December 11, 2008
Considering how lavish things were to this point, I was curious to see how the main ceremony would be. As we drove, I kept looking about and wondering where we might see the event – a temple? A park? A palace?
I finally got my answer as we pulled up in front of a convention center amidst a huge cluster of cars similarly dropping guests off as though for the grand opening ceremony for a new building or a big event with A-list celebrities. We stepped inside, and walked through the flowery awning to enter the hall where the ceremony was already in progres (apparently it’s quite normal to show up late and for only a portion of the day’s festivities), and I couldn’t help but laugh at the grandeur of what I saw.
In what looked like the conference center’s biggest hall (larger than eBay’s company all-hands conference hall), there were three sections: 20% at the front was taken up by the wedding ceremony area in progress and space for the musicians, 50% was taken up by audience seating facing the ceremony, and the rear was taken up by a food area in the back. Mr. H said he was glad I was along since he could spot my head above everyone else’s, or he might lose us. Above all this was several huge red and yellow cloth fabrics attached to the ceiling that draped down in grand arcs.
We took our seats to witness the ceremony. The sound was a loud cacophony due to the priest’s chanting being microphoned loudly and because for some reason they also chose to mic the musician playing his Oboe-esque horn, which was already quite loud. This sound was the most irritating also because the player tended to move about in a way that sometimes his instrument wasn’t amplified, and then suddenly it was, the sudden loud honking noise making me reflexively look about for an oncoming car.
At the center was a kind of altar space where bride and groom, elaborately adorned, were in the center of a buzz of activity from those around them. The priest chanting into the microphone, an assistant grabbing various things and moving them about, family members coming and going in accordance to what was needed for that particular part of the ceremony.
At one point things seemed to be going to a kind of climax as the chanting became more intense and the music drew to a peak in dynamic and almost frantic melody. I couldn’t help but lean forward on the edge of mu seat to watch. Bride and groom were standing with a kind of rope joining then together, and Mr. H leaned over to explained that this was the moment where they actually became married.
After the ceremony, we lined up along with everyone else to congratulate the bride and groom. On Mr. H’s instructions, I tool a pinch of rice grains and drizzled a bit on Abishek and Prati’s heads (bride and groom) and contratulated them. It felt very odd to be involved in such an intimate ceremony, even if there were so many other people there. I wanted to express to them just how much I appreciated being able to witness this facinating element of Indian culture, and how glad I was that they’d allow someone they don’t even know to be a guest witnessing such an important moment in their lives, but given I only had a few seconds, and, aware of the many other people waiting behind me, I’m afraid my words didn’t do justice to voice my feelings of gratitude.