C'mon Inner Peace… I Don't Have All Damn Day
The high pitched, non-stop, honking of scooter horns is enough to jolt tourists out of bed due to the early morning New Delhi traffic, it can also lull you into a sense of peace once you get used to the chaos.
Much like the familiar sounds of New York City, the busy Indian street sounds give me comfort.
It was the morning of our wedding, and I was laying on the typical rock-hard bed of our Air BnB condo listening to New Delhi greet the new day; Indians are not early risers but being a city of 16.1 million… this is rightful winner of the title “the city which never sleeps.”
It was a beautiful spring morning; the morning after my Sangeet/ Henna Party, and less than 48 hours after the tedious journey from the States. My excitement was more in thoughts of returning home that evening with my husband and son, rather than the enormity of what the day would entail.
At this point, my mind went into some sort of alternate reality; autopilot, if you will.
I had been told by other western women who have gone through this process to just sit back and enjoy the ride; a wedding in India is not about the bride or groom, it’s about the family.
The elevator door opened and my sister-in-law walked into my room with a warm smile; she hurriedly helped me gather my things. Completely at her disposal, my only involvement in this process was to simply show-up… so my son and I obliged.
As the three of us scurried to the beauty salon on the back of her scooter; time seemed to slow down. A combination of excitement, terror and culture shock sent my brain into overload; like a deer in headlights I tuned out the surrounding world, and turned inward as the streets of New Delhi zipped by.
“I’m in India,” is enough of a mind-fuck to grasp onto, but “I am in India getting married,” shutdown of all my senses.
My sister-in-law scheduled a fancy beauty salon to airbrush my make-up and help me get dressed. Relatives would walk in and out of the salon, sometimes with cookies and tea to feed us while we were being pampered for the big day.
Quite opposite from the States where we lay in the sun for hours to obtain maximum “golden goddess” status, India tends to lean towards glorifying a pale complexion.
The make-up artist sprayed my face white, to the point where I looked like a porcelain doll. The extended eyelashes, the smokey eyeliner and multiple layers of eyeshadow gave me the feeling of a Bollywood star. My sister-in-law spared no expense, and my heart was quickly growing attached to the kindness of my new family.
Time was ticking, and phone calls were going back and forth. Issues arose, but I couldn’t tell you what was happening exactly, we were spared this information.
My focus was spending some quality time with my son before the chaos.
I held his hands and reassured him that not only my dream, but his dream of having complete family was happening. We would all need to get to know each other’s idiosyncrasies, but ultimately love and respect conquers all.
Fast forward to the Sikh temple around the corner. Apparently Manny’s family hired a car service to shuttle us around all day, but this part was nothing more than a blur.
My only recollection was walking into a small room on the second floor of the bright and welcoming Sikh temple. All of the attendees were separated by gender; men on one side and women on the other.
As I scanned the room full of strange faces, I got my first glimpse of Manpreet looking just like a prince in his Sherwani; my fairytale was unfolding. I smiled at him, but I think my eyes screamed something along the lines of “I’m scared, let’s run away.”
Manny appeared to blush as he lowered his head and would not look my way.
I felt heartbroken; he wouldn’t even acknowledge me. Fear overcame my soul, as I sat in the corner with a bunch of aunties who kept lovingly smacking my face with glorious smiles.
Was he having second thoughts? He wanted to back out didn’t he? The look on his face was nothing like I envisioned when my husband got the first glimpse of his bride on our wedding day.
From my perspective, I was invisible; a stark contrast to American weddings where brides dream of the attention they receive on their wedding day. Instead, I was witness to my own wedding as a foreigner… alone, in the midst of a hundred souls; scared as hell.
None of my fear was about marrying Manpreet. My dream wedding was no more than ten people at sunset in a small cottage; anything other than that was a recipe for panic; stage fright being my worst enemy.
An angel walked through the glass doors; my dear friend Crystal who lives in New Delhi appeared as if she wore a glowing halo. Her soothing voice and calm words helped me through my anxiety.
Having at least one person on my side, one person who went through this process… one American who understood, was worth her weight in gold.
Crystal reminded me of how powerful Indian superstitions can be.
It never even occurred to me that Manpreet and I were not supposed to see each other until we were downstairs in front of the Granthi (Sikh priest). But, instead we were all stuck in this room together for an hour beforehand.
Manny was trying not to jinx our marriage, so he wouldn’t even flirtatiously look my way. I was familiar with a similar superstition in the States, but misunderstandings are bound to occur. Inter-cultural marriages such as ours will have millions of these confusing moments.
My sister-in-law came to walk us downstairs; it was finally time to marry my best friend.
The Anandkaraj, also known as “ceremony of bliss” starts with traditional Sikh hymns. The bride is escorted downstairs after the groom sits in front of the holy book called “Guru Granth Sahib.” The Granthi surprised our guests by speaking English as he explained the details of the Sikh philosophy and traditions of marriage.
The Laavan is the main ceremony where “four prayers” seal the marriage officially. The couple walk clockwise around the holy book four times; each trip around the altar symbolizes something different.
The first verse is about duty to family and community. The second verse is acknowledges the love between the bride and groom. The third verse symbolizes togetherness in the midst of hectic life. The fourth, and final verse, is the stage of harmony; marital love translates into a love for God.
The expression “tie the knot” comes from eastern cultures (as well as Celtic and Roman), one end of a scarf is placed on the groom’s shoulder and the other end is knotted and held by the bride as they complete the walk around the holy book.
Once the ceremony is complete, the bride and groom are officially considered married in the eyes of God and the family, but this is not a legal wedding for foreigners in the eyes of India. So Manpreet and I were married twice, the second time at a far less romantic, yet highly interesting, courthouse.
Somehow, our wedding guests snuck away to the reception hall ahead of us, and were seated when we arrived.
From this point forward, I was lost in traditions… such as a ribbon cutting ceremony as we walked into the reception hall, and we were fed some yummy cake upon arrival. These rituals were new and exciting for me; I was just enjoying the ride as I was told.
Manny and I sat on two gold thrones fit for a king and queen… for what felt like hours. Periodically, relatives would click photographs with us, until the dancing began to pick up.
My Sikh family are the happiest bunch of Punjabi’s I’ve ever seen, but no doubt, my sister-in-law wins the prize for most beautiful soul. Dressed in a stunning blue velvet lehenga, the girl DID NOT STOP dancing for one minute. But me? I was far too overwhelmed.
A few aunties pulled me onto the dancefloor attempting to make me dance Bhangra, but it was futile. This gori is adept in Salsa dancing, maybe even a touch of Merengue, but Bhangra? No can do.
My son, Cairo, had a blast showing off his American-style dance moves, and even had a dance-off with his new cousins at the reception. I’ve been told by many people that previously having children is frowned upon in Indian culture… but in our case, I truly believe my son was one of the selling points for which we were accepted so easily.
The family continued to dance until it was time to leave. We were invited to another get-together at Manny’s uncle’s house, where more rituals and blessings were given to us.
Finally, late that evening, we were allowed to return to our condo and be alone as a complete family.
Now that a few months have passed, I can sit back and reflect on my wedding day with contentment. At the time, the “unknown” of culture and traditions was quite intense; admittedly much of that day is remembered only in photographs.
What does stick in my memory though is my new family.
Their smiles, generosity and genuine love have changed something deep within me. I went to India expecting to marry Manpreet and bring him home to the States, instead I left an entire family, and with that.. part of my soul.
For more stories in the Gori and the Sikh category, click—> HERE
Check out some of our wedding pics below:
The 5 K’s of Sikism:
five Ks: Kesh, uncut hair which is kept covered, usually by a turban; an iron or steel bracelet (kara); a kirpan (a sword tucked into a gatra strap or a kamal kasar belt); kachehra, a cotton undergarment, and kanga, a small wooden comb. Initiated male and female Sikhs must cover their hair with a turban.
Related links below:
For more stories in the Gori and the Sikh category, click—> HERE
Read about “My Indian Boyfriend “—>HERE
My Big Fat Sikh Wedding: Indian Astrology —> HERE
My Big Fat Sikh Wedding: The Dress —> HERE
My Big Fat Sikh Wedding: Prelude —> HERE
My Big Fat Sikh Wedding: Show Time —> HERE
Surviving Long Distance Love—> HERE
Open Letter to my Husband—> HERE
Our Honeymoon, Rishikesh India—> HERE
Fiance Visa Process—> HERE
US Embassy New Delhi Interview—> HERE
Journey to New Delhi—> HERE
First Trip to Jaipur India —> HERE
Our First Diwali—> HERE
Giving Thanks, Shukryia —> HERE
Being Sikh in America—> HERE
The Indian Grocery—> HERE
A Path to Happiness—> HERE
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