Sikh Wedding Day

26 Nov

Although we missed the first wedding event on Thursday, yesterday proved to be a relaxing yet fun filled day. Sahiba (the bride to be) was already bicep deep in mendhi in her parents apartment. We met many other wedding guests, including other New Yorkers, family from Toronto and the UK. We all drank Kingfisher beer and ate lots of Indian food while dancing and getting our own mendhi. The women that came to do the mendhi looked very young, but were extremely skilled and worked quickly. The henna itself is made out of leaves and needs to sit for about two hours. We then dabbed some sugar water in order to let it set. The longer it sits, the darker the design sets, especially in the palm, which lasts the longest. Of course, it was now lunch time, meaning the boys had to feed us! This proved to be funny, yet frustrating. Relying on someone to blow your nose, pull down your pants and pour beer down your throat, really makes you feel like you’ve reverted back to infancy.

Once the paint had set it was time to look through Shagun’s closet for sariee’s to wear for the Sikh wedding. (Shagun is Sahiba’s older sister and is married to my manager Puneet. Shagun and Puneet also happen to be my neighbors in New York).

Traditionally, the Sikh code of conduct dictates that only those who follow the Sikh religion may marry under the ceremony, therefore, Sikhs cannot marry persons professing other religions under it. However, Noel Curtis, the groom, is Christian, and therefore technically not allowed to be married in a gurdwara, the Sikh temple. Fortunately, we live in modern times and the gurdwara on the Naval base in Mumbai where Sahiba’s father used to work, is fairly liberal. Since foreigners are not permitted on the base, we all had to get advance clearance. We arrived bright an early as our hotel is on the other side of town and the traffic in Mumbai is actually worse than Delhi. (James has been doing quite a bit of research as we’ve been traveling and discovered that 14 people die in car crashes every hour across India). When we got to the gurdwara Noel helped us pass security and we had breakfast while we waited for Sahiba to arrive. The boys wore their head pieces and the girls covered their heads before entering the temple. In the temple women sat to the left and men sat to the right. During the ceremony, or Anand Karaj, the Amritdhari (officiator) read/sang from the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Holy book). Also, the four Lavan (marriage hymns) were sung, while the groom led the bride around the alter and her two male cousins and brother-in-law (my manager Puneet) gave her away. This is because Sahiba doesn’t have any brothers. One of the things that impressed me the most was the Amritdhari had a powerful voice and hit some pretty difficult high notes, This is pretty unusual amongst priests. I never remember going to mass and thinking “wow! this priest has an exceptional singing voice.”

After walking around the alter, singing and chanting, standing up, sitting cross-legged and bowing, we were given a wheat paste that sort of tasted like cream of wheat, but 90 times oilier and with more flavor. Out of 6 of us, only two of us, including myself, had the cajones to eat the wheat. We were a little sketched out that the same man put his hand in a bowl and pulled out the wheat for everyone, but what the hell, you only live once right? Plus the wheat was actually really good!

Following the ceremony was the langar, which is a formal lunch or reception. This one was on the naval base at the US Club, (don’t get too excited it stands for United Services), aka. a country club over looking the ocean. There was more food than you could possibly imagine, and coincidentally, Elvis. Sahiba’s father is a die hard Elvis fan and sang about 3-4 Elvis songs karaoke style with the grooms uncle. I must say, they had shockingly excellent singing voices as well. No wonder Bollywood is all the range…Indian’s can really sing. I guess I should have known Indian Idol really would exist.

While the wedding party slowly disappated, we changed clothes and took our new mute, non-english speaking driver to the famous Taj hotel and the Gateway of India. It probably wasn’t the brightest idea to go to the Taj on the 3 year anniversary of the terrorist attack, but business ran as usual. And I guess if 14 people are dying in car accidents every hour, they have more important things to worry about. The Taj was absolutely beautiful, but at over $1k a night, I’ll take my points anyday, thank you very much.

Tomorrow morning we have the church wedding and reception and I’m really looking forward to the bride’s gown, especially since the outfits today were so elaborate and elegant.

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One Response to “Sikh Wedding Day”

  1. Nadine Genesius November 26, 2011 at 4:31 PM #

    How many beers did it take to make James wear that hat?

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