A Punjabi Wedding in Delhi
Since I quit my job at Express a month back, I got a much-needed break before I joined the new organization. Well, you must have read about our enthralling trip to Goa, Gokarna and Hampi, following which I had to visit Delhi for a friend’s wedding. I was really excited at the prospect of meeting my entire college group and visiting a new city. I have been to Delhi a few times when I was a kid, had no choice but to travel with my parents wherever they took me.
My initial impression of Delhi was that of a terribly polluted city with loads of historical monuments and I didn’t really get a chance to interact with the locals at that time. But this time around, I was going for a Punjabi wedding and came across a lot of Delhiites. This post is exactly about that, a Punjabi wedding and Delhi people. Mumbaiites am sure your ears have opened up now.
After a lot of rescheduling, as I wasn’t sure when I would be joining my new job, I landed in Delhi late Saturday night. I must mention that I unfortunately chose Air Deccan to fly to Delhi, from Mumbai as The flight got delayed by one and a half hour.
The winter season is receding in Delhi so the temperature was 21 degrees. In the evening and especially at night it gets a bit foggy, making visibility a bit difficult. It took me around 40 minutes to reach the city (Kailash colony) from the airport. It was a long day for me and I had to attend my friend’s engagement at Hotel Ashok.
Being extremely exhausted I left for the function, only to reach when it was nearly over. The engagement was a big affair, with a group of friends putting up a dance performance for the to-be bride and groom. I was disappointed to miss it as everyone seemed to have enjoyed it, so the only thing I did was eat dinner and then proceeded to my friend’s place.
The next day me and a friend used a cycle rickshaw to go to a parlour for a rejuvenating head massage. Cycle rickshaws, an old form of transport, aren’t found in every city of India. But physically it is very taxing and strenuous, so the maximum fare would range from Rs 10 to Rs 25. After the stressbusting massage we went to a restaurant called ‘Big Chill,’ a nice place for Continental food and great shakes.
I liked the ambience, relaxed, surrounded with posters of old, classic movies and Bob Marley playing in the background made it a perfect setting for a Sunday afternoon. My friends and colleagues all had a unanimous opinion about the people in Delhi – that they all are pompous, ostentatious and seem to be over dressed through out the day. I got to see it for myself now. Girls wearing high-heeled boots on a Sunday afternoon in a casual restaurant! Eh!
After a good meal, which cost Rs 300 per person (2 dishes and a two shakes), we headed to Greater Kailash market. Public transport is a major bottleneck in Delhi, because a rickshaw ride is really expensive, you have to haggle a bit, and traveling by a local bus is out of the question. The pathetic state of affairs and the rapists make it important to have your own vehicle.
We choose to travel by cycle rickshaw again, as it gives you the real feel of the place. On the way I saw some beautiful bungalows or apartments (as they call it there). It’s much more spacious as compared to Mumbai. After some shopping we had to attend the Mehndi ceremony at Golf Links, one of the posh areas of Delhi.
This was going to be my first Mehndi ceremony so I was really excited. In fact I was the first few to get it done. This is primarily a ladies tea-party; however the male relatives are allowed to be present. On this day, (Mehndi ceremony), the future bride has her hands and feet intricately patterned with a paste which is a recipe of henna, oil, lemon juice and some water tinted with tea.
The application of mehndi or henna takes about four hours to complete. Ideally, the bride-to-be should not wash her hands until the paste has completely dried. Invitees and her friends also get their hands designed with mehndi. It basically signifies the strength of love in a marriage and people say that the darker the mehndi, the stronger the love.
My mehndi design was quite thick. I didn’t quite like it, and I had to wait for it to dry for nearly three hours. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on few drinks, so I asked my friends to help me sip on some rum and coke. Following this was the usual, dancing to some bhangra (Punjabi music). People were up till late, as the bride was leaving for UK after her wedding, so there was the conventional teasing with her to-be husband. For me, people around were only communicating in typical Punjabi, which I am not very comfortable with, so I choose to listen and exchange smiles.
The Wedding Day
The next day was the wedding and in the morning there was the “chuda” ceremony which begins with a “havan” or “puja” performed by the pandit. The chuda, i.e., the set of cream and red ivory bangles, is not shown to the girl just before the ceremony. After the puja everybody present is supposed to touch the chuda, in a manner of offering their good wishes to the girl. The chuda preceded by a ‘mauli’ which is tied by the pandit on the girl’s wrist.
Kalira (jingle) are tied on these chudas which convey their good wishes and blessings. The eligible girls line up and the bride lightly bangs her kaliras on their head. It is believed that by doing this, these girls would be the next to get married. Unfortunately it didn’t fall on my head. Sigh!!!
Four lamps are lit and the bride-to-be is made to sit in front of them. Oil is constantly added to the diyas so that the glow will be reflected on her face and she will look more beautiful on the wedding eve. That was really funny, looking at the lamp so you glow, sounds more like a spa treatment.
Two days in Delhi and I was fed up of the typical food especially the use of paneer in every item, and paneer is a staple diet here. After getting ready we left for the wedding scheduled to take place at Hotel Uppal Orchid. It was a long ride, there seemed to be quite a few weddings taking place during that time in Delhi.
It started to drizzle, really heavy huge rain drops falling on the car. That was a sign that the wedding would get delayed as the groom comes with his Barat. (Barat is a procession of the groom with his family members, relatives and friends that leads to the marriage venue)
The reception started before the wedding at around 9 pm, followed by dinner. Then there were the ‘pheras’ (7 rounds around the holy fire), where the couple exchange vows in front of the sacred fire, which started only at 3.30 am. I was quite sleepy at this point of time, I had heard that Punjabi weddings go on till late in the night and carrying on till wee hours of the morning. I nearly dozed off while the ritual was going on.
The two-hour long ritual finally got over at 6 in the morning, with the girl being sent off with the guy and his delighted family. The bride broke down while she bid farewell to her friends, relatives and parents, I was upset too for a while as she is now settled in the UK and I wouldn’t get to see her again, at least for a while. It was a touching moment. I was in bed as soon as we landed back in the guest house. We were leaving the next day in the evening, so had time to go around the city and do bit of sight-seeing.
Traveling in Delhi Metro
We went by Metro, quite impressive that, considering transport is a major problem here. This state—of-the-art facility started in December 2002 and operates at a frequency of 3 minutes. We traveled for a short distance from Central Secretariat to Rajiv Chowk, and the I was really impressed with what I saw.
The Ticketing System is fully automatic with contact less Tokens and smart cards. Some of the stations also have a Token vending machine, so you need to stand in long queues to purchase a ticket, just feed in the required fare (coins and notes) and punch in your travel details and voila!!! The ticketing system was also a great way to eliminate any possibility of ticketless traveling. Travel on the Metro cost between Rs 6 to a maximum fare of Rs 14, depending on the distance. From Rajiv Chowk we went to Janpath, a major tourist hub. In fact it’s a shopping haven for travelers. I wasn’t really keen on shopping, so we walked around and headed for lunch to Saravana Bhavan, an authentic South Indian restaurant in Delhi. Delicious food and it was a refreshing change from the regular boring Punjabi food. I had a South Indian thali and 14 mini idlis, cute ones and was quite stuffed. While eating I saw a striking board hanging on the wall – Jain Sambar available – I was surprised. to see Jain food available in Delhi! On the way I saw India Gate, Parliament House, Boat Club and from there I was on my way back to the airport. My trip to Delhi had come to an end. Well, I found the people in Delhi to be quite hostile, unfriendly, and not so welcoming. They are a bit pretentious too. I am sorry if anyone from Delhi is reading this, but that was my perception, no offence intended!!! I kind of missed the warmth and hospitality of Mumbai at that time.
As far as safety is concerned, you don’t find a single soul walking on the streets after 8 pm, the city is virtually dead, when you compare it to the night life of Mumbai. Its not a city I would like to visit again, unless I have to go up north to Valley of Flowers, Mussourie, Rishikesh etc. and make a stopover here.
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