Post-Wedding Crash

Yes, it all happened, all except the nap in the afternoon.  Sunday morning the wedding hall was a buzz of activity by 6am, with guests beginning to arrive by 7, and within the hour all the ritual and theatrics were underway.  The bride’s family had been welcomed; the groom was playing out the threat of walking away from it all to be an ascetic but was talked out of it by the bride’s father; garlands and fruits and gifts were offered and received on both sides; and a mere four hours later it was all a done deal.  Other more playful rituals followed, and by early afternoon the 150 or so guests had been fed a second time and retired for the afternoon.

The event ramped up again in the evening with a reception for at 400 guests, all of whom eventually went through the receiving line set up on stage.  Congratulations were offered, wedding gifts were given, and everyone had their photo and video taken with exhausted couple propped up in two throne-like chairs at center stage.  After only a few hours (during which everyone was fed yet again), all the formalities were done.  But we weren’t.  Chairs were cleared, the DJ spun up the music, and we danced and sweated for another couple of hours.  Not that we were tired or anything.

And so on Monday we all collapsed.  Well, many of us did.  The marriage still had to be legalized with a civil ceremony, the immediate family on the two sides got together for lunch before the Japanese returned home, and all the logistics of winding down an event of this scale were addressed.  So I suppose we actually collapsed on Tuesday.  But it was a good collapse.

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We’re halfway there.  Well, maybe not in terms of effort, but we’re at least halfway through the weekend. It’s 1 a.m. now, Saturday night,  and we’re winding down from an evening that included both an 80th birthday celebration for an aunt and a pre-wedding reception at the hotel where many of the out-of-town guests are staying.  Both were great, although we did need to bow out early on the birthday celebration, and the multiple commutes meant more than an hour in the car.  It’s much easier when you have an A/C car with a driver, but the time still adds up.

This morning gathering at the groom’s parent’s house went great, too.  It was as loud and crowded and chaotic as you would expect a hundred guests in a 1500-square-foot house to be.  We did have the rooftop terrace, but even with the shade tent erected for the event it was still hot up there and most people stayed inside where the A/C did its best to keep up with the body-generated heat and the frequently-opened doors. The extended family reconnected (the groom has something like forty first-cousins, not counting those by marriage), the in-laws from Japan met the extended family, and the dozens of friends who came from out-of-town began to understand what they were getting themselves into.

And most everyone had mehendi designs drawn on their hands and arms, and some on their feet.  All the women did, of course, but many of the younger men were pulled into the mob mentality of it all and went along.  I thought I was going to miss out entirely, because I kept getting sidetracked with other duties — by the end of the day I had made trips for hand soap, bobby pins, a thermometer, and bottled water — but in the end I wound up with complex, ornamental designs on both hands.  Conveniently, while waiting for the design to set, I was unavailable to do anything else.

And so now we’re bedding down in one of the guest rooms at the wedding hall.  I’m sharing a room with my sister and my cousin who are both now totally out cold.  No wonder.  It’s been a long day, and the first alarm is set for just a few hours from now, with the formal start of the event a few hours later.  At this point it’s tempting to just stay up, but I know these few hours of sleep will be good for me.  But it will be tough waking up!

It’s 6 a.m. and I’m sitting on the rooftop terrace of my uncle’s house in Chennai.  It’s cool and quiet, with just a few vehicles on the beach road a half block away.  Doorsteps are being swept and buckets are being filled, and the calls of crows and other birds outnumber the yelps of the stray dogs that dominate the night.

The Japanese side of the family arrived late last night, six in all, weary after fifteen plus hours of travel but slapped awake by the commotion and dust and horn-blaring that is India, a country that is quite possibly the polar opposite of the precision, cleanliness, and politeness that is Japan.  The commonality that both country’s drivers use the left-side of the road was most likely lost in the noise.  Hopefully the comfort of the four-star hotel where they are staying somewhat insulated them from it all allowed them a few hours of restful sleep.

Because while it’s quiet and peaceful right now, the chaos and insanity of an Indian wedding weekend begins building in just a few hours.  The core of the family is gathering a little more than an hour from now to review assignments and taskings; the fleet of six rented vehicles arrives soon after (three passenger vans and three SUVs, all with drivers); and by 10 a.m. there will be scores of guests at the groom’s family’s house for a mehndi party and lunch, more guests than attended the hotel-based wedding in Japan.

Granted, there will be time naps in the afternoon (some things are sacrosanct!), but I doubt that many will be well-rested after tonight’s reception at the hotel when they arrive at the wedding mandapam early tomorrow morning with hundreds of other guests.  It’s good that we’re easing the Japanese into with today’s smaller, less formal gathering!

Ok.  One step at a time.  It’s time to shower, get dressed, and get ready for the morning’s events.  The afternoon’s and evening’s events will come along in due time.

Visa status cleared

I love the efficiency of the Singaporeans.  I show up at a fairly crowded embassy, and an hour later, after standing in two lines and receiving a private interview, I was told to return in ninety minutes to pick up my passport.  I showed up a few minutes early, my name was called shortly after that, and I was done.

And so I could continue on to India this evening, but it turns out I have a couple of cousins living here.  Bizarre.  I find my way into the city, find a cheap hotel near the embassy, and learn by email that I’m within half a kilometer of two relatives.  Seems like I can’t throw a stone anywhere in the world without breaking the window of a P.R. Mahadevan family member.

And so, I’m going to stay an extra day.  I already had lunch with one, and I’m joining both this evening.  The second is off work tomorrow, so we’ll go play tourist a bit, and then we’re both flying to India about the same time tomorrow evening.  (Unfortunately, for a funeral as opposed to a wedding.)

In any case, an interesting detour.  Life works out when you give it the chance.

A Japanese Wedding

The Shinto ceremony began with the two families being led into the wedding hall in two single-file lines.  Each family sat at a long table, our backs against opposing walls so that we were facing each other.  A priest playing a harmonica-like device signaled the arrival of the wedding couple, who were led to a pair of stools set in front of a small table between the two families and facing the shrine at the front of the hall.  The shrine consisted of a small circular mirror suspended above an alter table with offerings of fruits, vegetables, a several porcelain vases (water? sand? sake?).

The priest presiding over the ceremony stepped up to the shrine and chanted a prayer, summoning the spirits and asking for their blessings, I presume.  It was all in Japanese, of course, but I did catch the names of the wedding couple a few times.  This went on for just a few minutes, five at most, and the couple signed a wedding pledge at the table in front of them.  Two female attendants stepped up to them and, with great pomp and circumstance, served offerings of sake to each, which were then solemnly raised and taken.  The two attendants then stepped down the line of family members, pouring a small offering of sake to each person.  Once all were served, we stood, raised our glasses with both hands, and made the same solemn toast.

The wedding couple then moved to the front of the room, near the shrine, and rings were exchanged.  With that, I presume the wedding was complete, but the ceremony concluded with the two families standing and each member present being introduced to the other family.  And not more than thirty minutes after entering, we were led out of the hall and into the garden for pictures.  Short, somber, and to the point.

After photos were taken, we were all led to a reception area, actually a pre-reception area, where we exchanged our shoes for slippers.  Drinks and snacks were served as the guests gathered, about fifty in total, and we then proceeded to the tatami-floored reception hall, leaving our slippers at the door.  Two long tables ran the length of the room, the immediate families of the couple at the back of the room so that the best seats were available for the guests.  The wedding couple were applauded as they entered and they sat at a raised table at the front of the room.

The nine-course meal, interspersed with toasts and speeches by several friends and family members, lasted a couple of hours, and the evening concluded with formal thanks by the fathers of the bride and groom.  A fine evening that wound down with a small, informal after-hours gathering in the hotel bar.  Round one complete.  Round two to take place in India a week later.  That ought to be interesting, especially for the Japanese family members who will be attending.  There will be much of the same ritual, but the chaos of an all-day event attended by several hundred guests will certainly be an experience for them!

Yes, I know. I still need to post something about the wedding that happened Sunday. The short version is that it was amazing, I didn’t take any photos of the fairly somber Shinto ceremony, but I did get a few from the quite opulent and formal reception. I’ll get to those, soon…really.

The wedding day continued on into a late night after-hours gathering, we woke up early to help get the other relatives off to the airport, and then the rest of the day evaporated. We cleaned up, ran some errands, met Mack and Haruka for the evening, and made another late night of it. Just in time to wake up even earlier for Mack, Harish, and I to fly to Chennai. Or try to.

We did get to the airport with time to spare and checked in, but I had issues with my visa for returning to India. Even though I have a multiple-entry visa, there are restrictions about how frequently you can return. We checked with immigration before leaving and was told ‘no problem’, but they weren’t so accommodating on this end. I need a re-entry permit to get back in within 60 days of leaving, and it’s only been eight. Singapore Airlines did let me make the first leg, but now I’m stuck here until I square things up with the Indian Embassy. Mack and Harish continued on and should soon be arriving in Chennai.

For what it’s worth, I did look into getting that permit while in Tokyo, but the embassy was closed when I went there even though the website listed it has open. I could have tried the next day, but then let myself get caught up playing tour guide and never followed up. So, I’m stuck in Singapore at cheap hotel with plans to go beg at the embassy tomorrow morning.

Oh well. Another travel adventure. It’ll all sort itself out. And, in the meantime, I’ll get a day or two in Singapore!

I’ve never been a fan the tourist blitzkrieg — see everything there is to see, all in a day or two.  It’s never possible, anyway, but sometimes you just have to do it.  We’re done with that now and are in full pre-wedding scramble mode.  Meanwhile, here are some pics from the past couple of days.