Though I have met some really awesome people during my time in Malaysia, I must admit my circle of friends here is still pretty low. Consequently, I have been actively trying to make friends by accepting nearly every social invitation offered.
Last month, I attended my first Indian wedding of my friend Prakash, who had been one of my cab drivers when I first got here. Though we had only spoken a couple of times, Prakash not only invited me to his wedding, but to stay over at his family’s house the night before to see some of the ceremonies that take place during an Indian wedding.
Though at first I was a bit hesitant to stay with people I don’t know alone in a foreign country, I decided to take a chance. What’s life without a little risk anyway? So I packed up my new sari, matching shoes, a change of clothes and off I went, making sure to leave the address and phone number with a friend, just in case someone needed to locate the body…
At first it was a little weird. As the lone, blond white girl in a house full of Indians (all family too), I didn’t exactly blend in. Luckily for me, Prakash’s family took me right in and soon I found myself surrounded by a bunch of Indian children who kept asking me questions and fighting for my attention.
The whole evening was pretty exciting. The house was full of commotion with people all around eating, chatting and running around getting things ready for the next day.
One of the coolest parts of the evening was this pre-wedding Hindu cleansing ceremony. Though I am not exactly sure what was going on, Prakash sat in a chair while several of his aunts smeared this yellowish paste made of turmeric on his arms and face and sprinkled water on his head. They also had this thing which looked like a covered rock that they circled in front of his body and pretended to throw at him. Again, I had no idea what was going on, but everyone seemed to have a good time :).
Awhile later, I snuck away to the couch in one of the bedrooms upstairs to try to get some sleep. Though the wedding was at 7 a.m. the next day, no one else seemed too concerned about sleeping the night before. To me, 7 a.m. for a wedding is WAY too early to even think about attaching yourself to someone for the rest of your life, but apparently in Hinduism you consult an astrologist first who finds out the best time of day the couple should be married. From conversations with others Indians I’ve met, 7 a.m. isn’t too bad compared to some of the 2 a.m. or 4 a.m. ceremonies they have attended in the past!
The next morning is a kind of a blur. I remember waking up around 5 a.m. and scrambling with the other women to shower and get ready to be at the temple on time. Though I had been shown by the tailor how to tie my sari (and he had sewn it in a way to make it simpler) I was very thankful for Prakash’s aunts and cousins who made sure I was correctly put together before walking out the door :).
Once at the temple everyone rushed to get out of the car and start bringing things inside. Trying to be helpful, I offered to help carry something. The next thing I know, a tray is placed in my hands, and I find myself at the FRONT of the procession to the temple where the groom’s family offers gifts to the bride’s family. Somehow as I walked forward thinking, “What the hell am I doing? I don’t know where to go!” I managed to slink back further in the line before I before I embarrassed myself (and them) and eventually separated myself from wedding participant to spectator, which I was a lot more comfortable with :).
From what my sleep-deprived mind remembers from the rest of the ceremony, there was a lot of music, candles, flowers and rituals, most of which I didn’t understand. At some point, Prakash tied a necklace around the bride’s neck, everyone threw rice and Jullian told me they were married now.
Afterward, everyone ate at the temple then went back home to socialize, eat some more and rest before the evening reception. Though people mostly seemed happy during the event, I gotta admit, I’m not exactly sure if I would characterize the faces of the bride and groom as joyous… Prakash and Premla, like many Hindus, had an arranged marriage, and didn’t know each other well before the ceremony. At one point, Premla burst into tears while sitting on the couch at Prakash’s house. One of Prakash’s cousins then told me, as if it’s no big deal the bride is sobbing, that it’s normal for the bride to cry on her wedding day, because she has to leave her family’s home to move into her husband’s.
Though the idea of an arranged marriage is a completely foreign concept to most Westerners, a lot of thought is put into finding a compatible match for their children by their families and apparently there is a lot of success in arranged marriages. I haven’t spoken much to Prakash since the wedding, but here’s hoping they find happiness.