Mehndi Hai Rachne Wali (Indian Wedding pt. 3)

What I love most about weddings are the constant reminders of how much love there is in the world. Our house is full of family: 3 aunts, 3 uncles, 2 cousins, 1 grandma, and a whole contingent of our family friends from Canada. Each day, a new group of loved ones arrive and it’s overwhelming and exhilarating. So many people we love! In one place! At one time! I’m so excited to see everyone and not enough time to spend with all of them!

My grandma and ALL her progeny, in one place, standing still.  A rare occurence indeed

My grandma and ALL her progeny, in one place, standing still. A rare moment indeed

Pretty typical scene in our home.

The un-posed, unpolished version.

I snuck away to catch up with friends from high school for our annual baking party, a 10-year old tradition, started by one Kt from Oklahoma who, years and years ago, sent out a desperate cry for assistance in fulfilling her mother’s request for abundant holiday cookies. Many of us have known each other since 5th grade (orchestra dorks!), but I just don’t think much has changed. What do you think?
0013 high school

Tomorrow is the OFFICIAL wedding day! But here’s a little of what we’ve done the last few days:
First, my family officially opened the festivities with a Ganesh Pooja, a Hindu ritual inviting Lord Ganesha into our home. Lord Ganesha is the remover of obstacles, so by praying to him, we ask him to bless us with a smooth, successful few days. Many Hindus pray to Ganesha before any major occasion. It can be done a number of ways, but we filled a silver chalice with the “five nectars” (Panchamrut) to represent Ganesha’s qualities.  Photographs of my two departed grandfathers brought their presence back into the home.  Our pooja was an intimate family affair, and the groom’s household held a similar pooja on their end.

Mom and Dad performing the Ganesh Pooja in our living room.

Mom and Dad performing the Ganesh Pooja in our living room.

Next, I received a chemistry lesson. What was supposed to be a few hours of fun while my sister had her mehndi done turned into a full-fledged, unofficial mehndi party. I had this song stuck in my head the entire night.
Now, I’m familiar with many tricks used to enhance the henna’s color – the standard is a lemon juice and sugar mixture, dabbed onto dried henna. Once the henna is dry, the color will continue to darken as long as you don’t put water on your henna’d skin. But henna color is SERIOUS BUSINESS. One aunt and grandma insisted they had some “special powder” from India. I watched horrified as they unwrapped plastic packages containing tiny vials of white powder. My mind took a detour, thinking “seriously… how did they get this stuff through customs? I have to take the Bar exam! I can’t associate with this!”

As it turns out, the grubby white powder was limestone. My aunt made a paste and applied it to my hands (after we scraped off the dried with a knife); the henna darkened instantly. Except, well… limestone is a potent alkaline. The next day, although I removed it quickly, I had a moment of terror when the skin on my hands started PEELING OFF. And I couldn’t wash my hands because of the no water rule. No amount of lotion stemmed the peeling either. Finally, I resorted to rubbing pure glycerin into my skin. Chemistry to the rescue!
0017 mehndi

And what of the bride’s mehndi, you might ask? Well, we left those pictures to the talented Laura Fisher.  Here’s a tiny preview of Laura’s incredible shots of my sister’s mehndi:

Beautiful, isn’t it? I can’t wait to see how it looks on the day of, when my sister is decked up in her bridal finery.

Finally, this evening we held a rehearsal dinner at our home. The “rehearsal” was the bride and groom’s families gathered around a giant powerpoint detailing the steps of a Hindu wedding and identifying individual responsibilities. It apparently takes an army of attendants to get a couple married off, and Mom produced detail diagrams and photographs from other family weddings so all were clear. The dinner was accompanied by the Oti Bharne, a Maharashtrian tradition where the two families fill the bride and groom’s laps with blessings gifts (traditionally clothes, a coconut, some rice, jewelry, and items for their new household). The families also receive gifts from each other, and the elders put a small dot of turmeric and kumkum on everyone’s foreheads (the haldi kumkum ritual). The groom’s family and mom’s side of the family is Maharashtrian, but my father’s family is not, so there was a little cultural learning by all in attendance (especially since no one can carry on conversations in one language alone)!

Although yesterday, today, and tomorrow are more hectic than anything I’ve known, I’m thoroughly enjoying the tiny moments in between. The weather has been both beautiful (because of snow!) but abysmal (because of snow!) and all seem to be singing a chorus of “Ruch, promise us you won’t have a winter wedding!” No worries folks, that’s a long ways away. Let’s just focus on pulling off my sister’s wedding, shall we?
0018 Home

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2 comments

  1. Usha Gupte · · Reply

    Ruch,Good job! Very interesting description of the Big Fat Wedding 🙂 Aaji enjoyed watching all the action!!

    1. I’m so glad Aji had a chance to see it! We’re missing you very much!

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