Creativity and Ramblings from the heart of NYC and around the World

Monday, March 12, 2007

Mumbai - Day 2: Weddings in Mumbai, India

Part II: To Close for her Comfort:
Let me begin by saying all information presented here was directly told to me on the long drive to the office today. I'm not sure if these traditions are the same all across India, or simply in this region...but it's a heck of different way to do things than we do it in the USA. Also, there are so many photos that I wanted to show that I've stuck them in along the way. There are zero photos to go with the top story...they most all go with the bottom story.

You'll see...I'll begin...

My vendor had originally planned to join us for dinner on Sunday night but had needed to cancel for some family business. What family business would take someone away on a Sunday from their clients who'd just flown in from the USA? (And who were thankful to be able to just go to bed any way...)

Wedding business! (Now pay attention - this is a little crazy!)

My vendor's niece lives some hours outside of Mumbai in a small city. She put her, I'll call it, "marriage CV" (the best photos you can have taken, age, size, weight, like/dislikes, education, class etc.) in with a matchmaker (I think from her church) who had found a young man in Mumbai that liked her CV and whose family wanted to start the introduction process.
Keep in mind that Women in India get married usually between ages 17-24, while men get married from 20-25ish. In India I'm well an Old Maid. This gal is in her early 20s nearing the end of her prime marrying time.

Because her Uncle is of good class and is well respected in Mumbai, where the young man lives, she journeyed to her Uncles house and now her Uncle would act as her guardian for the process ahead. He got the call on Friday that he and his wife and family would be expected at a tea on Saturday afternoon that was being presented by the prospective boy's family.

He and seven of his family members, all adults of good standing, went to the tea. The young man and young woman were NOT invited. The families take time to chat and size each other up to see if they think the families would be a good fit for each other. The outcome? The families call the young man and tell him to come to the tea. The young woman is summoned for as well and they are allowed to meet. Being that both of the families involved are rather modern, the two are allowed to go out to dinner and a date that evening to see if they are fond of each other. Had the families not been modern, they would have gotten 30 minutes alone together in a room to decide whether he is interested in her or not. In that case, if he was interested and her family also thinks it's a good match, she will have to marry him even if she's not interested in him. Divorce is not accepted and thus many a bride has been known to kill herself shortly after the wedding.
But back to "modern" times.

My vendor's daughter, almost of marrying age, went along on the date so the young lady would not be alone with a strange man. He picked her up in a super fancy car. Brought her flowers (something that's rarely if ever done in India.) She was pleasantly surprised by both.

The outcome? The date was not good. She didn't like him at all. When telling her family she didn't like him WWIII broke out. Her Mother was convinced he was from a good family. As a woman in India, having a good family (in-laws) is seemingly more important than a good husband. Once married you will likely live with your in-laws. It's rare for a young man to have his own home. You may also be living with the sisters, brother and their spouses...all under one roof. So you'd best get along with the Mother-in-law and sister(s)/sister-in-law(s), or your life will be hell.

After the date, her family waits. They wait to hear from the boy's family. It can be mere hours or days...or you may never here from them again.

Sunday morning they received a phone call from his family, and a second meeting was requested. This means my vendors family now had to present a fancy tea to the boys family.

Approximately 10 people from the gals side went to the tea...and almost 30 people from the boys side arrived. They can bring as many people as they want. They are all interviewing the gal's family to make sure she's a good fit for their boy...after all, even if she and her family likes him, if he says no, a mark is put on her family. Her family sends word through the matchmaker, an announcement at this time of how much they would be spending on the wedding. This shows not only their class level, but how much they care for their daughter.

A small wedding costs $100,000 USD with around 1000 people attending. (I don't even know 500 people!) From how it was phrased, I think they would have had to say a larger number for this gal. All of these things must be thought through very carefully even BEFORE the first meeting of the families. Nothing can be done to loose face along the way.

Both sides decide the kids should go for a second date. Begrudgingly the gal agrees for her Mother's sake and a lunch date is had. When asked, even her cousin, my vendor's daughter, says she doesn't favor this boy for her cousin. She can say no more in case her cousin ends up marrying him. She too cannot loose face.

Date two...not good. The bride returns home telling her family absolutely NO WAY will she marry this man. His family calls, still eager and interested in the gal and invites her family to their home for tea. The adults go in order to see where their girl would be living.

It was a very very good thing they accepted the offer for tea at the prospective new home.
HORROR! The house, although seaside, is a sliver of a house. Almost no windows (none facing the sea, no air circulation) and no room for yet another person. It was described to me as having had tea in JAIL.
They returned home to tell the girl she wasn't going to marry this family. They suddenly realized that it was likely the boy had even borrowed or rented the fancy car to woo her. This family was not of the same class level -- and had she married down - - oh the shame on the family. Of course the bride was furious that she had been put through all of that knowing she didn't want him from the start. She now goes back to the start and hopes for a better candidate once she has calmed down enough to consider trying again.

Photo at top right: A "Just Married" car outside a restaurant in Mumbai.

Part III: Tonight's wedding:
This is wedding season. It's an auspicious time. Monsoon season is just around the corner so the wedding business is buzzing in Mumbai right now! This wedding we were attending was the son of a middle class man who seemed to volunteer all over Mumbai with various organizations. It was a middle sized wedding... only 5000 or so people in attendance. Yes, I said 5000. Everyone he knows is invited. The mailman, yep, him too.

We arrived at almost 11:45pm and the reception was still hopping! My boss decided to return to the hotel instead of joining us for the festivities , so Dan and I were on our own with my vendor and his wife. This open air space was huge, the size of two football fields in the shape of an "L". From the street you may have thought it was a stadium the way it's lit up! You enter at the corner, through a gilded and flower covered archway (top right photo) greeted by a golden statue of Ganesha (shown second photo from top right). Ahead of you in the distance is a stage (Second photo down on the left lit up like Disneyland) with the bride and groom on it. Facing from the stage you see HUGE statues of horses and waterfalls. (Third photo down on the right.) The goal was to make this location look like a Palace of sorts. Yeowza! As you walk around you see random statues of warriors or Greek Gods (we weren't exactly sure) all to fit into the Palace theme.

People lined up for HOURS for their turn for a photo with the new couple.

The bride looked 19 to me, the groom perhaps 24. They had been standing there for HOURS. The beautiful bride wore an amazing bead encrusted dress, said to add 10kg to her weight. (That's a damned heavy dress to have to stand in with a smile on your face in the heat for hours.) That wasn't including the added with by the stone encrusted bangles or necklace! It is her duty to stand and greet and smile and thank and nod quietly at the side of her now husband. It's hard to say if she had a single meeting or many with him prior to the marriage.

I caught her eye for a moment in this photo. She looked down at the floor and then back up and me and smiled exhaustively at me as I smiled and gently nodded to her. With a blink she was back in place attending to her guests.

Once a photo had been snapped there was a mad rotating dash of people...

Then Voila... Ready for another shot...and another...

Dan and I were pulled into the crowd and suddenly there were flash bulbs going off. Our photo was taken with my vendor and the bride and groom and their parents. Of course, we were in it so we don't have it... I can picture them going through the wedding photos coming across this one and saying, "Honey, who's the white guy in jeans and the white girl in the sundress at our wedding??" No, we weren't exactly dressed for such an event, but it's not like we blended in as it was. **Grin**

From here we walked off the stage and towards the seating. Big over stuffed love seats and chaise lounges had been laid out to rest weary feet were located in the long part of the "L" parallel to the stage, to one side. These girls looked so beautiful in their modern patterned but classic saris. I LOOOVE the one on the far right!! Just beautiful!

The area that had housed the actual wedding ceremony was in the bottom part of the "L" where the food was now displayed. Food tour time. The night was winding down and man of the food station had closed. We were brought around to see what a food presentation at an Indian wedding was like...but not to eat. (Not because there wasn't enough, but because out vendor suggested we abstain since we had no idea how many hours it had been out in the heat! Wise I think.) Some of the presentations were interesting too. Below right is a display for South Indian food. They used corn (on the cob with the husks) to make flowers that hang from the "tree."

There were food stalls lining the outer edges of the huge space as well as free standing tables spread out around the middle. On one end was a single "U" shaped seating area that had been used for a small sit-down meal for the bride/groom and family. Everyone else ate buffet style, wandering and unseated. Remember, the seating area is in the other section of the "L" nearer to the stage. The tables in the background of this shot each had different types of cuisine on offer. Including a few Chinese tables and even a Baskin Robins!! Crazy.

After our very interesting peek into this wedding culture, it was finally time to call the day to an end... we needed our sleep. Tomorrow's our last full day in Mumbai and we've got a knitting factory to see!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A different culture. I hope the new couple has a happy marriage. From the pictures snapped, they weren't even holding hands at any point in there. Where they off the camera's? Or maybe public affection is frowned upon?
I still have to catch up on your other 2 posts, hehehe :)

11:33 AM

Blogger Celia said...

Wow, Kimberli. These posts from India are great! Thanks!

1:31 PM


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