08 August 2006
We attended our first-ever Indian wedding last weekend and I hope it will not be our last. We need to hook up with some more Hindus....these people have got it going on.
Even though there were more than 500 guests at the Park Plaza, James and I were among a small handful of people who did not share the last name "Patel." The bride and groom were both Patels as were hundreds of aunts and uncles and cousins and other distant relatives -- some from India, others from Needham. Apparently, "Patel" is the "Smith" of the Indian world. Jackson is also a common name so when we spotted a placecard with "James and Maggie Jackson" scribbled across it, we assumed there was another Jackson couple in attendance.
We scanned the rows of Patels for another Jackson card. Nope. I was Maggie. This was new. I'm usually "accidental Kathy" in these situations. We rolled with it. James started referring to me as "Mags" and I proceeded to search the cocktail reception for Prabu Prabakhar.
All of the women were dressed beautifully -- saris in vibrant silks and brocades, bejeweled mojaris, jangly bracelets. I was so sour that I didn't get to wear this garb. I love everything about it. I'd been eyeing a sari on eBay but wasn't sure if there were different meanings attached to certain colors and patterns and it would be just my luck to show up in a traditional dress that meant "village whore." It wouldn't have mattered; a few elders still eyed us suspiciously and rightly so. We looked like Indian wedding crashers. I was a self-tanning freak in a blue polyester disco dress. James, in his mismatched suit, was wearing the anti-Caftan. Even so, we were warmly welcomed into the fold as Jackson-Patels...and it was quite an experience.
The only things I've ever learned at weddings were a few crappy line dances. Here, we learned about the food, traditions and music of an entirely different culture. A few nuggets:
FOOD: Until I discovered the Kashmir luncheon buffet in the 1990s, my only experience with Indian food had been the cooking smells that wafted into Planet Records from the old India Quality restaurant in Kenmore Square. The wedding feast made me realize our dining repetoire was severely lacking; it put Kashmir to shame and left us with a mad jones for Indian food that could involve some take-out from Indian Delight in Weymouth this week.
CULTURE: The blessings and rituals of an Indian/Hindu wedding place more emphasis on the joining of two families than the couple itself. While the ceremony remains largely traditional, the reception is more fly-by-night -- a fact duly noted when the groom's parents were introduced to Usher.
MUSIC: Indian techno music. Indian classical meets club. It's the sitar and the tabla set adift on techno beats and electronic samples. Yes. Very Good. Throw in a couple of tabs of Exstacy and you've got yourself a ripper. Not that we would know. Jimmy and Mags did spend quite a bit of time on the dancefloor though, only to be out-stepped by an 80-year-old indian man busting some Michael Jackson moves nearby.
That said, it's clear that we need to bring some new Indian pals into the fray. That's no small task in the burbs, however, as noted by the bride's sister who grew up in "not so diverse" Hanover. In her hilarious toast, she described how her father Mahendra would be at the Hanover Mall and would sidle up to strangers who even remotely resembled someone of the Indian persuasion: "Psst. You Indian?" That said, if anyone's looking for us, we'll be trying to pick up some Patels by the Orange Julius.