We've spent a week with Ernest and his family here in Hyderabad. Each day there has been some kind of wedding preparation which has been a fascinating insight into the Christian Indian wedding culture.
On Wednesday we were invited to take gifts from Ernest and his family to Sneha his fiancé. This involved all the married women in Ernest's family taking a beautiful sari, gold jewellery, makeup and all sorts of fruits and cakes to her home. There she was presented with the gifts by Ernest's eldest sister, Marilyn. She changed into the ornate sari; we were all given gifts, daubed with sandalwood and then fed!
Back to Ernest's house where we spent the afternoon prepping for his groom shower. I made loads of beautiful marigold garlands to decorate the house while in the back of the house a crew of 3 Muslim men were cooking the food on big pots over fire, I couldn't help but notice the flies all over the food!
After a 4 hour delay in starting it was Ernest's turn to be in the spotlight. His Mum and Dad prayed a blessing over him and they then proceeded to cover his head and body with oil followed by turmeric! This is traditionally done to prepare his body for his wedding day. We were told not to wear good clothes and after a few relatives had blessed Ernest and smeared turmeric all over his body we realised why! Suddenly we were besieged by crazed family members smearing oily turmeric on our faces; we got right into the action and all ended up looking like the Simpson family! We all showered and then the girls were helped into beautiful saris for the next instalment of the party. From the Simpsons to royalty (that's how I felt!). Poor Jon his grey hair is still tinged with yellow!
Now we were all feeling lovely and sprinkled a handful of rice on Ernest's face while we prayed a blessing over him and he was presented with gifts (a gold ring, clothes, mangoes and sweets).
Many hours later and we were ravenous so we enjoyed a feast of Indian food. Next dancing and games! I must say I love the whole Bollywood scene and when the dancing started it was like we were in a Bollywood film! I loved every minute but I wished I could have done all the moves, I did however have plenty of young men willing to show me their moves!
The next day Ernest was confined to the house until the wedding but that evening the whole turmeric thing got repeated with his friends! It was lovely to witness all his family and friends coming together to bless him. That included all his aunties, uncles and cousins who had travelled miles to be there. I was so in awe of the unity of Ernest's family and how they they support one and other, especially as they considered us family and treated us like we were royalty!
The wedding on Saturday was at 5 pm and was in a Christian church attended by countless clergy members who all has their bit to do in the service. It was long-2 hours with no air con; my sari was stuck to me like glue, it must have been 35 degrees in the church! Sneha looked beautiful but sobbed all the way through as did her mum and sister as it's a huge deal for the bride as she has to leave her family and move in with the grooms family! It wasn't quite the reaction I expected from Sneha!
The wedding reception was attended by a 1000 people. We all walked on stage to greet the newly weds who had to wait hours before they ate surviving on a morsel of cake that they cut at the beginning. We finally ate at 11 p.m and made a hasty exit at midnight exhausted, sweaty and missing the dancing.
The plan is for Ernest and Sneha to spend 3 nights in a hotel where I'm told friends generally play pranks like hiding in their hotel room! Ernest will delay his proper honeymoon so they will both return to his home (another ritual).
Today we fly to Bangalore where we will spend the night before our flight home tomorrow. What a trip, I am so thankful to have had a little taste of India.