Almost two years ago, I got an email through our GreenJoyment site from a guy in Bilaspur, India named Mrigank. At the time, we were living in an apartment in Denver, Colorado USA.
Mrigank was a very curious individual with thousands of questions (no exaggeration) about
Mrigank must get tired of seeing me say (through Skype) “I don’t know. Google it.”
Fast forward 1 1/2 years.
Mrigank has become a friend and is currently in Houston, Texas USA studying at a community college.
Carrie and I are in Bilaspur, India at Mrigank’s home.
Mrigank and I have never met face-to-face, and only chatted through Skype, Gmail, and phone.
The world really is an interesting and amazing place.
His family home here in Bilaspur is relatively empty because his dad’s job working with the coal mines took he and Mrigank’s mom to a town about 5 hours away from here called Baikunthpur.
But it’s been a good place (different, but good) for us to be to explore and experience more of the rural parts of India.
It’s different not only because there is only 1 western toilet in the house, but also for many other reasons.
About 5 nights ago, Mrigank’s parents came into town for a wedding.
It was good to meet them!
At the last minute, we were invited by Mrigank’s parents to go to the wedding, and it was one of the most interesting and amazing experiences of our travels around the planet.
The wedding procession began at a predetermined location where the family of the groom gathered.
Copious amounts of fireworks (more like small bombs – they literally took your breath away on explosion) were lit.
Then, people began a procession down one of the main streets in town, blocking traffic the whole way.
At the front of the procession was a vehicle with a generator on it. That vehicle was attached to a pickup truck by a cable.
On the pickup truck was metal frame, holding a conglomeration of speakers, megaphones, and an LED sign.
In the middle of the wire frame holding the speakers, in the bed of the pickup, was a guy sitting playing a synthesizer.
Continuing down the road, not attached to the truck, but starting at the truck (flanking the sides of the truck), daisy-chained together, were 6 women on each side of the procession (12 women total). On each woman’s head was balanced a plaster tower of blinking lights.
The lights (balanced on the women’s heads) let cars know people were dancing in the street. And aside from the obvious function of providing power, the cords daisy chaining the women together also served as ropes to both corral and protect the group of wedding-goers as they danced/processed down the street.
In the corral were 150 dancing and partying people, as well as a band.
The band included a clarinet and trumpet. Walking backwards (in front of each instrument) was a guy holding a wireless microphone, which was being broadcast to the megaphones in the truck.
The volume for the trumpet and clarinet was set to be at ear-piercing decibel levels as I have never experienced in my life.
Within the corral of electrical cords and women, and at the back of the processing mob, was a car in which the groom was riding. He tried to get out a couple of times to join in the dancing, but the older men kept telling him to get back in the car. (Apparently the car is traditionally a horse, elephant, or camel).
Behind the car was another pickup, with a generator on it. The women with the towers of blinking lights were connected by cable and plugged into this truck.
Getting the picture? A conglomeration of pieces and parts moving down the road at a very slow pace.
To go about 800 yards took about 3 hours as this flotilla inched along, lighting fireworks in front of it the whole way down the street.
Bear in mind that these plaster towers weighed about 30-40 pounds (13-18 kilos). The women were looking mightily worn out by the time we arrived at the location for the wedding reception.
(I would have lasted about 30 seconds with one of those things on my head.)
Onlookers came from their homes and stood on the sidelines to watch.
Being the only white people around for at least a mile, we became quite a center of attention for this event, with people continually pulling us into the melee and wanting to dance with us.
It was a blast!
It was also one of the loudest experiences of my life (louder than Metallica’s Summer Sanitarium tour at Mile High Stadium in 2003).
I kept wishing I had brought earplugs as it would have made the experience even more enjoyable.
(No one could talk or hear over the sound of the music, so earplugs would have been fine.)
Also bear in mind that alcohol is simply not part of the culture here, so all these people are just having a good time because they feel free to have a good time (whether or not they’ve numbed their inhibitions; inhibitions they don’t seem to have because everyone is just out having a good time).
After 3 hours, we arrived at the wedding location, where we were given front row seats. The younger sisters of the groom took us on as their project, taking us around and explaining the different kinds of food, dress, styles, customs, traditions, etc.
People kept coming up to us and asking where we were from, why we were so fair-skinned, why we didn’t speak Hindi, etc. etc.
Then came the presentation of the bride to the groom.
Bear in mind that this was an arranged marriage (which is still more the norm than the exception in this part of India).
In this case, (according to one of the sisters), the bride’s presentation to the groom was the first time that this couple had met.
Incredible. So very different from our western culture.
After the presentation, they put wreaths of flowers over each other’s heads to show they accepted each other in marriage, and then it was time for pictures.
We were asked to be in the family pictures. I’m not sure why, other than that we are an anomaly here, looking different from everyone else at the marriage.
I think they were excited to have people from so far away come to attend their wedding.
Fair skinned people are also viewed in high regard here (something akin to the western statement of tall, dark, and handsome).
After the presentation and pictures, it was time for food.
In India, it seems that it’s always time for food.
And the food is so scrumptious.
I would be hard pressed to tell you everything we tried at the wedding, but my favorites were the garlic naan and something similar to chana masala.
Although it was so hot (after the dancing and procession, and in the 85-degrees-at-midnight heat) people kept bringing us water, but we didn’t drink it.
We agreed that it didn’t give off the right vibe.
It was fine for Indian consumption, but we were still getting used to everything food-wise, and adding a few new bacteria to our systems might not be the best in the grand scheme of enjoying India and this new experience.
We still had water left from the bottle I had bought during the three-hour procession (sealed in plastic, bought from a street vendor), so we drank that instead.
By the end of the night though, the hundreds (maybe even as many as 1,000 people) who had come for the event had left their water cups everywhere on the lawn of the reception grounds.
I really wanted to stay to see the marriage ceremony, but it didn’t start until 3 AM, and would last 3 hours.
It was already 1 AM, and Mrigank’s parents wanted to get back home for their 5 hour drive back to Baikunthpur the next day.
As this was the first day we had met them, I wanted to make sure we were accepting their hospitality properly and also taking time to know them.
Before we left the wedding though, the family of the groom gave us a parting gift; pudding bowls.
Even though we’ve got a long way to go to get them back home, we will have those bowls for a very long time to come as a memory of the time we were so welcomed when we crashed a wedding in Bilaspur, India.