We left our last blog post with a storm warning, and a storm there was, literally!
The bangle debacle did eventually come to an end and I got to keep my forty red bangles on (not that I would have had it any other way!). If asked, the truth would be revealed and if not, then no unnecessary details would be divulged. Thus, we somehow reached a state of compromise that was to be maintained till the end of the perfunctory wedding rituals. This breakthrough moment of calm and composure, however, was immediately disrupted by waves of chiffon and georgette and velvet jewelry boxes heavy with gold. It was time!
I was dressed and made-up like an ‘Indian Wedding Barbie’ , whilst some of the younger women tried to teach me that a bride should always be bashful and gaze downwards, never directly at her grooms face. I wondered whether this particular convention was to ensure that in an arranged marriage situation, the bride didn’t head for the hills upon laying eyes on her husband-to-be for the first time. I was a fish out of water. A fish starring in a bad Bollywood movie, complete with song and dance at the Sangeet!
At the wedding reception Anurag and I were made to stand on an elaborate stage like wax statues at Madame Tussauds, while groups of people arranged themselves around us for pictures. When it was finally time for the Pujari to perform the nuptial rights, we were interrupted by a massive sandstorm! Everyone ran for shelter, trying to protect their wedding finery which was now covered in dust. At last at 2 a.m. in the morning, the storm let up and Anurag and I were finally married, again!
I let out a big sigh of relief- I had it made it through in one piece. My celebration, however, was premature. My parents had to catch a flight immediately and I was unable to see them off as I still had some more bridal business to attend to (Read more about the many wedding rituals here). After the Bidai ceremony we went back to the house where Anurag and I had to play a few husband-wife games, generally designed to make the new bride feel more at home. Although it may sound fun, at 6 a.m. in the morning there is no game that could be more pleasurable than sleep. We were finally left alone and it started to sink in. I was now a proper Marwari wife.
The fun didn’t stop there…after barely two hours of sleep I was awoken and made to play dress up again in order to formally present myself to Anurag’s family. The most daunting of all was greeting Anurag’s grandfather. The oldest member and head of the household, his room was surrounded by a somber air that instilled fear in the rest of the family who skirted back and forth across his door. I was the portrait of an obedient Marwari wife, head covered in a shawl, as I bowed in greeting to this intimidating figure. Once all acquaintances were made, we headed off on a hot, sweaty and cramped road trip to visit their native places.
This roller-coaster ride soon came to an end and it was finally time for my husband and me to return home to Melbourne. In only a few short days I had experienced more culture than I could stand, met more people than I cared to know in a lifetime and gotten to know a whole new side to the man I married. I remember thinking, “I am never, ever going to live in India!”, but fate works in mysterious ways and the smallest decisions can put you on a path headed to where you’d least expect.
The real roller-coaster ride had only just begun.