Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mehndi and Cocktails

Indian weddings are known for their their sheer size. When the American co-workers of the groom's brother are invited, you start to get a sense of how quickly the invite list can get out of control, at least from the perspective of someone that invited around 180 people to his own wedding.

While we're likely not able to make the actual wedding (the groom on a white horse, the drums, the procession), we were able to attend the night-before-the-wedding Mehndi and Cocktail Party hosted by our co-worker. The invite stated a 7:30pm start time. Lindsay asked what time was appropriate to show up and was told 8:00pm. Having heard the wedding was "right next to Gurgaon", we decided we'd leave the comfortable confines of our apartment at 8:00pm just to make sure we weren't too early. Ten minutes prior to departure I googled the location. Surprisingly, the address pointed to a locale in Delhi northwest of the airport in a neighborhood called Kirti Nagar (Marble Market). While technically still "right next to Gurgaon" as any address in Delhi could accurately be described based on the two cities being adjacent, this place was at least an hour away.

As usual, our trusty driver Kailash knew the neighborhood and forty-five minutes later we entered Kirti Nagar (so he drives a little quick; he knows where he's going which counts for a LOT). After stopping once for directions, we arrived at the venue an hour and a half after the printed start time but still on the earlier side of the guests.

This was a wedding function like no other we had been to India. This was a smaller pre-wedding night cocktail party for the groom's side. The bride, Lindsay was disappointed to learn soon after arrival, would not be part of the festivities thus enhancing her point of view that the Indian wedding is all about the groom. I don't think she's wrong.

There was one mehndi artist decorating the arms and hands of the female party guests. As the lone white woman, Lindsay was quickly ushered over by our host. Her only prior mehndi or henna experience came in 2005 after an exhausting day of stall shopping at Dilli Haat when she finally succombed to the relentless henna hawkers located near the entrance. This time seemed just a tad more intimate and authentic. She only had her left hand done; however, even that effectively turns a person into a temporary amputee as they are unable to use the impacted appendage until the ink dries.
Lindsay's mehndi makes the party video footage
As a result, I became the drink fetcher and had to find someplace for her purse (thankfully, we're fairly certain one of our other co-workers had been assigned to keep us comfortable for the evening and his wife took care of the purse on my behalf).

With any Indian party, there is music. There is also dancing. I've found the key to the dancing part to look like you're enjoying yourself watching the dancing without looking like you're enjoying it so much that you actually want to join the dancing. This strategy typically works for the first twenty to thirty minutes. At that point, others (who, mind you, aren't even dancing themselves) start to lightly pester you about getting out on the dance floor. At that point, Lindsay has typically joined the dancing so I'm able to make up some quick quip about how she's representing my interests on the dance floor. This works for approximately three to five minutes. At that point, I get pulled to the dance floor (usually by a person of authority like the host, my boss, whatever) and become the source of entertainment for a song or two. Actually, I don't think people really care what I dance like (and it's not good), but it's probably more disrespectful to not dance at all than to dance like a complete fool.

While we still need to make our way back to a traditional wedding ceremony (we've been to two previously but none in the past year), the mehndi party was a fun, new, and memorable experience; even if I was forced to show my dance moves. In my defense, I was told last night that I nearly have the Punjabi finger point move mastered.


  1. grEat last LINE!!

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