Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Almost First Indian Wedding

Ever since I first saw an Indian wedding in a movie, I've always want to see one in person. SO I was really excited when I was told that a close friend of my host sister's would be getting married this year. I went to her engagement earlier during my stay and in these past few days the wedding happened. Well not just the wedding, as anyone who knows the Indian traditions can tell you. Many ceremonies and gatherings happened starting 5 days before the wedding and I got to even participate in one.
Each Indian family and group has it's own traditions and one that is common is what is called Sangeet (which means music). Basically, it is a reaffirmation that the couple is engaged by an exchanging of rings and they eat cake. There is also a pooja between the groom and the bride's brother. Afterward, there is a performance by the close friends and relatives (and sometimes the bride and groom). I was asked if I wanted to participate and so I said yes, doing 2 dances. Okay I'll back up and explain. The bride and groom employed a choreographer to make a compilation of dances set to Bollywood songs to be performed. There were about 14 or so songs and I learnt the steps to 2 of them while other like my host sister, participated in many. Despite the fact that I wasn't quite sure I knew the steps all the way and ended up messing up the first song, the second song went fine and I was happy.
That was Saturday night and on Monday was the Mehendi party and pooja in the girl's home. There was a DJ, singer, and Indian drummers playing music while the bride and friends/family danced in a circle. Numerous times, people would circle money around the bride's head as a blessing and give it to her. She had already gotten her mehendi done earlier so all the other women were getting it put on. I was waiting for a call from my mom so I left a bit early, after having cake (of course) and but soon got a call form my host mom saying to come back up and see the banglewalla. I was interested and so I went. The banglewalla wouldn't make one for me but I atleast got to see how big clay bangles are made. Basically, the banglewalla had a big stick of clay on which he put the heated painted and after letting it cool, spread it out like a thin stick and then wrapped it into a circle (sorry I don't have pictures).
The next night was the wedding or, as I have mentioned, the almost wedding. No, there wasn't a runaway bride or a secret girlfriend. Instead what happened was that first we missed the entrance of the groom because I had homework to finish so we figured we would go later, which is a shame because I've always wanted to see the groom riding on the horse with the band and everyone dancing around them. So after we were all dressed up, we got there during reception (backwards from American weddings, I know). Everyone was eating or going to congratulate the bride and groom + family up on stage. We had been there for quite a while when I was told that the wedding wasn't going to take place until 1:30. In the morning. Well it just so happened that I of course had school the next day and in no position to stay up late (more on that later).
So we ended up leaving early, not without also going up to congratulate. Despite not seeing the wedding, I had a good time anyway. Of course, I was the only white person there and so there were some awkward moments but at the same time, I loved dressing up in my new kagra choli.

As I mentioned before, at this point in time I'm in no position to stay up late. You must be thinking for obvious reasons since staying up late means lack of sleep and you would be correct. In America, I rarely stayed up past 12 and still managed to get about 7 or more hours of sleep; if I go below that and have to go for school, I end up falling asleep in class. Due to stress because of projects and various other distractions, I've been staying up rather late recently, sometimes til 2 which has caused my work and concentration to suffer. Now, you must be thinking, why does it matter if you fall asleep in class there? You're not completing the program with the kids.
That's true but I'm still a student of the school and, since it's an international school, I can still obtain credits for graduation by attending. But you can't really pass a class unless you put in effort. Another reason for my regard towards my classes is my own respect for my school and fellow students. I'm attending one of the best schools in Bombay, not to mention India, on a scholarship. Plus how can I relate to my classmates if I'm not doing the work with them and struggling on common ground? I would rather be respected for trying and failing to keep up with my friends and classmates than to attend class and not do the work at all. Plus, all of my teachers are doing a big thing by giving me advice and helping me with time management to do my work and possibly change my schedule so that I won't be too stress with experiencing culture and keeping up with work. That's a big thing to have while on an exchange and I know it's a rare opportunity. Which is why I'm making the most of it :D
In other news, I recently switched my service project. Although I loved the kids that I went to see every week, I decided to move to a new project that is a Habitat for Humanity club at school. Being world renowned, I think it would be a good way to get involved and change some lives. Just your average service project aims :]
My dance class is going well. I started learning choreography last week or so but now I have a break since my teacher is going to be in her hometown of Agra for about 20 days for a wedding and some performances. While I'm a bit put out, it isn't too bad considering what happened last class. You see, I learned out to go around in a circle on my knees but because I'm not used to it, my knees got skinned up. Consequently we had to put antiseptic and some indian medicine on it. But somehow, the wound got infected and my knees feel super sore so it is a good thing I don't have class. Hopefully, it will get better soon.
Tomorrow's my mid-stay orientation here in Mumbai for the YES kids. Hope it goes well :] I'll update when it's over.


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