Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Family fun and a wedding: Bangalore

I spent the past week ensconsed in the bosom of the family in Bangalore. A host of relatives flew in, from interstate and abroad, for my cousin's wedding. Usually family gatherings like this can be somewhat fraught affairs, such is the volatile mix of personalities jostling for attention. We all have great fun for the first few days, then around about day four there's some kind of combustive meltdown followed by loud arguing in the corridors, and everyone can't wait to get away by day six. And then there's the organisation, or lack therof; trips outside the house or hotel, say to go shoe-shopping or for dinner, is an experience best likened to trying to herd cats with ADHD. 

Thankfully, this time there were no such dramas. Apart from a bit of tension over my maternal grandmother and her failing short-term memory (like asking when it would be my turn to get married) and her bizarre latent religiosity (like having twice-weekly fast days in which she eats nothing but potato chips, and refuses to take a glass of water from the non-Hindu maid), everyone got along famously. There were even tears as we said goodbye - of sadness, not joy.

On Saturday night there was a cocktail party at the Bangalore Club

My cousin's mother (seen above to the left in red) is a fabulous Page Three socialite type; her friends arrived early, glittering with jewels and giggling into their mai-tais. "I was Bangalore's first aerobics instructor," one told me, proudly.

Then on Tuesday, there were three events. It kicked off with the baraat: the procession by the groom and his friends and family to meet the bride's side. With both mothers from the Coorg region, the baraat incorporated traditional customs from the region. 

This bit was fun: we danced down the street while my cousin strode down, wearing a white robe with a dagger stuck in the belt, under an umbrella. Vis the lack of organisation or timeliness, my aunt found herself wheeling a suitcase filled with the groom's clothing changes down the street. 

Then there was the ceremony. Here, a few hundred of the closest friends and family stand around, half-watching but mostly chatting and catching up. This required another clothing change.

Then more people arrived for the reception. Hindu weddings are auspicious occasions; no meat or alcohol are generally served - hence the cocktail party a few nights earlier. 

Unlike Australian receptions, which are boozy affairs filled with speeches, dancing, and frivolity, the Indian wedding reception is exceptionally, teeth-grindingly boring. There is no structure: no MC, no bride and groom arrival, no sit-down meal, no speeches, no dance, no cake, no sentimentality. Rather, the bride and groom sit on thrones on the stage, while a long line of guests snakes around the room, clutching gifts. They slowly shuffle forward until it is their turn to greet the couple, hand over their gift and have their photo taken. There are hundreds of chairs set out in the hall facing the stage but no one is sitting; everyone is either in line or in the dining room next door, standing up with a plate of (vegetarian) food trying not to spill the palak paneer on their Kanjeevaram saris. Once they've eaten they go home, change into pyjamas and watch the cricket with a tumbler of Teacher's. The couple and their families must wait till the 700-odd guests have eaten before they get to dine, usually around midnight. Then there are a couple more ceremonies before we're free to go home, change into pyjamas and sink a few G&Ts to get over the day.

(all images thanks to Jason Staines)


Unknown said...

great culture style of kodavas, kodavas keeping culture not only in coorg everywhere. i wish to kodava to keep your tradition. Coorg Tourism

Unknown said...

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