, and that was about it for Chennai! It was fun (minus the shopping bits) but I must say I’m not dying to go back again. Still, worth it for the time I spent there.

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Bye parents!

Wedding, Kalyanam, Shaadi

The real reason I came to Bangalore – Reshma and Ankit’s wedding (#reshkit), and now it’s over. The festivities have passed somewhat in a blur, but it has been absolutely wonderful being among friends and seeing one of my best friends get married to a man who makes her face light up and her eyes sparkle. ❤

The wedding festivities started off on Tuesday with…dance practice to rehearse a performance for the sangeet that evening! It was fun (and funny) learning the steps and dancing along (really badly) while also joking around with the others who had come for the wedding. It was really great seeing people I haven’t seen in years and the dancing wasn’t too bad too.

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The boys learning their dance steps.

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The girls were obviously better.

After that, it was back to the hotel and a mad scramble to get dressed for the evening’s festivities! Trust me, three girls getting dressed in less than an hour and a half is no mean feat. And…back to the venue we went!

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Sindhu, Aditi and Sruthy – Gorgeous as usual!

With all the lights and decor in place, the venue looked absolutely magical. Fairy lights everywhere, lanterns hanging from the trees – it looked like something out of a movie set.

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I’m not part of the decor.

Reshma and Ankit eventually made their grand appearance and they both looked absolutely stunning (not that they don’t always). The whole event was wonderful, and I especially loved how intimate everything was.

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Spot the couple!

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The Prabhu mothers-in-law showing off their moves!

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RGS/RJC Represent at #reshkit

The evening’s celebrations ended not too late (thank goodness) and we headed back to the hotel to catch some shut eye before waking up at the crack of dawn (not even – it was still dark out when we woke up at 5.30am) to get ready for the actual wedding ceremony. We eventually piled into the van at about 7.30am and off we went. What a transformation! The wedding prep team must have worked all night to tear down the previous night’s decor and set up for the morning ceremony! It was so gorgeous and almost unrecognizable as the same place.

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Same place, different decor!

As typically happens with anything where Indians are involved, there was a delay in getting the pujas started and everything eventually only got under way about an hour after they were supposed to. Thankfully, breakfast was provided so we all stuffed our faces with fresh idly and dosai while waiting for things to get under way.

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Vivu, Sushma’s adorable son with his idly! ❤

First major event of the wedding ceremony was the baraat, or the entrance of the groom. Ankit rode in on a horse, preceded by a whole bunch of dancing people and two (!) very enthusiastic bands. It was great fun to watch, but I think the people dancing had more fun!

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Baraat dancing and singing, with Ankit on a horse!

Reshma’s family was waiting to welcome them and there was obviously more dancing (Indian weddings feature a lot of this)! Fun fun fun stuff.

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This is Sushma’s “welcome groom’s family” face

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Dance-off between the bride and groom’s families!

Then, Reshma made her entrance and it was on to more serious stuff as the actual wedding rites started. The priest was cool and explained a lot of what the Sanskrit mantras were saying, so that was very informative. The key point that I gleaned though, was that Reshma is Ankit’s Lakshmi (goddess of wealth), and that she has the final say on his expenses. Oh, and that if Ankit needs to travel for more than 3 days, he has to bring Reshma along. Very interesting stuff – I had no idea that’s what all those mantras meant!

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Reshma’s dad giving her away to Ankit.

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Ankit takes Reshma’s hand in marriage and promises to hand over all his money to her.

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The happy couple and their parents!

The Konkani part of the wedding rites over (Reshma’s family is Konkani), Reshma was sent off to change into a different outfit for the Punjabi half of the ceremony (Ankit’s family is Punjabi). By this time, the midday sun had gotten to most of the guests and they decided to hide out in the sheltered area…which gave us the chance to get up close to watch the ceremony right on stage with the couple and their families!

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Walking seven times around the fire

The rites were completely different, but eventually ended off with the tying of the traditional mangalsutra and finally, at long last, #reshkit were married!

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Adorning Reshma’s forehead with kumkum to signify she’s off the market, y’all.

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Tying (? he kinda clasped it) the mangalsutra. Officially traditionally married!

Wedding festivities were almost over, but not before it filling our bellies with an incredibly tasty South Indian thali and we finally waddled off back to the hotel at about 2pm. I was exhausted, so I can’t even imagine how Reshma and Ankit were feeling – especially since they sped off to do a house warming ceremony too!

While they were being busy bees, we headed back to the hotel for some R&R before the afterparty planned for that evening. It was a nice chill afternoon with good conversation with friends I hadn’t seen since…Sushma’s wedding. How time flies, eh? The afterparty was also really nice – very chill at a cool brewery in Bangalore, so plenty of time for chatting and relaxing after the frenzy of activities at the actual wedding. Excellent time to unwind.

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Totally unrelated picture of my feet in the very trippy hotel lift, because I didn’t take any pictures at the brewery.

And just like that, the #reshkit wedding was over! I had an absolutely fabulous time – it was great seeing all my friends, and a huge thank you to Reshma and Ankit’s families for organizing everything and making everyone feel so welcome. Mad props also to the couple for planning such an amazing wedding – it couldn’t have been any better.

Here’s wishing you guys a very wonderful married life and all the very best in Barcelona and wherever else life may take you! ❤

Welcome to India where the cows eat hay and we drive auto rickshaws everyday

Written 21 November 2013

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First stop on my trip – Indiaaaaa. The whole experience was AMAZING. I haven’t been to India since I was eight, so it was quite exciting to be back, and with friends, and to attend Sushma’s wedding. It was great catching up with Sneha, whom I hadn’t seen for over a year, and hanging out with Aditi and Sruthy. The flight itself felt like it took FOR-EVER, for some reason, and was full of crying, whining, annoying children (those of you who know me would probably know I have very little patience for children). Not a pleasant experience at all. *shudder* Anyway, our flight landed slightly past midnight, and we met Mufeedha and Faiz to take the van/bus to the hotel that Sushma’s parents had very kindly arranged for us. The hotel (Grand Hotel)was pretty fancy and the rooms were huge. Met up with Sindhu who had taken an earlier flight and spent the rest of the evening getting acquainted with Sushma’s other friends (Dhivya, Harvind and Han Chin) who were also there for the wedding.

We had initially planned to spend Monday getting all prettied up for the wedding, but in typical India style, there was a bandh, strike, so none of the shops were open and the transport didn’t work either. Ended up spending the morning hanging out after a delish breakfast and then taking a walk around town. It was blistering hot and we walked for quite a while before ending up at a hotel (Avenue Centre) for a buffet lunch.

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Headed back to the hotel after that to get dressed for the evening function. Everyone looked lovely and Sushma was so gorgeous in her sari! It was a fascinating ceremony, where the groom, Vineet, was supposed to embrace bachelorhood and head off to Kasi, and had to be wooed to stay with the promise of marriage to a wonderful girl, i.e. Sushma.

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After he had agreed to stay, there was also a little ceremony where the bride had to grind some things in an old-fashioned stone grinder. We hypothesized that it was probably to show off the housewife-ly skills of the bride to convince the groom he had made the right choice. It was all great fun, followed by amazing food.
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Photo credit: Harvind Vinod

The next morning, we had a houseboat trip. We took a two hour bus journey to Allappey, which was highly entertaining and amusing, primarily thanks to Vineet’s uncle Kumar. Such an energetic man! There was lots of singing and dancing on the bus and the two hours flew by quite quickly!
The houseboat trip was great – we got to know some of Vineet’s friends, and had more amazing food plus some extra local fare (karimeen and some coconut thing). Great fun.

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Took a nap on the way back and then got dressed for the evening event, the sangeet. It was absolutely incredible. It was a huge carnival like you see in the Bolllywood films. I didn’t know people actually had such things and was stunned. There was a henna booth, a guy doing caricatures, a lady giving out bangles, a popcorn and cotton candy stand, a live band, a magician, FIREWORKS and so much more. It was really amazing. Sushma looked like an absolute angel. I swear, she was glowing. Vineet was also very dashing and they make such a cute couple! I honestly don’t think the sangeet could have been better even if they had tried.

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Wednesday morning was the actual wedding itself. Everyone looked amazing in their saris and when we got to the wedding venue, we got a sneak peek of Sushma. She was so gorgeous and radiant, and I think seeing her in all her wedding finery finally hit home the idea that she was getting married. We all became kinda emotional at that point and had to leave so we wouldn’t ruin her makeup. The wedding started off with the baarat, to welcome the groom. there was an elephant leading the procession, followed by singing and dancing family and friends and finally the groom on a horse drawn chariot. Amazing stuff and it was so much fun! More weddings should be like this! Sushma and Vineet looked stunning and just thinking about it makes me super happy (:

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Congratulations to the newlyweds! After the wedding ceremony, we were enlisted to participate in some sort of game/ceremony where we had to steal the groom’s sandals from his cousins and haggle with him to return them to him so he could get off the stage. Very amusing stuff. Then was lunch, and back to the hotel to rest for a bit before the reception. I went to get a head massage during that time – as we say in Singapore, it was super shiok, and I could have sat there all day. But I couldn’t, so I got dressed for the party and packed up most of my stuff to send back to Singapore with Sruthy. The mood at the party (at least amongst our group) was kinda subdued, partly because the trip was coming to an end and we were all pretty tired by then. It was still pretty fun and Sushma and Vineet had the post-wedding glow going for them and looked fantastic as usual. People (Varun, Sruthy, Aditi, Sneha) started leaving one by one and the party came to an end after some dancing and about an hour of saying goodbye in typical Indian style.

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All in all, it was an amazing experience and I had so much fun in these three days. Seems like my trip is off to a good start, and I hope the rest of it continues in the same vein. I’m just about to board the flight to Dubai to see Zehra, and I’m super excited! Keep watching this space for more updates!

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Till then, goodbye and good life!

Title credit: Welcome to India, MC Vikram and Luda Krishna