We have just broken into our flat in Delhi, dismounting the gate and leaving a hole in the fresh mortar.
Twelve hours earlier. Clem (my French nearly-sister) and I are standing on the dirty road, made up like Disney queens, waiting for everyone else to come back from the temple. Two hours later. Elephants have welcomed us to the venue from which we’ll dance over to the actual wedding place. They’re fake, but still impressive. Only that their feet stand on concrete containers. If we’re out of place now, that’s just because everyone else is much better at being princesses than us. We get credit for trying and start our race of getting more selfies than the bride and groom.
One hour later. We dance around the groom, who, on a throne, arrives on the party lawn readied by the bride’s relatives and friends.
Some stuff happens on the scene (but no one really looks). Then the bride arrives, in an estimated 17kg dress and jewellery (and make-up, but I don’t know whether that counted in the estimate the groom gave me beforehand).
There is some staging of a love story (it’s an arranged marriage), including a film they shot beforehand (rose petals and wine on a lake included) and a question round (she knows his favourite food, he is not sure about her address), then they are allowed to retire to a sofa, where they have to take photos with nearly all of the guests. I think we lose on that count.
In the meantime, we have time to sample everything from several tens of metres of Indian dishes over Chinese and Italian food up to ratatouille – which is funny, because I’m with a bunch of French people.
There is also dance, some on stage, some by ourselves. It’s hard to tell whether the Indians around us are genuinely complimenting us on our (very… energetic) moves, or whether they are making fun of us. We don’t care and take some more selfies while being filmed.
The music has stopped. Really!? No more dancing. Lots of people leave, only the 20-30 from the inner family circle stay. We’re privileged enough to belong, in part because we really are close to the groom, but also because we’ve come from far and get to see everything.
I briefly open my eyes, scan the room we now all sit in. Nothing has changed – the room covered in Hindi writing (prayers?), the groom, then the couple on a small stage, chanting, rituals, chanting. Waiters walk around with a toffee-flavoured hot drink they call coffee, which I drink until I feel sick; the night is cold.
Brief agitation. The groom has bought back his shoes, which the bride’s side has stolen. Apparently a tradition from some Bollywood movie.
We’re sitting in the mini bus that will bring us back from the area with all the massive party venues, back to the flat which the groom’s family has rented for us close to their home. Indian hospitality goes so far as to provide housing, food and taxis for the nine of us while we are staying, to then give us gifts to thank us for having attended the wedding. Wait, what?
On our short walk to the flat, the streets are shockingly empty.
…we’ve found the key on the inside of the gate. If you want an actual explanation of how Indian weddings work, better look here or elsewhere. I probably didn’t get half of it. PS: this all sounds quite detached, which is partly due to my (poor) go at being comical, and partly because it was such an incredible experience as to become a surreal one. You might get what I mean when you only know dream marriages from films (or dreams?). And if the couple seemed a little distant at times, I think that is understandable seen how much effort a wedding in India means for the couple. It’s pretty hard to basically not sleep for days and sit through endless hours of rituals to then still look like you’re having the time of your lives. Luckily, their honeymoon is coming soon!