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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

An Indian Wedding... in Mauritius!

By Zee Monodee

Hey peeps!

I'd originally posted this one exactly 2 years ago. Today is my day to post, but given that my dad unexpectedly had to have surgery yesterday, I'm still not thinking straight enough to write a new post. Since the topic of this month is weddings, I thought I'd dust this one out and let ye all have a go at it.
And yes, in case you're wondering - my dad's doing fine. He's even coming home today. *grin*

Enjoy!

~~~~~

When Joanna told us that May and June were gonna be wedding-themed months, she and I exchanged a few emails, where I asked her if the perspective of attending an Indo-Mauritian wedding - through a blog post! - sounded good.

I got her blessing, and here we are today. So what's an Indian wedding in Mauritius like? First, I need to give you a little background. Weddings in India are really grand affairs. Now take Indians out of India and drop them the world over, and what do they do? Make everything even grander than 'back home', because the diaspora has ties and traditions it maintains with the homeland.
That all applies to Mauritius too - which, in case you don't know (even after all my yakking!), is a small island of world-wide immigrants in the southern Indian Ocean. Indians - Hindus, Muslims, Tamil folks - came to the island back in the 19th century, mostly to work as indentured labour in cane fields, under British rule, post abolition of slavery. Many Indians also came as tradesmen, craftsmen, or sailors who settled on the island. Our culture has in a way evolved to an islander one, but most of our traditions and manners and behaviour bear a striking resemblance to the world of India.

Okay, so what happens at an Indian wedding in Mauritius? I will give you my take on it, from the Muslim world. Yes, we do 'do' big weddings, and the fun and crush of relatives - not so different from our other Indian counterparts.

Check out this vid - it'll give you a pretty good idea of 'getting into a wedding' here.



So lol, yes, we do 'trip over' family the minute we step into a house where there is a wedding! Suddenly you're there and starring down a barrage of old aunties who all :

a) if you're under 15, will pinch your cheeks and go 'Look how you've grown! Soon we'll need to start looking for a proper boy for you!' (by which time we're going, how the heck do I get out of here without showing any disrespect to the old biddies and starting WWIII in the family because 'I' behaved like a 'shameful brat'?)

b) if you're over 16, will pat your cheek and hair and go 'When do we start looking for a good boy for you to marry?' all while crush-kneading the flesh of your upper arm and urge you to 'Eat because no man wants to marry an ironing board'. (and here too, you're wondering how the heck you get out without starting WWIII)

c) if unfortunately, you happen to be in your 20s and unmarried, will go 'When are you getting married, girl? You're getting on in age, aren't you?' (and here you're tempted to tell them all about your boyfriend whom no one knows about, but you rein your tongue in and keep mum, while smiling like a brainless idiot)

d) if you're past 27 and unmarried, will pat your cheek while making 'tsk-tsk' noise and some even will say 'Such a shame you're unmarried'. (and you, by now, are itching to tell them to go to He-- well, you know where, but again, you don't want to start WWIII and by now you're an expert at defusing their bombs and at being such a diplomat the Foreign Office could learn a few tricks of Diplomacy from you!)

e) if you're past 30 and still unmarried, will out and out ask you 'where's your mother/father?' because of course, you're not married so obviously you have no life except for looking after your old people.

f) if you're married, no matter what age, will ask you the minute they see you 'where's your husband?' because you know the old crones are all dying to ogle him out, like they ogle all the young men and think we don't know. You, of course, having been married, do not count anymore.

g) if you've got kids, will ask you (right after asking about your husband, meeting him and literally drooling over him!) where your kids are. If you have no kids yet (always by ill-luck, never by choice *gotta remember that!*), you know the question coming, right? 'When will you make grandmothers out of us?'
And if you already have kids - 'when's the next one coming?'

By now, you might still be holding on to your sanity, if you're strong, and if you've learned all about Auntie 101, 201, 301 (and so forth) Diplomatic Psychology. We all graduate with that, we descendants of Indians.
So onwards you move into the house - did I forget to mention we were all still out in the patio/garden/before the front door?

This encounter with the aunties certainly gives the tone of what the rest of the festivities will be like. Typically, an Indo-Mauritian Muslim wedding takes place over 4 days. And this is what the wedding house looks like (forgot to mention that the housefront will be bedecked with twinkling lights that rival Harrods' at Christmas time!):



The clothes worn are very much like those in the clip, though we're supposed to cover our midriffs for fear of giving any aunty a heart attack. And for God's sake, girl *gasp*, is that a piece of leg showing???

Let's see if I can find a few pics of what we'd wear here:


That's a lehenga-choli on the left - and yes, it does tend to weigh a ton in sequins and embroidery! -, and a silk sari on the right.

Muslim women who wear the headscarf might opt for something like this:


Now the wedding itself is not a huge deal. It's a ceremony where vows are exchanged, lasts about 30 minutes or so. But while the consent is being exchanged and "you are husband and wife before God" is then pronounced, all the guests gather in a big hall, where the groom will come claim the bride after the religious ceremony, and then they'll cut the cake, take the wedding pics, and then every family member is gonna go up on the raised dais to congratulate the new couple. That's the day where we'd be decked in our brightest finery (and some of those sequin-works can be blinding!).
Sometimes on this day itself, after the reception, there will be the wedding dinner. Usually that's set for another day, bringing the festivities close on Day 4.

Day 1 is the first religious ceremony to bless the whole wedding, and also when preps are under the way and the closest relatives are invited (and when you fall on the aunties like up above!).


It's Day 2 that's one where there's the most fun! The Mehendi ceremony - where henna is applied to the bride's hands and feet. It is said that the more the henna turns a dark colour on the bride's skin, the more her groom is in love with her. This one is a women-only gathering, usually on the eve of the wedding day. Songs, dancing, and often ribald jokes from the aunties are all the rage at this 'party'. The songs will most of the time be folk songs in Bhojpuri, which is the regional dialect from India most Indo-Mauritian descendants still speak, mostly in rural areas. Or they can be in Urdu, which is the language from Pakistan and which many people know here. Check out the clip here to get an idea what I'm talking about:



And by the time the wedding celebrations are over, you are totally wiped out. And if you're lucky, your wallet too is still in good stead, because *gasp* you should never wear the same clothes twice - never at the same wedding, and if possible, not even at another wedding in the same family. We work around this by wearing what we wore for one wedding, say in our family, at another wedding at the husband's family, where no one has seen the clothes!

Amid this all, add a very loud, mind-numbing or even brain-bashing dose of Indian Pop or Bollywood music. Lots of soft drinks (most of the time Pepsi!) drunk throughout the days. And lots of cake and other Indian sweets eaten over at every gathering. In short, a diabetic's nightmare...

But you shared in the family's happiness, didn't you? that's what it is all about, in the end - family, relationships, ties, and sharing.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

17 comments:

  1. I LOVED this! A couple of years ago, I witnessed an Indian wedding party arriving at a hotel where my RWA group was meeting. It was such a beautiful spectacle.

    The old aunties sound so much like black grandmas. There's an old saying in our community, "Nobody likes a bone but a dog!" LOL!

    And it wonderful how ethnic men don't have a problem dancing together. African men have always danced as a group, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtZ_VHq4dxo&feature=fvst and that tradition has carried into modern culture like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yotpNIhYMjs

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  2. One of my favorite moms at my kids' school is Indian. Last Halloween she wore a beautiful sari. She normally wears western clothing. We talked about "partying down" and she said the last time she did that was at her wedding, 16 years ago. After watching your videos - I understand! LOL

    What a great post, Zee. My Greek-side family has celebrations at the drop of a hat. Someone get over a cold? Let's celebrate!

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  3. Lol Chicki - I kept thinking about you while I wrote this, especially how 'my' old Indian aunties are so much like your community's grandmas.

    Indian men tend to dance at the drop of a hat! Every opportunity for fun - which we call Maza! - is a good one. :)

    Love those clips you linked to!

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  4. Sheri,

    There's nothing quite like wrapping yourself in a silk sari. It's almost an otherworldly experience!

    Weddings are always opportunities for fun and dancing. Over the top takes a new meaning at Indian weddings. :)

    Let's celebrate indeed, lol!

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  5. Zee, what a fabulous post. I loved it and I loved the pics of the clothes. when I was a teenager, my two best friends were Indian. I went with them a few times to their church and I got to wear a sari. I felt soooooo pretty. The clothing is so feminine and colourful.

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  6. My husband is Indian. I attended his brother's wedding (Hindu ceremony), so your post brought back some memories.

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  7. Thanks Brenda! The clothes look fab, don't they? But man, do they weigh a ton! I remember for my engagement party, I wore a silk lehenga-choli. The skirt weighed 40 pounds, the blouse 15, and the dupatta, which is that long scarf, weighed a wallop of 63 pounds! All in silver thread embroidery. I wore that only once and it was enough! And once I 'graduated' to saris, I never wore a lehenga choli again. :)

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  8. Lol Lisa! Weddings in the Indian community are quite something!

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  9. Amazing post, Zee! Totally enjoyed it. WOW, what lavish weddings, and I imagine a lot of fun if you have a wickedly fun family -- I could see myself drowning in fussing family members, though, instead of enjoying the extravagance.

    xx
    Jo

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  10. Lol, thanks JoAnne! Yup, if you have a crazy nutty family (like mine, even on my husband's side!), weddings can be a whole different kettle of fish that would rival the most melodramatic Indian soapie or Bollywood love flick.

    And yes, you totally drown among the aunties!

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  11. And where's my cake? LOL. This was such a fun read. I've never been to an Indian wedding, and now I wish I knew Indian people in Malta so I can go to one :). I loved how you made it all come alive. The old aunties are a hoot. Yikes! xxxxx

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  12. Melbourne Wedding Band - Paris by Night are the leaders for corporate & wedding entertainment in Melbourne with amazing 100% live music! Free showcase!

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  13. Zee, I absolutely love how you share your culture with the world through posts and your fabulous stories. I think it's very important for us all to realize that not everyone does things the same on all parts of the planet. When my hubby and I got married, we kept our wedding small, only inviting our parents and siblings, much to the disappointment of my father who wanted to invite all of his family and friends.

    And I hope your father is healing well. Hugs!
    ~Jess

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  14. sounds like fun. wish american weddings were more lively... and longer. sounds like a cool celebration.

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  15. Thanks, Jessica! Your words mean a lot :)

    I had an all-out, no-holds-barred celebration for my first wedding, but for the second (and hopefully, last!), we had an intimate affair with just the close relatives.

    Writery - lol, girl! Cool but very tiring!

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