Monday, May 23, 2016

Indian Wedding

My Guinea Pig is continuing his travels around the world. How he found himself riding an elephant past the Taj Mahal at dawn I will never know. I guess he'll tell me all about it when he gets back!

You can upvote him by going to Bored Panda and clicking on this post:

I went on a fabulous trip to Madras in 2008 and here is a diary I kept while I was there:

We went over for our friend Sanjay's wedding (who's from Madras but now lives in the US), but because he is quite private I promised not to post pictures of the couple getting married, even though they are pretty spectacular.

Still, it was all so amazing I am posting some pictures. And here is my diary....

Day 1

Ever wondered what happened to Noddy? He eloped with Big Ears and now lives in Madras.

Shop like J Lo

Now, I am not a power shopper. I like a leisurely stroll through a couple of department stores, then a coffee, then lunch, then maybe I buy a pair of shoes. So on Day 1 in Madras I felt a bit like a movie star when I embarked on my shopping spree, because I was surrounded by an entourage - Sanjay's aunt, his fiance Abhilasha, plus the driver, plus John, my husband. We were to buy all the outfits I needed for the wedding. I didn't insist on dressing in Indian outfits, but they decreed that three outfits was the only way to go, one for each day of their Hindu wedding. No arguments, they were paying. And since there are few department stores, you drive from tiny store to tiny store. At a jewelry store where I bought some anklets, the shopkeeper was tearing up saris and removing the silver threads from them. He was going to melt down the silver threads to make silver jewelry. That was the first thing that struck me - the total recourcefulness, out of necessity, to reuse every single object. There is very little waste, and even rich people don't throw away food.

The first day was hair raising because no one follows any traffic rules or stops for traffic lights. The pollution burns your lungs and you watch in awe as the driver negotiates the traffic, often passing a hair's width past a motorbike, and narrowly avoiding cars that are casually cruising the wrong way up the street. Against a deafening cacophany of horns, babies and kids sit on the front of motorbikes without helmets. Madras is a lawless city and yet has an easy vibe. People are not stressed. There is no road rage or screaming in the street, people just drive in a very leisurely fashion. Sometimes you see a pile up, but it always ends well, with the motorbike drivers getting up, brushing themselves down and going on their merry way.

We went from shop to shop until I had a sari, one long skirt and a top embroidered with sequins (sharara) and one casual outfit, a long dress over baggy trousers (churider), plus jewelry. Plus they bought John two outfits. Everyone in the shops looked at me like I was part creature from outer space, part Amazonian. I am probably twice as heavy as most of the women there, with their narrow wrists and tiny bodies.

It is nine pm and we are still shopping and I can't believe the sheer amount of clothing that is being bought. The bride has eight different saris for the occasion. It seems that here weddings are quite a big deal!

Day 2

So amazing to see the hotel guests smoking cigarettes at breakfast. Whenever I see smokers in non-regulated environments I get a bit of a kick out of it because smoking anywhere these days is almost akin to shooting up heroin in public.

Took a trip to a gruesome crocodile zoo

and then, after a visit to a Hindu temple

I wondered lonely as a cloud...

pondering what fake ice cream might be...
until I was accosted by a bunch of Indian boys

Not sure what they were after but I think it may have been my cash.

Day 3

Attempts to go native collapsed today. Indian food for breakfast, lunch and dinner takes its toll on a person whose palate craves bland greasy carbohydrates. After a nervous breakdown of sorts I found myself in an eatery called Little Italy, its walls decorated in lotus leaf designs, the wait staff Japanese and Vietnamese, shoveling down mozzarella and avocado salad as if my life depended on it. I told my husband I want to live in India but he pointed out that I don’t like the food that much. I said, “What about Delhi? I hear they have a Marks and Spencers up there?” He said, “What about the heat?” While we were in Madras it was their winter and the heat was bearable but I’m not sure I could cope with their summer. So maybe living in India isn’t going to work out. Although I hear its cooler in Bangalore.

Later I went to a beauty salon and had to sit still for three hours while my hands and feet were painted with henna. While my hands were drying a girl actually lifted my coffee cup to my lips so I could take a sip. All this attention was going to my head. Sanjay’s family had this philosophy that if you traveled for a long distance to come to the wedding it brought particular luck onto the married couple. And while I appreciated how much they were doing for me, it was still strange. It seems to me that here the individual does not really exist, it is all about the collective. Family is more important than a person, consequently, at the wedding, the two families will marry each other.

Sanjay’s aunts draw chalk pictures daily outside their house for the Gods. At the end of the day the pictures are rubbed out, to show that you should not hold onto anything material. The spiritual life here is stitched through everything and I cannot help feel jealous, if only because everything is so ritualized that there is meaning in everything. On the other hand, no Westerner could live like this – sacrificicing personal desires for the good of the collective – even if it is beautiful to observe.

Day 4 – Wedding Day One

We take a walk on the Madras beach which was hit on Boxing Day 2005 by the Tsunami. It must have been a leisurely weekend scene much as we witnessed. Men playing cricket. Fishermen pulling their boats out of the water. Children playing. And suddenly a wave hit the beach and sucked the life out of it. And then, silence ….

We found a dead dog and a dead sea turtle on the beach that day, which was gruesome.

Today was the pre-wedding party. It takes place in a hall where tonight, bride and groom will sleep in separate rooms in the hall.

Later I found a cute baby at the hotel and, since I couldn’t see its mom, decided to do an Angelina Jolie and adopt the little angel but John said I had to give it back to the mom, who had now appeared.

Day 5 – Wedding Day Two

I got to the wedding hall at 6.45 to have my sari put on. The hall was pretty hot and stuffy and there were men drumming and playing instruments whose wail was quite piercing. There were many rituals between bride and groom, many exchanges of garlands of flowers. It was beautiful, only by four o’clock I had something of a headache and decided to go back to the hotel where I fell into a deep sleep.

Refreshed, we got up later and went to the hotel nightclub, where I ordered a frozen strawberry daiquiri (which was listed on the menu). The daiquiri took a long time to arrive. I could see the two barmen mixing something in a shaker, then they poured it out. One guy shook his head and poured it away. Eventually they had another go and brought me the drink, proudly. Well, I guzzled it down and really felt sick. Firstly it had lumps of ice floating in it instead of being crushed ice. Not a crime, okay. But the yuck factor came about because they had put salt around the edge of the glass. Really quite bizarre.

Day 6 – Wedding Day Three

In the morning we went to the Hindu temple with Sanjay where we were blessed by the Gods via the Swamis. Then the couple went on to the reception. They couldn’t even relax and had to stand on a stage in front of a throne for two hours and have a photo taken with each family group.

Finally they were done, we had a big feast and they drove off. They would spend the night at Sanjay’s family home, while all his relatives who live there stay in the marriage hall.

Unlike the tradition of Western weddings where we say ‘Honk Just Married’ in Madras the cars beep incessantly so you have to instruct the reverse.

I met a hilarious Indian writer called Bagchi who said, “No wonder the rate of Indian divorces is so low. After going through all this for three days, people think, oh God, I’m not going through that again!”

Day 7 – A Strange Workout

Went to work out at the hotel gym. The Indian trainer there made me do sit ups and then kept grabbing the flab on my stomach and saying, “You are fat! This is no good! Thirty more sit ups!”

Honestly, and I know this will sound odd, but I think he was trying to cop a feel, and was getting some kind of kick out of this. I thought I’d ignore him and he’d leave me alone but he got more and more worked up. “More! You do more!”

Finally I said, “What about you?” and poked him in his pot belly. He just laughed and kept grabbing my stomach.

I said, “Look, I am actually thin for an American.”

He still wouldn’t leave me alone, so I got out of there.

It’s funny to think that in the US that would be considered sexual harassment. Even though his methods were somewhat unorthodox, it nevertheless has become abundantly clear to me that I need to lose some of the fat on my stomach.

We took a four am flight back to the USA on Qatar Airways. God bless that airline! Unlimited free wine and spirits. They also have a touch screen video monitor with two hundred different movies on it. Also, the plane was half full so we actually got some sleep.

The trip to India was too short and I really want to go back soon.

I also recently did a colorful portrait of an Instagram sensation called Ponyo - she was wearing a flower crown. 

Linking up to Paint Party Friday and Brilliant Blog Posts:

Brilliant blog posts on


  1. Lovely! Looks like guinea pig is having loads of fun.

  2. Awww, how adorable! What a beautiful place he is visiting.

  3. Really gorgeous.Happy PPF, hugs, Valerie

  4. I love your Guinea pig. Hope him happy landing☺

  5. Oh your guinea pig is so delightful!

  6. Wonderful vibrant color surrounds guinea pig. Happy PPF

  7. Wow what a trip and cute guinea pig

  8. What an amazing experience you had! The photographs are beautiful, especially all your lovely outfits. And the henna on your hands and arms is just gorgeous. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience! And that really is a cute guinea pig!

  9. Excellent painting - the sky behind your Taj Mahal is gorgeous! "Thank you for not spitting" indeed. With some of the male teenagers in my house, I need that sign!! Why do they do that anyway?? Oh and Noddy... so good to see him...and now know his whereabouts🤗.

  10. love the art and wow-I have always had a fascination with India and it has been tops on my bucket list so THANK YOU for all the photos and experiences! I love your henna enhanced limbs along with the outfits however would not have liked seeing the dead animals or alligator zoo or the gym guy grabbing my belly!

  11. Sensational post! Love your artwork and travel diary! Stunning photos and writing. I enjoyed every word. Canada is very multicultural and there are loads of very prestigious Indian weddings that go on for days and the brides and grooms are exhausted by the end of it! Your saris were gorgeous as were all of them. The eye candy of colour just lights up my world! You really captured the essence of where you were so well. My friends daughter did a travel blog when she was in every part of India and it was fascinating too! Thanks for sharing! Loved the adorable photos of you too...and yes he was coping a feel I'm sure of it!! lol

    Hugs Giggles

  12. I agree with Giggles this is a sensational post. What an experience you have had and the memories of a lifetime. These photos actually took us on the trip with you. Thank you for sharing this.

  13. What a wonderful adventure and the clothes are absolutely gorgeous.
    Love your guinea pig:)

  14. Your guinea pig is so adorable, and what a wonderful post! It sounds like such an amazing experience, so different than the usual "tourist" trip, although I'm sure that is well worth it too. Thank you for sharing your travel diary!

  15. Wow what a trip you (an Guinea pig) are having, the Hindu temple looks absolutely stunning x

  16. Love the elephant riding little guinea pig! Quite the adventure. Lovely photos too, what a trip!

  17. Looks like you had an amazing time! Your henna & sari look incredible!

  18. Love the photos of your trip and the beautiful fashions and also the colorful paintings of your guina pig.

  19. Thank you for sharing such colorful India. Indian dresses are gorgeous! Your trip sounds full of adventures. I impressed by your painting of the night Taj Mahal!

  20. Wow! Your painting is exquisite--and your pictures are great. Thank you for sharing your adventure!

  21. This seems like quite an occasion. I've seen lots of photos from a friend who went last year to take part of a wedding.
    It was interesting reading about your experience there for a week. The workout on the last day doesn't sounds very exciting though ;)

  22. Great post. I hope you had fun while visiting :)

  23. It all looks lovely! Very different from any culture I've experienced x

  24. What an incredible trip! I love the henna art and the the clothes. ♥

  25. Very interesting post, that is funny about the low divorce rate being from not wanting another 3 day wedding. I like your art too.

  26. Lovely art!

    Purrs xx
    Athena and Marie

  27. What a marvellous diary tour!! Love your photos and paintings!

  28. Wonderful vibrant color surrounds guinea pig. Love your artwork and travel diary! Stunning photos and writing. Great post.
    The idea behind nanny services is to make sure all of such things are covered and Hire a Pet Care Los Angeles that too in suitable new ways. The time is such that there are many nannies coming up in the market; all nannies work in best of ways and help in making few things possible. The all babysitter Los Angeles necessary things about the nannies is that they are all reputed enough and known to care their baby all the time.

  29. I have been through your blog and I found it very helpful for planning my travel in future and also will help in planing tour for others too.Tour operators in Delhi

  30. I really like your informative post. Thank you for sharing this post.

  31. Nice blog with good post. Your wedding becomes luxurious when you choose better venue as Function Hall it makes your wedding delightful.

  32. Nice post. Thanks for sharing and informing about your services.
    Banquet Halls in Lucknow | Wedding Venues in Lucknow