Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hyderabadi Shaadi

As the realization that I would be leaving Hyderabad in a few short weeks hit Umes and I, we decided that it was important to both of us to solidify our commitment to one another more officially than we already had. Because of our respective dating pasts and since the only real commitment recognized in India is marriage, we decided to have a traditional Hindu marriage ceremony. So, last weekend we started looking for priests and locations which would perform a shortened version of the ceremony for us (the real ceremony is about 8 hours long). After having our auto driver (who thinks we're Muslim) drive us to 3 temples all across town only to be rejected since I'm not a Hindu, we were starting to get a bit concerned. However, Umes had the business card of a local Oriya (his state) priest whom he thought would perform the ceremony. We called the priest and he was out of town, but would return on Monday morning. So, we put off wedding planning and went to a crafts fair where I found a gorgeous saree that I decided to buy on a whim as a potential wedding saree.

Later that day Umes found his March horoscope and read it as he does every month. He quickly turned to me and said "we have to get married on Wednesday." My reply was shock and confusion seeing as it was already Sunday night and we had made no preparations whatsoever. Moreover, we didn't have a priest and wouldn't be able to even talk to one until Monday night. Both our horoscopes made it very clear, however, that Venus was going to be in retrograde starting on the 6th (Friday) so getting married anytime after (or near) that time would be very inauspicious for both Libras and Sagis. We started to panic but realized there was nothing we could do until Monday night.

On Monday evening we met with the Oriya priest who confirmed that he would perform the ceremony no later than Wednesday afternoon and that it should begin sometime between 2:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon. So, we said okay and embarked upon 36 hours of completely chaotic wedding planning. That evening we went to get fabric for the petticoat and blouse for my saree and started desperately calling tailors to see if they could stitch my blouse within a few hours the next day. We then went home and emailed our family and close friends in Hyderabad asking them to join us for our last minute celebration. There was obviously a lot of shock but excitement in their responses. My parents quickly said they wanted to discuss it over Skype and since it was 9pm and we hadn't eaten dinner yet, we talked to them about it while I stirred pasta and chopped tomatoes. Luckily they were supportive and just disappointed that they couldn't be there.

Then a few phone calls were made to friends who were crucial to the ceremony. The most important being a close friend here who could stand in as a father figure and "give me away." Without him, the ceremony couldn't happen. We also wanted to ensure that a couple of our other closest friends could make it, particularly the woman who introduced us. Upon completing those tasks, we fell into bed exhausted and making lists of all the things that needed to be done on Tuesday to prepare for Wednesday's ceremony.

Tuesday was insane. The tailor who told us they'd get the blouse done had come down with a fever and was now unavailable; I officially had nothing to wear to my wedding. The florist started quoting ridiculous prices and we didn't have any snacks in the house to feed our guests on Wednesday. We asked our landlord for use of a spare room on our floor and luckily she offered it willingly. When it became clear around noon that the tailor really was not going to stitch my blouse I desperately asked my landlady if she knew of anyone. Luckily she did, so we went to the other side of town to get measured and have my blouse stitched. On the way back we stopped at the grocery store and the sweets shop to get nourishment for our guests. We then figured out a plan to rearrange the furniture so that the couch and chairs could go in our bedroom where there was air conditioning. We weren't going to ask our guests to stay in the 102 degree heat all afternoon! Anshuman and I both went out briefly with friends on Tuesday night so we could have bachelor and bachelorette "parties." We each had one cocktail with one friend and then ended up meeting up all together for snacks. Needless to say, we'll need to have genuine parties before our American wedding.

Wednesday morning came and we started our mad dash to the altar. Neither of us could eat per Oriya tradition, so we had lots to do and little energy or time. We rearranged the household furniture and our maid showed up on time to help get the house cleaned up and organize things. The florist showed up (late and after several phone calls) and things seemed to be on track. Then I tried on my blouse and realized that it was too small by about 2 inches. There was absolutely no way it was going to close over my ribcage. Umes realized that he had forgotten to buy his clothes for the wedding as he was supposed to wear a brand new kurta. So, around 10:30 he embarked upon a journey to get garlands, have my blouse restitched, buy his clothes, and pick up the samosas and sweets from the caterer. He was to be home no later than 1:00 or I would start to panic. I stayed home to supervise the florist and the maid and handle any phone calls.

I got into the shower around noon to begin to prepare myself to be a bride. Painting my own toenails and doing my hair and makeup alone were not exactly what I ever pictured on my wedding day, but I managed to accomplish it. Umes made it home (barely) by 1:00 and my friend had arrived by then to help me tie my saree (we figured we needed at least an hour to do this). Around 2:00, the saree was on (thanks to the help of the maid; we never would've accomplished it on our own).

I then realized in a panic that it was already 2:00 and my family was awake in the middle of the night in Maryland waiting for my call so they could watch the ceremony via Skype. I called them, told them that we weren't ready yet and the priests weren't there and to just hold on and wait and we'd make sure the connection was good when things actually started happening.

Since my face and hair were starting to melt off from the 100 degree heat at that point, I said goodbye and headed back to the air conditioned bedroom. Our guests started to arrive and we all hung out in the bedroom while we waited for the priests, who were about an hour late. Upon their arrival we discovered that there were a few items that they hadn't expressly told us we needed under the assumption that any Indian household would have them. These included images of a god and clean sheets to put on the floor to sit on. Luckily a milk-painted god image was a reasonable subsitute as were some of the old rugs sitting in a cupboard. Finally, the ceremony began.

We sat for three hours in front of a fire in 100 degree afternoon heat and went through all the important rituals of a Hindu marriage ceremony. The Skype session worked beautifully the whole time and my Dad was able to answer questions about his grandfather's name and could "give me away" virtually. Being able to look up and see my family online from time to time made the whole thing easier. By the time the ceremony was over, we were all completely exhausted and overwhelmed, but quite happy and proud of ourselves for making it through 48 hours of total chaos. We were finally (half) married and totally pooped. Here are some pictures of the big event.


Lauren and Lula said...

It was so fun to watch via skype but seeing the alter not from up above is awesome. I'm really proud of you two and am so happy that you have found each other!

Maggie said...

Congrats Martha! (this is Lauren's college friend Maggie) Lauren has been telling me of your adventures, of which a wedding is a fitting ending - or beginning for that matter. I wish you much love and happiness.

Indiamommy said...


I'm Jyotsna from MTI. I just wanted to say "WOW"! That was quite the speedy wedding. You'd probably not be surprised that many more people have gotten married fast when they realized the time was auspicious.

Happy Days to both of you, and may you be together as soon as possible. See you back at MTI!