Travel Blog: An Indian Wedding
India, Day 9
A wedding? In India? I was excited when my host informed me that we would be in attendance at a wedding after our morning outreach on day nine. Staying at a home in most areas of India means that you surrender your ability to plan anything longer than eight hours ahead of time. It's just the way the culture operates. In Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart's Rick has a great exchange with a woman in his cafe:
Yvonne: Where were you last night? Rick: That's so long ago, I don't remember. Yvonne: Will I see you tonight? Rick: I never make plans that far ahead.
Those lines are snappy and witty to hear in a film, but in India, that attitude is more often than not a region-wide reality. By this point, I was accustomed to surprises in my daily itinerary, and I was happy to learn that this surprise in particular was going to be a lot of fun.
Getting to the wedding took some doing; there hadn't been much rain in our area, but there hadn't been a lot of direct sunlight either. As such, the roads were still slurries of muck, always at least five inches deep. To make travel even more fun, we had a little competition for road space as we pulled up to the group of houses in the village where the wedding was to take place. There was a bus parked on one side of the road and several tractors and ox carts going back and forth, and our faithful Bolero had to take the outer edge of the road to get into the village complex. The truck got stuck for a minute or so, but our intrepid Driver was able to negotiate his way through it.
We disembarked and I took in the scene. I've photographed a lot of weddings, but I've never photographed an Indian wedding ceremony. I've always wanted to, but the opportunity never presented itself back home. And now, I was at an Indian wedding, in India. A Christian Indian wedding, no less. Life is funny like that.
An impromptu wedding venue had been constructed in the courtyard between some houses. An immense tent hung from poles on two sides, with the other two sides attached to the houses. Inside, sunlight filtered through the fabric to wash everything and everyone beneath it in an electric, technicolor glow. Musical instruments were held in readiness for the ceremony, while the pre-ceremony environment was supercharged with music from a boombox connected to a set of speakers that blared chants and songs for a good quarter-mile.
The ceremony began about an hour after we arrived, and the girls raised their voices in a chanted refrain as the musicians began making live music. The groom entered from stage right. He was dressed entirely in white, except for his bright ride Puma sneakers. The bride emerged after nearly another hour of music. The music had died down and the ceremony was underway, with a short "homily" from the officiant preceding the vows proper. The content, all delivered in Hindi, was entirely lost on me of course, but I was content to observe the goings-on and assume that the message wasn't too different than the wedding messages I hear back home.
We had to leave before the end of the ceremony, sadly. The wedding began a full two hours behind schedule (even in India, that seemed pretty extreme to me), and Driver had appeared at our elbows to whisper that he was only on the clock for a little while longer, and we needed to move on if we wanted him to drive us home. So, we left early.
I was intrigued by the expressions on the bride and groom's faces. Unlike the weddings I've attended and photographed for years back home, I saw no signs of emotion in the couple. There are usually some hints of shyness or happiness on one or both faces, but on these two, I saw only stoicism. I asked one of my host's colleagues about this.
"Why did the bride and groom look like that?"
"Like what?" He seemed surprised.
"They looked sad."
He nodded. "Ah, yes. They are actually very happy, but they are leaving their families now, so for that reason they are looking sad."