Saturday, December 27, 2008

Photos - India Day 5 - Cheryl gets bounced from a Wedding

Here comes the bride. I'm not sure which groom she was attached to. She didn't look very happy, perhaps it was an arranged marriage. The bride is on the left, the woman on the right (I think) is a bridesmaid.

It is wedding season in India from November to February (or thereabouts). The weather is cooler and I guess brides, like anywhere in the world, don't want to be greeting people while perspiring in their wedding finery in 38 degree heat. We were so fortunate to be able the witness six weddings while at the Sun and Sand on our final four days in India. These were lavish affairs, and we were told anyone having a wedding at a five-star hotel had money. I loved these weddings and became hooked on checking out the latest brides, and guests and shiny offerings. These weddings were so incredibly different to the white wedding I endured in the early 1990s, and Bob and my quickie wedding trip to the Perth Registry office in 2007. The main difference, apart from the ceremony and religious aspects, was the colour. An Indian bride wears red. I much prefer red to the white "Snow Beast" outfits Western brides truss themselves up in. White doesn't suit a lot of people, and it sure didn't suit me, though my second wedding dress was a red frock with black cardigan (it was winter). The other major difference is that the Indian groom has much more attention focused on him, whereas in Western cultures a wedding is very much the bride's day.

This wedding get up belongs to the above bride.

I didn't have a zoom lens, so could not get up too close. Each day the hotel staff stripped down the decorations from the night before, and put up pretty much the same display for that evening's wedding. On this day there were two weddings, of which this was the first. the "greeting stages" are side by side.

Wedding number two. This set belongs to the groom below. I didn't get a close-up of the bride, because she arrived away from the fanfare of the groom's arrival.

Outside the Sun and Sand - everyone having a gawk at the groom arriving - including me from my perch on a wall at the back of the celebrations.

Arrival of the groom by horse-drawn carriage is symbolic of the days where a groom would ride to his bride and whisk her away. The groom wears a curtain of flowers or beads to shield his face in case a passing woman sees his beauty and wants him for herself.

The families meet and party on.

The men from the groom's family (in white turbans) proceed the horse-pulled groom carriage, to the reception venue, dancing to a live band of drummers and trumpet players. The men from the bride's family (in pink turbans), waiting at the reception entrance join the groom's family member and boogie on down. What a spectacle, what a sound! It was so happy we didn't bother to go on our planned shopping trip.

Dancing to the commanding sounds of the drums.

The epitome of beauty. The woman in green arrived with the groom in the horse-drawn carriage. I don't know what her role in the celebrations was, perhaps she is some kind of groom's assistant. She was free to dance with the men, though I didn't see any other guest dance with a member of the opposite sex.

I love this pic! This lady kept smiling and waving at me. Isn't she beautiful? Later, after I had danced, she gathered around me - the photo-journalist - standing on a plant tub and called me "Monkey". Western women can get away with a whole lot more than Indian women can.

More happy dancing women. I can't see Australian wedding guests getting into the joy as much as the Indian women did.

During the 15 years I was a belly dancer I was invited to dance at many weddings, hosted by families from a variety of cultures. The most difficult weddings I danced at were ones with primarily Australian audiences. What a bunch of socially inept people. The Aussie men would dance, if you pulled them by the hand so darn hard they were forced to leave their setas, and they'd have to be pretty drunk to dance for more than a minute. The Aussie women, just put it this way, belly dancers across this nation will complain about the death stares they receive from Aussie females, especially if you happened to choose their man to dance with.

I primarily danced at Lebanese, Greek and Turkish weddings, plus the odd Chinese and Japanese wedding. The Chinese, surprisingly, were a bunch of jovial party-animals and many a time the men would get up on rickety reception venue tables, strip off their shirts, and take over the performance for me. The Lebanese women were gorgeous, happy to dance and keep on dancing, well after I had departed. They also tipped very well. Lebanese men were slimy pricks in the main, each outdoing each other to give the biggest tip, while attempting to stuff it down the belly dancer's bra top. That is an absolute no-no for professional belly dancers, yet still they tried.

I loved Turkish and Greek audiences the most. The women were first to line up for the dancing, the men were shoved to the side, and the attention was on the women and men dancing, more so than the paid entertainment. That was fine by me. After 15 years of dancing at weddings I wanted to get in, get down, get paid and get out.

What struck me about dancing, albeit for only a short time, is that both Indian women and men are brought up with dance. it is natural for them to let loose, to hug, to party. So different to Australian culture where, for a man to touch another man, is a sure sign of homosexuality, and for a man to dance with a man proves one is a metro-sexual homosexual. Unless, of course, you're a blind rotten drunk man , sitting at a bar in the wee hours, arms around each other's necks commiserating about how bad all women are ...

"Meee..yyy...t. I love you meyt."
"No meyt, I love you. I rooly rooly luv you."

I suspect Australian men of British extraction get this fear of being called gay from their colonial roots.

Play that funky music - this guy really got into his playing. If only we had sound on this blog, he was playing loud, happy and with gay abandon.

Yes, that tall white intruder in the middle of the melee would be me.

Despite trying to stay away from the dancing, though my soul wanted to boogie, I was dragged in by a group of Indian wedding guests and found myself moving along to the rhythm. Having been a professional belly dancer for fifteen years, who retired in 2005 and hasn't danced, not professionally nor socially for three years, I was delighted to feel the spirit of world, swaying to a common beat - happiness. I haven't felt that way for such a long time. I cranked out a few swift belly dance moves, to the approval of the women, because belly dance and Indian classical/Bollywood dance are very similar. To my new-found dancing friends, I was dancing their dance, they were impressed, and I felt so good being able to communicate through the language of dance even if we could not communicate with words.

At this wedding the men danced with the men and the women with the women. The men and women, in the main, did not dance with each other. The only other western in the vicinity, Bob, was taking loads of photos. Even he hasn't seen me dance in the whole time we've been together. It is something I used to love, was passionate about, but when my hobby became a business, dance slowly turned into an activity of labor, rather than love. I started to abhor dancing because it became a way of making money to support myself and my habit of buying old houses to renovate, and I lost the joy for dance of any type some time ago.

Bob is not a dancer. He says he is uncoordinated and has two left feet. He doesn't, he just isn't willing to learn a few steps, and I know because over the years I've managed to teach so many women who declared themselves uncoordinated the basics of dance, and have seen them become lovely elegant dancers.

Dancing happily away I catch in the croner of my vision poor Bob being hauled into the crowd, his camera taken from around his neck. I'm worried about the camera, and getting it back, but more worried about Bob and his reluctance to dance, let alone do it socially. My experience withBob and his dancing in four years with my dear husband has been being party to the occasional inebriated waltzx around the loungeroom, or his dirty dancing manoeuvre into the boudoir. Bob is not a dancer. And Bob did what any shy nerdy engineer would do in a pique of panic, made a bee-line straight for wifey.

Doh-do! Wrong.

We danced for a matter of two seconds before the entertainment leader, the fellow directing the musicians and the dancing crowd, turned his angry face on me and made head-jerky movements that clearly indicated Bob was not to dance with the women. Big faux pas Cheryl. It wasn't his fault though, he was being pulled in the direction of the women and shoved from behind. He kinds had to end up where he did. In an effort to get out of the crowd and not continues to offend the dance master, Bob beat a hasty retreat with me in pursuit, only two find himself in the inner santctum of dancing women, and even closer to Mr Angry Face. Mr Angry Face glared and his head wobbled became increasingly jerkier, but we simply could not get out.

All we could do was protest in English that we had to go, mouthing "Go, we go," while jerking our own heads towards the hotel, trying to get the dancers to understand we needed to leave. they had not seen Mr Angry Face get up poor Cheryl, nor did they care they were dancing with a flat-footed white fellow. Bob escaped, I did not, so I stayed and danced a little more until the movement of the crowd took me through the front gates of the Sun and Sand where the crowd dispersed.

Mr Angry Face. This fellow seemed to be an entertainment leader of sorts. They was a lot of money waving going on, over the heads of the dancers and to the band. here he is encouraging the band to play louder and longer for extra rupiah.

"Louder! Or noooo more rupiah!"
(and don't you dare play for that foreign man called Cheryl).

The groom and a bevy of beauties. He was handsome and shy young groom.

The groom being danced towards the bride's family, with Mr Angry Face at front left.

The groom presenting a highly decorated egg to the bride's mother. I don't know what the significance of this is.

The bride's mother and the priest.

Women from the bride's family welcome the groom and his family. I much prefer Indian fashion. Wow, they all look so gorgeous.


Mandy said...

Great PICS Amani! I love to read your stories and close my eyes as if i were there with you guys. I cant wait to go witness some of it myself.(Feb. 2009). Keep posting wonderful stuff.

Amani said...

Mandy - you will be there in Feb and see weddings too. you love it and hate it, but mainly love it!


(dis)enchanted said...

i love the red as well.. the vibrancy, the passion... it seems to bring so much liveliness to the ceremony! how awesome you got to witness these, sure does make you think about our own culture on a deeper level, huh ?

Linda said...

Amazing pictures you have taken Amani! :) And you write so well spoken. I can't wait to go and see it all with my own eyes :D Thank you for sharing

Bob said...

"Meee..yyy...t. I love you meyt."
"No meyt, I love you. I rooly rooly luv you."

Too funny!