etiquette

The Top 5 Things I Learned at an Indian Wedding

Friendship blessed me with the opportunity to attend a Punjabi Sikh wedding last weekend.  Not only was it my first time in NorCal (San Jose!), but it was also the first Indian wedding I’ve ever attended – which meant days of parties.  I returned home Sunday night, exhausted, full of curry, and armed with new knowledge for next time.

In no particular order, here are the top five things I learned this past weekend:

1. Be prepared to eat.  No, not “eat a meal at the reception.”  We had dinner at the Mehndi ceremony on Thursday and the Sangeet on Friday.  And Saturday, we had breakfast and lunch at the hall (sandwiching the religious ceremony), and then dinner at the reception.  If you don’t like Indian food, this could be a bit challenging, but give it a chance if you’ve never had it.  You just might surprise yourself.

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Image courtesy of purvajcaterers.co.in

I’m fairly certain I ate about 12 pounds of paneer, chicken, lamb, samosas, rice, saag, kebob…I actually decided to change my outfit one night so I could eat more.  Side note – Indian desserts are a bit….different.  Spongy and very sweet.  My advice would be to fill up on the food.

2. Some of the parties may be dry.  In the U.S., “wedding” is usually synonymous with “booze,” but consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Sikhism.  This doesn’t mean that every event will be dry, but we were told, “You do you.”  Which, to many of us, said”be prepared with your own drinks.”
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Punjabi people are known for partying and having a good time, and the first two nights were not dry.  (My new drink invention is chai with spiced rum and a bit of sweetener.)  Out of respect, Saturday’s religious festivities and the reception were, however, so we made do with our own flasks.  Just don’t be too obvious, and take swigs privately.

3. It’s totally appropriate to wear a saree.  Bold and bright colors (no solid black or white), beading, embroidery, you name it.  My saree was an impulse buy between the Saturday morning ceremony and reception from a secondhand boutique that donates proceeds to help abused women.
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There are lots of videos on YouTube to teach you how to wear one, and they’re definitely not bad.  Invest in safety pins, and give it your best shot.  And if you’re still having trouble draping it, an Indian auntie will most certainly help you.

I was in the ladies’ room, trying to fix it, and she came up to me, asked if I needed help, and before I knew it, I was standing there with her hands tucking the fabric into my petticoat (aka skirt worn below your belly button).  It was a bit odd at first, but about 4 seconds in, I was immensely thankful for her help, and before I knew it, she had a line of people needing her expert advice.

4. Bring your dancing shoes.  Not dancing is not an option.  You’re at a wedding where the dance floor will basically turn into an Indian club, with pounding, energetic Indian music and flashing lights.  Plus, you’re there to celebrate.  Get off your butt and dance.
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At the Sangeet, there were choreographed traditional dances, a group dance, and then what seemed like every person trying to show off even more energetic moves.  It was bhangra style, it was American style, and it was totally fun.  It was even better with all the swirling colors.

5. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Pace yourself.  Indian weddings last for days and have several events.  It’s worth it to take the time to appreciate all the work that went into the coordination, the gorgeous settings and colors, and to celebrate the happy couple.  There are traditions in which you can participate, such as the groom riding in on a white horse, with his friends and family dancing around it (which in our case was a fancy Mercedes), or hoisting the bride up and carrying her while the groom tries to get a garland of flowers around her neck.  Participate in the group dances, try all the food, and make new friends.  Indians are warm and welcoming, and they certainly know how to have a good time.

At heart, weddings all share one common thing:  They are a celebration of joining two families and many friends together, and this was no exception.   I can’t wait for the next one!

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Life is a Highway, Part 2: Flight of the Bumblebee

That is a surprisingly accurate description of how my head felt after the two flights to Colorado.  The frantic playing, the dizzying scales, and the final sigh of relief (exhaustion?) when it’s finally over.

I am no road warrior for work (though I’d like to be – anyone hiring?), but over the years, I’ve done my fair share of flying.  By the end of the summer, I’m pretty sure I’ll have reinstated my Elite status on two major airlines.  I’ve taken flight etiquette lessons and tips from movies like Up In The Air, and I think my level of awareness (and general consideration for other people) is pretty high.  However…

I like window seats on flights because I enjoy watching the sun rise/set, or watch the cities get smaller and smaller.  And so on my flight, I had a direct leg to DFW (4 hours), and then a short flight to DEN (2 hours), and I was excited as I figured I’d be able to see the lights of a city I’d never been to.

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Behind me sat a child that could not be more than four years old.  He decided it would be fun to kick the back of my seat, to the beat of the full-volume game soundtrack on his iPad – for the majority of the flight.  This was bad.  But it wasn’t the worst part.

Next to said child was his younger sister, probably two years old.  She was angry about something.  She screamed.  For FOUR.  FUCKING.  HOURS.  AsiaTrashMom (you know this woman – she’d be very attractive, if it weren’t for the orange hair, too much makeup, the hot pink and rhinestone-studded Juicy Couture tracksuit) was next to her, on the aisle, and saying, “Shhhh honey, shhh.”  Later, it turned into a combination of, “Shhh, honey, shhh, don’t cry” and “I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT STOP CRYING JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!!!!!!”

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Photo from hopeforgray.com

The man next to me was a ginger, and clearly too big for his seat. The man next to him was Indian, and also too big for his seat.  My row smelled of curry and BO, and somehow the aisle guy kept leaning in, instead of out, and in an effort to get away from him, the middle guy kept leaning towards and falling asleep on me.  I’m not a large person, and I don’t need that much room, but for fuckssake.  I do want SOME personal space.

Finally, it was time to land in Dallas.  KickerBoy kept kicking, but now with more excitement.  ScreamerBaby kept screaming, but this time with renewed fervor and gusto.  ATM kept trying to shush her, to the point where I almost yelled back, “THAT DIDN’T WORK IN HARTFORD, OR ON THIS ENTIRE GOD DAMN FLIGHT!!!!!  YOU THINK IT’S GOING TO WORK NOW?!?!”

To add insult to injury, YellowFeverHusband (the tall, skinny, nerdy white guy who loooooooooves Asian women) was sitting right behind ATM, and was sleeping with his headphones on.  Love that passive parenting.

And so, as a humble request to all of My Dear Readers (all three of you), please.  I implore you.  Don’t be ATM.  Don’t be YFH.  Don’t be MiddleGuy.  Respect the other passengers’ hearing and their personal space.  Because then you might end up seated behind someone who writes on the internet, and who will inevitably complain about you on her blog.  And no one wants that.