I recently attended my oldest niece's wedding in Warangal, India. It was AWESOME!
I was nervous just thinking about the flight, which was approximately 24 hours door-to-door. It did have serious consequences for my feet (all swelled up!); however, the entire trip and everyone there were just lovely and treated me far better than I should ever be!
The last time I was in India it was nine years prior, when we were hosting our wedding reception and I got to know all the family first hand. Back then, I got to meet tons of people, 99% of which were blood relatives of my husband's nuclear family. Families are grand in all the sense of the word in India! In comparison, my own family has just been two grandmothers, an uncle, and my parents.
Unlike that first trip, however, this time I did not bring with me any "western" food except for some almonds and three power bars. I planned on eating locally prepared delicious, and piping-hot foods the entire trip.
The key to not becoming ill in India, or reducing illness potential, is to eat piping-hot food, drink bottled water, and indulge in peelable fresh fruits--such as in-season pomegranates and imported apples. Our family even had Nutella and milk bread for me! I was awed and thankful at every corner. I have a benefit over most other foreign visitors when I go to India, in that I was staying at two family members' (gorgeous) homes where meals are cooked with loving care.
I truly felt out of place, but not because of any cultural differences, rather, because everyone treated me so incredibly kindly. I felt like I needed reeducating in courtesy and hospitality. People have hearts as big as the country itself, there. I am humbled and honored to know these wonderful family members and to learn so much from them at each encounter. I learned a lot about hospitality, duty, family, and ceremony.
Lots of ceremonies were attended in preparation for the wedding! My niece's wedding took place *only* after ~2.5 days of preparatory ceremonies. She was glowing, smiling, and charming no matter what the length of time the ceremonies needed in order to complete. The photographer captured her every angle in delicate saris and gorgeous salwars.
The grandeur with which the ladies adorn themselves for even the shortest of family events left me befuddled and aghast at the lack of presentable outfits I had packed. The heat completely overwhelmed my plan of wearing two pairs of khakis, instead opting for two skirts which made me look like I was wearing a sari petticoat! *shame* But I figured I looked and felt odd enough in western apparel, I certainly don't feel comfortable wearing traditional wear.
The wedding and pursuant celebratory shindigs took place from 7 pm until 3:30 am on August 8. That was truly a merry day for all involved. I wasn't sure what to expect, so just followed suit and stepped in tow of all the family members as we proceeded through the paces. I got to meet even more people than I do at work during the annual conference--estimates were that 1,600-1,800 guests attended the wedding, reception line, and dinner.
Folks were a little shocked at my choice of a Western style dress during the wedding proceedings. Some people were shocked there was a white woman there at all. A little ashamed at my choice in apparel in view of the exhaustive heat, and the amazingly colorful sari attire around me, I was left to ponder whether I'd made a mistake.
I finally got to go shopping on the second to the last day. I now have three lovely, plain cotton tunics in jewel tones and several gorgeous scarves and chunnis. I also procured, withe the help of my sis in law, a humongous selection of dothis for wearing around the house, and some lovely Indian cotton (quick-drying) bath towels (yey!), plus some cotton handkerchiefs.
My sis in law is a charmer and an expert negotiator when it comes to shopping. Her husband is also an expert business negotiator! I wish I had half their talent and skill.
As it happens, our trip coincided with the birthday celebrations for Lord Krishna. We went to pay our respects at the nearby Krishna temple. I even got to meet the woman who founded this particular initiative in Warangal, and a jovial and sincerely dedicated fellow who signed up the signif other unit last year for the global ISKCON membership. This reminds me that I must visit our local Krishna temple soon, since it's just around the street.
The trip left me with incredibly painful, swollen feet and legs, and a 24-hr bug that left me useless for just under 24 hours. This all on top of the homicidal jet lag and extreme heat. Thankfully, I had my trusty water bottle with me at all times and enjoyed a healthy dose of a ceiling fan and/or a/c.
I hope to visit again very soon, and make it sooner than the 9 years that lapsed since the last time. There is much sight-seeing left, such as Kerala. But if nothing else, I am very much looking forward to many more conversations with sweet, lovely people who are so kind to me that there are no words to describe nor thank them.
Here's to good trips and huge families!