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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont
Soon after my nephew introduced his Rajasthani fiancée to us in 2019, we started dreaming about a grand wedding in Rajasthan, filled with music, dance, and mouth-watering sweets. Who hasn’t seen the wedding pictures of Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra?
We are Tamilians and our weddings tend to be short. The muhurtham is usually in the morning and guests start leaving after lunch. Our bridegrooms in cotton dhotis pretend to go to Kashi to become an ascetic and sometimes we dare them. “Good idea! She can do better.”
On the other hand, well-dressed Rajasthani grooms arrive on a horse or in a car to the venue with a fanfare and get a warm welcome. No wonder our extended families, living halfway across the globe, got excited and booked their tickets to attend the wedding.
Then in March 2020, Covid-19 happened, and the week before the wedding, flights were canceled; borders were closed; and our dreams came crashing down. Two months later, when the curfew was relaxed, we settled for a highly abbreviated wedding ceremony with just 20 people in a large outdoor venue in Bangalore. That didn’t go smoothly either.
When the bride got ready in the traditional 9-yards saree accessorized with the surgical mask for the muhurtham, it started to pour heavily. The guests scrambled to find shelter, leaving the bride, the groom and the priests to get drenched in the rain. As the rain pelted, we held a tarpaulin over the priests and the young couple. At one point, even the bridegroom had to be conscripted to hold the tarpaulin while chanting the mantras. It was utterly comical.
A Jodhpur Feast
Two years passed and our vocabulary grew multifold with new phrases: pods, mRNA, contact tracing, social distancing, flatten the curve, etc. Then we got vaccines, and our dream was revived. The bride’s family invited us to a reception in Jodhpur for the families to meet the couple. As my nephew put it succinctly, celebrating a 2020 wedding in 2022 is this year’s thing.
After welcoming us with garlands and dhol in Jodhpur, our hosts began feeding us incessantly. The running joke in our family was to be careful not to yawn in front of our hosts: someone will put a sweet in your mouth. Some of us started to hone our ‘hide and seek’ skills whenever we spotted our hosts heading in our direction. At the end of the first day, I started wishing I were a cow so that I could have four stomachs.
On the second day, after we had a sumptuous breakfast, a vehicle took us to visit Mehrangarh Fort. From the top of the magnificent fort, which is on a hill, we got a breathtaking view of the blue city. We admired the intricate carvings and saw the restored Persian wheel and the cannons. The Mehrangarh museum has an amazing collection of howdas, palanquins, textiles, and swords. What I loved the most are the incredible miniature paintings, which viewed with a magnifying glass, leave you in awe of the dexterity of the artists.
That afternoon, three beautiful dancers dressed in ghaghras, taught us the basics of ghoomar and I twirled round and round in a circle, stepping on others’ toes and bumping elbows. This was followed by an enormous lunch banquet. At the end of the day, we were sated with food, music and dance and were looking forward to sleeping in the next day, but when we were offered a walking tour of the city at 6 a.m., some of us couldn’t resist.
Gulab Sagar Lake
Our guide, a friend of our host, is an artist and is well-versed with the history of the city. She regaled us with interesting anecdotes she had heard stories from her grandparents about the city. She took us to see the Sardar market, the 300-year-old clock tower, Gulab Sagar Lake and the houses painted in blue. And she enlightened us with the undergoing efforts to preserve and restore the city, its arts and traditions.
We were silently congratulating ourselves for successfully escaping from a heavy breakfast by going on this tour in the morning. But our guide stopped at a jalebi shop where the owner offered us crispy, jumbo-sized jalebis, soaking in the right amount of sugar syrup. That was followed by another stop at a kachori shop where we tasted kachoris topped with sangri.
A couple of hours later, when they dropped us off at the airport, our hosts handed us two boxes and told us that those were snacks for the plane trip. We pretended that we could never eat anything for a few days and vowed to eat only soups and salads. As the plane landed in Bangalore, it started pouring cats and dogs. After baking in 42 degrees Celsius heat in Jodhpur, we started to feel cold on the ride home. Once we reached home, we warmed up the delicious pyaz kachoris and mirchi bajjis and had them with hot tea.
Many friends have told me about the hospitality of Rajasthani people, but their words only scratched the surface. For three days, we tasted local delicacies, listened to great music, got dance lessons and received beautiful gifts. I am so humbled by the generosity of our thoughtful hosts, who kept us entertained all the time and taught us a lesson in hospitality.
On a different note, I haven’t dared to step on the scale for a while now.