Monday, February 2, 2009

Delhi: The Indian Wedding

The past few days of full force travelling drained me of my energy by the time I arrived in Delhi. I started getting sick as a result to my massive sleep deprivation and Delhi's reputation, being the most polluted city in the world, has given me some nasty respiratory problems to compound the issue.

The bus leaving Diu was the nicest bus I have ever been on. There was a bathroom in the bus! No trying to go in bottles, out the window, or begging the driver to pull over. On top of that, the bus was exceptionally clean. Even for my below than minimum standards I have now developed while travelling. I was highly impressed! I arrived to the train station at 5 in the morning, and immediately was downing chai similar to a fraternity member on a friday night, to stay awake and warm in the cold brisk morning waiting for the train. Once the train arrived, I immediately got on, found my seat, locked up my bag, layed down and tried to get some rest. Rest while on a bus or train is very very light due to the constant noise and movement, however it is still better than no sleep at all. I only left my seat for meals, yet still felt as unrested as when I got on the train. When the train stops at a train station to pick up/drop off passengers, you have a couple minutes to run and grab food if you choose to do so. I enjoyed running out of the train at this point, stocking up on freshly made snacks, and running to get back on the moving train.

When I arrived in Delhi @ 6am I immediately got some breakfast, then haggled like nobodies business to get to the backpacking area of Delhi (where you can find the cheapest accomodation) at a cost that wouldnt have me feel like my butt hurt... Delhi has a peculiar smell to it. One that I will never forget. It was my first smell of India. The smell of hundreds of fires burning to both keep hundreds of people warm on the streets and to dispose of garbage, the smell of curry and spice to feed so many hungry mouths, the smell of thousands of sticks of incense burning from hundreds and hundreds of temples and shrines, and more excrement than I ever want to know of, all in a mixture that slaps your face and says, "Welcome to Delhi". It might sound strange, but upon smelling this strange concoction, I let out a big sigh for in a strange way, beneath my gritted teeth, I love Delhi and its craziness.

Once I was there I walked from hotel to hotel to find one within my budget, and once I did, crashed for a few hours, to feel somewhat rejuvenated for then I hit the bazaar (market). Here in the bazaar, is where I realized that my outlook has changed on Delhi's craziness from when I first landed almost 4 months ago. For instance, I know better about the crazy antics of the people in India, especially Delhi. They are the worst and most agressive(that I have encountered so far). However, I dont fall for it and am not "too nice" anymore to laugh in their face and walk away when I know im being fed their betrayal masked as "friendship". Also, Ive recognized the same people still working the same tricks as when I first landed in Delhi which never fails to bring the biggest smile to my face. Its hilarious, the scams people pull here! People still try to get me to goto people telling me the place just so happens to be "burned down" or "inaccessible", and the people hangout in the streets and try their hardest to lure you into their shops. Anything from saying,
"Hey dont you remember me?"
"Hello friend, come see my shop, Just look"
"Do you need anything?? I have good stuff to smoke come, come"
"Just look, its free to look...Come on give me a chance!! COME ON!!! WHY WONT YOU EVEN GIVE ME A CHANCE!?"
Some actually touch, grab, whistle or any other way to get your attention thinking this will help their chances for you to hopefully buy something from their shop. The working class in India, think when they see a foreginer that they just have millions of dollars to just piss away on merchandise we dont even like. Agreed, an american dollar goes a long way here, but they feel that since it is only $10's to us, that we should buy an item in their shop to "help them out" because their business is so slow.

The one situation that I was placed in takes the cake. One time I went into a store and upon me leaving, a short, plump, bearded man came to me and said very quietly,
"you know when you were in the store I had very good vibrations coming from you, have no concentration."
"Is that so? How can you tell?"
"I am a fortune teller. Yes, you have good vibrations and a good spirit but no concentration...And....You are alittle insane."
"Insane?!!! ahahaha yeah tell me about it!!!!"
"I will, I can tell you how to change it as well. You need someone to tell you and guide you with these things."
"I dont need to pay someone to tell my I am insane...But yeah...See thats the thing, Ive just fryed my brain with too many drugs. In fact, I can barely make out what you are saying right now because I am just SO LOADED!"
"Yes, see thats what I mean! I could sense that from you."
"You are very intuitive to notice that...I am impressed..But, isnt it the meaning of life for me to find out for myself, not to have someone spoon feed it to me?"
"No you need someone to tell you, you cannot see these things on your own. You need a Guru."
"Ahh Guru..Yes...Can you spell "Guru" in English for me...Outloud?"
"Yes I can, but do you know the meaning-"
"Please just spell it outloud for me."
"Gee! You are you! Guru! I found him, hes within myself!"
Then I turned around and walked away. BWAHAHA!!!! Universal truth: We are all a bit insane, its just a matter of what degree. I dont need to pay someone to tell me that, I already know that. When you meditate you realize just how crazy you really are ahahah. But thank you mr fortune teller, but ill figure out my problems on my own. I have overcome a great deal on my own and have accepted thats how it is going to be. It doesnt take a genius to find out what is wrong in ones own life or what he is lacking to make him happy. It takes an honest man armed with awareness and patience. Not a guru.

The next day Rory made it to Delhi. We went around shopping the whole day getting various things we need for the wedding which happened to be the next day. I ended up buying a suit. My first suit! Its black, with dark blue and gray pinstripes. Its made of the finest wool they had in the shop and was the nicest suit they had in the store. I got it half off and it cost about $100 us dollars. A suit like this back home would cost 5x that amount. I tried many on, but none looked so good and most importantly, didnt feel as good. A good suit will last a long time, better go for the quality while I can afford to. Rory helped me out with each suit I tried on. It felt like we we have been friends for years and that we were getting stuff ready for a mutual buddy's wedding. It was an awesome expierience. We spent the whole day shopping, eating, haggling, and talking about the wedding. You know that imaginary term called a "budget" that I frequently talk about?...Yeah, that term seems to mean nothing when I am in Delhi. On top of buying a suit, I found a bookstore and bought several kilos of books which to find out later that it costed me DOUBLE to mail them back home because Sea mail (the cheapest delivery) is not available for the next 6 months. But then again, when am I ever going to be able to say again,
"I am going to a Indian wedding in India from a friend I met while staying in an ashram in Rishikesh." You cannot put a price on this expierience, you just cant. So every penny I spent towards this event was worth every penny tenfold.

Later that night his ex girlfriend met up with us and while we were walking in the street we met Camie and Colin from Rishikesh. I also called Issac from Diu who should have arrived in Delhi that day to meet up, and we all went out to dinner and then to go see our first Bollywood movie. Before we all met up, Rory and I wanted to get a shave to clean up our beards to look good for the wedding in our new suits. I was skeptical about going fearing that the barber would butcher my beard but I made sure he knew what I wanted. It took 15 minutes to explain and reiterate myself 100 times to him about it and at the end I even asked to be sure,
"Do you understand what I want?"
"Yes sir"
"Just trim alittle bit, do you understand?"
"Yes sir"
He started shaping it up, ahh good he knows whatI mean. Then in his next swift movement, my whole right side of my beard was gone. Just like that. He obviously didnt understand....
"Whoa whoa whoa! What are you doing?!?!?! I said cut alittle!!!! Not make it little! You said you understood!!!!"
He stands there, staring at me with a blank expression...I dont even think he knew English...
Rory sitting next to me starts laughing and im just like...well its ruined. Absolutely ruined...I explain to him to make it into a goatee and he does that successfully...To say I was irrate would be an understatement. I felt like an idiot with this goatee. I had tan lines on my cheeks. If anyone has suffered from a butchered haircut you know the feeling of insecrity this brings upon you. I was absolutely crushed, pissed, and sad. I loved that beard, loved...I tried to not let this affect the perfect day I had today or the wedding the day after but Im not gonna lie, I couldnt do it.

So after the shave we met up with everyone to get dinner or should I say drinks. Everyone had beers, I had the most exspensive bottle of water Ive ever purchased in India. Welcome to big cities. After "dinner", we walked down the dim, loud and polluted streets of Delhi to the theater. I have a small backpack that I keep with me whereever I go, which has all my valubles in, and the manager of the theater would not let anyone take bags in "due to high security reasons". The security mesasures here are more strict than at train stations, bus stands, and probably airports. It was ridiculous, its a movie theater! Issac had to check his bag in, along with mine, to a shady indian man working behind the theater, who kept the bags in a old rusty "locked" ice cream shed. Totally not kosher, but it was that, or go home. So I got my passport out of my bag, checked it in, and let it go.

The theater was the nicest theater I have ever sat in. There was PLENTY of room to sit or to spread your legs out, and then some. The movie was in Hindi but you could follow it so long as you were not asleep. It was a serious movie about the revenge of a murdered loved one, but often it would break out into song and dance which left me wondering if someone changed the spool with a different movie without anyone noticing. I loved it, every second. It was so interesting to see India's opinion on what makes a scene look good, what portrays a love scene, what portrays anger, friendship, a bad guy look etc. The best part (besides the random song and dance breaks) was that I fell in love with one of the main charecters. Oh man, she was an absolutele goddess. A complete knockout. The most beautiful women I have ever laid eyes on. Seriously. A sense of immense contentment came from sitting in my comfy theater chair, munching on popcorn, wathcing this movie that I couldnt understand a single word in.

After the movie, we walked back to our hotel and it was time to crash for the wedding was the next day. We got back to the hotel at 3am and had to leave the htoel at 9am for the wedding. I didnt sleep to well becauase I was so upset abuot my beard situation. I have no idea when I fell alseep, and didnt want to know because it was probably at 6:55 when I had to get up at 7 to be ready to leave by 9. Once we were all ready, Rory, Lavonne and I hopped on a local bus to a nearby city, and waited for Dhiren to pick us up. In the meantime, we went and bought a box of indian sweets and tried looking for flowers to bring as gifts for the wedding, but had no luck. Dhiren picks us up and takes us to his house at which point we were introduced to the family and within minutes had indian sweets and coffee infront of us. Indians are so hospitable! After we went and took a nap, then went and ate lunch. Weddings have so much food, and it was all so good!! We had a few hours til we were leaving for the wedding so Rory and I ventured out to get some flowers, since we had no lucj earlier. Good talks along the way, we got the flowers and headed back to Dhirens house to get ready. Getting ready was so much fun. Still felt like we were getting ready for one of our weddings. All suited up we walked down the streets of India feeling like full of guilt upon realizing how exspensive our outfits were in the midst of such poverty.

So we get to the house and already there are rituals going on outside to the groom to prepare for the wedding. A priest is chanting with the groom infront of him, placing certian objects in a fire around him. The groom is wearing an indian suit (I cannot remember the correct term) that is intricately woven and sparkles from the glittering sequins. His outfit is mainly red with a little of orange accents. He also wears a goldish hat that resembles a turban. There was alot of rituals with money. They would constantly put oragami necklaces of money around the groom and wave money over his head, then giving the money to the priest. Good fortune for the future maybe?

Shortly after, they get taken to the street outside where he gets on a horse (that is too intricately dressed). He felt more like a king than a soon to be newlywed. The marching band played drums and trumpets at ear shattering volume, sometimes often within inches from your ears. They were all dressed in uniforms of red and white and had cute little top hats on that made me smile. Everyone danced in the street while cars zoom and honk by just like normal. The people in the marching band would constantly call me over to them and form a circle around me, violently banging on their drums, and blowing their trumpets in my ears, encouraging me to dance around them. This happened for the next 2 hours where we ended at a temple. We go in, Rory and I get get blessed by the preiest and leave. Then we take a taxi to the wedding which takes about 2 hours through Delhis traffic that makes LA look like the road to Vegas on a monday at midnight. Upon arriving, it is more dancing with the groom on top of horses. The dancing lasted another hour or so and after getting tired of being on the sidelines holding our gifts, we set them on the ground beside the action to later find out that someone stole our gifts...Such crap, who steals from a wedding?! This is India... So Rory and I were always in the front together. Guys dance with guys and girls dance with girls. Completely different than back in America. I am constantly getting pulled from different people to dance with. Dhiren has me dance with him where he waves money over my head and throws it in the air. Everytime this happened, the marching band members within distance of flying money would pracictly fight to the death for these 10 ruppee notes. Rory and I are lead by an old man, who would smile so big at us, I felt his smile had to be painted on. He would kiss our hands everytime I placed my palms together when I saw him. He made sure we were in photographs, enjoying ourselves, and were the first to enter the party area. Upon entering we are greeted by people showering us with garlands of flowers and smiles. I was in an utter shock. I have never been greeted with such unflowing kindness. We didnt know what to say other than "thank you! thank you!" with our palms together at the chest with watery eyes. Ive never felt so accepted and secure from complete strangers before in my life. Rory and I were speechless for a few minutes after staring at our garlands and looking at each other on the brink of tears. These people treated us like royalty and they did not even know our name. Once we collected ourselves and could talk again, we walked inside. There was a red carpet leading the path, and red walls made from red cloth so you couldnt see inside. 10 feet upon entering to our right was a beautiful waterfall setup. No one was infront of us for our clear view straight ahead awaiting us, behind red rope, were probably 50 women all staring at Rory and I. The decorations of this place were unreal. Indians never disappoint with their detail. Everything was full of Reds, yellows and golds. Lights hang down from the ceilings reflecting off the beautiful decorations, and at the same time adding a ceremonial feel to the area. Flowers of every color imaginable and of great multitude were everywhere and to accent every decoration. Waiters everywhere waiting to caiter to our eery bek and whim wait patitenly with hot steaming appetizers and drinks. Guests all dressed in suits and beautiful saris filled the area to our right a bit in the distance. We felt like hollywood movie stars walking down the red carpet with all this awaiting us. The feelings I felt were indescribable, and will probably never be matched again. For the first time in my life, I couldnt talk. I can honestly say, I was actually speechless. Ive heard of people saying that term, and Ive even used it before to describe immense gratitude, but literally, I couldnt talk. All I could do was smile.

Through the dancing craziness, we lost Lavonne. Once Lavonne met up with us, we started looking around this huge vast open place for some food that was so patiently waiting our devourment. Immedately we hit the Mocktails. The best Lassi's (similar to milkshakes, but not as heavy) Ive ever had. Any flavor and as much as you wanted. It didnt take long before we had tasted every flavor, and moved on to bigger and better food selections. Shortly after, the bride came out in the most intricately woven dress I have ever seen. It had more sequens on it than elton john has worn in his entire career. Seriously, that dress must have taken a lifetime to make, no joke, it was absolutely stunning. I have never seen anything like this before. Apart from the dress, she had many bracelets on, earings, rings all that added to the shimmering and blinding brightness. There the bride and groom took pictures with family and we looked on. Once that was over, Rory and I walked around looking at all the beautiful indian women, eating, and downing coffee to help fuel my all nighter.

Lavone came over to us and said,
""Lemme guess...Cody you like the one in black and Rory you have your eye on the one in tuquoise?"
"What?! How did you know?"
"I know these things. You boys are so funny, you havent stopped talking about the women ever since you got here"
"Yep we havnt! Hey Cody you dont think we could just go up to an Indian woman and ask her out on a date do you?"
"I dont think it would be kosher, especially at a wedding...But im getting ready to throw that concept out the window my friend.."
So many beautiful women, such great food, such great times. No better way for men to bond with each other than over a good meal and hunting for women.

After a while the waiters kept hounding us for tips. If they knew how much money I spent getting ready for this wedding they would understand why I wouldnt spare any more money. But it didnt stop them from following us, staring us down, and time after time again asking for money. When this didnt work they resorted to other measures. They would constantly serve us food we didnt want, ask, or need, and then they would ask for compensation for this!. A typical indian scam; Back you into a corner with a service you dont ask for or need, and then get bullyed into giving them money for it. The solutuion, dont let yourself be bullyed and it ends pretty quickly. This pressure was quite the damper on the party, but we didnt let it affect us.

Then we had a good escape. The last ceremony was taking place. It is sealing of their marriage. It is around a fire which I found out from Dhiren before the ritual, is "an indian courthouse". This is where oaths are spoken around the fire and the bride and groom walk around the fire sealing their commitments to each other in this blazing courtroom. People gave up their front row seats to let Rory and I get a front row view of what was taking place.

As time went on afterward, and more coffee got ingested, the people started clearing out and the energy levels started to dissipate. Not too longer after we got taxis back to Delhi. I said my goodbyes to Rory and Lavonne and got a rickshaw to the metro station about 15km away with the most pesky rickshaw driver Ive ever had to deal with. He kept trying to go back on his word on the price we agreed on before I sat in the rickshaw because I was his first customer. When it came time to pay he gave me all my money back except for 20 ruppees.
"You agreed on 80, you still owe me 20.."
"Please sir, you are my first customer, 100 ok?"
"No, not ok, you agreed on a price, give me my 20 ruppees.."
He gives me 10
"Ok 90? ok, thank you."
"NO...Give me 10 rupees Im not going to ask again"
"But please sir, first customer. 100 ok thank you."
"GIVE ME MY %*#& 10 RUPEES!!!" (bleeped for my mother :) )
My sleep ddeprivation, the fact that I was getting deathly sick and loosing my voice, and his games made me snap all for about $.20. Its the principle, not the money that gets me.

I got to the train station at 4am, and my train arrived at 730. Those 3 and a half hours were quite challenging to stay awake. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally get on my train. Immediately I lock up my bag, lay myself down, tie my bandana around my eyes, and crash. Out of my 31 hour train ride I was awake only to eat and goto the bathroom. Probably a total of 2 hours. (One of them being the last hour) I was awake to ensure I got off at the right train station (which I didnt) but I saw some of the most beautiful scenary of India to date.

So that is my recap of Delhi and the indian wedding. I couldnt have asked for a better expierience, it will truly be a night I will never forget.

Be happy!