Indians definitely know how to party! We had the privilege of attending a wedding early last week. One thing was made clear after attending this celebration–the fascination with our differentness. Everywhere we travel, as a group of Americans, we are stopped, stared at, and photographed. At first uncomfortable and awkward, I have grown accustomed to it and it is something I have come to embrace. It is funny how we are recognized from a mile away; and it is easy to get annoyed when 30 people are gathered around, pointing and speaking about you in a language you cannot understand. It is the first time many people in this small, rural village have ever seen an “other” and we stand out with our language and variations in skin color, eye color, and hair types. They are fascinated, engrossed and captivated by our every move. The translators, guards and locals helping on the trip have told us that we are the equivalent of celebrities, which is hard for us to conceptualize. When we go on trips to local events, even the wedding and other celebrations, people are watching us and photographing us instead of the main event, which is hard to accept.
The wedding was unlike anything I have ever experienced. First of all, it was enormous, E-NOR-MOUS! Imagine about 2,000-3,000 of your friends, family, and village (basically the entirety of the small, rural Indian town). Now, imagine an energetic singer, complete with a band on a stage, giant speakers, and the sounds of never ending Indian dancing music. The women, of all ages, are decked out in their most elaborate sarees full of vibrant colors, jewels, and glitter. The men were mostly dressed in button downs or white pants and a matching shirt.
In India, the wedding families host a three-day to week-long celebration in honor of the wedding. The night we attended was the first of the series. It was a large ground that was covered with plastic drapes, complete with a makeshift fence, stage, waterfall, decorations and lights. With music blasting, people dancing, and the general commotion that one could imagine with attending an event of this size, it still bewilders me that almost all activity was halted upon our arrival. Within seconds, it was as if we had a large flashing sign over heads saying “foreigners here!” and instantly hundreds of people were staring, coming to watch us, surround us and take pictures. They all wanted to take pictures, hold our hands, and simply watch us.
There were local newspapers following us around, wanting us to partake and dance and smile for photos. We were thrown into the “garba” line. aka dancing circle. A handful of us, myself included, jumped into the line, embarrassing ourselves to no end. We danced and danced, trying to learn the wedding garba steps from watching the other women and men, but more practice is always needed.
I remember looking up and trying to remove myself as an active partaker and try to see what was going on around me. It looked like a middle school dance. Boys were dancing with each other, making their own garba circle, and the girls were in their own circle creating a larger concentric circle around them and the entirety of the wedding celebration.
Weddings in India last until people stop dancing. This means that weddings can go on well into the morning. The bride left the wedding around 1am, but the wedding commenced. We left around 2 am, and there were still hundreds of people celebrating!