April showers will bring May flowers but February is wedding season in Delhi. I have to confess that since I’ve been here, a not-so-secret desire has arisen to crash an Indian wedding. Like hunting season, every pink, purple, or blue tent signals the beginning of the game. As foreigners, we lurk ready to pounce on any opportunity dance and eat with complete strangers on their special day.
Strike one: A week ago, Shanta, Lindsay, and I were walking back to our flat from dinner. Along our way we heard loud upbeat music and saw flashing lights and immediately assumed it was a wedding. The next logical assumption was that we should crash it. Naturally we didn’t want to be completely rude so we ran back to the flat to change into our Indian clothes. Once dressed in our kameez tops (and jeans) we made our way towards the noise. As we get closer we realize it’s coming from the nearby school of fashion. Confused we walk to a gate and ask the guard if it’s only for students. Hearing the word students, he assumes we study there and lets us by! So in we waltz in our salwaar kameez and see a full scale Indian fashion show run by students. We were surrounded by people in hip western clothes and of course looked out of place. We later found out that only students and family were allowed so though we didn’t crash a wedding, we at least crashed something.
Strike two: Yesterday, we had gone out for dessert. On our way back to the flat, we had a repeat experience and followed the sights and sounds to one of the apartment gardens. The entire garden had been blocked off by a huge pink tent. Lindsay, Laiah, and I strategically lingered outside the entrance for some time doing our best to look curious. When someone finally emerged, we of course acted completely surprised when he insisted we come in. “Who us? Really? Oh no, we’ve never seen a wedding like this. Oh we couldn’t come in, no, no. Ok, if you insist.” In true Indian fashion, we were ushered in and introduced to the bride and her entire family. Conveniently the brother of the bride was from Portland and spoke fluent English. He was very kind and explained that this was not actually the wedding but merely one of the five or six days of celebration that precede a wedding. Instead, we had crashed the pre-wedding henna party. Naturally, everyone insisted we get henna done on our hands. We agreed and sat down as a man began decorating my hands in traditional Delhi style. I think he was a bit bored with the traditional Delhi style and took advantage of the fact that we didn’t really know or care what the final product was. After doing one of my hands, he decided to switch it up and began what he explained was “Bombay style.” To me Bombay style looked like he was ADD and just sneezed random designs on my arm. Then, he took it a step farther and asked if he could do my upper arm, below my sleeve. As he was doodling with the sticky wet henna, he asked my name and then proceeded to tattoo my own name on my arm, very sailor-like.
Due to our brilliant lack of foresight, Lindsay, Laiah, and I were now covered in wet henna. As we not-so-gracefully managed to pick up our purses and head towards the door, young girls stuffed flowers into our bags and between any fingers that weren’t wet. We made our way back to our apartments and realized we now had to manage getting through two padlocks without rubbing the design off. As I reached into my bag to find my keys, I felt like I was playing an intense game of Operation, all three of us groaning in dispair with each smear of henna. After ten minutes of accidentally smudging my lovely design, dropping flowers and trying to pick them up again, and carefully opening the door with all body parts except hands, I managed to get into my flat. Having already gone to bed, Shanta sat up as I entered the dark room. She was concerned that I had hurt myself as I was walking “like Edward Scissor Hands.” I gave up on trying to get ready for bed and somehow fell asleep with both hands in the air and my arm away from the sheets. Any acrobat would forgive me for not being capable of a cartwheel after attempting a similar feat.
Though we still haven’t successfully crashed a wedding (the groom’s family wasn’t even present at strike two), I have a feeling the third time’s a charm. This is only the beginning of wedding season so bring it on Delhi!