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Beyond tourism, a pilgrimage and good old fashioned “family time”, one of the biggest reasons for our trip was to find my uncle a wife. Naively, I thought this process would include a variety of meetings, an eventual decision, and perhaps a wedding in the following year. But this is India remember? A country far more capable of churning out “arrangements” in record time…
…Two weeks into our trip, my (native) uncle’s house was abuzz with excitement. It was like wedding-planning on speed.
“But who’s uncle marrying?”, I inquired.
“We don’t know yet, but we’ve almost made a decision,” replied my mom.
So a wedding was being planned with only half of a couple? This sounded vaguely familiar, if only for the way obsessive girls in North America plan out every detail by the age of twelve. Beyond that though I was baffled.
My mom followed up with the photographic evidence: “It’s between these two, we’ll be seeing them one more time tomorrow.”
I studied the small crinkled photographs, with the frightened-looking women staring back. They both looked fairly average I suppose, with one photographed from further away to highlight a skinny body, and the other with a closed-in shot to distract from a plumper figure. My uncle himself was nothing more than average either, with his moustache and normal-looking features. But of course his appearance was of zero-consequence, since the woman is forever the lucky one (happy to be chosen, thank you for the invite).
With the homestead chaos carrying on ’till well after 2am, I closed my eyes with confusing thoughts…would I grow up with an arranged-marriage future too?…
…The following day at approximately 3pm, the iron gate creaked opened and the van zoomed in, kicking up dirt and grinding to a halt by the cow that was chained to the tree. Out marched the five of them: my parents, my grandmother, native-uncle, and bachelor-uncle.
My cousins ran out to greet them with excitement, with their yammering Punjabi coming out at sixty words per second. I stood there crunching on an Indian apple (smaller and sweeter there), trying to decipher the multiple layers of Punjabi code.
A few screams later and I’d figured it out: bachelor-uncle had chosen his bride. She was the skinnier one who’d been photographed from far away.
And the wedding date was set…three days from now. Three days.
It wouldn’t be hard to imagine every second of the madness that ensued from then until the ceremony three days later, but I’ll still offer up some highlights: giant bags of flour, samosas being fried in the yard by moonlight, neighbours dropping off all their extra chairs (too late for rentals), my one-year old cousin pouring diarrhea by the bucket-load (was I the only one who noticed?), and my mother going off on her stressed-induced rants approximately once an hour.
Which brings us to the wedding day. I actually hadn’t met the bride or my “aunt” as she’d very soon be, so when she inched her way through the temple, draped in all those pounds of gold and thick red fabric, it was the first I’d ever seen of her.
Meh…she was alright. Not that I was writing her off, but with all that “face gold” and hastily applied make-up, it could’ve been anyone (note to self: look classy and gorgeous on wedding day, with professional make-up applied via airbrush, and a limited amount of jewelry on the face).
The ceremony progressed as all Indian weddings do: some readings I didn’t understand, four (or five?) walks by the groom and bride around the altar, and boom: they were married! My favourite part of this wedding (and all Indian weddings) was the costume change before the party. I had chosen a stunning Indian dress in pink, purchased on a last-minute trip to a textile shop. Looking back it was more of a “Pepto Bismol” hue that makes my stomach turn as soon as I even picture it, but in the moment I was feeling good.
I was feeling good even though the dress didn’t fit me right, since it was pre-sized and readymade vs. tailored. But it was glittery and pink and I looked sexy…even with my zero makeup, bushy eyebrows and lack of curves. I looked sexy.
I hadn’t felt this sexy before, and it almost made me feel like I’d return home to my high school as the “hot girl”. I mean…why else was the videographer pointing the camera in my face? It had nothing to do with the fact that the party was occurring in my uncle’s yard, where the space was small, putting the camera in everyone’s face for a while. That wasn’t the reason. It was my glorious Pepto-Bismol Indian dress, I was a woman now.
Fourteen-year-old sexiness aside, the mission was officially accomplished: my uncle had his bride. Afterward I had the chance to speak to her one-on-one, and to my surprise, she wasn’t so meek after all. She was kind of…aggressive. But it was fine I guess. And so my uncle would take her back to Canada…
Side-note: by the time this wedding was over, my trip was only halfway through. I’ll continue with that in the following post, but just as an added note, that bride my uncle bought? She became a psycho somewhere along the way. You know the usual stuff, like going into psycho control fits, and shutting out her Canadian family, while taking my uncle along for the ride. I guess it’s still going on, since I now have three young cousins living fifteen minutes away, and I’ve only ever seen them twice in my life. Ahem…yay for arranged marriages!
[This post is another in the series of my first family trip to India in ’95. Here is the next installment]
So, I’m actually the first one here… yeeii! Now, on the comment part: reading your arranged-wedding-madness post, my rockin’-theme civil wedding (no religious ceremony please) sounds so much better. Score for Duffboy! Mishu is not psycho, thank God.
Indian weddings sound glorious.
How scary! Organizing a wedding and choosing a bride in just a few days…that’s totally insane! I’m very selective when it comes to dating. You gotta give it at least a month to figure out if she’s a closet psycho or not. 😛
Wait a minute, wait a minute, hang on a second. Back the marriage-mobile up there, my friend. Child pouring diarrhea by the buckets? Um, what? I got to the end thinking “Ok great, and of course she goes nuts, but what about the poo child?”
This post needs more pictures!!!
The people demand it! 😉
3 days?!! Whoa! I’ve taken longer to pick out furniture.
The beginning of this story really hit me. Americans seem to make such a big deal about other cultures and their customs. Americans cannot believe that Indians would have arranged marriages. When you said how American girls plan marriage from the time they are young, I realized that this is true. Girls in America are technically going through an arranged marriage too. The guy is arbitrary. It is all about the wedding! Sorry you don’t get to see your cousins. Boo for arranged marriage!
Indian weddings scare the crap out of me
I hope your internet guy is doing well and that the marriage will be very soon and that you don’t get roped into an arranged marriage.
Yikes. Arranged marriages scare me. This story did nothing to sway my opinion either. LOL. However, on odd occasion, I am amazed when I get to talk to people who have survived it and who don’t feel that way. It’s interesting to hear things from their point of view although I would never trust anyone else to pick a groom for me. Hell, I wouldn’t have trusted my own self when I look back now and see the type of boys I fell in “love” with in the early years. Yikes!
Wow. I feel bad for your uncle! I do not get the entire arranged marriage deal as it is culturally foreign to me. If I was a gambler (which I am not) it could be cool in a “let’s see what I get” kind of way. Then again, if you get a lemon you’re pretty much screwed since marriage is for life (in theory).
Could your uncle have gotten divorced or is that a big no no with arranged marriages? That sucks about your cousins.
I am babbling now but this post put so many interesting questions into my head! 🙂
Eep…well at least the arranged marriage has been interesting to say the least??? I hope you are doing well!
ARRANGED MARRIAGES ARE THE NORMS HERE AND MOST PEOPLE ARE COMFORTABLE WITH IT AND PREFER IT ALSO. THE SIDE NOTE STRUCK ME .
duffboy: I’m so glad your precious sweetie isn’t a psycho, and gosh, a civil ceremony sounds PERFECT 😉
bronsonfive: oh they are indeed glorious. Just wait for my sister’s wedding. That may require a couple weeks worth of postings 😉
omegaradium: ya, and I need at least a month to solidify and convince others that I am NOT a psycho, lol 😀
Emerald: HAHAHAHA…I knew you would catch the diarrhea bucket-kid reference!!! His diapers kept filling up so fast dude!!! It was a gooey mess but I was a well-trained babysitter so I think I saved him 😉
Otto Mann: hahaha…I would love to, but those were pre-digital camera days, and I don’t have a scanner! AKA too much work! 😉
bluesuit12: haha, and at least your furniture won’t go all psycho on you!! 😉
Justin: haha, boo for arranged marriages indeed! I feel like I always have to add the disclaimer “but it works for some people!”…usually I do, but tonight I don’t feel like it, so fuck it, hahaha 😉
Shweta: no, no! They shouldn’t scare you if you are a guest! But to be honest, I didn’t like Indian weddings until about a year ago…I still FREAK OUT about them if I’m the subject matter, but getting all dressed up and be-jeweled?!?! ALL that food??!?! Glorious! 😉
Kerplar: wow, thanks for remembering him! Sometimes I forget I’m still supposed to marry him, HAHA…in other words we still talk, but…well anyway who knows what the future will be….still hopin’ 😉
teeni: BUT COME ON, this was an endorsement for the arranged marriage ritual! 😉 I’m not sure if I trust myself either….I more like trust the universe and think good thoughts, lol 😉
Black Coffee & Bourbon: Divorces are a BIG no-no unless the wife is being beaten really badly or something. OR a divorce happens if the woman runs away and goes and lives with other friends or relatives because she only married the guy to get a green card…sorry if all that sounds blunt but it’s true!!
sammy25: hi there, yes I’ve been doing well, a little tired but worse for the wear…generally good though! 🙂 I hope you’re doing well, you must be really busy, haven’t seen you post in a while!
lviss: hi there thanks for finding my blog 🙂 Where are you from? And yes that side-note is totally true, what can I say?
I AM FROM CHENNAI . WILL BE LOOKING UP YOUR BLOG.
ha ha, never been to an indian wedding, but yes, only scary if i was the piece being played! ANY kind of wedding scares me ha. I’ll have to make sure to fly in to your arranged indian/canadian wedding to someone with a british accent!
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