Getting up at an ungodly hour to have my turban tied. All foreign males were getting an orange turban for the wedding. Indeed, orange is the Dutch national colour, but it’s also the Indian national colour, although here, it’s the colour of saffron (called, incidentilly, rang de basanti, the name of the movie we saw earlier).
Almost everyone staying at the Manesar heritage village was clothed Indian style. The men in shalwar kameez, the women in saree or also in shalwar. Funnily enough, when we finally arrived at the wedding site, the local guys, most of them Sikh, were all wearing regular shirts and trousers. We looked more Indian than the Indians!
After a quick breakfast, we were packed, sardines-like, into two small buses, driving into Delhi. Here, near the Sikh temple where the ceremony was going to be held, Sukhbir and his family were waiting for us with an elephant. As we arrived, the elephant was still being painted in bright colours and Sukhbir was waiting in a dress made of paper money. Already, a big band and drum players were creating a racket fit for any medium sized soccer stadium.
When all was ready, after the elephant driver had created something of a throne on top of the poor animal, Sukhbir climbed on top, together with a young nephew, considered something of a good luck charm, and they were off. While waiting, we had been feeding the elephant small bank notes which the elephant would grab with his trunk, passing them on to its driver. Besides losing cash, we also had to practice dancing Punjabi style, which seems to be characterised by a lot of arm-wiggling and making sure you’re not in step with the music.
The procession slowly found its way to the temple. Everytime the band would find a bit of shade along the route, we would wait for minutes to dance, whirl and have a good time. After some 45 minutes, maybe an hour, not only ourselves but also many spectators having a good time with this rather uncommen bunch of people, we finally arrived at our destination. Nobody heard or noticed the ambulance which had been trying to pass the parade for some fifteen minutes.
At the temple, Sukhbir’s shoes had been stolen by the nephew who rode with him on the elephant. This is normal and the objective is for Sukbhir to haggle and buy the shoes back, the next day. Even the worst shoes can fetch several hundred euros in this process.
In the temple, Anne had been waiting since early morning, where it was rather hard for several of the visitors, including myself, to stay awake. After the obligatory lifting of the new relatives of one’s family, the process of marriage was started. Similar to the Hindu marriage which we had witnessed two weeks before, the Sikh marriage did involve much more music, less procedures and walking around the holy book, in stead of walking around the holy fire. Luckily, it wasn’t all in Hindi, as one of the musicians constantly explained, in English, what was going on and what was about to happen and, sometimes, why.
At the end, we were told that the head honcho had never experienced such a disciplined crowd. He didn’t know this probably was because almost everyone had fallen asleep by then. After about an hour, we were done. Quite a difference from Mansi’s, Sukhbir’s sister, wedding, where the whole ceremony apparently had taken some three hours. My god.
Then, Nitin, who runs the ITpreneurs office in Delhi, and the guy whom I had been running around Delhi with some five years ago when I first visited the city, took me to the office so that I could shake hands with the guys I occasionally talk to, through Skype.
A quick rounds later, we were off again to the afternoon reception with loads of good food and gin-tonics. A bummer, some of the guests weren’t feeling well, including Betsy. We put it down to the heat, getting up to early and not eating and drinking enough. During lunch, Sukhbir and Anne, now happily married for the second time, had to sit on a throne and accept all the happy congratulations from the crowd, not really having the time to eat in the meantime.
Near the end, Anne and Sukhbir drove off, while we were throwing coins on and over the car. As the car pulled out of the driveway, an old man selling small bananas rushed in and started to collect the coins from the floor. A rather emberassing sight.
Back to the hotel, another 90 minute drive, and winding down, waiting for the taxi that would drive us to the airport. Here, we had to stand in line after line, for once the three hours you have to show up at the airport not being ample time to get to the gate.
We decided to be rebellious and not stand in the last line, when we noticed Joost and Neha, close to the gate entrance. We started chatting with them but, just as we were to hand over our boarding passes, some dudes came and fetched us to bring us to another gate. The gate for our flight had been changed last minute.